Skip to comments.An opposing view: Descendant of black Confederate soldier speaks at museum
Posted on 02/25/2004 11:52:26 AM PST by 4CJ
THOMASVILLE -- Nelson Winbush knows his voice isn't likely to be heard above the crowd that writes American history books. That doesn't keep him from speaking his mind, however.
A 75-year-old black man whose grandfather proudly fought in the gray uniform of the South during the Civil War, Winbush addressed a group of about 40 at the Thomas County Museum of History Sunday afternoon. To say the least, his perspective of the war differs greatly from what is taught in America's classrooms today.
"People have manufactured a lot of mistruths about why the war took place," he said. "It wasn't about slavery. It was about state's rights and tariffs."
Many of Winbush's words were reserved for the Confederate battle flag, which still swirls amid controversy more than 150 years after it originally flew.
"This flag has been lied about more than any flag in the world," Winbush said. "People see it and they don't really know what the hell they are looking at."
About midway through his 90-minute presentation, Winbush's comments were issued with extra force.
"This flag is the one that draped my grandfathers' coffin," he said while clutching it strongly in his left hand. "I would shudder to think what would happen if somebody tried to do something to this particular flag."
Winbush, a retired in educator and Korean War veteran who resides in Kissimmee, Fla., said the Confederate battle flag has been hijacked by racist groups, prompting unwarranted criticism from its detractors.
"This flag had nothing to with the (Ku Klux) klan or skinheads," he said while wearing a necktie that featured the Confederate emblem. "They weren't even heard of then. It was just a guide to follow in battle.
"That's all it ever was."
Winbush said Confederate soldiers started using the flag with the St. Andrews cross because its original flag closely resembled the U.S. flag. The first Confederate flag's blue patch in an upper corner and its alternating red and white stripes caused confusion on the battlefield, he said.
"Neither side (of the debate) knows what the flag represents," Winbush said. "It's dumb and dumber. You can turn it around, but it's still two dumb bunches.
"If you learn anything else today, don't be dumb."
Winbush learned about the Civil War at the knee of Louis Napoleon Nelson, who joined his master and one of his master's sons in battle voluntarily when he was 14. Nelson saw combat at Lookout Mountain, Bryson's Crossroads, Shiloh and Vicksburg.
"At Shiloh, my grandfather served as a chaplain even though he couldn't read or write," said Winbush, who bolstered his points with photos, letters and newspapers that used to belong to his grandfather. "I've never heard of a black Yankee holding such an office, so that makes him a little different."
Winbush said his grandfather, who also served as a "scavenger," never had any qualms about fighting for the South. He had plenty of chances to make a break for freedom, but never did. He attended 39 Confederate reunions, the final one in 1934. A Sons of Confederate Veterans Chapter in Tennessee is named after him.
"People ask why a black person would fight for the Confederacy. (It was) for the same damned reason a white Southerner did," Winbush explained.
Winbush said Southern blacks and whites often lived together as extended families., adding slaves and slave owners were outraged when Union forces raided their homes. He said history books rarely make mention of this.
"When the master and his older sons went to war, who did he leave his families with?" asked Winbush, who grandfather remained with his former owners 12 years after the hostilities ended. "It was with the slaves. Were his (family members) mistreated? Hell, no!
"They were protected."
Winbush said more than 90,000 blacks, some of them free, fought for the Confederacy. He has said in the past that he would have fought by his grandfather's side in the 7th Tennessee Cavalry led by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest.
After his presentation, Winbush opened the floor for questions. Two black women, including Jule Anderson of the Thomas County Historical Society Board of Directors, told him the Confederate battle flag made them uncomfortable.
Winbush, who said he started speaking out about the Civil War in 1992 after growing weary of what he dubbed "political correctness," was also challenged about his opinions.
"I have difficulty in trying to apply today's standards with what happened 150 years ago," he said to Anderson's tearful comments. "...That's what a lot of people are attempting to do. I'm just presenting facts, not as I read from some book where somebody thought that they understood. This came straight from the horse's mouth, and I refute anybody to deny that."
Thomas County Historical Society Board member and SVC member Chip Bragg moved in to close the session after it took a political turn when a white audience member voiced disapproval of the use of Confederate symbols on the state flag. Georgia voters are set to go to the polls a week from today to pick a flag to replace the 1956 version, which featured the St. Andrew's cross prominently.
"Those of us who are serious about our Confederate heritage are very unhappy with the trivialization of Confederate symbols and their misuse," he said. "Part of what we are trying to do is correct this misunderstanding."
I've known about Nelson and several other black men who have the courage to stand up against PC history and remind us how it really happened for several years now. The PC crowd wants to ignore or even deny the existence of blacks in gray during the War. For those who may not know, another black Confederate activist, H.K. Edgerton, marches across the South every year to support respect for Confederate history, heritage and symbols.
She looked at me like I had two heads and sputtered, "Of course not."
I have since learned more of the truth, and it is an ongoing experience.
Thanks for posting this.
Unfortunately it's probably going to be a few years until the truth comes out fully over the revisionism that's been forced upon us for years
There are several books on the subject, stand watie can give you the name of one by Professor Blackerby (sp?). Also try Forgotten Confederates: An Anthology About Black Southerners by Charles Kelly Barrow, et. al., Black Southerners in Gray by Richard Rollins, and Black Southern Heritage (video) by Edward Smith and the above-mentioned Nelson Winbush.
A hundred years from now, if there is still a United States, black men in gray uniforms will be participants in Civil War battle reenactments. Companies of Confederate soldiers made up of both black and white participants, will be led onto the field by a black man in a gray uniform proudly holding the Confederate Battle Flag. No one will notice.
In a hundred years, but not now.
Considering that Mr. Winbush states that his grandfather fought for the Confederacy and 'had plenty of chances to make a break for freedom, but never did', and that he [Mr. Winbush] 'would shudder to think what would happen if somebody tried to do something to this particular flag' [that draped his grandfather's coffin], I would guess that he does not consider the Confederacy offensive.
Regarding your latter comment, I would think that his statements would answer that, but only Mr. Winbush could answer for certain.
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