Posts Tagged ‘historians’

19th Century Civil War Preservationists of African American History, the unsung heroes

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

by Ann DeWitt

Over the course of the last few years, I have read countless documents on the subject  matter of Black Confederates.  Why are a handful of historians in an uproar about the debut young adult (13+) historical fiction novel  titled Entangled In Freedom: A Civil War Story?  I will tell you why.

Pundits Claim 1: There were no “official” records on black confederates.

Rebuttal 1: The 1 in 100 people incarcerated in this country are cheering for these pundits and historians, with this view, to win in the debate that there are no “official” records on black confederates.  Why?  If eyewitness accounts have no validity, why do we still call eyewitnesses in the United States Court system today?

19th Century Civil War Preservationists of African-American history are (1) Lewis H. Steiner, Inspector of the Sanitary Commission, (2) General Nathan Bedford Forrest, (3) John C Stiles, and (4) Lieutenant Colonel John G. Parkhurst who gave accounts to the presence of African Americans who served with the Confederate States Army.

Click each name above and read the original documents.

Pundits Claim 2: Thousands of African-Americans did not fight with the Confederacy.

Rebuttal 2: I hate to break the news to historians.  For those in my inner circle, the service of African-Americans to this country is more important than the number.

Pundits Claim 3: A layman can’t read historical documents.

Rebuttal 3: Believe it or not, descendants of slaves can read in the 21st Century.

Who is the legend to set the baseline of black confederates?  I submit to you the most controversial, yet revered, man in American Civil War history, General Nathan Bedford Forrest.   From General Forrest’s testimony to the United States 40th Congress, we know that the starting number of black confederates is 45.

Historians state that just as in mathematics, we must show our work.  Let us start with the subject and verb sentence structure from General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s testimony.

In an 1868 interview with General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the United States 40th Congress 3rd Session on page 196 reported that General Forrest said:

General Nathan Bedford Forrest (1868):I want you to understand distinctly, I am not an enemy to the negro.

Commentary (2010): When General Forrest stated, “I want” . . . this means that he requested the attention of those present.  When he said, “I am not” . . . this means that he did not consider himself to be the man in which he was portrayed.

Note: Based on the United States Census the terms negro, colored, black and African-American are synonymous.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest (1868): We want him here among us; he is the only laboring class we have, and more than that, I would sooner trust him than a white scalawag or carpet-bagger.

Commentary (2010): When General Forrest stated, “We want” . . . this means that he believed others were in agreement with him.  When General Forrest stated, “he is” . . . this is in reference to the African American (negro).  Not only that, General Forrest stated that he trusted African Americans who sided with him.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest (1868): When I entered the army I took 47 negroes into the army with me, and 45 of them were surrendered with me.

Commentary (2010): When General Forrest stated, “I took” . . . this is past tense which means the war is over and he is assessing the situation.  When General Forrest stated,  “45 surrendered” . . .  he is speaking of the African-Americans  (negroes) whom he trusted.  (See sentence above).

General Nathan Bedford Forrest (1868): I said to them at the start: ‘This fight is against slavery; if we lose it, you will be made free; if we whip the fight, and you stay with me and be good boys, I will set you free. In either case you will be free.

Commentary (2010): General Forrest made a commitment to at least the 45 men who surrendered with him.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest (1868): Those boys stayed with me, drove my teams, and better confederates did not live.’”

Commentary (2010): Bottom line:  Stayed and drove are action verbs, which means the African Americans provided some type of service to General Forrest, a commander in the Confederate States Army.  His close is powerful.  He held these 45 African Americans in highest regard.

Note: Remove any emotion from the term “boys” and focus on his statement.  Unfortunately, the terminology was the sign of the times.  Putting those things behind me, I now focus on the truth.

Summary: Let us honor those whose eyewitness accounts preserve American history.   In addition, let us acknowledge that General Nathan Bedford Forrest established a baseline of 45 black confederates  who surrendered with him after the  American Civil War.  The historians can take the number 45 and count from there.

Why are a handful of historians out to ban the novel Entangled in Freedom: A Civil War Story? Why is the Black Confederate Soldiers website deemed horrible?  Plan and simple, emotion is now removed and facts are presented.  In addition, I believe that this generation of teenagers is capable of having the necessary dialog in which my generation has avoided for years.  The 19th Century facts are not fantasy.

For the record, specifically for those whom I have personally met/encountered, I can attest to the fact that this is truly about “heritage and not hate.”   I am a 21st Century eyewitness. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Highlighting the good in humanity,

Ann DeWitt