In light of the veterans monument forcibly removed in St. Louis’s Forest Park (and the fight to even get the local government to allow relocation to the Missouri Civil War Museum), I was reviewing a book that I had read five or six years ago. The book, entitled Black Southerners in Confederate Armies, was compiled and edited by J.H. Segars and Charles Kelly Barrow and details numerous examples of African American veterans who fought for their families and communities on the side of the Confederacy.
As I looked through the remarkable stories of these African American veterans and their families who served, I couldn’t help but regard the removal of these monuments as an act of intolerance and a sad lack of education and understanding. Furthermore, it boils down to a potentially racist attempt by the leftist /progressive elements to shamefully erase the many stories of sacrifice and service of countless veterans and their families throughout the South during this extremely difficult time.
For example, in an 1866 publication, the Pictoral Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion describes an account of a black Confederate sharp shooter who was killed by federal troops.
The article displayed at left discusses the enrollment of “70 free negroes” who chose to fight in defense of their State. And in New Orleans (ironically where a local government headed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu forced the removal of their veterans monuments), around “1,400 free colored men” was part of the army in 1861.
Meanwhile, a letter signed by Frank Baily, a New York soldier with the 34th New York Volunteer Infantry describes to his brother that, “there is no mistake but the rebels have black soldiers for I have seen them brought in as prisoners of war, I saw one who had the stripes of a orderly sergeant on his coat.”
A 1919 South Carolina pension application for Thomas Tobi states that Tobi, a Confederate pension applicant, was “a free Negro who volunteered in this company and served to the end of the war.” He served from 1861 until 1865.
The July 24, 1863 edition of the New York Herald notes that “Among the rebel prisoners who were marched through Gettysburg there were observed seven negroes in uniform and fully accoutred as soldiers.”
The Silver City Independent (New Mexico) of August 22, 1934 reports that George Williams, a local African American man, “served as a ‘striker’ for General Price of the Confederate army and participated in many battles, forced marches and exciting skirmishes with Union troops, narrowly escaping death or capture a number of times. He could recount his war experiences vividly.”
Eddie Brown Page III was an African American historian who specialized in black history, Confederate history, and how blacks contributed to Confederate military history. He wrote that, “For me, as a native of the South and as a soldier, the St. Andrew’s cross on the Georgia flag symbolizes my heritage – respect for the courage and sacrifice of my patriotic forefathers, free people of color and slaves, for the constitutional principle of sovereignty of the states of the founding fathers – and not racism, current events of the institution of ‘slavery’. For me, the Confederate symbolism of the current state flag should be understood as representing and acknowledging the contributions of African Americans, Native Americans and Jewish persons, as well as European Americans, that is, a multicultural heritage.” Eddie sadly passed away in 1998 during an attempted robbery near his home in Atlanta.
All of these are just a handful of the many little-known stories of Black Confederates who have been collected through research of pension records, official records, newspaper articles, veterans accounts and more. We must not ignore their story, their sacrifice, or their legacy of proud service to their families and their community.
For more details:
- A Southern Black History Month Tribute (Canada Free Press)
- Black Southerners in Confederate Armies (Book)
- Memorial Day – In Defense of Our Veterans
- Will Missouri Government Support Our Veterans?
- The Veteran and Platte County Flags
- Lincolnites and Missouri Black Confederates
- H.K. Edgerton: The Confederate Flag isn’t the Problem (Tallahassee Democrat)
Note: H.K. Edgerton , an African-American civil rights activist, was a past president of the NAACP in Asheville, N.C. Presently he’s a historian and public speaker who is also working to help defend the civil rights of Americans of all colors and creeds. He serves as chairman emeritus of the board of the Southern Legal Resource Center, and is a member of Save Southern Heritage (www.sshfl.org).
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