Black History Month and “Civil War Memory”

by Bill Vallante

The Confederate Body Servant and the UCV:

“And to you our colored friends….we say welcome. We can never forget your faithfulness in the darkest hours of our lives. We tender to you our hearty respect and love, for you never faltered in your duty nor betrayed your trust.” – Colonel William Sanford

(From an address given before the Confederate Veterans of the 7th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment of Cavalry, Forrest’s Corps, at the Columbia, Tennessee reunion of September 22, 1876)

In the post-war era, many black men who had served in the Confederate forces became members of the United Confederate Veterans. “Jim Crow” nothwithstanding, their presence was welcomed by their white comrades and their war service honored.

By the way, Uncle Divinity’s story makes it clear that a sense of humor is of great value in any day and age.

Howard Divinity, Mississippi, (The Slave Narratives)

Copiah’s best known ex-slave was Howard Divinity, or "Uncle Divinity," who, since the close of the war until a few years before his death in 1930, attended practically all of the National Reunions of Confederate veterans and of World War veterans. Richmond, New York, Washington, and many other cities of the nation knew him as a familiar figure when the veterans gathered there. He always wore the gray uniform of the Confederacy, the coat being literally covered with reunion medals. Uncle Divinity was born early in the 1820’s and served from 1861 until the close of the war as body slave and cook with Bob Scott, of Copiah County, in Company D, of the Twelfth Mississippi Regiment. While in the Confederate army, Divinity acquired the reputation of being the champion forager in the whole Confederate army and was called the chicken provider of the Confederacy.

In 1926 Uncle Divinity made a speech before the Mississippi Legislature in behalf of the Confederate soldiers, their widows, and servants He went to the senate office building and asked to see his senator. When he was admitted to see John Sharp Williams, the Mississippi senator asked which he would rather have – five dollars, a toddy, or straight whiskey; Divinity came away with five dollars. A short while later Uncle Divinity met up with Congressman Percy E. Quin, representative of the Copiah District. Mr. Quin gave him a silver dollar. Shortly afterwards, Divinity remarked to a group of veterans that he had learned the difference between a senator and a congressman. They asked him what the difference was, and of course he answered – "Four dollars."

Tuck Spight, Mississippi, (The Slave Narratives)

Tuck Spight was one of the most interesting Negro characters in Tippah County. He was owned by Mr & Mrs Jas Spight who gave the negro boy to their son Thomas. They grew up together with not many years difference in their ages- when the war began in 1861 Thomas Spight enlisted, Tuck of course wanted to go look after his Master, he was allowed to go as a servant or body guard, he went all the way & back with his master Capt. Thomas Spight. After the close of the war he was always looking after the interest of his master, always tried to see that he did not want for any thing, would see that he had plenty to eat, nursed him when sick, wounded and etc.

Tuck was his master in a number of battles, among them were the Lookout Mountain- Chattanooga, a regiment of confederate soldiers went into Chattanooga on flat cars before they had time to get off the cars the Yankees began firing at them so fast they had to work in a hurry, while the officers were trying to make a quick decision as to how & where to place the cannon, men and etc. in order to begin the firing as soon as possible, Tuck whispered to his Master (Thomas Spight) to suggest to the higher officers, that the quickest way to make ready for a battle would be to turn the cannon around & let it remain where it was, and they did as Tuck suggested.

At the close of the civil war Tuck wished to remain with Capt. Spight, and did. He helped about the place, some time he made share crops. He remained faithful except during one election, in the reconstruction days. Capt. Spight said come here Tuck & I’ll show you how to vote-Tuck said Mr- (A Big Republican) he done showed me how, not long after that Tuck got in to some trouble with some negroes He went immediately and told him about the trouble and wanted Capt Spight to get him out, the first thought that entered Capt Spight mind was to send him to the (Big Republican) But Capt. Spight got him out, and Tuck always felt that he owned his life to his master, for he was always so good to him.

Tuck was a member of the Confederate Veterans Camp until his death which occured a few years after his masters, He made a very touching little talk at his master’s funeral, he attended most all the confederate Reunions he was rather feeble when he attended a reunion at Little Rock Ark. The people that he was in care of asked him how it happened that he had more money when he returned than he did when he left to go to the reunion, he answered with saying that he made a talk for the people and they gave him some money. He was not educated but through the contact of his master and other educated people he could make very sensible talks in public, especially when they were concerning The Civil War. Tuck was buried in the Ripley cemetery, & through the effort of Mr L.D. Spight he has a marker placed at his grave by the Government as a confederate servant.

Isaac Pringle, Mississippi, (The Slave Narratives)

He has spent his entire life, except for the war period, within five miles of where he was born, his travels, "all over de world," being to the extent only of his war experience and attendance at Confederate reunions, which latter are the high spots in his life.

He is totally unreconstructed, a true Negro of the Old South, and, although entirely free from any taint of servility or slavishness, still believes firmly that "’fo’ de war" days were best.

"Dey took me for a house boy, an’ when de war started I went all through hit with him. We went to Atlanta an’ went in de war in April 1862 an’ come out in April 1865. Perryville, Kentucky, in August 1862, I was tied up all day in dat battle.

"Colonel W. F. Dowd was colonel of de 24th Miss. regiment, ridin’ up an’ down in front de lines, an’, when de first shells come over, hit scared his horse so bad he run away straight through de Yankee army an’ we never did see him no mo’.

"We didn’t go to Virginia, jus up to de line. Den we went to Chattanooga an’ fought aroun’ till dey wallered everything out aroun’ dere, den we went to Atlanta, Georgia.

"All dem three years of de war I never got to touch a horse. We’d walk all day an’ a good piece of de night. An’ dem campfires, wid ten thousand men around, you never saw anything like it. Hit looked like de whole world was lighted up.

"When we got word of de surrender, we wasn’t mustered out. We all just scattered for our homes.

"After de war, Mr. Frank went to Florida but I come on back to de old home place. ”Mr. Harper’s good to us, an’ I got a little Confederate veteran’s pension, four dollars a month, an’ we’re makin’ out. "Dese here my badges from de Confederate reunions. I been to every one, up to 1934, in Chattanooga. I’m de biggest fool in de world about dem things, an’ I love to look at ’em.