Blacks Did Fight for the ConfederacyOn Feb. 22 (on the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 14, 1994

Blacks Did Fight for the Confederacy

On Feb. 22 (on the Opinion * Commentary page), a self-styled history buff, Margie Ashe, wrote that, "As for black soldiers fighting for the Confederacy, it just didn't happen."

A foreign observer with Lee's army during the Gettysburg campaign, British Col. Arthur J. L. Fremantle, of the elite Coldstream Guards, questioned a black man in Confederate uniform using a rope to pull a Union prisoner down a street in Chambersburg, Pa., near the invading column.

The black Confederate explained that he had just captured the Yankee himself, and was taking him "to the captain." The black seemed to be a teamster.

Captured in Pennsylvania, Jeb Stuart's famous black servant, Bob, soon escaped and eventually made his way back to Stuart's headquarters in Virginia.

When Marylander Col. Henry Kyd Douglas was severely wounded and captured in Gettysburg, his former black servant sought him out in a Northern prison and proffered help.

The Civil War Times has reported about a black man who served throughout the war -- and for 30 years afterward -- as a drummer for a South Carolina infantry company.

There is a photo showing him beating his drum at a reunion and another of a memorial to him (in Darlington, I think) erected by his white comrades who had buried him with full military honors.

A book about the last reunions of Confederate veterans shows that, although patronized, these black veterans who attended were made welcome -- unlike black Union veterans at Grand Army of the Republic conventions.

True, Southern newspapers featured accounts of how black cooks stole chickens and such to feed their companies, but it was all very good natured . . .

Ms. Ashe adds that "the claim that black Americans profited from the slave trade was not at all substantiated by my research." As late as the 1930s, according to my encyclopedia, the League of Nations formally accused Liberia, founded and run by the descendants of freed American slaves, of still engaging in the slave trade -- as they notoriously had done from the time of their return to Africa.

Of course, it had always been black tribes that initially enslaved other blacks, selling them to Islamic slavers (mostly mulatto Arabs) who often resold them to Europeans (including European Jews).

As for issues of humanity, white slave-owners at least protected black girls from the routine sexual mutilations practiced in black Africa to this very day. As a "history buff" Ms. Ashe might research this.

At any rate, Ms. Ashe asserts that "the South did not allow black men to bear arms." In fact, long before the Civil War there had been in Southern cities militia companies of free blacks (or mulattoes, actually), and one of these had served under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.

This precedent was well known to Judah Benjamin, the former Louisiana slave-owner, U.S. senator and Confederate secretary of state when he prevailed on the Confederate Congress to authorize enlistment of slave-volunteer units (under white officers) as combat soldiers in 1865.

Willis Case Rowe

Catonsville

Buried Wisdom

Don't bury wisdom amid the jumps of business stories.

When James Rouse celebrates the move of a large national foundation to Baltimore (The Sun, March 2) and says it is more important than a National Football League team, let's listen.

The official preoccupation with sports is insane. Our city needs industry, service and otherwise, to provide jobs.

Three cheers for James Rouse. Perhaps he has more ideas to give the city and state fathers.

Jane Spencer

Baltimore

Source of Lead

The General Assembly is considering SB 674 and HB 970, the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.

This legislation deals wholly with lead paint and dust in older homes and places the blame for lead poisoning on the shoulders of landlords.

There is another source of lead in homes -- more important and more deadly than lead paint -- and that is lead from drinking water.

That is solely the fault of the city, state and federal governments for condoning and encouraging the addition of hydrofluorosilicic acid, fluorosilicic acid or silicofluoride to drinking water.

These chemicals are added to the drinking water of most of Maryland under the guise of helping prevent tooth decay in young children.

But they are among the most corrosive chemicals known and leach lead and copper from pipes all the way from the filtration plant to the home project.

The General Assembly is blaming the landlords for lead paint and lead dust when the biggest blame should go to the city, state and federal governments.

M. Virginia Rosenbaum

Frostburg

The writer is president, Pure Water Committee of Cumberland.

Group Rights

Shirley R. Vauls' letter (Feb. 27), "Are Blacks' Rights Merely Whites' Favors?" was somewhat disturbing. In it Ms. Vauls takes Michael Olesker to task for his piece on Louis Farrakhan. Mr. Olesker can defend himself. However, I believe that Ms. Vauls confused individual rights with group rights.

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