Cover image for Searching for black Confederates : the Civil War's most persistent myth
Title:
Searching for black Confederates : the Civil War's most persistent myth
ISBN:
9781469653266
Physical Description:
228 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Summary:
"In addition to tracking the evolution of the black Confederate myth, Levin explores the roles that African Americans performed in the army with a particular focus on the relationship between officers and their personal body servants or camp slaves. In contrast to claims that these men served as soldiers in racially integrated regiments, Levin demonstrates that regardless of the dangers faced in camp, on the march and on the battlefield their legal status remained unchanged. Even long after the guns fell silent Confederate veterans and other writers remembered these men as former slaves and not as soldiers. Levin offers an important reminder that how the war is remembered often runs counter to history"--
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Summary

Summary

More than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, scores of websites, articles, and organizations repeat claims that anywhere between 500 and 100,000 free and enslaved African Americans fought willingly as soldiers in the Confederate army. But as Kevin M. Levin argues in this carefully researched book, such claims would have shocked anyone who served in the army during the war itself. Levin explains that imprecise contemporary accounts, poorly understood primary-source material, and other misrepresentations helped fuel the rise of the black Confederate myth. Moreover, Levin shows that belief in the existence of black Confederate soldiers largely originated in the 1970s, a period that witnessed both a significant shift in how Americans remembered the Civil War and a rising backlash against African Americans' gains in civil rights and other realms.



Levin also investigates the roles that African Americans actually performed in the Confederate army, including personal body servants and forced laborers. He demonstrates that regardless of the dangers these men faced in camp, on the march, and on the battlefield, their legal status remained unchanged. Even long after the guns fell silent, Confederate veterans and other writers remembered these men as former slaves and not as soldiers, an important reminder that how the war is remembered often runs counter to history.


Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Levin, author of the blog Civil War Memory, incisively reveals the origins and various iterations of the "black Confederate" mythology that white supremacists, pro-Confederate memorialists, and states' righters have conjured up to insist that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War and that slaves loved their masters and "home" so much that they were willing to fight for them. He skillfully deconstructs the so-called evidence that such mythmakers have distorted and even fabricated to make their claims, and tracks the ready way the Internet has circulated such unchecked conjurations. Levin is especially persuasive in showing that slaves who worked for the Confederacy during the war always did so as slaves, and that whites then understood them only as such. Even the Lost Cause mythology of the postwar era that celebrated supposedly loyal slaves never claimed them as soldiers in the cause. That claim came in response to the modern civil rights movement as whites sought to cleanse their own history of racism by creating legions of supposed black Confederates rallying for states' rights. VERDICT Levin's timely and telling account should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the uses and abuses of history and the power and dangers of mythmaking.--Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia