Readers addresses Dixie Days Event

From: BlckRbl@aol.com
To: letters@mechlocal.com

Dear Editor…

I am an African American Historian and reenactor from Virginia Beach who had the HONOR of being part of the Dixie Days event that some of your readers seem to have difficulty with. I wish to address this not only as a participant but as an African American as well.

Having grown up in the Philadelphia area surrounded by history on all sides, and being raised Southern by my parents, my mother in particular who was born and raised just outside of Richmond, VA, gave a strong sense of historical truth from the beginning. History is almost always written by the victor from the victor’s viewpoint. This is exceptionally true in dealing with the so-called Civil War. I am a 1st Sergeant with the 37th Texas Cavalry, www.37thtexas.org , and we have amassed well over 100+ pages of scholarly researched and documented historical FACTS on the war which many, if not most of your readers may have not had access to. To give you just a few of the facts we have put many painstaking hours into researching:

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. 218-219Tennessee 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

The Negro in the American Rebellion; his heroism and his fidelity, William Wells Brown, Lee & Shepherd, Boston, 1867, page 197:Regarding the New York Draft Riots as reported by The New York Times, July 14, 1863:"The poor negroes have had a hard time. Finding they were to be slaughtered indiscriminately, they have hid themselves in cellars and garrets, and have endeavored, under cover of darkness, to flee to neighboring places. The Elysian Fields, over in Hoboken, has been pretty safe refuge for them, as there are but few Irish living in that city. They have sort of improvised camp there, composed mainly of women and children.Blacks were chased to the docks, thrown into the river, and drowned; while some, after being murdered, were hung to lamp-posts. Between forty and fifty colored persons were killed, and nearly as many maimed for life. But space will not allow us to give anything like a detailed account of this most barbarous outrage."

Civil War Curiosities, Webb Garrison, 1994, Rutledge Hill Press, pg. 107 "Before the epochal voyage of the CSS Shenandoah ended, Lt. James I. Waddell added two black Americans to his crew. Partisan ranger John H. Morgan recruited a number of Mississippi blacks for his force, whose raids came to be feared throughout border states."

Colonel William S. Christian of the 55th Virginia Infantry, who was captured and held as prisoner of war on Johnson’s Island, wrote:"My recollection is that there were thirteen Negroes who spent that dreadful winter of 1863-64 with us at Johnson’s Island and not one of them deserted or accepted freedom though it was urged upon them time and again."

Virginia, Guide to The Old Dominion, WPA Writers’ Program, Oxford University Press, NY, 1940, p. 378"In 1650 there were only 300 negroes in Virginia, about one percent of the population. They weren’t slaves any more than the approximately 4,000 white indentured servants working out their loans for passage money to Virginia, and who were granted 50 acres each when freed from their indentures, so they could raise their own tobacco.Slavery was established in 1654 when Anthony Johnson, Northampton County, convinced the court that he was entitled to the lifetime services of John Casor, a negro. This was the first judicial approval of life servitude, except as punishment for a crime. But who was Anthony Johnson, winner of this epoch-making decision? Anthony Johnson was a negro himself, one of the original 20 brought to Jamestown (1619) and ‘sold’ to the colonists. By 1623 he had earned his freedom and by 1651, was prosperous enough to import five ‘servants’ of his own, for which he received a grant of 250 acres as ‘headrights.’Anthony Johnson ought to be in a ‘Book of Firsts.’ As the most ambitious of the first 20, he could have been the first negro to set foot on Virginia soil. He was Virginia’s first free negro and first to establish a negro community, first negro landowner, first negro slave owner and as the first, white or black, to secure slave status for a servant, he was actually the founder of slavery in Virginia. A remarkable man."

Yankee Leviathan, Richard Bensel, 1990, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 62:"The Revised Code of Indiana, for example, stated in 1862 that ‘Negroes and mulattos are not allowed to come into the state;’ ‘all contracts with such Negroes and mulattos are declared to be void’; ‘any person encouraging them to come, or giving them employment, is to be fined from $10 to $500’; ‘Negroes and mulattos are not to be allowed to vote’; ‘No Negro, or mulatto having even one-eighth part of Negro blood, shall marry a white person’

[with punishment of up to ten years in prison]; and ‘Negroes and mulattos are not allowed to testify against a white person.’"

The Philadephia Inquirer, March 11, 1861:"The proposition that the Negro is equal by nature, physically and mentally, to the white man, seems to be so absurd and preposterous, that we cannot conceive how it can be entertained by any intelligent and rational white man.

"The Great Proclamation" (1960), Commager, Henry Steele; "Mr. Lincoln’s Proclamation" (1964), Donovan, Frank; "The Emancipation Proclamation" (1964), Franklin, John Hope, ed.THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION:Whereas on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:"That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free…Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Palquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terrebone, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Northhampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued. "NOTE – Slavery was NOT abolished in one Confederate (Tennessee) and four Union states (Maryland, Delaware. Kentucky, West Virginia, and Missouri).

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.200I 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."

"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 two hundred killed, wounded, and missing."

These are just a few of the facts we have place on our web home at www.37thtexas.org that your readers are cordially invited to visit as often as you wish. The point in bringing these facts to light is for several reasons. Firstly, many people have never been given a chance to read about such facts before. Secondly, history is a myriad of branches and side branches of stories and opinions based on the experiences of each individual involved and as such the experiences of a few people do not make it so for the whole. History is a discipline which requires a thorough examination of ALL facts and accounts. As DR Ed Smith of American University has said, "History is ugly at times..but if you are going to be true to the profession, you must tell the WHOLE STORY."

>How this fits into the Dixie Days event is thus. We were there to provide the students, teachers, teachers aides, and parents information about that timeframe which they may not have been able to gain access to before. We shared books, living history encampments and a mock battle to give them all a chance to touch history instead of just reading about it in books. To label any and every event regarding Confederate heritage RACIST or pertaining to SLAVERY is dead wrong. The few facts I have given above clearly demonstrate there is always more to history than what you THINK you know, or what someone has told you. We simply put in many hours of research present the facts with documentation and let the reader decide for him or her self. Your readers who have written in with "concerns" about the connotations "the flag" brings might consider more historical study. A few facts to consider are:

1) the KKK flag officially is the Stars and Stripes. According to its own by-laws, the US flag must be flown at every event. If you look at the pictures of the KKK in the 1920s and particularly their march down Pennsylvania Avenue in DC, you will see the only flag flown is the US flag, and in fact they brought along a sea of US flags. WHile the KKK and other hate groups fly the battleflag at their events and private homes, their right to do so which is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of our Constitution, it does not mean that everyone who flies the flag is a bigot. It does not mean that the original meaning is eradicated either.

2) They also burn crosses, but I doubt we will ever see anyone screaming for the eradication of the Cross or the US flag.

3) Also, it was under the US flag ONLY, that slaves were brought to America.

4) It was under the US flag that the Native Americans were butchered, enslaved and forced onto reservations, with the help of the black buffalo soldiers I might add.

Before anyone starts thinking I am anti-American let me make it plainly clear that I love my country. I have a father, may he rest in piece who fought in Korea, an Uncle who also fought in Korea, Another uncle of fought in W.W.II. My whole family comes from a long line of soldiers so my love for my country is unquestioned. However, the old adage says, "what is good for the goose is good for the gander." If you are going to through Racism and slavery labels at the South, clearly the North has earned them as well. This crutch of slavery, racism and white guilt must be dropped if the races are to ever heal. History is a lesson to be learned, and NOT a means to continually chastise and exploit people for what their ancestors MIGHT have done over a century ago.

At your Service,

Bob Harrison, 1st Sergeant
37th Texas Cavalry, Company B, CSA

Point Lookout Lee’s Miserables POW reenactor
* aka Dick Polar a cook with the Army of Northern VA, captured at Gettysburg and kept at the Point as a POW for 20 months.

Private, 13th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry, Avegno Zouaves

PS- If you wish to include my response in your paper, kindly leave out any traces of my home address and phone, as I have a family I do not wish to see harassed because of this. You may use my name, unit and rank affiliations, and my email, but leave the rest out please.

So you think you know Civil War History…Visit www.37thtexas.org

"There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world."
— Thomas Jefferson

"I came here as a friend…let us stand together. Although we differ in color, we should not differ in sentiment." – LT Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA, Memphis, Tennessee – July, 1875

Frederick Douglas reported, "There are at the present moment many Colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but real soldiers, having musket on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down any loyal troops and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government and build up that of the rebels."

Black Confederate heritage is beginning to receive the attention it deserves. For instance, Terri Williams, a black journalist for the Suffolk "Virginia Pilot" newspaper, writes: "I’ve had to re-examine my feelings toward the [Confederate] flag started when I read a newspaper article about an elderly black man whose ancestor worked with the Confederate forces. The man spoke with pride about his family member’s contribution to the cause, was photographed with the [Confederate] flag draped over his lap that’s why I now have no definite stand on just what the flag symbolizes, because it no longer is their history, or my history, but our history."