Not long ago you gave a lengthy essay in the LA Times in which you spoke briefly about Howard Dean, his statement wanting to be the “candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.” Further you stated, “Confederate flags as much a symbol of racism as the swastika is of anti-Semitism, and no politician should-or could-be elected if he incorporated either symbol in his campaign appeal.” Frankly such a statement is loaded with heavy bias and a lack of historical objectivity. While you are certainly guaranteed a right to your opinion by virtue of our Constitution, your statement is heavily bigoted to say the least. I am sure you may have received hate mail, and perhaps some that has been down right rude. However, I wish to debate you respectfully on this issue.
I am a 1st Sergeant with the 37th Texas Cavalry, a historically accurate multiracial unit that served the CSA. I cordially invite you to visit our web home at http://www.37thtexas.org where you will find well over 100+ pages of scholarly documented FACTS on Confederate of Color heritage that you may not have been able to find before. All we ask is that all who visit us do so with an open heart and mind. With that in mind I offer you the following quotations form our web site:
Roster of Confederate Soldiers of Georgia, Confederate Veteran, Volume XXVIII (1920), Forgotten Confederates
Bill Yopp, colored, enlisted in the 14th Georgia Infantry on July 9, 1861, as a drummer. He surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. After the war, now a free man, he returned to the Yopp plantation in Georgia and worked there until 1870. He then secured a job as bellboy at the Brown House in Macon. From there he went to New York, California, Europe, and then worked as a porter on the private car of the President of the Delaware and Hudson Railway.
In his later years he returned to Georgia to find his former master, Captain T.M. Yopp, ready to be enrolled in the Confederate Soldier’s Home in Atlanta. Bill was a frequent visitor to the home, not only to see his former master but the other Confederate veterans as well. At Christmas, with the help of the Macon Telegraph, he raised enough money to give each resident in the home $3.
In 1920 Bill wrote a book entitled "Bill Yopp, ‘Ten-Cent’ Bill". The book was about his exploits before, during, and after the war. The book sold for 15 cents a copy, or $1.50 for a dozen. Proceeds were shared by Bill and the Confederate Soldier’s Home. The Confederate veterans were so appreciative of Bills help that they took up a collection and awarded him a medal. The board of trustees voted to allow Bill to stay at the Home for as long as he lived. He was one of the last remaining veterans in the Home when it closed its doors in the 1940’s. Bill was also a member of the Atlanta U.C.V. Camp. When "Ten Cent" Bill Yopp died he was buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia, the same place as his former master Captain T.M. Yopp. Battlefields of the South, Vol. 2, page 253
At the Battle of Seven Pines, or Fair Oaks, near Richmond (May 31 and June 1, 1862), a black cook and minister named Pomp who was serving with an Alabama regiment got excited, picked up a rifle and went into the battle. He was heard yelling at his regiment, "Der Lor’ hab mercy on us all, boys, here dey comes agin! Dar it is," he shouted, as the Yankees fired over their heads, "just as I taught! Can’t shoot worth a bad five-cent piece. Now’s de time, boys!" As the Alabamians returned with a withering fire and mounted a furious charge, the black minister was heard shouting, "Pitch in, white folks- Uncle Pomp’s behind yer. Send all de Yankees to de ‘ternal flames, whar dere’s weeping and gnashing of-sail in Alabama; stick ’em wid de bayonet, and send all de blue ornery cusses to de state of eternal fire and brimstone!"
Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia, Ervin L. Jordan, Jr., (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1995) Pp. 218-219
Tennessee in June 1861 became the first in the South to legislate the use of free black soldiers. The governor was authorized to enroll those between the ages of fifteen and fifty, to be paid $18 a month and the same rations and clothing as white soldiers; the black men appeared in two black regiments in Memphis by September.
Religious Herald, Richmond, VA, September 10, 1863 (From unedited microfiche of the original article):
To the Confederate army goes the distinction of having the first black to minister to white troops:
“A correspondent of the SOLDIER’S FRIEND mentions a Tennessee regiment which has no chaplain; but an old Negro, ‘Uncle Lewis,’ preaches two or three times a week at night. He is heard with respectful attention — and for earnestness, zeal and sincerity, can be surpassed by none. Two or three revivals have followed his preaching in the regiment. What will the wise Christian patriots out of the army, who denounce those who wish to see competent Negroes allowed to preach, as tainted with anti-slaveryism, say with regard to the true Southern feeling of that regiment, which has fought unflinchingly from Shiloh to Murfreesboro?"
Charles Kelly Barrow, J. H. Segars, and R. B. Rosenburg, Eds. Forgotten Confederates: An Anthology About Black Southerners (Atlanta, GA: Southern Heritage Press, 1995) pp. 20-21 – Charlotte Western Democrat, July 29, 1861
There are numerous accounts of black participation in the battle of First Manassas in the summer of 1861. Black combatants shot, killed, and captured Union troops. Loyal slaves were said to have fought with outstanding bravery alongside their masters. These reports also provide testimony to the fidelity of black Rebels in combat. One black soldier was moving about the field when ordered to surrender by a Union officer. The Rebel replied, "No sir, you are my prisoner," while drawing a pistol and shooting the officer dead. He then secured the officer’s sidearm and after the battle boasted loudly of having quieted at least one of "the stinkin’ Yankees who cam here `specting to whip us Southerners." Another black Confederate who stood behind a tree allowed two Union soldiers to pass before shooting one in the shoulders, clubbing him with a pistol, while demanding the other to surrender. Both prisoners were marched into Confederate lines. An Alabama officer’s servant marched a Zouave into camp proclaiming, "Massa, here one of dese devils who been shooting at us, Suh."
The Unlikely Story of Blacks Who Were Loyal to Dixie
"John Parker was one of four black men in an artillery battery at First Manassas. A New York Times correspondent with Grant’s army in 1863 found a ‘rebel battery manned almost wholly by Negroes, a single white man or perhaps two directing operations.’" Quoted in New Bern Weekly Press, August 13, 1861; Charlotte Western Democrat, August 13, 1861.
"Angered at the loss of life at the hands of blacks at Manassas and somewhat disillusioned the northern Exchange editorialized: ‘the war has dispelled one delusion of the abolitionists. The Negroes regard them as enemies instead of friends. No insurrection has occurred in the South – no important stampede of slaves has evinced their desire for freedom. On the contrary, they have jeered at and insulted our troops, have readily enlisted in the rebel army and on Sunday, at Manassas, shot down our men with as much alacrity as if abolitionism had never existed.’"
Memphis Daily Avalanche, July 6, 1875, 1. July 4, 1875 – Memphis, Tennessee.
Nathan Bedford Forrest was invited to speak by the Jubilee of Pole Bearers, a political and social organization in the post-war era comprised of Black Southerners. Miss Lou Lewis was introduced to General Forrest then presented him with a bouquet of flowers and said: "Mr. Forrest – allow me to present you this bouquet as a token, of reconciliation, an offering of peace and good will."
General Forrest received the flowers with a bow, and replied:
Recent postings in an electronic forum on the school’s web site () were mostly supportive of the idea.
"Miss Lewis, ladies and gentlemen – I accept these flowers as a token of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the South. I accept them more particularly, since they come from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s great earth who loves the ladies, it is myself.
This is a proud day for me. Having occupied the position I have for thirteen years, and being misunderstood by the colored race, I take this occasion to say that I am your friend. I am here as the representative of the Southern people – one that has been more maligned than any other.
I assure you that every man who was in the Confederate army is your friend. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, live in the same land, and why should we not be brothers and sisters.
When the war broke out I believed it to be my duty to fight for my country, and I did so. I came here with the jeers and sneers of a few white people, who did not think it right. I think it is right, and will do all I can to bring about harmony, peace and unity. I want to elevate every man, and to see you take your places in your shops, stores and offices.
I don’t propose to say anything about politics, but I want you to do as I do – go to the polls and select the best men to vote for. I feel that you are free men, I am a free man, and we can do as we please. I came here as a friend and whenever I can serve any of you I will do so.
We have one Union, one flag, and one country; therefore, let us stand together. Although we differ in color, we should not differ in sentiment.
Many things have been said in regard to myself, and many reports circulated, which may perhaps be believed by some of you, but there are many around me who can contradict them. I have been many times in the heat of battle – oftener, perhaps, than any within the sound of my voice. Men have come to me to ask for quarter, both black and white, and I have shielded them.
Do your duty as citizens, and if any are oppressed, I will be your friend. I thank you for the flowers, and assure you that I am with you in heart and hand.
"Was There a Massacre at Ft. Pillow?" John L. Jordan, Tennessee History Quarterly VI (June 1947), pp 99-133:
"…burial details were composed of Union troops under Union officers, a fact which clears Forrest’s men of the charges that they buried Negro wounded alive…Union casualties may have amounted to less than two hundred killed, wounded, and missing."
Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War; Richard Taylor, Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 549 and 551 Broadway, 1879, pp.200
I doubt if any commander since the days of lion-hearted Richard has killed as many enemies with his own hand as Forrest. His word of command as he led the charge was unique: "Forward, men, and mix with ’em!" But, while cutting down many a foe with long reaching, nervous arm, his keen eye watched the whole fight and guided him to the weak spot. Yet he was a tender hearted, kindly man. The accusations of his enemies that he murdered prisoners at Fort Pillow and elsewhere are absolutely false. The prisoners captured on his expedition into Tennessee, of which I have just written, were Negroes, and he carefully looked after their wants himself, though in rapid movement and fighting much of the time. These Negroes told me of Mass Forrest’s kindness to them.
Those, sir, are just a FEW of the many facts out there regarding the history of that tumultuous time. There was good and bad on both sides of the mason-Dixon. However, sir the problem arises when folks knowingly or unknowingly ignore one side for benefit of boosting what they want to be the accepted truth. I have a few more tidbits of historical FACTS for you to consider as well. The following comes from a web site put together by the Indiana (NORTHERN state) historical Research Foundation regarding the history of the KKK. The web address is located at http://www.kkklan.com and a subsequent page regarding NEGRO KLAN MEMBERSHIP appears at http://www.kkklan.com/negroklan.htm
I will add some of the information here for your benefit:
My first source of Negro Klan membership is the book, "The Ku Klux Spirit", by J.A. Rogers, noted Negro historian of the 1920’s. The Ku Klux Spirit was first published in 1923, by Messenger Publishing Co. It was republished in 1980, by Black Classic Press. On page 34 of his book we find the amazing passage: "A fact not generally known is that there were thousands of Negro Klansmen. These were used as spies on other Negroes and on Northern Whites
My third source is, "Ku Klux Klan, It’s Origins, Growth, and Disbandment", by J.C. Lester (one of the six original founders of the first Ku Klux Klan) and D.L. Wilson (another early Klansman). The book was first published in 1884. (I have an original copy). Reprints of this book are available from us for $7.00. The book was re-printed in 1905. In that edition, Walter L. Fleming, Ph.D., added an introduction. Again in 1905, there were still plenty of original Klansmen and others who had lived during the Reconstruction Era. In the introduction we find Fleming’s statement: "Many of the genuine Unionists later joined in the movement (the KKK), and there were some few Negro members, I have been told."
My fourth source is a more modern book, "Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography", by Jack Hurst. On page 305 we find this interesting quote: "…(the Klan was) reorganized to oppose radical proponents (the Radical Republicans) of what it perceived to be Black domination, NOT to scourge Blacks themselves. Although it has been written that Ku Klux Klan ranks were open only to the more than 100,000 honorably discharged ex-Confederate veterans, the hierarchy in some areas and some instances seems to have accepted and even recruited Blacks, provided they went along with Conservative-Democratic political philosophy. In Memphis of late 1868, sixty-five Blacks organized a "Colored Democratic Club" under the watchful eye of Klansman-editor Gallaway – – who according to an account in the Appeal, "made a motion on behalf of the White men present, that they give employment and protection to Colored democrats."
Concerning the Colored Klansmen of the 20th century my first source is, "Women of the Klan, Racism and Gender in the 1920’s", by Kathleen M. Blee. (1991, University of California Press). On page 169, we find the passage, " Even more strangely, the Klan tried to organize an order of Black Protestants, a Klan "Colored division" in Indiana and other states. Despite promises that the new order would have "all the rights of membership" of the White Klan, much preparation went into ensuring that the values of white supremacy would be preserved as the Klan expanded its racial base. The group was to wear red robes, white capes, and blue masks and was prohibited from being seen in public with White Klansmen or handling any membership funds."
Clearly the history that is taught to us is NOT holistic or objective as it should be. You might be wondering if a White supremacist is writing this essay. Well to let the “cat out of the bag,” I am an AFRICAN AMERICAN historian and branch library director from the Tidewater Virginia area. I am descended form TWO slave families in Virginia residing in the counties of Southampton and King & Queen. I am also the son of a Korean War combat vet, the nephew of another Korean War combat vet, the nephew of several other vets and a cousin to a Vietnam Vet. All of my family fought for this country, its constitution and ALL of its history. My point her sir is that before you make broad brush statements like that take the time to allow respect for the fact that not everyone who flies the CSA battle flag or any CSA flag a card carrying Klan member or racist. Some of us are American combat vets who only wish the simple respect and honor we have fought so hard for OTHER Americans. This is the right to feel proud of and HONOR publicly our complete history and heritage.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration!
Bob Harrison, 1st Sergeant
37th Texas Cavalry, Company B, CSA
Author of the Foreword for “Myths of American Slavery” by Walter
Point Lookout prisoner Re-enactor