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.
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.
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).
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.