Posts Tagged ‘19th century’

19th Century Civil War Preservationists of African American History, the remix featuring Lewis H. Steiner

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

by Ann DeWitt

Yesterday’s post focused on 19th Century Civil War Preservationists of African American History.  These men, such as   Lewis H. Steiner, Inspector of the Sanitary Commission, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, John C Stiles, and (4) Lieutenant Colonel John G. Parkhurst, seized the moment to report that African Americans were serving in relevant capacities with the Confederate States Army during the War Between the States even though President Jefferson Davis did not issue the official order for African Americans to be enlisted.

Lewis H. Steiner, Inspector of the Sanitary Commission (1862): “At four o’clock this morning [9/10/1862)] the [Confederate] rebel army began to move from our town, [Major General Stonewall] Jackson’s force taking the advance. . . . The most liberal calculations could not give them more than 64,000 men.  Over 3,000 negroes must be included in this number. . . .”

Commentary (2010): Steiner speaks about African Americans present with General Stonewall Jackson’s troops. Why is this fascinating to a 21st Century layman?

During the 19th Century, African American presence with their masters or guardians was the norm.  One would think that Steiner would have simply reported that there were approximately 64,000 Confederates—and leave it at that. Why did Steiner go into great detail about the presence of African Americans with Stonewall Jackson’s troops?

Lewis H. Steiner, Inspector of the Sanitary Commission (1862): Most of the negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabres, bowie-knives, dirks, etc.  They [negroes] were supplied, in many instances, with knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, etc., and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederacy Army. . .

Commentary (2010): Steiner answers the layman question as to why he felt so compelled to call out the fact that 3,000 African Americans were with Stonewall Jackson’s troops.

Steiner uses the word manifestlywhich is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “easily understood or recognized by the mind.” Therefore, that moment on September 10, 1862 was “easily understood” or obvious to Steiner.  Here is the operative phrase: “an integral portion of the Southern Confederacy Army.” Steiner reported that African-Americans (negroes) were integral which is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “formed as a unit with another part.”

Thus, Steiner easily understood that most of the 3,000 African-Americans formed as part of a unit with Stonewall Jackson’s troops (CSA) on September 10, 1862 . . . even though President Jefferson Davis did not issue the official order for African Americans to be enlisted.

Summary: In April 1861, when women in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and other cities saw the government deficiencies in relieving and comforting volunteers, these women began a grassroots effort in the making of the Sanitary Commission. In June 1861, the United States  secretary of the war formed a board and the Sanitary Commission was then named the United States Sanitary Commission.  So, why was Inspector of the Sanitary Commission Lewis H. Steiner’s account relevant in September 1862?

Steiner witnessed day after day the effects of war and the soldiers who were on the front line.  Not only that, the United States Sanitary Commission is part of Women’s History because of its founders.  So when a handful of historians discount Steiner’s Civil War diary, these historians not only discount African-American service with Major General Stonewall Jackson, they also discount the official record of the United States Sanitary Commission, which was  formed by women such as Miss Almena Bates.

Quickly understood, the young adult novel, Entangled In Freedom: A Civil War Story, is designed for readers to discover less publicized points in American Civil War history, such as “. . . 3,000 black men with Stonewall Jackson’s troops.” The authors of this young adult novel want readers to question the statement and find out more facts, such as the United States Sanitary Commission was formed by women.

All of our forefathers and fore-mothers, as a people, were seamlessly interwoven in the making of American Civil War history.  Once a single thread is removed, the entire quilt unravels apart.

Highlighting the good in humanity,

Ann DeWitt

Entangled in Freedom by Ann DeWitt and Kevin Weeks

Entangled in Freedom by Ann DeWitt and Kevin Weeks