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Black Confederates, why haven't we heard more about them? National Park Service historian, Ed Bearrs, stated, "I don't want to call it a conspiracy to ignore the role of Blacks both above and below the Mason-Dixon line, but it was definitely a tendency that began around 1910." Historian, Erwin L. Jordan, Jr., calls it a "cover-up" which started back in 1865. He writes, "During my research, I came across instances where Black men stated they were soldiers, but you can plainly see where 'soldier' is crossed out and 'body servant' inserted, or 'teamster' on pension applications." Another black historian, Roland Young, says he is not surprised that blacks fought. He explains that "some, if not most, Black southerners would support their country" and that by doing so they were "demonstrating it's possible to hate the system of slavery and love one's country." This is the very same reaction that most African Americans showed during the American Revolution, where they fought for the colonies, even though the British offered them freedom if they fought for them.
It has been estimated that over 65,000 Southern blacks were in the Confederate ranks. Over 13,000 of these, "saw the elephant" also known as meeting the enemy in combat. These Black Confederates included both slave and free. Many Confederate officers frequently enlisted blacks with the simple criteria, "Will you fight?" Historian Ervin Jordan, explains that "biracial units" were frequently organized "by local Confederate and State militia Commanders in response to immediate threats in the form of Union raids". Dr. Leonard Haynes, an African-American professor at Southern University, stated, "When you eliminate the black Confederate soldier, you've eliminated the history of the South."
As the war came to an end, the Confederacy took progressive measures to build back up its army. The creation of the Confederate States Colored Troops, copied after the segregated northern colored troops, came too late to be successful. Had the Confederacy been successful, it would have created the world's largest armies (at the time) consisting of black soldiers,even larger than that of the North. This would have given the future of the Confederacy a vastly different appearance than what modern day racist or anti-Confederate liberals conjecture. Not only did Jefferson Davis envision black Confederate veterans receiving bounty lands for their service, there would have been no future for slavery after the goal of 300,000 armed black CSA veterans came home after the war.
When most Americans think of Civil War soldiers, the colors that spring to mind are blue and gray, not black. Until the 1989 movie "Glory," there was little recognition of the 200,000 blacks who fought for the North. Now, many Southerners say, it is time to honor another forgotten group: blacks who served the Confederacy. What makes this revisionism startling is that several of its leading proponents are African Americans who regard their research as liberating.
"There's this caricature of all blacks in the South being victimized and supporting the North," says Edward Smith, a black professor and director of American Studies at American University in Washington. "But we are just as complicated as any people. We're three-dimensional."
Since Dr. Smith began speaking about black Confederates six years ago, the subject has spawned several books, scores of articles and heated debate on the Internet. Some blacks have joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans and donned gray at Civil War re-enactments. Confederate heritage groups have proposed erecting monuments to black rebels and other "Confederates of color," such as Hispanics and American Indians.
The first of the two DVDs up for sale in this auction is of Dr. Smith's presentation on Black Confederates.
FROM THE ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA TIMES:
Rebel ancestry isn't uncomfortable at all for the black SCV member in Florida, Nelson Winbush. who fondly recalls his grandfather, Mr. Nelson, and his war tales. "He used to say the Yankees were the dumbest damned people you've ever seen," Dr. Winbush says, telling a story about Union men marching straight at rebel guns.
Dr. Winbush's trove of mementos includes pension papers and newspaper clippings describing his grandfather's service in the Army, He also foraged for the rebels and, "fired rifles like everyone else."
When asked if he thought the role of blacks in the Rebel army was any less than that of whites he said, "Their lives were at risk: they served, thats all that matters."
His grandfather, Dr. Winbush goes on, grew up playing with white boys on the plantation and felt it was only natural to "go along with his pals" to fight Yankees. After the war, he attended 39 Confederate reunions and became a minor celebrity in his native Tennessee. "They all had a spot in their heart for the good old darky. and he loved them devotedly," a Tennessee paper wrote when Mr. Nelson died. Asked about the tone of such reports, Dr, Winbush shrugs. "Those were just the times." he says.
Now times have changed. But Dr. Winbush, a retired school teacher and assistant principal, once taught many of the men who now belong to his SCV group, which has been renamed in honor of his grandfather. Dr. Winbush's fellow members also welcome his Confederate Memorial Day address, which includes a defense of states' rights and of his grandfather's commander. Nathan Bedford Forrest. an oft-reviled figure who was a slave trader and imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
"We finally have someone who can give a different point of view and no one can say it's just another ignorant redneck trying to promote racism", says John Carroll, a founding member of the Kissimmee SCV camp.
Dr, Winbush has taken his message to groups across the South and has appeared in pro-Confederate videos. He now plans to place a rebel veteran's headstone by his grandfather's grave. "I'm an individual, just like him." he says. driving to Kissimmee's cemetery to adorn rebel graves with battle flags. "People did what they thought was appropriate in that war, black and white, and I'm doing the same now."
FOLLOW-UP TO THE ABOVE STORY:
There is something very disturbing and sad about the way stories of black Confederates are reported in the news. I suspect that much of it has to do with the fact that those reporting these stories have very little understanding of the history behind their subject. This seems to be the case in this story reported by the St. Petersburg Times about Nelson Winbush's memories of his "black Confederate" grandfather. We read about how unusual it is for a black American to adhere to a narrative that is usually associated with white Southerners and are asked to suspend disbelief and acknowledge the bravery of a man who subscribes to "a different version than mainstream America." Why not, after all here we have a decent man who wants nothing more than to acknowledge his family history and a grandfather who apparently had a profound impact on Winbush's life.
Here is a little about Dr. Winbush's grandfather: it is the story of a young slave from a Tennessee plantation named Louis Napoleon Nelson, who went to war with the sons of his master. "They grew up together," Winbush says. At first his grandfather cooked and looked out for the others, but later he saw action, fighting with a rifle under the command of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader and plantation owner.
At Shiloh, a two-day battle in 1862 in which more than 23,000 American men were killed or wounded, the Confederate Army needed a chaplain. Louis Nelson couldn't read or write, but he had memorized the King James Bible. He stayed on as chaplain for the next four campaigns, leading services for both Confederate and Union soldiers, before they headed back to the battlefield. He also foraged for food. One time, he killed a mule, cut out a quarter and hauled it back to his comrades. "When you don't have anything else, mule meat tastes pretty good," he would tell his grandson.
Over the years, the aging veteran Winbush went to 39 Confederate reunions, wearing a woolly gray uniform that Dr. Winbush still has. In photos, he stands next to two white men who accompanied him to soldiers' reunions until they were old men. Through the sepia gleams a dignity earned on the battlefield. "When he came back, that was storytelling time," Dr. Winbush says. His grandfather died in 1934. The local paper ran an obituary that called him a "darky." Dr. Winbush is proud that his grandfather's death was marked at all.
Dr. Winbush's passionate presentation about Black Confederates is the second DVD up for sale in this auction.