Book Review Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth by Kevin M. Levin

C.W. Roden

Formerly: SouthernFriedOtaku
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Levin's book, pages 123-24:

"On September 17, 1994, the General William Barksdale Camp 1220, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and John M. Stone Chapter 380, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), placed a Southern Cross of Honor on the grave of Silas Chandler in Greenwood Cemetery in West Point, Mississippi. By honoring him, the SCV transformed an unknown story about an obscure slave into a full-blown legend....The Cross of Honor, introduced in 1900 by the UDC, was intended for Confederate soldiers who performed acts of valor on the battlefield. It was about this time that Myra Chandler Sampson, the great-granddaughter of Silas, discovered the marker. For Sampson, it represented nothing less than the SCV’s and UDC’s goal to “perpetuate myths in attempt to rewrite and sugarcoat the shameful truth about parts of our American history for political and financial gain.”

Levin doesn't mention that descendants of Silas Chandler gave permission to place the marker and they took part in the ceremony. Levin makes it sound like it was a lone act of the SCV.
Omission is one of the tools of the Denier trade.
Also "financial gain"? Forgive me ignorance here, but the SCV doesn't profit from honoring the fallen. If anything they lose money doing so since the Iron Crosses in question have to be purchased from money used in donations by camp members.
The only one who seems to be perpetuating myths for financial gain is Mr. Levin himself -- after all he doesn't just give his book away now, does he?
 

unionblue

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Levin's book, pages 123-24:

"On September 17, 1994, the General William Barksdale Camp 1220, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and John M. Stone Chapter 380, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), placed a Southern Cross of Honor on the grave of Silas Chandler in Greenwood Cemetery in West Point, Mississippi. By honoring him, the SCV transformed an unknown story about an obscure slave into a full-blown legend....The Cross of Honor, introduced in 1900 by the UDC, was intended for Confederate soldiers who performed acts of valor on the battlefield. It was about this time that Myra Chandler Sampson, the great-granddaughter of Silas, discovered the marker. For Sampson, it represented nothing less than the SCV’s and UDC’s goal to “perpetuate myths in attempt to rewrite and sugarcoat the shameful truth about parts of our American history for political and financial gain.”

Levin doesn't mention that descendants of Silas Chandler gave permission to place the marker and they took part in the ceremony. Levin makes it sound like it was a lone act of the SCV.

He did on his blog.
 

19thGeorgia

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Levin doesn't mention that descendants of Silas Chandler gave permission to place the marker and they took part in the ceremony. Levin makes it sound like it was a lone act of the SCV.
Also, I have an article about the marker ceremonies from 1994. It appears that descendants of Silas who lived in Virginia initiated contact with a local UDC group - not the other way around. That group contacted one in Mississippi.
 

C.W. Roden

Formerly: SouthernFriedOtaku
Joined
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Location
South Carolina, USA, Earth
Also, I have an article about the marker ceremonies from 1994. It appears that descendants of Silas who lived in Virginia initiated contact with a local UDC group - not the other way around. That group contacted one in Mississippi.
Yep, that sounds about right. Levin is a propaganda artist, not a real historian.
No I take that back, he did actually write a halfway decent book about the Battle of the Crater and the USCT men of Fererro's Division who fought in it. He glossed over some points there too, but still it was more fair. I will give him that much.
 

Rhea Cole

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I have bought a copy of Levin's book. He has really done his homework. I looked it up online before I bought it. What really got my attention was the series of links to articles exposing a disinformation campaign. Before the book was published, but after it had been talked about on the radio & press, several groups associated with a well known group were emailing their members alerting them to give bad reviews of it on Amazon. I just read an article from a magazine about the pre-publication smear campaigns, who organized them & what their stated goal was.
What I want to ask is what are they afraid of? Why go to such great lengths to support something that, apart from a few random usages of the term black & Confederate in the same sentence, was created whole cloth in the middle 1970"s? The evidence is there in black & white. The whole point of studying history is to learn. That is what makes it so intriguing. I have no idea how many of my certainties have been blown away by documentary evidence over the years.
I recently discovered that a quote that I have used at the battlefield to explain the battle to visitors was plagiarized. The man who I had been quoting, it turns out was an absolute fraud. He used other people's experiences & embellished them into his own story. When I found that out, I didn't organize a group of my friends to attack the grad student who exposed the lie. Instead, I wrote her an email & she kindly sent me a link to the actual author. My mentor said be humble, be teachable, follow where the evidence takes you.
Frankly, on serious footnote heavy websites, this Black Confederate thing does not exist. My favorite Civl War historian called it Civil War UFO-ology.
Anyways, I am about half way through Levin's book & am a little depressed. You gotta really, really, really want to believe some of that stuff because so much of it flys in the face of overwhelming well known & established fact.
 

Rhea Cole

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Yep, that sounds about right. Levin is a propaganda artist, not a real historian.
No I take that back, he did actually write a halfway decent book about the Battle of the Crater and the USCT men of Fererro's Division who fought in it. He glossed over some points there too, but still it was more fair. I will give him that much.
I am sorry, but your characterization of Levin is not accurate. Had you read his book, you would know that the careful journalism & fact finding is anything but propaganda. Facts are facts.
 

unionblue

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Yep, that sounds about right. Levin is a propaganda artist, not a real historian.

There's that lack of impartiality again, Carl. Again, I ask, what did Levin ever do to you to get such comments by you?

No I take that back, he did actually write a halfway decent book about the Battle of the Crater and the USCT men of Fererro's Division who fought in it. He glossed over some points there too, but still it was more fair. I will give him that much.

You "give" nothing, Carl, you only seem to take.

Also, I have an article about the marker ceremonies from 1994. It appears that descendants of Silas who lived in Virginia initiated contact with a local UDC group - not the other way around. That group contacted one in Mississippi.

I think you two better read the following article by both Myra Chandler Sampson and Kevin Levin about Silas Chandler and the SCV attempts to make him into something he was not.


FYI: There's more if you go to Levin's blog and search "Silas Chandler."

Unionblue
 

Andersonh1

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South Carolina
I am sorry, but your characterization of Levin is not accurate. Had you read his book, you would know that the careful journalism & fact finding is anything but propaganda. Facts are facts.

I read the book, and while he does include a lot of facts and clearly did a lot of research, he also completely leaves out a lot of relevant facts, and gets a few things out and out wrong.

One of the major omissions was that chapter two pretty much ends after the battle of Gettysburg. The assertion was that slave use in the army dropped and free black participation largely took its place, but there's very little evidence offered in support of this assertion. The remainder of 1863 and all of 1864 are simply not examined in any detail. Are we to believe that nothing relevant to the book's topic occurred during that time?
 
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Joined
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Let me break it down.
1) Searching For Black Confederates describes with considerable detail, the role of black men in the Confederate armies, and Confederate society. He uses the phrase "camp slaves" to describe most of them: enslaved men who served their masters. He also described in less detail, some efforts, like Gen. Cleburne's to enroll massive numbers of blacks as soldiers, in imitation of the US Colored Troops. Those controversial efforts did not succeed in any significant way.

2) He describes, in considerable detail, the narrative developed after the war, of faithful servants, a narrative so stylized its almost interchangeable. The enslaved man "follows" his young master to the army. (Think for a moment of the word "follows". These were enslaved men. Its not like they had a choice. The enslaved man was "ordered, without the option to refuse" is more accurate).
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Let me break it down.
1) Searching For Black Confederates describes with considerable detail, the role of black men in the Confederate armies, and Confederate society. He uses the phrase "camp slaves" to describe most of them: enslaved men who served their masters. He also described in less detail, some efforts, like Gen. Cleburne's to enroll massive numbers of blacks as soldiers, in imitation of the US Colored Troops. Those controversial efforts did not succeed in any significant way.

2) He describes, in considerable detail, the narrative developed after the war, of faithful servants, a narrative so stylized its almost interchangeable. The enslaved man "follows" his young master to the army. (Think for a moment of the word "follows". These were enslaved men. Its not like they had a choice. The enslaved man was "ordered, without the option to refuse" is more accurate).
3) The slave serves the master faithfully, and entertains with his capers. The master then gets wounded/killed and the slave rescues him from the battlefield. The slave then nurses him back to health/takes him home to get buried.

Levin describes, in considerable detail, the black men who attended postwar reunions, and applicated for pensions from their state governments, in the states and times when such pensions were available. And how they were praised as "old time" and "plantation" and "respectable" negroes. The black men asserted in their applications the dangers and hardships they endured.
 

C.W. Roden

Formerly: SouthernFriedOtaku
Joined
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Location
South Carolina, USA, Earth
I am sorry, but your characterization of Levin is not accurate. Had you read his book, you would know that the careful journalism & fact finding is anything but propaganda. Facts are facts.
I was once naive enough to believe the whole "facts are facts" spiel once upon a time.
Facts and context are two vastly different things, but when put together and add a little opinion and ego to the mix and you get Levin's work.
 

Rhea Cole

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I was once naive enough to believe the whole "facts are facts" spiel once upon a time.
Facts and context are two vastly different things, but when put together and add a little opinion and ego to the mix and you get Levin's work.
Perhaps you are or were naive at one time. I am not. You know why that is? It is because I learned a long time ago to double & triple check my sources. So, when Levin uses the History Detetives show on PBS as an example of how investigators sort out claimes & debunk disinformation, I call that thought provoking. I say that because I am aware of the kind of work the individuals involved do. I know that from personal experience.
Perhaps you would like to address the preprepublication disinformation campaign that preceded the publication of the book. What term would you apply to that? Where is it, page number, etc. that you find the conflict between fact & context in Levin's work? That would be helpful in understanding your condemnation of his work.
 
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19thGeorgia

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I think you two better read the following article by both Myra Chandler Sampson and Kevin Levin about Silas Chandler and the SCV attempts to make him into something he was not.
What did the SCV say he was? The '94 article I have says he was a slave/servant. I believe you are confusing the SCV with others.

Article:
"The Cross of Honor, created in 1900 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, was intended for Confederates who performed acts of valor on the battlefield"

He repeats that in his book, but it's not true. The Cross was for anyone who performed honorable service.
 

unionblue

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What did the SCV say he was? The '94 article I have says he was a slave/servant. I believe you are confusing the SCV with others.


Article:
"The Cross of Honor, created in 1900 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, was intended for Confederates who performed acts of valor on the battlefield"

He repeats that in his book, but it's not true. The Cross was for anyone who performed honorable service.

Did you read the article I posted?
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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What did the SCV portray Silas Chandler as?

Here's another article by Levin on Silas Chandler. Did you go to his blog and search for other articles on Silas?


You also should check out this list of articles on the same blog.


Unionblue
 
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