Skip to comments.Rebel Re-enactor with a Cause
Posted on 07/01/2002 2:49:16 PM PDT by TexConfederate1861
Spotsylvania resident Willie Levi Casey Jr. is an African-American member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and proud to be Southern.
By LAURA MOYER The Free Lance-Star Date published: Sun, 06/30/2002
ROCKVILLE--In the Hanover County woods where men in blue and men in gray are shooting at each other, it's all noise and smoke and stink.
Across a field there's cannon fire so loud it resets your heartbeat for you. Horses whicker, and men shout. Fog-thick gunpowder smoke gives off a rotten-egg reek.
For Confederate Pvt. Casey of the 6th North Carolina State Troop, a Civil War re-enactment unit, the conflict is all external.
In real life, the Rebel private is Maj. Willie Levi Casey Jr. of the U.S. Army--a tasty bit of irony if you're looking for it.
But Casey sees no irony at all in re-enacting as a 19th-century soldier in gray and being a 21st-century African-American.
Casey, a 40-year-old resident of Spotsylvania County's Chancellor area, is a Southerner by birth and proud of it by choice.
He's been re-enacting since 1997 and was welcomed as a full member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Matthew Fontaine Maury Camp No. 1722 two years ago.
It all makes sense, he said, if you view the Civil War not as a textbook struggle between good and evil, but as the nuanced conflict it truly was.
"Look at the mentality of a black person in the South" at the time of the Civil War, Casey said. That person's ancestors might have been living in the South for 150 years before the war.
In such a case, he said, "You may be a Southerner by force, but you are a Southerner."
Historians have long held that black Southerners, free or slave, did not serve the Confederacy as soldiers, but worked instead as teamsters, laborers, cooks and personal servants.
If those black men took up weapons in battle, this official version of history goes, it was because of circumstances and self-defense, not because they believed in the Southern cause.
But recent scholarly works--many by African-American academics--have alleged a historical understatement and even a cover-up of blacks' real participation.
Casey, who earned a degree in history from Presbyterian College in South Carolina, said his reading over the past few years leads him to believe that tens of thousands of blacks, slave and free, fought for the Confederacy.
Their motivation, he believes, was not to support slavery but to support what they saw as their country--the South--and to improve their own lot in life.
"You would fight to gain status. Because you know that even if you lose, you're still one of the brothers in arms," Casey said. "You're fighting to make your life better."
Casey's persona as a re-enactor is a free black cabinetmaker from eastern Tennessee, able to read and write, with a wife and a child at home.
But he has a real-life link to the Confederacy as well--one he always vaguely knew about but pinned down only in recent years.
Casey grew up in Cross Anchor, S.C., in the 1960s and '70s. It was an area full of Caseys, black and white.
He and his siblings knew they had a white great-grandfather, a man who had never married their American Indian/African-American great-grandmother even though they had six children together.
A family photo of the couple's son Barney Casey shows a bulky man in overalls with lank gray hair and white skin. He's Willie Casey's grandfather.
Willie Casey was well into adulthood when he decided to research the white side of his family.
In the course of his genealogical effort he came across the Civil War record of one Pvt. Martin Luther Casey, a South Carolina soldier killed in 1862. That man was the older brother of Casey's great-grandfather.
Being a collateral relative of a Civil War soldier qualified Casey for membership in the SCV. He's twice been elected aide-de-camp of the local group.
His acceptance into the organization doesn't surprise him. "Most people will welcome you according to how you treat them," he said.
The SCV denounces racism and has vehemently fought the usurpation of the Confederate battle flag by the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups.
"These are guys who are trying to remember their ancestors in a positive manner," he said. And that's what he wants to do, too.
Still, Casey is often asked to explain himself--not to his fellow re-enactors or SCV members, but to people who just can't understand where he's coming from.
"People say to me, 'Do you support slavery?'" he said.
"I say, 'No. I support preserving Southern history and telling it the way it is.'"
Actually, the system of government he theorized creates the ultimate state of slavery.
On the other hand, Hitler was openly for slavery and used it. And he subscribed to the position that the union preceded the states and all that stuff etc. - the same position you take.
In other words, he predicted that the war would put america on the road to communism.
And what's your answer to that, Walt? I quote you: "Marx actually lays it out pretty well."
My question to you is this, what if all that you claim is true about Lincoln, what do we do with that info to change todays world into a better place?
Now that's funny. Cause just a second ago you said Marx was against slavery and so did Walt when he endorsed him. So which is it?
And on a similar note where there is no dispute, Marx was for the permanency of the union, Hitler was for the permanency of the union, Lincoln was for the permanency of the union, and you are for the permanency of the union. So what does that tell us? Just curious.
What broad brush would that be? Are you a south basher? Cause that's about the only thing I believe I've painted.
And on south bashers, I simply noted the historical fact that they are direct heirs in their argumentation to the man who first espoused the arguments they use. That man was Karl Marx and he did it back in 1861.
My question to you is this, what if all that you claim is true about Lincoln, what do we do with that info to change todays world into a better place? In general terms, we reject extreme unionism, we reject centralized government, we reject tax and spend policies, and we embrace the core concept upon which our country was founded but no longer operates, that of self government.
How we go about doing so? Now that's a trickier question that I don't think anybody has the exact answer to.
But I do think a good start is to figure out what some of the problems are, and problems that go to our philosophical roots are best addressed there as well. By embracing Lincoln at these roots, IMHO we are embracing part of the problem.
No, I said Hitler was. I said that Marx's system creates a state of slavery. And I said so after both you and Walt maintained, and I presume still maintain, that Marx opposed slavery and was good for doing so.
You said that the form of government he theorized created the ultimate form of slavery.
Yep. And you said Marx opposed slavery. So which is it?
You said that Hitler was open for slavery and used it. Well, so did Jefferson Davis. So would you link Davis and Hitler in that area?
Insofar as the link you drew was made, but that's about it. On a key political issue of the war, that of the union, they were complete opposites. Hitler's view was identical to the northern side. Davis' was a part of the southern side. As for the link...
Hitler had a mustache. Grant also had a mustache. So would you link Grant and Hitler in that area?
The war was brought on for the benefit of the slave power.
You're making the link between Marx and Lincoln based on a letter. But let's look at it in more detail. Davis forced confederate farmers to sell a percentage of their crop to the government at prices below the market. He forced shipping companies to sell a percentage of their cargo space to the government at prices below the market. He conscripted slaves for labor, nationalized whole industries like textile and salt for the war effort, tried to push through income taxes that would have soaked the rich. All that sounds like policies that Marx would have loved. A rigid central government controlling the economy and pulling strings.
...according to you and Karl Marx, that is.
As did many of the northern military leaders.
I suppose the comparison is valid, but rather ridiculous.
And that is the point.
Still, virtually all of the southern military leadership supported slavery, like Hitler, so the comparisons continue.
Not so with at least the most prominent one, Robert E. Lee.
You're making the link between Marx and Lincoln based on a letter.
Based on a letter, Marx's devotion to the northern cause, and Marx's support for Lincoln throughout the war. In many ways, Marx was one of the north's biggest advocates.
But let's look at it in more detail. Davis forced confederate farmers to sell a percentage of their crop to the government at prices below the market. He forced shipping companies to sell a percentage of their cargo space to the government at prices below the market.
Compared to Lincoln, who skipped the formalities and simply seized the ships in their entirity.
He conscripted slaves for labor
Compared to Lincoln, who had his own draft and whose generals imprisoned civilian women and children in Georgia then shipped them up north for forced factory labor.
nationalized whole industries like textile and salt for the war effort
Compared to Lincoln, who had spent his entire career supporting government intervention in industries in the form of subside and protectionist tariffs.
tried to push through income taxes that would have soaked the rich.
Compared to Lincoln, who actually got his taxes through.
And of course we can add to that Lincoln's open and repeatedly expressed belief in the labor theory of value, the central principle at the basis of communism itself.
All that sounds like policies that Marx would have loved.
Yet he didn't. Instead he loved Lincoln, whose policies were closer to his own by a long shot.
A rigid central government controlling the economy and pulling strings.
Call it the Lincoln Doctrine of government.
That he is. And on a similar note, Andrew Jackson is considered by many to be the first Democrat president. Does that mean all democrats today are political models of Andrew Jackson? That all republicans today are political models of Abraham Lincoln? No, and far from it on both.