Once in a while one should step back, reflect, and then pull things together. Such is the case with several posts that have appeared here in the past few weeks. Together they explore a common problem.
We’ve revealed that Ed Bearss’s comment about the role of African Americans in the Civil War has been distorted and twisted into a statement supporting the notion that enslaved blacks voluntarily served in the ranks of the Confederate army.
We’ve discovered that Dr. Lewis Steiner’s observation about the presence of blacks with the Army of Northern Virginia in September 1862 has been twisted and distorted into a statement that they were serving in combat arms.
We’ve learned that Frederick Douglass’s comment about blacks serving in the Confederate military was simply a second hand assertion that he saw as advantageous to use to bolster his argument for black military service in the Union army. Its value as “proof” of anything other than of Douglass’s ability to make good use of what he heard and read is, to say the least, problematic.
Finally, we’ve seen that in recent years someone deliberately distorted a photograph of black soldiers in United States service to make the claim that the image was of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards in Confederate service in 1861, despite evidence that Confederate authorities were not quite so welcoming.
Each of these statements, taken by themselves, might seem minor to some people, even as others wonder what’s going on. Taken together, however, as we see a pattern of deception based upon the fabrication or distortion of the historical record. Not a single commenter has posted evidence to the contrary.
Nor are these the only cases that could be brought to one’s attention. Over at Civil War Memory Kevin Levin’s been doing a lot of work concerning Silas Chandler, who’s often portrayed as another black Confederate. And that’s just for starters. Other folks have done work on other aspects of this topic.
But there does appear to be a pattern of distortion, deception, and deceit in the use of these pieces of evidence to make a case for the presence of African Americans in the Confederate army as willing participants in fighting for the cause of southern independence.
Why do you think that is? What conclusions might we draw? Could you explain why these examples are still used by people who claim a fidelity to historical accuracy? After all, they offer no defense of their use of these examples in light of the information presented. They simply continue to present the examples.