Sunday, January 05, 2020

More on Gates telling Gumble about his "Confederate" ancestor

Following up on an earlier post on the Gates/Gumble/Confederacy issue, one notes that the webpage for WETA still maintains the text

[Gumble] also learns that on a different line of his father’s family, his second great grandfather was a manumitted slave who signed up for the Confederate army in New Orleans, then changed sides when the Union arrived in his city.


Kevin Levin at cwmemory had immediately challenged this idea that Gumble's relative was in the "Confederate Army." A few additional thoughts are included here.

In the 2017 episode of Gates' "Finding Your Roots," Gumble had responded to Gates' finding by suggesting that a gun had been placed to the head of his ancestor [Martin Lamotte] to force him to enlist in the Confederate army. More likely, Lamotte voluntarily joined the state Louisiana Native Guard to show his loyalty to the state, and thereby avoid adverse actions from his neighboring Louisiana inhabitants. When New Orleans was captured by Union forces, he did switch to the government in effect at that time, which did remain in effect for the duration of the war.

Apart from Lamotte's motivations, the idea that Lamotte was in the Confederate army presupposes that the Confederate government wanted armed African Americans in the Army. As the fallout from the Cleburne letter of January 2, 1864 abundantly proves, the leaders not only did not want armed African Americans in the Confederate Army but also did not want any public discussion of such a proposal.

See Steve Davis, "That Extraordinary Document," which appeared at page 14 of the December 1977 issue of Civil War Times Illustrated


On this particular point of history, Levin is right and Gates is wrong.

Ironically, the concept of African American Confederate soldiers has been used to propagate the idea that life for African Americans in the Confederacy wasn't really so bad. They were willing to fight to defend it.


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