Why is history a mystery? I think it is mostly because we want the truth to be something other than what it is, and that is true of all of us, not just some of us. We all have egos. We all want the universe to affirm us. That includes the present, the future, and the past.
Therefore, to understand history well — to get past our own prejudices — we must study it carefully. To avoid being manipulated by those with an agenda, we must study history carefully. It is not enough just to read the history books we read in school, for the writers of those books and the people who bought them have egos too. Instead, we must strive to read what the people in the past regarded as important, and we must consider the evidence that remains from the past from multiple points of view.
So where do we begin? Today?
is referring to this post, What You Must Learn from White Supremacists. If you want to know more about the context of this post, please read it.
After the Civil War many people were bitter, feeling quite entitled to hate the other side.
- People in the North had lost loved ones, and for what? Some egotistical fools in the South wanted to behave like aristocrats and be served by slaves.
- People in the South had lost loved ones. Their homes had been burned. Their land impoverished. And for what? So the North could save a tyrannical Union?
Fortunately, as ‘s comment shows, as time passed the wounds began to heal. Slowly, even the soldiers who had fought found it their hearts to forgive.
Perhaps the most notable events were two reunions.
- 1913 Gettysburg reunion: Here are some pictures => Civil war veterans at Gettysburg anniversary in 1913 – in pictures.
- 1938 Gettysburg reunion
Here is some video of the 1913 event.
If you are curious about these reunions, google civil war veterans reunion.
What is the usual criticism we here about these reunions? Racism. That is what we hear from “experts”. Here is an example from Smithsonian Magazine, Civil War Veterans Come Alive in Audio and Video Recordings. The video in the article records a reenactment of the Rebel Yell by Confederate veterans. Because it is funny to see those old guys doing the Rebel Yell, the video is a hoot. At the same time, we have to remember they gave that yell because it did inspire terror. Nevertheless, this is how the text of the article ends.
Sadly, in the eyes of the press, not all Civil War veterans were equal. No black volunteers served with the Confederacy, while African Americans contributed some 160,000 volunteers to the Union war effort. Yet they are almost never even acknowledged, much less seen or heard in the library’s films and recordings. Ironically, however, the most surprising film of African American “veterans,” a few minutes of silent footage made at a Confederate reunion in 1930, shows a dozen elderly black men wearing fragments of gray uniforms, flourishing miniature battle flags and wearing lapel buttons representing Robert E. Lee. Enslaved body servants, or perhaps laborers who had been pressed into service by Confederate armies, they were presumably served up to newsmen as “proof” that slaves were so loyal and happy in their servitude that they fought to retain it.
After Reconstruction, the role of African-American soldiers was largely airbrushed out of the war’s narrative in the name of national reconciliation. William Smallwood’s brief martial appearance against that brick wall in Boston thus stands as a powerful if all too fleeting reminder of both the sacrifice of the black volunteers who fought for the Union, and of the nation’s promises to them, so many of which would remain unfulfilled generations after the Civil War had ended. (from here)
Why such an absurd preoccupation with racism? Is that not racist?
Still, there is a gaping hole in the record. What role did blacks have in the Civil War? Because of the airbrushing (mostly by both the North), most have the impression black did not fight in that war. In fact, they fought on both sides.
Why would black fight for the South? There no simple answer, and the people who could answer are dead. So we can for the most part only conjecture. Why would we do such a thing?
- We care the most about the people closest to us.
- Slaves don’t have a choice.
Here is the first of three video clips that summarizes the role of the black Confederates.
The film above is part of “Black Confederates: The Forgotten Men In Gray” by Desert Rose Productions. Since I don’t know anything about Desert Rose Productions, I made some effort to verify the facts presented in the video. Here are some References.
- Free negro (en.wikipedia.org)
- 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro (www.pbs.org)
- Yes, There Were Black Confederates. Here’s Why (theroot.com)
- Black Confederates (civilwar.org)
- Black Confederates (teachinghistory.org)
- Confederacy approves black soldiers (history.com)
So were they black confederate soldiers? Huge numbers? No, and the video does not make that claim. The basic problem is that the people of the South were not about to give slaves guns. Consider the following quote, and consider also South’s reasons for leaving the Union, to preserve the institution of slavery.
Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship. — Frederick Douglass (from here)
To arm the black man was basically the same as freeing him. When in desperation the government South finally approved the use of black Confederate soldiers, they virtually conceded the end of slavery. And they knew it. The war was lost.
Still, even as slaves there were blacks who considered the South their homeland, and the people of the South their people. These had mixed feelings about the Yankee invasion. So they willingly, if not eagerly, fought wearing gray.