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."
Actually I don't have one - I seldom post threads. But I will make remember you in the future.
Sherman [*spit*], Sheridan, Butler and Grant fought for the Union.
Mr. Winbush (images from the Sierra Times) and his grandfather
Kudos to you all - our ancestors, of either side, need to be remembered honestly and proudly.
I would have loved to hear him speak of his grandfather. I will try to find out more about the meeting if possible.
What, your grandfather was in the SS? Hang your head.
Oh, wait, this is America -- we don't do "taint of blood".
Funny thing is, many people say that it is the south that is still fighting the war, whereas it is the "northerners" who are trying to outlaw any remembrance of the south, in effect attempting to erase its existence. Who is still fighting the war??
Next time I'm in Atlanta, I'm going to drop by the Cyclorama again (it having been restored since I saw it), just so I can ask your tour guide the same question -- knowing the answer.
Yes, mother, I'm a naughty boy.
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