21 October 2010 by Published in: Neo-Confederate hooey 15 comments

Thanks to Prof. Chris Stowe for bringing this to my attention.

A fourth grade textbook that has been published draws on neo-Confederate doctrine to claim that there were thousands of black Confederate soldiers with the Army of Northern Virginia, including two full battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson. The source for this drivel was the website of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization which has lost all credibility in its drive to try to find some good in slavery as a means of advancing the neo-Confederate agenda. Instead of doing real research, the idiot author parroted this swill–flagrantly false swill–and has promulgated it to unsuspecting children, who are going to think that this nonsense is historical truth. We have to take a stand against it, and all other neo-Confederate hooey.

From today’s issue of The Washington Post:

Phony history controversies will swell with Lincoln, Civil War anniversaries

By Robert McCartney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 10:06 PM

Voltaire said history is a pack of tricks we play upon the dead. He should have added that the living are victims, too.

Virginia fourth-graders are the latest targets of historical misinformation. A textbook distributed to students last month included the gross falsehood that two battalions of African American soldiers fought for the Confederacy under famed Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

This wasn’t just a minor factual error, like saying that Jackson lost his right arm at the Battle of Chancellorsville when any self-respecting Civil War buff knows it was his left.

The passage represents a deliberate distortion of history driven by a political agenda. It was foisted on kids by a sloppy author using Internet research who mistakenly drew from works done by Confederate heritage enthusiasts.

The latter like to promote the canard that large numbers of African Americans carried arms willingly for the South. The rebel revisionists do so because it helps cover up two historical truths that put their Lost Cause in a bad light.

One truth is that blacks at the time were overwhelmingly pro-Union, and they fought in large numbers for the North because they recognized that a victory by that side represented their best chance at winning freedom. The second, larger verity – which, to its credit, the schoolbook did make clear – is that sectional disagreements over slavery were the primary cause of the war.

Carol Sheriff, a Civil War expert at the College of William and Mary, discovered the error in her daughter’s copy of the offending book, “Our Virginia: Past and Present.” Sheriff clarified the facts in a Web chat Wednesday on washingtonpost.com.

“As far as we know from the historical record, not a single black person participated in a battle under the command of Stonewall Jackson,” Sheriff wrote. “There is historical evidence that individual blacks, usually servants who followed their masters to the front, occasionally picked up guns in the heat of battle. But it was illegal in the Confederacy to use blacks as soldiers until the waning days of the war (early 1865). A few companies . . . were raised then, but none saw battle action, as the surrender followed shortly thereafter. Stonewall Jackson had died in 1863, so no black soldiers could have served under his command.”

Sheriff said that thousands of blacks worked as laborers for the Confederate army, most of them involuntarily, including under Jackson’s command. But that’s very different from agreeing to risk your life in combat on behalf of a government committed to your enslavement, as some Confederate apologists would have us believe.

Such arguments have been going on for generations, and they are about to become more public and acute. One reason is that Nov. 6 is the 150th anniversary of the election of Abraham Lincoln, which led to the war because it prompted Southern states to begin seceding.

That means the nation is entering a nearly five-year string of commemorations – Fort Sumter, the Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg, Appomattox – full of opportunities to revive the controversies over the Civil War. (It will also familiarize many people for the first time with the word “sesquicentennial,” for a 150th birthday.)

In addition, it so happens that 2010 is a time when the nation is sharply divided by ideological differences that in some ways parallel those of 1860. I’ve heard the comparison made by participants in the Glenn Beck rally in August and in an interview with a Virginia leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Both said resistance today to health-care reform and other alleged excesses of “big government” is reminiscent of the Southern states’ battle against what they viewed as Northern aggression. In a column in April, I quoted the Confederate veterans leader as saying the rebels of the 1860s “were fighting for the same things that people in the ‘tea party’ are fighting for now.”

Moreover, there’s been a surge in activity, especially among conservatives, to adjust history teaching to reflect contemporary political positions. One prominent recent effort occurred in Texas in May. The state school board revised social studies standards to increase study of Confederate leaders and reduce emphasis on the Founding Fathers’ commitment to separation of church and state. Some wanted to stop referring to the slave trade and substitute a euphemistic phrase, the “Atlantic triangular trade,” but that idea was, thankfully, dropped.

The Virginia Department of Education has conceded its error in allowing the misleading textbook to be used in classrooms. On Wednesday, it sent an e-mail to school superintendents and history specialists warning them that the offending passage is “outside accepted Civil War scholarship.” The department said that it anticipates teachers “will have no difficulty working around one objectionable sentence” in using the book.

I don’t think that’s enough. A lot of teachers will neglect to pass on the message about the mistake. Also, many fourth-graders are going to have a hard time understanding that one part of the book is wrong but that they need to learn the rest.

The state should yank the book and replace it with an accurate one as soon as possible. It should also investigate why a review committee approved the book and what steps are necessary to prevent such mishaps from occurring in the future.

The First Amendment protects Confederate sympathizers’ right to write this nonsense. But public schools should take greater care not to help spread such myths.

Staff writer Kevin Sieff contributed to this column.

The author of this tripe claims that she stands by her research, which speaks volumes for her, as it’s well known that there were, perhaps, a handful of black Confederate solders at best. Kevin Levin has led the charge in efforts to combat the neo-Confederate canard of the black Confederate, and I commend you to the good work that Kevin has done on his blog to fight this good fight.

The bottom line is that those of us who take the truth seriously–not neo-Confederate hooey–MUST fight this fight every day. Keep up the good work, Kevin.

Scridb filter


  1. Rick Allen
    Thu 21st Oct 2010 at 3:43 pm

    That’s an utter load of blatent historical nonsense. I wouldnt have a problem with it had it even the most remote relationship to the truth, but this kind of crockery is exactly the kind of thing that makes the idiot brush so consistantly wet.

  2. Jon Morrison
    Thu 21st Oct 2010 at 5:06 pm

    This is not a problem confined to schoolbooks. The site devoted to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War on Facebook has had its share of neo-Confederate attacks over the past few months…..I spend a few hours each week trying to straighten these folks out as best as I can. The sheer amount of disinformation that finds itself on that page is simply amazing. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Civil-War-Sesquicentennial-network/147303769169
    Another source of disinformation are the responses to the articles that appear from the History.net site. Here is another example of some crazy Lost Causers trying to push their agenda: http://www.historynet.com/the-confederacy-americas-worst-idea.htm These folks pop up & spread the oft-repeated lies & baloney over & over again. Sometimes I feel like a fireman trying to put out the Hindenburg with a squirt gun.

  3. John Foskett
    Thu 21st Oct 2010 at 6:55 pm

    I’ll go beyond websites. If we recall that execrable Maxwell/Turner sequel Gods and Generals, I can understand why somebody who saw that embarassment might come away with the conclusion that Stonewall was an active abolitionist.

  4. Thu 21st Oct 2010 at 7:32 pm

    If all those black men picked up arms and fought for the Confederacy, the South sure had a funny way of treating their veterans.

  5. R. Evans
    Thu 21st Oct 2010 at 7:50 pm

    What a bunch of hooey! And that’s being polite. I can’t believe that anyone would believe this crap and what’s more put it in a textbook. Disbelief is all I can muster.

  6. Thu 21st Oct 2010 at 8:02 pm

    You simply cannot believe everything you read on the Internet. In this case, the “history” was not even close to the truth. Doesn’t someone edit these textbooks before they are published. I heard somewhere that there are two types of history; what really happened, and what ends up in textbooks. While a bit all inclusive, it certainly hits the mark in this case.

  7. Mark Peters
    Fri 22nd Oct 2010 at 8:51 am

    “I’ll go beyond websites. If we recall that execrable Maxwell/Turner sequel Gods and Generals, I can understand why somebody who saw that embarassment might come away with the conclusion that Stonewall was an active abolitionist.”

    I recall that ‘God and Generals’ was a prequel, and not a sequel. More importantly, the film did not suggest that Jackson was an “active abilitionist”. It would take some leap of fantasy to reach that conclusion! Rather, an element of the film reflected on a possible moral conflict between his deep religious beliefs and his faith in the social systems prevalent in the Commonwealth of Virginia at that time.

    Whilst rightly attacking the distortion of history, highlighted in this case by the likes Eric, Professor Stowe and Kevin Levin, we must be careful not to allow ourselves to fall into the same trap. Distortion is distortion, whichever side of the fence we sit!

  8. John Foskett
    Fri 22nd Oct 2010 at 1:41 pm

    It was a “sequel” in cinematic terms because it followed “Gettysburg”. And I saw what I saw. The movie was mass marketed and there are a healthy number of folks out there whose impression of Civil War facts is largely based on what they saw, as well. Both depictions of African Americans in the film left more than a few such viewers with the belief that most southern slaves were ambivalent about the coming of the Yankees or actually pro-Confederacy in their attitudes despite that little bondage problem. I know this because I’ve had several people who saw the movie tell me this. The depicted relationship between Stonewall and “Jim” came across as that between commander/colleague and staff/family. It wasn’t, with all due respect. By the way, the movie was pretty bad in a number of other aspects from a historical perspective, but that’s beyond the scope of this thread. I’ll stand by my point – like the uninformed scripting of textbooks and the stuff that shows up on websites, Turner and Maxwell helped foster misunderstanding about the views and roles of slaves in the C.S.A.

  9. Jonathan Anderson
    Fri 22nd Oct 2010 at 2:28 pm

    How could anyone have been influenced by Gods and Generals? No one saw it.

  10. Fri 22nd Oct 2010 at 9:33 pm

    That’s why they call it historical fiction folks. It’s the authors interpretation of events. The Killer Angels, is one of my all time favorite books–but it’s still fiction.

  11. David
    Sat 23rd Oct 2010 at 8:15 am

    I’m confused — the author stands by her research, while, at the same time, the Department of Education has conceded the error?

  12. David
    Sat 23rd Oct 2010 at 8:23 am

    Sorry, meant to say Virginia Department of Education.

  13. Barry Dussel
    Sat 23rd Oct 2010 at 10:08 am

    This is so typical for School Text books and It’s been going on for as long as I can remember . Anyone remember a few years ago when one textbook came out basically accusing the US of starting WW2? Then there was the issue that the US actually blew up the USS Maine so we could eliminate Spain in our sphere of influence? Those are 2 instances that stand out and there are more. Now this. Which begs the question. Where are the editors? Where is the oversight? Then again how or why would anyone do research based on the internet? Yet so many teachers are allowing their students to do exactly that.When many of us went thru school we weren’t even allowed to sight a encyclopedia as a source for our research. Now what’s the differnce between the web and printed source? The internet IMO is todays encylcopdia . Yet someone develops a textbokk from the web . Leads me to believe some our educators and our researchers are becoming pathetic. It’s no wonder this latest drivel has made it to print. What’s next? That the Chinese and Koreans wholeheartedly supported the Japanese and provided whole divisions?

  14. Tue 26th Oct 2010 at 5:23 am

    In all history there are some secrets that there aren’t written in any book. But sometimes happen that someone tells a story and nobody believes it because is not in a textbook.

  15. Fri 19th Nov 2010 at 6:06 am

    I read the article back then and I didn’t know what to believe. But also how can somebody say that was an error although another one made a research and was truth.

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