Changing Content in the Interests of Accuracy

Over the past few days there’s been a discussion over whether one can impose a useful typology of blogs, bloggers, blogging activity, and so on. One of the issues that came up during this discussion was the frustration expressed by some people with the continuing theme of African Americans and the Confederate army. Setting aside the issue that such a discussion is just as much about content (historical scholarship) as it is about how people remember (and distort) the past, one can say that catching distortions of the past (especially in the media) is an activity that historians undertake all the time. Still, it would be nice to bring everyone together, even if for one special moment, when content and “black Confederates” met at the crossroads … or Crossroads.

I had next to no interest in the tale of the erection of a monument in North Carolina commemorating “Confederate pensioners of color.” Other people, including Kevin Levin, were far more interested in it, as one can see here, here, and here. Accounts of the ceremony seemed to take great care in discussing what these ten men did during the war … until a local television station stepped right in it and openly declared: “Ten black military soldiers finally got the honor they deserve 150 years later.”

I visited the website, saw there was a comments section, and left a comment challenging the content of the article. Other historians chimed in:

comment wbtv


So imagine my surprise when I clicked on the link this morning and read the article, which now begins (albeit awkwardly):

“Friends and family of ten black military men finally got to see them honored 150 years later.”

Now, I don’t quite know what “military men” means, but at least they are no longer called soldiers.

And so we’ve used the power of the internet to correct incorrect content while addressing that thorny issue of “black Confederates,” and all is well with the world. Right?



14 thoughts on “Changing Content in the Interests of Accuracy

  1. Bummer December 11, 2012 / 11:02 am

    Bummer likes Levin’s last sentence of one post,”Confederate slaves ought to be recognized for surviving the Confederacy” and Simpson’s last comment of Leonard Lanier, “It’s Charlotte. Enough said.” This “old guy” keeps learning from the daily visits.

  2. Lyle Smith December 11, 2012 / 11:32 am

    The article I read from the Charlotte Observer is all over the place, but at least the title says that the men were slaves. Whoever wrote it got that right at least.

    I think its time for those who don’t really like what some SCV chapters do to form their own organizations. Then they can start building monuments and having ceremonies for Unionists and Anti-Confederates. Special attention can then be given to monuments to former slaves who volunteered for the U.S. Army and Navy. If you want to see these kinds of monuments you need to go out and make it happen. It’s a free country and you’re as free as anybody in the SCV. If they can do what they do, so can you.

  3. Michael Confoy December 11, 2012 / 12:01 pm

    Bodyguards it says. Would you trust them as bodyguards? I guess if they were promised their freedom. Under that assumption, sure, why not honor them? I would like to know more about their role though. You never know if this is just some type of, excuse the pun, white wash once again of Confederate history. I am very comfortable posting these concerns on your blog multiple times having been born and educated in the south until age 22 and lived here an additional 15 years. Way too many of my generation were and still are racists even with their college educations.

    • Andy Hall December 11, 2012 / 12:46 pm

      “Body guard,” in reference to African Americans who accompanied white Confederate soldiers to war, seems to have come into use in the late 19th/early 20th century, concurrent with the rise of the UCV, Confederate reunions, and Lost Cause orthodoxy. I don’t recall seeing the term used in that way from a wartime source. It seems to have been a catch-all term, perhaps a little more dignified than “body servant,” but one that’s extremely vague about one’s actual duties nonetheless. In the 1930s and 1940s, for example, there was an old African American man named Ransom Gwynn (Guinn, Gwynne) of Birmingham, Alabama, who attended Confederate reunions as a former “body guard,” even though the evidence of multiple censuses going back to 1880 indicate he was not more than 9 or 10 years old — at most — at the end of the conflict in 1865. It really is a hazy muddle of vague terminology that prompts more questions than it answers.

  4. Jimmy Dick December 11, 2012 / 1:01 pm

    The Society for the Historically Accurate Preservation of our National Heritage.

  5. Brian Hampton December 11, 2012 / 2:25 pm

    The image of that editorial meeting erupted vivdly in my head. I am certain it began with something like the following:

    “How can we say the same thing without saying the same thing?” It started what was probably a rather quick search for a euphemism that readers could infer to mean whatever they wanted.

    I applaud the effort. All to often if any kind of result that can be called positive is a consequence, it seems to me like it is this variety. There’s no admission even of controversy, much less error.

  6. John Foskett December 11, 2012 / 3:30 pm

    As any of this relates to legitimate blogsites taking on “Black Confederate”-style material, they perform a service. The vast majority of the population is abysmally ignorant when it comes to U.S. history, due perhaps primarily (but certainly not exclusively) to the “meaningless” status it’s been accorded in our educational system in favor of trendier subjects. Moreover, what learning there is in this area occurs to a substantial degree on the internet – where there is no screening or required credentials for those who set up a blogsite and post “facts” which are agenda-driven fiction or worse. I respect any legit blogger who says he/she won’t dignify that garbage by acknowledging its existence but I also respect those who see an opportunity to keep this junk from being what passes for “history”. I hope that those bloggers continue to tackle this trash when it rears its ugly head. If one reader ends up learning what really happened and where we’ve actually “come from”, that’s a good thing.

  7. Leonard Lanier December 12, 2012 / 10:49 am

    Sometimes even Charlotte surprises me. Glad to find a “correction” to the original story.

  8. Charles Lovejoy December 13, 2012 / 11:44 am

    I’m thinking about starting a blog after the first of the year, a photo blog. Thinking about photo blogging Sherman’s “March to the Sea” . Hiking it, kayaking it ect, maybe posting a few sketches from the solders who marched it and the people that was there and witnessed it. Leave the interpretation to those that view the photos and read the sketches.

    • Charles Lovejoy December 13, 2012 / 6:08 pm

      Guess nobody would be interested in a blog like that?

        • Noma December 13, 2012 / 10:05 pm

          Sounds wonderful!

    • Andy Hall December 14, 2012 / 9:09 am

      That sounds like a great blog. particularly if (as I gather) it ties in historical accounts from the war to those areas today.

      A little tangential to the subject of your proposed blog, but I really do have to share this website on photos of Atlanta during the Union occupation:

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