“If I Wanted To Prove My Point…”

In my most recent post I asked you to glance over a document from the Confederate Archives. That document appeared to be an information card about a patient named Carey at Ocmulgee Hospital in Macon, GA in the winter of 1864-65. Now, Georgy Pervis claims that the card is some type of iron clad proof of a Black Confederate. He bases this on one thing…that the word “Confederate” appears on the card. Never mind the fact that the word “Confederate” is an indication of where this card is filed (Confederate Archives). Many of the responses I received were right on point. The card, by itself, is too vague on its own to jump to any conclusions over. All we can really decipher is that Carey was the property of Johnathan MeGee and a patient in Macon, GA. With other contextual documents, a clearer picture could be painted. Thanks to a commenter who goes by the handle “Border Ruffian,” we now have documents that the person in question was a slave during the war and worked as a teamster. These documents indicate that Carey applied for a servant’s pension, not a soldier’s pension.

Not to be outdone, Georgy threw a Chastain; he ranted, raved, and called everyone a bigot. Then he decided to maintain that he played mind games and purposefully posted a vague and muddled source to see the reaction while supposedly knowing exactly what that muddled card means historically…without any additional sources. So then Georgy posts this new challenge:

“If I had wanted to prove my point right off the bat I could have just as easily posted this card.”

Let’s break this card down into manageable pieces:

1.) The Header: The word “Confederate” at the top gives no indication of terms of service. It is simply a filing header. It allows the reader to know that the information card is merely dealing with the Confederate side of the war effort. I’d imagine there are cards like this that mention horses; are we to believe horses “fought” for the Confederacy? It’s for filing purposes.

2.) The card gives some clarifying information; 1st Artillery, South Carolina. We now know a specific unit. This will help when combing through archives looking for sources to add context to the story/argument.

3.) Subject: “Negro.” The information card, which is about something in the archives, deals with a “negro.” Unfortunately, the “negro” in question is nameless.

4.) Format: The information card is itemizing a “Report of operations and casualties at Fort Sumter, S.C. [dated] August 23, 1863.”

5.) Date: We know that the report was written on August 24, 1863.

6.) Remarks: “Severely wounded head.”

Summary: This information card is not actually a report in and of itself but really just a filing card (much like the last one Georgy posted). It lets researchers know where they can find a report written on August 24, 1863 about  a “Negro” that received a head wound on August 23, at Ft. Sumter, S.C. Again, this is not the report itself. It is really not even a primary source document. It’s just an index card. Thankfully, the report is not too hard to find.

 

 negros ft. sumternegros ft sumter 2

click to enlarge

This report from the 1st Reg. of S.C. Artillery dated August 24, 1863 chronicles events that took place on the previous day. Granted, I cannot be one hundred percent positive that this is the report referred to on the index card that Georgy posted. I would need to look directly in the Confederate Archives for that; but given the report’s content, location, and date, it is safe to conclude that this is the report referenced. In it, Col. Alfred Rhett the commander of the 1st S.C. Art., reported that Ft. Sumter took heavy shelling from Union ironclads on the 23rd. He reported that six hundred and thirty-three “shots and shells were fired at [the] fort” which caused severe damage. I cannot imagine the horrific sights and sounds of that such firepower wrought. What Rhett’s report also reveals, beyond simply the battle, is the service that the “negroes” at the fort provided. In his report, Rhett stated that ‘negroes’ labored throughout the battle in order to repair and/or maintain the physical defenses of the fort.

ft sumter negros
Force of 200 negroes enagaged all night, in strengthening W. Magazine against riverse [sic] fire from Monitors and in repairing and strengthening traverses on East Barbette Battery.
This is a great indicator that these African Americans served the war effort in a manual labor capacity. It is safe to assume that due to the conditions of work and the large quantity, that these black men were most likely slaves. There is no mention of these men fighting, just working. Yet, that was enough to bring them into the harm’s way. In the document below, you can see a few of Col. Rhett’s listed casualties (view entire report above for the complete list).

negros ft sumter 3

In almost every instance listed in the report, Col. Rhett wrote the name and rank of those wounded or killed in the shelling that took place on August 23 at Ft. Sumter. For the slave laborers, they are listed simple as “negro.” These men did serve the Confederacy, but they did so in a peculiar role that was in no way parallel to that of the rank and file soldier. Confederates used slaves for tedious labor tasks. Armies without a large labor such as slaves would rely on its own soldiers. This is why the definition of soldier cannot be equally applied across the entire plane of history; especially when dealing with armies that employed slaves. That is why many are so cautious to write up such service as a “Black Confederate.”

This analysis will do little to temper the rage of some Southern Heritage advocates. Like Georgy, many of these people have a predetermined mindset about the Civil War. They already believe the war had nothing to do with race or slavery and they set out to prove it rather than attempt to understand the conflict. Much of this is wrapped up in modern political projection and a lot of it stands in connection to the Lost Cause ideology of some bygone era. That is why this will be last post of this series dealing with Georgy Pervis’s “prove me wrong” confederate info. cards.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on ““If I Wanted To Prove My Point…”

  1. Jimmy Dick

    George got his butt handed to him on a platter, but that happens with everything he brings up. I went to his board and saw the usual suspects (not historians by any stretch of the imagination) who support him. I also saw his usual argument which was strongly rooted in utter denial and the continued “No, I’m right and you’re wrong!” style of discourse.

    George is insisting that anyone who helped the confederates was a soldier. He then proceeds to state that all pensions paid to anyone for any service to the CSA makes them a confederate veteran. Here he makes the usual mistake. He is making a claim that the people of the past did not make. He says black slaves working as laborers in any form for the CSA were veterans and soldiers even though they never fired a shot and were coerced to be where they were. The men and women who were in the CW never made that claim. In fact, they went to great lengths to make a separate pension system for those men who were not soldiers, but were slaves of soldiers.

    George can’t make that distinction. He can’t allow that distinction to stand or the facts to stand as the people of the past made them. He has to ignore the facts in order to support his own person belief system. That is the hallmark of a non-historian. Sam Wineburg mentions this situation in his essay, “Making Historical Sense,” on page 315 of the book, Knowing, Learning, and Teaching History.

    “Unbridled passion poses a threat to historical understanding, especially when the forces of emotion cause the historian to skew or suppress data or to hold on to cherished beliefs in the face of disconfirmatory evidence.”

    George has repeatedly failed to support his beliefs, yet he clings to them as do some others who just cannot stand the concept that the Civil War was about slavery. They refuse to learn. We’re wrapping up the last week of Eric Foner’s excellent class on the cause of the Civil War. George is not there nor are any other lost causers. That is because they refuse to learn. They prefer to wallow in their ignorance and cannot understand why their beliefs are rejected in favor of factual based history.

    There are two standing challenges out there for George and the lost causers. One is to prove the Civil War was not about slavery. They have never been able to even make any credible interpretation. The second is to provide proof of a black confederate. So far every attempt has been made with shoddy evidence as flimsy as the hospital card for Cary. Even worse, most attempts are made with far less evidence such as the regiments of Cooks.

    What we do get is the usual whining and complaining along with complete denial of any fact that doesn’t support their beliefs. It is a colossal and epic failure on their part. As such, George and his ilk prove they are not historians with every claim they make.

  2. Jimmy Dick

    I just love his latest attempt to prove there were Black Confederates. He has a card that shows a free black enlisting in a confederate artillery unit…as a cook. He doesn’t get it. He fails to understand the context or that cooks in those days were not armed and did not fight and as such were not classified as soldiers in the context of the time period. The black man in question was doing what a black man was expected to do in that time period, cook for white men, but not to fight for white men.

    The really incredible thing about all of this is that it has been explained to him repeatedly about context and presentism. He continues to ignore these elements in order to “prove” his claim. Instead, he just proves there were no black confederates with every claim he makes while also proving he is not a historian, but a rank amateur.

  3. African American cooks appear very rarely in the Confederate CSRs at NARA, because they were not generally enlisted and carried on the muster rolls from which the CSR cards are abstracted. Back in 2011 I used the NPS system to look for listings of cooks in twenty Confederate regiments, and found five, all in one regiment. That unit seems to be an outlier in terms of enlistment and/or record keeping, not at all consistent with C.S. Army practice in general.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s