I sent the following to David Person in regards to his article on Black America Web. I have thus far received no response. – BLM
I have read and wish to comment on your article entitled “Strom’s Black Daughter about to Crash Confederate Party” of July 6th on the Black America Web website www.blackamericaweb.com/site.aspx/bawnews/strom75). I am hopeful that this can be a respectful and constructive exchange between mature men if you choose to respond.
I am a War Between the States researcher, writer, and reenactor. I am a corporal in the 37th Texas Cavalry reenactment unit. The 37th is a multiethnic gathering of historians, reenactors, authors, and educators whose goal is research, documentation, and recognition of Confederates of Color and foreign birth. The 37th website consists of 100+ pages of fully referenced documentation and is considered the focal point for research on these "Forgotten Confederates" on the web. You can visit us at www.37thtexas.org.
I also represent the 37th in the Morris Island Coalition. The MIC is a informal gathering of groups that are dedicated to the preservation of Morris Island, South Carolina. If you have ever seen “Glory,” Morris Island is where the 54th Massachusetts made their valiant charge on Fort Wagner. As well, five days earlier a Black Confederate private named John Wilson Buckner was wounded defending Fort Wagner against the Federals. Buckner was a free Black man from Charleston who joined officially in the 1st South Carolina Heavy Artillery of his own free will.
You said, “The Daughters, at least down here in Alabama, haven’t been lining up in front of the NAACP office to join up. They haven’t been buying up blocks of tickets for the annual Martin Luther King holiday breakfasts.”
Here in South Carolina, the NAACP wasn’t exactly filling up the seats for a military honors service and historical marker dedication for Confederate drummer Henry “Dad” Brown of Darlington, South Carolina.
Henry fought in the Mexican War, War Between the States, as well as the Spanish-American War. He was a free man who served in a variety of capacities in the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, 8th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, and the 21st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry. After the war, Henry was given the position of Coroner of Darlington County by the Reconstructionist government that ruled South Carolina for twelve years after the war. When he had enough of the corruption of this government, he resigned his position and stood with his neighbors, Black and White. When he died in 1902, Henry was given the largest funeral Darlington has ever seen complete with thousands of mourners of all colors. He was given full military honors by the Darlington Guards, and he had a fifteen foot granite obelisk monument placed on his grave by the citizens of Darlington.
The 37th Texas Cavalry, along with the participation and help of Sons of Confederate Veterans camps and reenactment units, we performed a military service for Brown as well as the dedication of a historical marker for his grave site. A year later, we had another ceremony to place a permanent flagpole at his grave side that flies the regimental colors of the 21st SCVI year round, as well as the dedication of a Confederate iron cross for Henry by the SCV folks.
Henry is buried in the middle of a predominately Black neighborhood. These events drew many of the residents to attend. They were very receptive to Brown, his flag, and his history. This is the first known instance of a Confederate flag flying at the grave of a Black Confederate. The events surrounding it’s placement was marked by mutual respect and open dialog between people of many backgrounds. It is too bad that the NAACP decided this sort of atmosphere wasn’t important or meaningful enough to attend.
You said, “Slavery did our ancestors no favors. Neither does celebrating the so-called Confederate nation that fought for the right to keep them in chains.”
I will be one of the last to say that slavery was a good thing. Anyone with any moral fibre and conscience would shudder at the thought of the institution today. However, in the 1860’s, slavery was reality throughout the world, including in the North. I do have to part with you on your assertion that the Confederacy was fighting for the preservation of slavery.
If that is so, how does one explain away the proposed original 13th Amendment to the Constitution? This amendment was an attempt by the US Congress to lure the Southern States back into the Union before the first shots were fired. It protected the institutions of the States (including slavery) from Federal intervention and was worded to be unrepealable. In other words, the Union government was offering the South permanent protection of slavery. This is also the only proposed amendment signed by the President, who at that time was Abraham Lincoln. What was the result? Fort Sumter was fired on, more States seceded from the Union, and the war raged for four years, but not before the proposed amendment garnered the necessary 2/3 majority in Congress and was sent to the States for ratification.
What about the piles of historical references that point to the fact that the Southern States were tiring of being used as a welfare fund for fledgling Northern industry? The South bore 70% of the Federal tax burden with less than 10% going back into programs to benefit the South. It all went to Northern harbor improvements, Northern railroads, and Northern transportation advancements. The agricultural South had to pay “protection tariffs” to import cheaper and better manufactured products from England in an effort to chain the South’s leg to Northern industry. The tariff situation almost lead to South Carolina’s secession from the Union in 1832, about thirty years before the War Between the States.
Only about 7% of the Southern population owned slaves (including Black slaveowners), with around 24% of Southern families being somehow directly involved with the institution. The bottom line is slavery was expensive and not as common as popular mainstream “history” would have us believe. The common man who bled on the battlefields did not own slaves nor was he fighting for slavery one way or the other.
Confederate Generals Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson did not own slaves at the time of the war. Union Generals U S Grant and William Sherman did. The Emancipation Proclamation legally freed nobody. The wording specifically “freed” all the slaves not in areas where it could be enforced, and kept slaves in bondage in areas where the Federal government actually had the ability to enforce it. With the exception of a handful of abolitionists, nobody in the North cared about the plight of the slaves.
You said, “Washington-Williams is in a unique position to force some members of these groups to do what they join these organizations to avoid: Facing first-hand the farce that the mythology of the Confederacy is.”
Ms. Washington-Williams is hardly the first Black person to join a Confederate group. The requirement for most of these groups is that one must be descended from a Confederate soldier. More and more Black folks are discovering their Confederate heritage. Even more, they are evaluating history with an open mind and an unbiased heart and finding reasons to be proud of their Confederate heritage. Ms. Washington-Williams is definitely not the first and certainly will not be the last.
For the record, there is an SCV camp commanded by a Black member, more and more Confederate reenactors are showing up at events, and the 37th Texas Cavalry has White, Black, Multiethnic, Jewish, Hispanic, and Native-American members many of whom serve as our officers.
You also mention, “Because Thurmond was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Daughters will have little choice but to let Washington-Williams in.”
Most Confederate heritage groups are actively recruiting people of all backgrounds. Ms. Washington-Williams will hardly be turned away.
In closing, you said, “Convincing the Daughters that there are viewpoints about the Confederacy other than their own that need to be embraced won’t be an easy task.”
Have you endeavored to receive other viewpoints on this issue? Have you pursued historical references such as the Official Records and the Slave Narratives with an open mind and unbiased heart? I may certainly be wrong, but judging just from your article it would seem you have no real in-depth historical knowledge of the conflict, no knowledge of the groups you seem to despise, and no intentions to listen to the other side, preferring only the Union recruitment poster version of the war. I sincerely hope I am wrong, or else I have just wasted both our time and a very long letter.
Sincerest Regards …
Brian Lee Merrill
Goose Creek, SC
– memberships in Friends of the Hunley, Friends of the Florence Stockade, 37th Texas Cavalry, National Registry of Living Historians, and the Morris Island Coalition.