A Primer in Basic Research

Over the last several weeks there’s been a rather heated exchange between several contributors to this Facebook group, which celebrates “southern heritage” (although it seems more like “Confederate heritage” to me) and a number of bloggers who have become known for their research disproving or qualifying claims about various supposed “black Confederates” (as in supposed soldiers).  There’s something to be said for the observation that this is an online debate and little more … except, of course, that so many students do so much of their research online these days that they are bound to come across this stuff, including claims about black Confederate soldiers.

Here’s an example.

Ann DeWitt, who is responsible for a leading website devoted to documenting the widespread existence of black Confederates in military service, shared her most recent research with her fellow Facebook compatriots (posting under the name “Royal Diadem”).  As she declares:

Captain P.P. Brotherson’s Confederate Officers record states eleven (11) blacks served with the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery in the “Negro Cooks Regiment.” This annotation can be viewed on footnote.com. See the third line on the left. Also, the record is cataloged in the National Archives Catalog ID 586957 and microfilm number M331 under “Confederate General and Staff Officers, and Nonregimental Enlisted Men.”

Could this be one of the types of regiments many Confederate historians have documented as part of Confederate History?

Well, could it?

Apparently not, according to Andy Hall, who began by taking a careful look at the document Ms. DeWitt shared with her friends.  Let’s look at it ourselves:

Hmm.  As Andy points out, somehow eleven black cooks for a heavy artillery unit stationed at Galveston, Texas, commanded by one Colonel Joseph Jarvis Cook, have been transformed into a “Negro Cooks Regiment.”

Read Andy’s post for the rest of the story.

As Gary Adams, the president of the Southern Heritage Preservation Group, says, in regard to a topic discussed here,

Everyone does realize one of the quotes here is a myth posted to demostrate why research from reputable sites is important.

Precisely.  Indeed, according to Mr. Adams, the discovery that Ulysses S. Grant did not actually say comments attributed to him moved him to create his group.  He should be applauded for that.

Now we’ll see what to make of his commitment to historical accuracy in this case … one celebrated on the Facebook page of the very group he founded to ensure a commitment to historical accuracy.

Update: Judging from this post, at least some of the members of the SHPG are aware of this misadventure in research.  We’ll see whether they have a commitment to real scholarship.


29 thoughts on “A Primer in Basic Research

  1. Kevin August 8, 2011 / 7:18 pm

    Are you looking to be the newest member on their hit list? 🙂

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 8, 2011 / 8:33 pm

      I am going to take Gary Adams at his word. After all, he is correct in saying that any group loses credibility if the evidence its members advance in support of their case is flawed, fabricated, or misinterpreted. This would appear to be one of those unfortunate cases.

      • Andy Hall August 9, 2011 / 7:12 am

        I have other issues with Adams, that I don’t need to reiterate here. But he does, with some regularity, gently challenge other group members’ postings, pointing out that there’s no evidence for this anecdote, or that quote has been debunked many times before. But he’s mostly shouting into the wind when he does.

        • Brooks D. Simpson August 9, 2011 / 10:08 am

          Well, he’s no Connie “Chastising” Chastain/Connie Ward, whose latest post is somewhat misinformed as to the obligations of a university professor as well as a writing historian. Most interesting is that she objects to free speech at institutions of higher education: she highlights ASU’s record on that score … and the site she highlighted directed readers to the Huffington Post, which named ASU the top university in that regard. What Ms. Chastain’s problem is with free speech she does not explain. Perhaps she’s honoring the southern heritage of the gag rule and other restraints on free speech once highlighted by Clement Eaton.

          Or perhaps she is so blinded by her rage that she can’t think, read, or write clearly and knows not what she says. That’s happened before, too. That her fellow group members (including Helga Ross’s little cherry-picker) think she’s eloquent and intelligent suggests why they also believe that there was a regiment of black cooks guarding Galveston for ten days.

          • Ray O'Hara August 9, 2011 / 10:45 am

            ” they also believe that there was a regiment of black cooks guarding Galveston for ten days.”

            Diarrhea is no laughing matter and it has crippled many an army throughout history.

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 9, 2011 / 2:12 pm

            All the more reason why the cooks should have been distributed across commands unless they were suspected of being double agents poisoning food.

  2. TF Smith August 8, 2011 / 7:42 pm

    I’m waiting for the wikipedia entry:

    “The Provisional 101st Texas Heavy Cooks Regiment (Colored) was a little-known unit raised late in the Civil War by Sous-Chef. (Hon) Garcon leGarcon, a well-known gens libre of the Galveston leGastons, with the approval of the well-known Commandant of Commissaries Beauregard Trencherman Cornpone, 1st Texas Volunteer Auxiliary Commisary General’s Corps. Known for their battlecry “Bon Appetit et Bon Chance!” they were regarded as amongst the moset deadliest of the Confederacy’s “Cooks and Bakers'” battalions….

      • TF Smith August 10, 2011 / 7:37 am

        Presumably they were the cream of the army…

  3. Al Mackey August 8, 2011 / 8:16 pm

    That group is another “gift that keeps on giving” to put it charitably. And most of the usual suspects, too.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 8, 2011 / 8:35 pm

      I won’t pass uniform judgment on the group as a whole. That would be unfair.

      • Brooks D. Simpson August 11, 2011 / 10:25 am

        Then again, perhaps not. The group as a group seems useless as anything other than a vehicle to vent resentment. In attempting to ridicule others, it brings ridicule upon the South.

  4. Robert Moore August 9, 2011 / 2:57 am

    “’southern heritage’ (although it seems more like ‘Confederate heritage’ to me).”

    There’s no “seem” about it, but of course, nobody can get that across to these folks. To them, southern will always = Confederate… nothing more, nothing less… and that speaks volumes of their failing effort to project any real understanding of the history of the South… and that’s especially sad considering it is their/”our” own history.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 9, 2011 / 2:17 pm

      I find this particular discussion group on Facebook to be a fringe group; although some of its members pop up in the comments section now and then, only Ms. DeWitt’s work has any circulation, thus my post highlighting Andy Hall’s essay on how faulty her research is. I find the wild characterizations of various matters amusing. Someone mistaking those participants for representative white southerners would use their exchanges as evidence to compose a book entitled The Paranoid South. However, I will take Mr. Adams as a man of his word until persuaded otherwise.

  5. John Foskett August 9, 2011 / 6:50 am

    What’s a “Confederate historian”? Unfortunately, Ms. DeWitt(less) appears to be an example.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 10, 2011 / 6:30 pm

      Clearly there are problems with her research, which her admirers ignore. But highlighting those errors seems to have provoked Connie Chastain/Connie Ward into flying into a mindless rage. Instead of dealing with Ms. DeWitt’s errors, Chastain/Ward continues a series of rants, ending with this promise:

      The dust-up over the Black Confederates research and website in the self-appointed Ministry of Civil War Truth — the blogs of Kevin Levin, Andy Hall, Brooks Simpson and tagger-along Corey Meyer, and who knows how many others — will be the subject of more blog posts here at 180 DTS. If you want to see truly incredibly disturbing, stay tuned.

      Stay tuned indeed. Anyone wishing to encounter an incredibly disturbed/disturbing blogger is invited to read Ms. Chastain’s blog.

      “The Ministry of Civil War Truth”–sigh. But funny. Especially from someone who’s attacked ASU for its commitment to free speech. What is it with these people who can’t follow their own (derailed) train of thought?

      For what it’s worth, I have no problem having such blogs as those offered by Ms. DeWitt and Ms. Chastain/Ward up, running, and open to public inspection. Same thing with the SHPG. They are representative of a certain perspective and quality of mind that some people claim no longer exists. You wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it.

      • Brooks D. Simpson August 11, 2011 / 2:05 pm

        What helps one understand the quality of mind displayed by Ms. Chastain is her admission today on the SHPG’s Facebook page:

        “I dunno why, but I’ve never visited Mr. Simpson’s blog much, just a time or too. Did do anything for me, I guess.”

        Yet Ms. Chastain then attacks and characterizes a blog that she admits she doesn’t know much about. I marvel at her confession of complete stupidity.

  6. Margaret D. Blough August 9, 2011 / 9:54 am

    I remember Wayne Wachsmuth telling me of an article quite a while back that he’d read that railed at the racism of the 19th century north, including, according to the article, calling the area in Gettysburg borough that had the highest concentration of blacks “Coontown”. The problem was, even though the existence of racism is undisputed, the name had nothing to do with race. It didn’t even cover the most heavily black section of Gettysburg which is still up along Washington Street. It covered an area near the brickyard and the name was KUHNtown (emphasis added), pronounced “coon” (some Kuhn’s in the US did adopt the Coon spelling) after a family in the area.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 9, 2011 / 2:30 pm

      I doubt that I will threaten the pride of place that Kevin and you have with these people, and had it not been for (a) the blogs I’ve read that have mentioned the group (b) some of these questionable assertions about scholarship, I would have set it aside as a fringe group. Given Ms. DeWitt’s visibility, however, it seemed useful to highlight her claims to having conducted scholarly research, which usually involve recycling previous claims while demonstrating a marked lack of skill in reading and interpreting documents.

      As with certain Yahoo groups and usenet, while these groups provide rich fodder for commentary, I don’t take them as representative of very much. They prove useful to me when they enable me to make a broader point. It’s the ensuing chatter that I find even more amusing, and one should look forward to the day when the cherry picker, who inhabits both groups, introduces Helga Ross the poet to Connie Chastain (aka Connie Ward), fiction writer.

  7. Charles Persinger August 9, 2011 / 2:06 pm

    Connie Chastain seems to think The Civil War had nothing to do with slavery only because the North didn’t Intend to free slaves at the start of the war. Apparently the South’s motivations have nothing to do with it.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 9, 2011 / 2:21 pm

      Ms. Chastain came to my attention when she came on several blogs to attack bloggers with somewhat mindless rants. Since then I’ve seen that characteristic in her other online postings, including her blog, which would be more successful as a parody.

      • Al Mackey August 10, 2011 / 12:02 pm

        I could regale you with Connie Ward tales. 🙂

        She believes Mississippi’s Declaration of Causes clearly shows that Mississippi seceded because slavery was being used as an excuse to victimize the state and its people. She thinks slavery was used as a cover for the northeast’s desire to economically dominate the entire country through government power, and that the Civil War was a war for economic dominance. She believes the firing on Fort Sumter was not the beginning of the war. She believes that Confederate POWs in Federal prisons were deliberatly starved, shot, poisoned, frozen to death, tortured to death, and infected with deadly diseases. She believes that the Civil War isn’t over, that there’s merely a truce that has been in effect since 1865. She believes that in 1860 Fort Sumter was old and run-down, and occupied by a few janitors when Anderson moved his troops there. She believes that black legislators in Reconstruction were having their strings pulled by Republican carpetbagger overlords. I could go on. 🙂

    • Ray O'Hara August 9, 2011 / 5:34 pm

      there is nothing new or unusual in that. Lost Causers have been pushing that for decades if not longer.

  8. John Foskett August 10, 2011 / 7:20 am

    After reading Kevin Levin’s open letter and the material which it quotes, I now have a new perspective on slaves who were taken into service by their masters as body servants. According to DeWittless, they were “executive assistants”. Who knew……

  9. ken massey January 6, 2012 / 3:18 pm

    i read alote of free blacks went north only to come back due to the meaness of yankeeys hell the irish where treated like crap too by them self importent pukes

    • Brooks D. Simpson January 7, 2012 / 10:32 am

      Yet the Irish targeted black people in the 1863 draft riots. Have you come across that in your reading?

  10. Kenny Massey January 6, 2012 / 3:24 pm

    i read alote of fee blacks went north only to come back south because they were treated badly by whites up there

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