What Indicates that he is a Soldier?

UpdateH/T to Border Ruffian for running down some information on Carey, the slave in question. See his comments below.


Overwhelmingly agitated by my previous post about Black Confederates, George Purvis has gone on the offensive. Georgy contends that my previous post is a display of “bigotry, hate and ignorance.” Specifically he says, 

I guess Baker thinks he is a real comedian poking fun at the Negro men and women who served the Confederacy. Typical of Baker, he passed up a perfect opportunity for his students and himself to learn something about these overlooked folks who served the their country. The fact they may have been owned, regardless of the position they held, or where or when they served has no bearing on the issue. The bullets were real, the diseases where real and death was just as real to them as any man of any race who served either side.

First off, I’m not poking fun at “Negro” men and women who “served” the Confederacy…or were forced to serve the Confederacy rather. I was poking fun at people like George which is what really ruffled his feathers, but more on that later. Second, any reasonable reader can see from the previous post that I revealed nothing about the lesson my students participated in. So George really does not have any idea what opportunities I seized or missed. Thirdly, the aspect of ownership in slavery does have a bearing on the issue of service to the army. To say otherwise is simply asinine. There is a huge difference between men that volunteered, or were drafted, and men forced to be there because they were property. Yes, the war was real to them and yes death was real to slaves in the ranks, but their concept of service and soldiering are vastly different from the average white soldier. Finally, George finished his post with what he considers to be his coup de grâce.

Much of what is presented as “evidence” of black Confederate soldiers is dubious at best. Below is a card that George Purvis uses as definitive proof of a back Confederate soldier. With his usual challenge, “prove me wrong,” George contends that this blows every argument out of the water because it needs no interpretation. Well, I’m not going to prove anything. He fails to realize that it is his job to validate his own argument, not mine. For kicks though, I would like to ask readers to point out what, from this information card, actually indicates that this person is a soldier. And George, because I know you’ll read this, I’ll allow you to comment on this post to prove your claims….if you dare.

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26 thoughts on “What Indicates that he is a Soldier?

  1. I suppose he believes that the March 14 date written under “Returned to duty” means “Carey” was a soldier. Also, this slave was in a hospital that (apparently) tended to whites as well. I could see where one predisposed to find black Confederates would jump at this doc as “proof”; but a neutral investigator could not take this as clear evidence. If I was the dog on this hunt, I’d want to know much more about this Ocmulgee Hospital. I’d also try to find this John S. McGee dude: was he merely a slaveholder checking his property into the local hospital, or did he do so while in the army? Was Carey serving him while McGee was in the army (which is my best guess)?

    It’s a fascinating doc; but with no further context, it’s hard to draw the conclusion he wants from it.

    1. Absolutely. To be honest, I also need more writing examples from the author of the card so that I can be more familiar with his writing style. I can’t tell if it is “John” or “Juo” McGee. When I looked up the Ocmulgee Hospital, I hit on the same roadblocks that Jimmy highlights in his comment. It is incredible difficult to build a story around Carey in order to find out who he was. Without context, all I know from the card is that he was at a Confederate Hospital and that he belonged to someone.

  2. Jimmy Dick

    Nothing on that card indicates the slave was soldier. There is a card. Where is the context? (Yes, I am using that word deliberately!) If this slave was a soldier where is his rank? What was his unit? For that matter, who was this owner? Was he a soldier? If so, what was his rank? What was his unit? Is this card from the actual time period it indicates or is it one that was made from the actual register of the hospital?

    Let’s do some sleuthing. John S. McGee. As is typical with confederate records he appears on one record for a specific unit but not on another record. By this I mean website, not an actual document. J.S. McGee appears on another site. A lot of McGees show up and that is just for Georgia. As for the hospital, let’s start here: http://findingaids.library.emory.edu/documents/ocmulgee158/. You will need to physically access those records. So let’s try this one.http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/military/civilwar/hospitals/ocmulgee.txt That can take us on another journey, but we quickly see this is only a small portion of a larger file. We need access to the files to do some more work.

    What have we learned? George sent a picture of a card that he claims is 100% proof of a black confederate. What he really sent was a photo of a card that needs a lot of additional historical analysis to show just what that card represents. In other words, George grabs something and makes a big statement about it because he is grasping at straws. If he tried to use that as 100% proof of black confederates at a historical conference he would be laughed out of the room. (Just like he is being laughed at on this blog)

    1. Absolutely. I ran into the same issues when trying to research the owner, slave, and the hospital. Without context, we are left with very little and none of that provides any indication that “Carey” was a soldier.

    1. As George would say, “Context? You don’t need context. It’s a primary source in black and white. It speaks for itself.” Except, you know, he would say it in all caps and then he’d use a racial slur.

  3. “The fact they may have been owned, regardless of the position they held, or where or when they served has no bearing on the issue.” Are you f*cking kidding me? This level of ignorance is really something to behold. He ought to read Stephanie McCurry’s “Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South,” if he thinks that slaves “served the Confederacy.”

    1. George is not interested in interpretation or context, as those are nothing but clever tricks used by people with fancy academic degrees to advance their biased agendas.

      Remember, this is the same person who looked up Abe and Mary Lincoln in the 1860 census, saw that they had a live-in servant in their home in Springfield, and announced that he’d discovered that the Lincolns owned a slave. Because facts.

      1. Yea, that is what got me banned from his little blog. I guess he didn’t like it when I pointed out the absurdity of such a statement. If you want to see something equally hilarious, check out his response to this post and what he posts as definitive “proof” of his absolute vindication.

  4. GR

    Maybe I jumped into a buzzsaw, but of course there were black confederates. On March 13, 1865, the confederate congress approved black soldiers. Apparently a fellow named Amos Rucker served in the 33rd Georgia infantry. http://blackconfederates.blogspot.com/ There was also John Nolan who fought with Quantrill’s Raiders in Missouri, Kansas, Texas etc.

    Maybe I misinterpret?

    1. Not entirely sure why, but your comment went directly to my spam folder.

      Historians are pretty aware about the regiments raised near the end of the war, those regiments are usually on the periphery of the discussion concerning black confederates. This discussion is usually centered on black men who served the Confederacy in some capacity prior to the raising of black regiments. You mentioned a couple of names that are usually included in that discussion. Amos Rucker shows up on numerous SCV and Southern Heritage websites as evidence of a black confederate, but in reality is was a slave brought to war by his master. He didn’t really serve in the 33rd Georgia, he just served them.

    2. Jimmy Dick

      I don’t want to steal B/R’s thunder but John Noland was not a classic black confederate. To call him one is to misunderstand what Quantrill and his murderers actually were or what the guerrilla war in western Missouri was really about.

  5. BorderRuffian

    That’s Cary McGehee of Desoto County, MS.
    Applied for a servant’s pension in 1910. “Served as teamster” from January 1862 to May 1865.
    “In hospital at Macon, Ga.” at close of war.

      1. Jimmy Dick

        That kind of settles it for a minute doesn’t it? A servant’s pension. Served as a teamster. More evidence is certainly needed, but we already see how important it is to have as much as information as possible. The hospital card does not prove Cary was a soldier. It suggests nothing of the kind. If what B/R turned up matches with the Cary on the card, then B/R’s evidence shows Cary was not a soldier.

        Cary falls into that category of slave forced to work for the confederate army as property of his master.

        1. In a more recent comment, BR includes some links to actual records. It is pretty insightful as to the condition of service etc. There is also the Macon, GA hospital connection. I think we’re dealing with the same person here.

    1. Jimmy Dick

      That’s a lot of useful information compared to the other document. Note there are two specific lines in which the word “owner” is used. This is not a printed word, but part of the form itself. This tells us that for this particular state, no free blacks were considered to meet the requirements for this pension. I would say that statement could use some analyzing records, but the idea is there. The form clearly shows that it is not for a soldier, but the servant of a soldier or sailor.

      This brings us back to the central issue. IF there were thousands of black men serving as confederate soldiers, why the clear separation of servant and soldier? Where are the pension records of the black men who allegedly were supposed to be soldiers? They do not exist in the records of the soldiers. Why do we find records for servants, but not soldiers? For that matter, where are the laws about these pensions? Where can we find pensions being discussed for black soldiers? We do not find them. We find pensions for servants.

      We know why this is. There were no black confederate soldiers.

      I agree with Rob, good work on getting the files, B/R. Thank you.

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