Our State Flag–Part I

The latest lawsuit against Mississippi’s state flag has been filed by Civil Rights Attorney Carlos Moore.  Other lawsuits were filed in 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1993.  The current lawsuit as well as previous lawsuits opine that the state flag violates the constitutional rights of African-Americans and encourages violence.

A new state flag was proposed by a committee appointed by Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove and headed by Former Governor William Winter in 2000.  In a state referendum held April 2001, the new flag lost by 64% for the old flag to 36% for the new flag.

Usually a vote of the people settles the issue.  In the case of our state flag this doesn’t seem to hold true.

Anthony Hervey, author and passionate supporter of the Confederate Battle Flag, traveled all over the southeastern United States speaking at rallies in defense of the Battle Flag.  Chances are great that you have never heard of him.  You have probably never heard of Andrew Duncomb,  “The Black Rebel” from Oklahoma or H. K. Edgerton, former president of the North Carolina NAACP and a member of
the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  All these men worked to share the truth of our southern heritage.

Blacks fought for both the Union and the Confederacy during the War Between The States.  In fact, they have fought in every conflict the United States has been involved in.

African-Americans were among the rioters 22 March 1765 of the Stamp Act.

The first casualty of the Boston Massacre, 5 March 1770, was Crispus Attucks, the son of an African slave father and a Native American mother.

In 1775, free blacks were accepted into the Continental Army.  Peter Salem, an African-American from Massachusetts, shot Major Pitcairn of the British Marines, at the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775.  In fact, there were more than 100 blacks at Bunker Hill including Titus Coburn, Salem Poor, and Grant Cooper. 

Massachussettes in 1775 had African-American militia minutemen: Peter Salem in Framingham, Prince Estabrook in Lexington, Samuel Croft in Newton, and Cato Wood and Cuff Whittemore of Arlington, just to name a few.

December 25, 1776, Prince Whipple and Oliver Cromwell were among those who rowed the boat that carried George Washington across the Delaware river.  Black soldiers were also with Washington at Valley Forge in the winter of 1778.

At the Seige of Yorktown in the fall of 1781, Prince Bent and other black soldiers from Rhode Island served with Washington.  The Bucks of America was a unit of African-American soldiers that served during the American Revolution.

Judge Lawrence W. Pierce has traced his lineage back to Adam Pierce who served in the New Jersey militia during the Revolution.  Blacks fought on the side of the British red coats in the revolutionary war and the War of 1812.  The British had promised them their freedom in exchange for their military service.  The British re-settled some black loyalist in Sierra Leone, Africa.

On 6 September 2005, Mark Matthews died.  Mark Matthews, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, was a Buffalo Soldier.  The Buffalo Soldiers were instrumental in the western expansion of the United States.

In 1813, an escaped slave named Charles Ball enlisted in the American Navy to defend his country.  In 1836, his book, The Life of Charles Ball, A Black Man, was published.

In August 1814, just before the White House went up in flames, Paul Jennings, the servant of President James Madison, helped rescue certain treasures from the White House, including a portrait of George Washington.

African-Americans also served with the British in the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

Joe, a slave belonging to Lt. Col. William B. Travis, was at the Alamo and participated in the battle.  Joe lived to tell the story of the Alamo to the Texas government.  Ben, a free black man, was near the battle working as a cook serving coffee and refreshments for Gen. Santa Ana and his troops.  Hendrick Arnold, son of a white father and a black mother, was a scout and spy during the Texas Revolution.

Blacks who fought for the Union during the War for Southern Independence numbered 186,097 soldiers and sailors in 163 units.

The First Louisiana Native Guard was formed in May 1861 and was mostly made up of free blacks.  John Nolan was a scout for Quantrill’s raiders.

Frederick Douglass was quoted in September, 1861 as saying, “there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate army as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops, and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government…”

Frederick Douglass was the first Negro nominated as candidate for President at the Republican convention in Chicago in 1888.

A letter from a Union soldier to the Indianapolis Star which was printed on December 23, 1861 told of a Negro Infantry of 700 that opened fire on his unit.  The soldier said that he had heard of Negro units fighting for the Confederate States but did not believe it until he saw it with his own eyes.

General Forrest took 45 slaves with him into battle.  He is reported to have said about these men, “Better confederates did not live.”

Tom and Overton served with the 12th Virginia Cavalry, Louis Napeleon Nelson with the 7th Tennessee Cavalry, Levin Graham was with the 2nd Tennessee and Levi Miller was a confederate veteran from Virginia.  George Washington Yancy was loyal to the confederate states.

The border states of Missouri and Kentucky were slave states that did not secede from the Union.  Maryland was also a slave state.  The eastern part of Maryland was pro-Confederate and the western part was pro-Union.  Maryland sent troops to fight with the Union and with the Confederates.

The state of Virginia broke into West Virginia, pro-Union, and Virginia, pro-Confederate. The state of West Virginia was formed from this disunion in 1863.

Tennessee was pro-Confederate in the West and pro-Union in the East where Andrew Johnson was the military governor of the state.

In Illinois, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have identified at least 14,000 graves of confederate soldiers.  Copperheads were prevalent in the North.  New Jersey had many stops for the Underground Railroad.

By 1830, most of the slaves in that state had been manumitted but others were “apprentices for life.”

Native Americans who fought in the Civil War numbered 10,000 to 15,000.

John Jones was a fugitive slave from Virginia and cemetery caretaker. In 1864 and 1865, while working at the Union prison camp at Elmira, New York, Jones noted the name, regiment, date of death, and grave number of every soldier. He put wooden markers on the graves so that relatives would know where their kin was buried.

So why did this war so divide the county, the states and even families?

Tune in soon for part 2.  In the meantime,  take some time to read more about the valiant African Americans who fought for our freedom.  I have only just touched the surface.  There are many more that have not been mentioned.

Sharon Fortner Wright

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