tv The Civil War Grand Army of the Republic Veterans Integration CSPAN December 30, 2018 10:00am-11:06am EST
history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. announcer: next, author barbara gannon talks about her book "the one cause: black and white comradeship in the grand army of the republic." she describes how the union army's largest veterans organization, known as the g.a.r., often had integrated chapters and treated african-american soldiers equally. this hour-long talk was hosted by pamplin historical park in virginia. dez: our next speaker is dr. barbara gannon. she received her doctorate from penn state university in 2005. she is currently assistant professor of military history at the university of central florida.
her areas of specialty include military history, civil war and reconstruction, veterans, and african-american history. her book, "the won cause: black and white comradeship in the grand army of the republic," which is the topic of her speech today, was published by the university of north carolina press in 2011. it was an honorable mention for the lincoln prize in 2012, and was recognized that gilman lehrman institute. it was a finalist for the jefferson davis prize, and also won that weiler silver prize for having the best first book on the civil war. i am pleased to announce dr. barbara gannon. [applause] barbara: first, thank you all for being here. thanks, dez and terry and patrick and collin and the entire staff for welcoming us and coming up with this unique approach to a symposium, all
women. >> [laughter] [applause] barbara: "the cleveland gazette," a black newspaper, published a letter from an attorney at law, a notary public and real estate agent, the commander of the grand army of the republic, g.a.r., post number 134, department of ohio, objected the plans to "on the part of the colored black ex-soldiers establish a g.a.r. exclusively for colored soldiers." he consider this integral to his comrades and hoped he would
"hear no more about colored folks." in contrast to this criticism of black veterans, "the gazette" also reported an example of interracial amnesty. on the corner of a street is an old soldier, a colored man who was dying. john smith by name. all the attention, money, and food, everything given to him today has so far been tendered by his white comrades of the g.a.r. when smith died, he was buried by his g.a.r. smith and penn had a great deal in common. both men had enlisted and served in the 5th u.s. colored troops, and both were colored comrades in the predominantly white g.a.r. posts. this was one part of a broader story of the black and white
members of the g.a.r., the grand army of the republic, the union army's largest veterans group. it is lost to memory until recently, a casualty of american amnesia about certain parts of the civil war. likely, you have been reading debates about statues and suchlike, and you are aware there has been a lot of controversy. and most of this is about the confederacy of the south. one might think union soldiers and their supporters slept through the war and forgot what they did, who did it, and why they did it. we have heard a great deal about the lost cause, confederate memory, the monuments white southerners built, the flags they carried. but what did union soldiers and their supporters remember? what i called in my book the won cause, or the union cause. there is the mural from which i took the cover.
it is the 54th massachusetts attack on fort wagner. it is not exactly how it happened. this is robert gould shaw being attended by his men. he never had the chance to be attended by anyone. but this was very much what this book was about, shared suffering and sacrifice under the same union flag of free men. this is also made very popular by the movie "glory," about a single african-american regiment, the first raised by a northern state in the civil war. while this is a great cover, if black soldiers had fought in a single regiment and battle that ended in glory, i would not be able to say what i'm going to say today. many black americans, almost 200,000, served and sacrificed. and because of that, i was able to tell a remarkable story about interracial comradeship for the grand army of the republic, a comradeship built on shared sacrifice, but also on the shared memory of a war that both saved the union and freed slaves.
this is the picture of black members of the g.a.r., the black post, marching in the 1892 encampment, or meeting, in washington dc. that is pennsylvania avenue. they are reenacting the grand review in 1865. there is no other way in this time period that black americans would be featured so prominently in a parade, particularly there were about 100,000 people watching this. and there were others, but this was the one made into a stereo view, which is how a lot of things were sold for entertainment in those days. i found this at the library of congress. now, what is the grand army of the republic, or g.a.r., as most everyone calls it? it was important to parade down the main avenue of a nation's capital and have at least 100,000 americans watching it.
many may know about this organization already, civil war fans, but let me give you a little background. the g.a.r. was the first nationwide veterans organization. it was the precursor to the american legion and the veterans of foreign wars. a handful of veterans came together and formed a post, and it is very similar to an american legion or a vfw post. eventually, thousands of posts sprang up across america. at its peak, there were over 400,000 members. if you had an honorable discharge, you could join. so there is a department of ohio, but in the south, they were smaller, so there was the department of virginia and north carolina. this is a picture of black g.a.r. men in norfolk.
now, in turn, the states, and they may have been at a state meeting, met yearly. they called their conventions encampments. they elected the leadership, set its policy. during its heyday, the g.a.r. was the nation's largest social and charitable organization, with all the political power inherent in representing such a large membership. remarkably, the largest and most powerful social organization was an interracial group that welcomed black and white veterans. when i began studying this, i did not know it was an interracial organization, because people said it wasn't.
i assumed my story would be on all-black organizations. some people said it was segregated because it was an all-black post. i thought, the u.s. had segregated everything, why not a veterans group? there was not any interracial organization. why would i expect one? part of the story of african-americans being forgotten and segregated or marginalized was, everyone said, you forgot the war was about slavery and the slaves fought both sides. you can see from my title, the book evolved when i learned other things. it is about black and white members of the g.a.r. and their genuine comradeship, and that they did so, they created a genuine interracial organization when no other existed. they did so because they remembered that they had shared service and sacrifice and suffering in a war that both preserved the union and freed slaves. today, my plan is to establish that the black and white members understood the g.a.r.
second, that it was an interracial organization because, primarily, no matter what people thought of each other personally, at the political ends, at the department level, african-americans were equals. third, i am going to talk about integrated posts, of which there were many, black and white members that belonged to the same organization in the same town. fourth, i'm going to talk about comradeship. what does it mean to them? part of it is somewhat forgotten, but something we are more aware of today, the suffering of soldiers after the war. fifth, i will talk about the union cause, or won cause. when i first found this, i thought, this is weird. now if you look carefully, it is
all over the records. why is it important? there is no other interracial organization, and the members knew it. a black veteran from pennsylvania addressed this issue directly. comrade jacob hector, described as a fine looking man, was a populist speaker at pennsylvania g.a.r. gatherings. a methodist minister, hector described for his fellow pennsylvanians the wartime service of black veterans in 1884. he was here to remind them that they have homes, churches, and schools to fight for, while the dark skinned people had neither flag nor country and a very poor home. nevertheless, they went shoulder to shoulder with a white man to war. according to hector, comrades in war remained comrades in peace. "i greet you and you greet me as comrades of the grand army of the republic, the only association this side of heaven
where black men and white men mingle in equality." and i can say that they did not mingle in equality anywhere else. but white veterans were very aware they had an interracial organization, and they were proud of it, and they explained the nature of the interracial comradeship they had and why it was so important. a new yorker said in the very earliest years of the g.a.r., they had similar sentiments right after the war and well into the 20th century. he explained the only qualification for membership in the group, any man who "honorably wore the union blue on the sea or land of whatever rank or whatever color, rich or poor, may stand in line and answer to comrade." the white indiana commander maintained the civil war military service was the primary qualification for membership.
the g.a.r. welcomes all men, regardless of "who he is or was, or what color his skin may have been, who gave his life to his services. it matters not how humble the services may have been." in the earliest days of the g.a.r., veterans remembered that both black and white americans had served in the civil war. therefore, the g.a.r. defined itself as an interracial organization. white veterans are very proud of this and acknowledged it. the missouri state commander wanted every sailor in missouri to know in the grand army of the republic, there are no generals or privates, no distinction of race, but all comrades. the maintained interracial nature of the g.a.r. explained its devotion to the group. "i love the g.a.r., because when i see a man wearing a button, i do not see if he is dressed in cloth or has on a pair of overalls, neither do i care if he is black or white. i only see the back of the
button, the man who had the courage to enlist as a soldier and risk his life in defense of our glorious country." this is from east to west, freed slave states. this does not mean that white veterans believed african-americans were equal everywhere. these are 19th-century men. what it meant is they were equals in the g.a.r., based on what they had done, particularly their political equals. now it may not seem extraordinary, but it was extraordinary in the 19th. when african-americans came to g.a.r. meetings, they participated in the routine business of the organization. they nominated people for public office, they ran, sometimes they won, sometimes they lost. what is interesting is this was a source of what i call the bad
rap on the g.a.r. there was a controversy, and it involved african-american g.a.r. members in louisiana and mississippi. they were one department. and there had been an effort by some to have a colored department in louisiana and mississippi. there was a huge fight that is front-page news at the national encampment over this effort. they were defeated by a vote. a report written by g.a.r. officials say supporting discrimination explains why they rejected this effort. "during the struggle for the life of the nation, we stood shoulder to shoulder as comrades. it is too late to divide on the color line. a man who is good enough to stand between the flag and those who would destroy it when the fate of the nation was traveling in the balance is good enough to
be a comrade in any department of the grand army of the republic. no department should be established for any color or nationality." and that is what i found. they were comrades. here is a picture of a g.a.r. post in natchez, mississippi, part of the louisiana and mississippi department. now, in fact, the vast majority of white veterans accepted black veterans in their organizations, and they were elected to public office in many states. the most common role was junior vice commander, the third in command. members of the council administration, which was like an executive, day-to-day operating group. in tennessee at their meeting, a white veteran explained why african-americans were elected to office, at least in his state, and i think in others. the new department commander in tennessee responded to a black member's complaint that there were no african-americans
elected to office in the state that particular year. "i desire to go on record in favor of a colored representative. his body was as good as a white man's to be shot at, and it is just that he be given one counsel." a white member withdrew from the council, and they nominated an african-american, and he was elected. white officials would visit black posts all the time. a florida official councilman to an all-black post in jacksonville. the meeting was fully attended, and the officers seemed anxious to do their whole duty. of course, they lacked the money possessed by officers of white posts. joseph wilson, who wrote one of the most important histories of black troops in the civil war, was a virginia g.a.r. official. now, this is philip white in kentucky. the junior vice commander was always african-american, because they made up a fairly substantial proportion in that state.
he was an extraordinary man. he was an african-american sailor and became a lawyer. he was very well-known. now, while encampments may have been integrated, it is said they had all black posts. this is the evidence that white veterans did not treat them as the same, but they treated them instead as second-class citizens. it is true, white veterans created their own posts. i found about 220 across the country. in virginia, there are 16 black posts, including the steadman post in petersburg. but this is important. it must be understood that african-americans chartered these groups. they were not created as separate organizations for black veterans.
it was not the same as black schools meant to segregate black children. instead, i found these organizations were vital in african-american communities. they were charitable organizations, fraternal organizations, and patriotic organizations. moreover, the more you read, the more you understand. african-americans understood one thing. they knew there was a battle for civil war memory, and people were trying to forget they have fought, and that the war had been about slavery. they were trying to remind people any opportunity they had to defeat this amnesia. let's look at a couple pictures. that is kansas. and that is maryland, because it was in their maryland archives. one reason, and i think getting back to reminding people, is the
fact they were so conscious of it. we all heard about the southern monuments, the lost cause, and all that stuff. and a lot of that had to do with the time, that the lost cause was about whether the southerners were allowed their own solution to what people called the waste problem, which was always the fault of african-americans, and to jim crow segregation. and they knew that, and so did white soldiers. if you have a black post marching down the street in washington dc, you are challenged because you cannot deny that black people are there. that is why they had these parades, so they participate. they also had different members of the community, their churches, their women's groups, drum corps. it was more than just about them. this was the dedication day of that shaw memorial in the boston. many of these were likely massachusetts 54 members. the colored citizens built it.
colonel shaw on one side, butler on the other. they fought for the liberty we now enjoy. on each panel, they had the battles of black troops. it is very conscious for people attending to be reminded of what the war was about. just go back a little bit. now, here is my whole thing, what i discovered. i think the most important may have been with the women. i called it the circle in the book. they are sons and daughters, but the women's relief corps and the ladies of the grand army of the republic, the auxiliary of the grand army of the republic, they are there most key group. the only real difference i found between black and white posts, which was very noticeable, theirs seemed more likely to have a women's post. a black women's relief corps unit in the organization's national meeting. "they do little ritualistic work, but they exhibit by our greatest good charity."
some people can say that is patronizing, but many of them may not. that would not be surprising at all. these are women in philadelphia. this is a pamphlet that welcomes colored g.a.r. men to philadelphia for the national encampment. this woman was a secretary of the women's relief corps, and this woman was the president. they are prominently featured in this pamphlet, which suggests to me that everyone understood the g.a.r. was more than just the post. we have had posts and people have said -- i get into these arguments. you found out they had their own, what about integrated posts? ok, this is the whole process of research. when i read it was rare, i thought it wasn't rare. in large cities like denver, hartford, small towns in ohio and illinois, and in tennessee. i have a list of 500 integrated posts, and people always tell me about more. these are the only ones i found. while g.a.r. officials encouraged integrated posts,
they say, they must have been politically correct. you could not shove it down anyone's throat. if 20 people are voting, you get one black ball, you are out. you had to have a super majority and everyone agrees. later, when there were smaller posts, they became 10. one out of every 10 votes, you could have two black balls. but they still had many. posts that were too small merged with each other. among a super majority, this defined every racial convention you could ever think of, because a member of a g.a.r. post was one of the most prominent members of their community. and so, you have an organization that is integrated at both the state level and the local level. i have some pictures here. this is robert penn, a medal of honor winner. this is not a very wealthy post.
you see the two african-americans toward the back. they were an integrated post. this is probably better. the color bearer is black, as is someone in the third row. and this is nantucket, massachusetts, and there are african-american members within this post. there is one sitting down and one in the back. this is a very nice member, i like this one because it discusses something i showed in my book about how african-americans always made sure they were well-uniformed and well-dressed in the g.a.r., even if they did not have a lot of funds or resources. this is peoria. this is the commander of an integrated post in massachusetts and his sons, who all served in the military, mostly world war i.
after all of this, and people think, well, how did this happen? this is against everything that is supposed to be. i had to figure it out. it ends up being a much longer and more thoroughly researched dissertation than one might like. i had to say why i thought it happened. the way veterans remember the war is the way everyone does today, either as an all white
struggle or an all black struggle. white veterans certainly remembered gettysburg, a battle in which no african-americans served. but african-americans had a place in the collective number of the organization. white veterans fought with black units. did the new hampshire units forget who covered their retreat? because white soldiers remembered the black soldiers, the narrative included african-americans. you will be very familiar with what these are about. these are the 22nd brigade from fort petersburg.
this was in "harpers weekly." this is one of the keys to the story. this is the siege of petersburg. cheered on by white troops. people are very aware of this. they know these battles happened, regardless of whether people prefer gettysburg when it comes to remembering battles. what i noted, these are documents left, and when i first saw them i did not know what i was going to do with them. sometimes they give you details and sometimes they didn't. i wanted to go to the past and start hitting people. but it listed the battles in
connecticut. that is what historians do. we do get mad sometimes when people don't give us what we want. but they didn't list their battles, and i noticed when i went to connecticut, which had no all-black posts, all were integrated, that they had been at port hudson and fort wagner and they were in the same posts. and so what i discovered when i read what little people had put in, in a black posts, you had people like ruben lewis. this is how they say it. irish born william mcgee described the intensity of this final year of campaign. "we participated in the siege from may 1864 to april 1865. it will not allow the mention of protecting those places, as we were almost constantly under fire."
another war sketch was by a man in the 6th u.s. colored troops. "some of the interesting events of my soldier life were the battle of petersburg, 1864." he laid it out, where he had been. a white veteran, formally of the 63rd pennsylvania, summarized the final years of campaigning in the east in his war sketch. "the campaign, including the seizure of that place up to 1864, was among the most momentous positions of service in which i was engaged, the earlier battles becoming by comparison little more than skirmishes." the crater is remembered by these soldiers because they were involved. john riley, a white veteran, identified this as the most
important event in his military service. "the engagement when our army blew up the rebel force at virginia. the german-based medal of honor winner for michigan was in an integrated post. he remembered not the battle he won the medal for, but the crater. because i received a mini ball in my left thigh, and it was lodged near my knee joint and was not extracted until april 13." an african-american, very prominent in philadelphia, was beginning at memorial day. he said, "it was a pride of a frenchman to say he fought. i want you to hold up your hand and say, i was at gettysburg." many white and black veterans
could say this. another key factor in explaining comradeship. i know we think to ourselves, it is just about war. they go home and they were the same units. not to the g.a.r. they really understood, and sometimes i joke, historians do not think the people in the past know what happened to them. and they are very clear on all the suffering. now, they remember this, but comradeship was about the service and suffering by civil war soldiers. anyone who suffered was a comrade. it is not just battles, though. they know they died more likely of disease and do not think that is not as bad as being shot. they thought that might have been worse, because you were alone in a hospital and it took a very long time.
they did not think it was less meaningful or less sacrifice. the state commander in indiana spoke for his fellow hoosiers when he defied comradeship. "it is the experience of the camps and association of the camps, the march upon the battlefield that unites us as comrades. and there has been sealed in blood that fraternity which kept us elbow to elbow as we have marched to the music of a saved union." in ohio, the state commander said, "a comrade is a brother who stood together and experienced the joy of placing our names side-by-side in the role of enlistment, the farewell to dear ones as we marched away, the unpleasant camp life, the hardship of the march, the exhausting labor of entrenchments, the untold agony entrenchments, the untold agony and the sad loss of comrades
dear." african-americans agree. one man had been in these battles. he explained his idea in 1900. "these things give stronger ties than common suffering. they who have tramped on weary marches together lay down on the ground for a couch and the sky for a covering. the burning thirst face them together are bound by a tie others know not." comrade said and all his comrades, they show this must have been very strong to transcend racial barrier. we have gotten that part. it was decade later. suffering does not end. these people did not check into the er or have center care take care of their wounds.
they suffered decades afterwards. if you have read pension records, it is almost staggering. and it isn't just wounds. the number one way people kept suffering and dying was diarrhea. they never cured it. veterans had untreated physical wounds. they still bled and they talked about it. their amputated limbs still ache. and they are aware that something mentally went wrong. they know their generation suffered. diseases still killed, wounds
still bled, and hearts and minds remained broken for decades. in 1913, the illinois state commander explained this. "how can we estimate the cost? the dead who have fallen in battle may be numbered, but the maimed who carry the pain on a daily basis until death releases them, the broken hearts of fathers and mothers whose sons sleep in the sod, the home where the widow sits in darkness, the children left to struggle alone, the sum of the sorrow and the bitterness must be counted." a judge advocate in ohio said, "remember those who have fell. remember their sacrifices, and my comrades going to the houses all over the land. look at the children. the maimed soldiers, the cripples, the widows still without comfort. think of the patriots that saved this nation." that was comrade hood. those who came home have fallen victim to diseases and have gone on to the great beyond. in massachusetts, they made the explicit tie between suffering. postwar suffering and comradeship.
details of war worn men are washed by dying comrades' beds. "they may be found every night holding the hands of dying men, watching and nursing without distinction of nationality or color, but because of the holy bond of combatant loyalty to the motherland." what you see is this constant referral to both during the war, the vast majority of suffering, and postwar. in fact, the chaplain chief went to connecticut. connecticut is a great case because there are no black posts there. there was one post that did not allow black members in, and they left a record of how everyone hated them. and they hated them because every other connecticut post
welcomes black members. he said, "they had suffered in a hell so hot it welded our hearts together." i believe it is what creates the interracial g.a.r. part one, comradeship. the cause, and this is where things got sticky. whenever anything terrible happens to you or your generation, you have to deal with that, the psychological and physical toll of the service. they are almost in a spiritual crisis, trying to talk about what they experienced and what made it worthwhile. they found solace in their cause. they never came up with a word for it, so i decided to step in to the breach with my 20th
century mind and give them a soundbite. i adopted the won cause. their veterans and their associates acknowledged this. the union soldiers had gone to war for union slavery and all, but they understood and remembered the war had ultimately freed the slaves and preserved the union. and it was like a dual -- one cause was liberty and union. explicitly embracing liberty. if for no other reason, that led to the end of slavery. it guaranteed the survival of the nation and the union. while they usually cited both, many g.a.r. men went one step further. they understood the horrific price paid by their generation. "as he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free," they often echoed. i will emphasize emancipation, because they have been accused of forgetting it. the key of interracial comradeship is in as many layers to the cause. white veterans embraced black
veterans because they symbolize what they had achieved. what had their hard-won victory meant? all this suffering is worthwhile because they have this law that transmits differences. they would go to these meetings and have living reminders. a new york official said the six possibly. "the g.a.r. excludes no man by way of rank, color, or effect. look around this gathering and see the face of one of that race which, for so many years, we held in bondage under our boasted government of freedom. they are our comrades, and they are our brothers." they generally said it among themselves. they did not say it in public as much. these were meetings that were
transcribed. these were very typical quotes of how they describe their cause. there are two reasons i believe this. first, the people who said this were prominent members of the g.a.r. and were often reelected to office, so it cannot have been crazy what they were saying. but they also tie emancipation to what made their suffering worthwhile, and i don't believe anyone says that if they do not mean it. finally, they talk about god and having a role in god's plan. their language, which is sentimental, which some people think is insincere, is not.
james tanner is a key figure. he lost both of his legs and had terrible pain to deal with. he had them re-amputated later. he said, "i remember the union restored with all the rights of the states." upon reflection, he believed "it was legally right to tear the babe from the breast of the mother and sell them as you sell your hogs and calves. preserving the antebellum union may not have been a worthy cause." he reminisced with comrades in ohio about the effect of the emancipation on his morale. "our bosoms swelled with pride when around our campfire at night and on march by day we were thrilled with the battle
hymn of the republic. christ died to make men holy as we died to make men free." james tanner was eventually elected commander in chief of the g.a.r., suggesting what he believes could not have been too out of line with everyone else. this is really common. these were deeply religious man, so let's assume they were sincere. they often said, "like moses, we were bringing the people out of slavery." and they would often have that reference. "throughout the southland, we had humanity in the bonds of slavery and under cruel taskmasters. but their numbers became legion, and god raised up these people a leader, just as he had in the olden times, a leader for the children of israel, and they obtained their freedom." they often thought about the old testament, but the new testament was very important, too, because the new testament is about redemption through blood. and that is exactly how they saw the war.
they had suffered to redeem the nation from slavery. they had a lot of different ways of saying it. they often said they removed the block from the flag. realized the true -- our blood was sacrificed for a new nation. pennsylvania, an official said, "every manly heart was laid upon the altar of the country, and they were ready to shed the last drop of blood to win the victory. this nation of ours shall be forever free, as god ordained its soul on the sacrifice that was poured out in this sacred
soil." you had the religious nature of this remark, and more importantly, they tie it to their suffering as comrades. and so, the suffering and the cause are linked. they died among the battle clangor of crimson fields. they died in the hospital, when nerves were highways for fevers. 400,000 of them died that the slave might be unshackled, the nation saved. the g.a.r. chaplain chief talked about hell being so hot and explained why it was worthwhile. it also wiped out slavery and set all men free, so the flag was no more a lie. but it was really the flag of freedom. one of the most explicit happened in ohio. a comrade's speech was, "why is it we sacrificed?" he answered his own question. "when the guns were hurt, 18 of the people under the flag were bought and sold, flesh, blood, lives, sacred soul." he cited the fifth verse of the battle hymn of the republic. "in the beauty of the lilies, christ was born across the sea.
as he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free." in 1918, the g.a.r. commander, the last year of world war i, said, in the book of the grand army of the republic, they were a race redeemed from bondage. here are some of the men. i found these wonderful pictures of the people likely redeemed from bondage, a member of the integrated post in pennsylvania. another unidentified man, another g.a.r. member, standing tall and proud, a grandfather likely with his grandchildren. another man, proud. and another. and there are lots of pictures like this everywhere. when you see the g.a.r. on the medal, it is a g.a.r. man.
i reminded people of the won cause and the blood sacrifice that redeems, transforms, and made possible the united states. thank you. >> [applause] dez: i think we have some time for some questions. way back in the back. >> thank you. you talked about your inspiration. you had information about women
being members, actually as soldiers. barbara: yes, actually, i have. i knew that women who served as soldiers, what they would call them sometimes is honorary members. i know som white women belonged to posts. there was one in tennessee for sure. i found two cases of women. one woman i wrote an essay about, lucy nichols. she was an escaped slave, she found the 23rd indiana. they put her to work in the regimental hospital, even though she couldn't either because women were not there. she followed them from summer 1862 to the end of the war. she went home with them on veterans leave. they took her home, they built her a house. they said she was an honorary member because she did not have
a discharge. but she did everything with the post. everything baited. she marched with them. they fought and got her a pension eventually. a woman could not be a nurse in a regimental hospital, and the post commander wrote a beautiful letter saying she was dead. there was an african-american woman who did the same in iowa. yes, there were some. i have run into them. but usually they had to say honorary member, even if they did a lot, because you had to have the paperwork discharge. and g.a.r. men fought very hard for nurse's pensions. nurses got a pension because the g.a.r. fought for it. yes? >> your research, how widespread did you see that the attitude of
white soldiers changed about black soldiers based on battlefield experience, i.e. the white soldiers denigrated black soldiers, until they saw specific instances -- the 18th corps, for instance, saw the changes of the soldiers. how widespread did you find that in your research? barbara: it is interesting. that angle did not occur to me until this rather odd thing happened. that was not a very welcoming state to african-americans before the war. so i could not figure out why. i found an integrated post in the east in places like massachusetts and connecticut. i did not find as many near the potomac because they did not have black soldiers. when i looked at the post level, i found this one in
pennsylvania, and this one town. they had been with a unit that had not served with the army of the potomac, but had been with the army of the south. and they had african-american members. so i decided on action, i noticed connecticut, most of their units served in the army of the south or the army with the 54th massachusetts. i decided they were so welcoming because of that. what i have also done, white soldiers watched them very carefully.
there was racism, but also a calculating soldier thing. would they be any good? there was racism. but they would write accounts to newspapers. they were very critical of people accepting black soldiers because they wrote home and said, they are pretty good. there is one letter where the officer basically says, they ran, but they had no training to speak of, and they did pretty well because he had been in a lot of units, given they were not trained to fire at a target at all. they were basically flanked. i have seen a lot of attitudes change. there is a lot in the newspapers and such about black troops being good or excellent material. i have seen enough of that. but i think the postwar experience is critical. when i caught the blue book for the g.a.r., what i saw was a black ball system. you have to get 80% to 90% of the post on board. there were times they didn't, and i saw fights in the posts,
and sometimes a black member was let in and sometimes they were not. it was a huge deal. you have to get 90% of the post on board to let an african-american share your social equality to be one of the most prominent members of your community and be acknowledged as such. i mean, when i figured it out, i went, what? are you kidding me? everything i found supported my
point. dez: if i could ask a question. i am impressed by this scholarship. could you tell us where you found your primary sources and what materials were found? barbara: what happened was, it was a very interesting story. i thought, i have a good dissertation. i will talk about blacks in the g.a.r., and i will not care what the whites had to say about them. i will talk about the community, a nice, doable dissertation. that is what you do. i started in black newspapers to see what they thought of the g.a.r. i had tripped over the g.a.r. in lack newspapers because they talked about them all the time. i got that state records and said, good. i checked the controversy and realized, no one had gotten that
right. the g.a.r. was totally p.o.'d about anyone suggesting segregation. they were booing them off the floor. i said, there is something here. there is no "c" by their name. you have to figure out who they are. there is no "colored." you have to figure out that it is a black post. i started gathering names and found death records. ohio had a lot of years with a listed who died in the post and said, there is a captain, 23rd ohio. in has to be one of those rare integrated posts. and i kept finding them. the library of congress has the single largest collection of g.a.r. records. they are not complete, it is just whatever they had. i looked through black newspapers, white newspapers, memorial day, how they handled black and white g.a.r. men. i looked at library of congress records, which took me i would say a year and a half full-time
doing it. they have illinois from 1877 to 1945. and then i went to connecticut, hartford, des moines, iowa, and ann arbor, michigan, to do micro studies, to see how people were treated. then i went to the states of indiana and ohio to see what other g.a.r. records they had. hartford had virtually all of the g.a.r. records, anyone who had ever belonged. and some states had nothing. it just depends. that is how i did it. yes, sir? >> you mentioned in the integrated posts you found a very welcoming atmosphere for u.s. colored troops in integrated posts. did you find, since the g.a.r. was one of the largest lobbying organizations in the country while it was floor hsing, did
you see the g.a.r. as lobbying or advocating for african-american concerns like civil rights, voting rights, things like that? for were they strictly kept to issues affecting their membership? barbara: they were interesting, because mostly they didn't. there were actually two g.a.r.'s. there was one that lasted after the war until the mid-1870's. and then they vanished. in the 1880's, they reestablished the g.a.r., and said, no politics. they got into this no politics thing. and what they meant was not what we call lobbying, but partisan politics. they would sometimes stand up to
the klan, and in places like louisiana or mississippi, they would fight for voting rights. most of the time, they would try to keep out of those things, but they did try to stand up, particularly when it came to mob violence. the entire state would not take a stand, for the national g.a.r., but someone would stand up and say we need to do something about this. i put this into, they believe that african-americans who served with them were special, so they protected them, but that did not mean something for people who have not served with them. but they did occasionally do it. occasionally, but not often a complication of racism, and their fear of politics. i think they were both in action. did you have something? >> my question is, why do you think the g.a.r. was more receptive to integration than other veterans organizations, which don't appear to have been integrated at all? barbara: it is key to my case. the g.a.r. accepted -- say you
go to a g.a.r. post, which i visited many in my mind. i have read years of meeting minutes. i could probably call a g.a.r. meeting right now. it would be a town post. there is usually a unit recruited out of the town, but there were people that came out later from different posts. there were maybe people, calvary people, infantry people, 90 day people. the g.a.r. is a place where it is not about your unit, whether you are in the army of the potomac. they are different ideas. the g.a.r.'s idea, and they say it constantly, is if you wore the union blue, you suffered and sacrificed for the nation, a united nation of free men. because they are the local organization, that the idea of
being a civil war veteran, regardless of what you did, they would bring you and enfold you into their organization. did some people keep them out? i have a fight in massachusetts where they kept them out of one. everyone else had a right, and they were talking about breaking the post up. there was a big fight. when you look down the list, you see this unit had a hard fight. this guy was in the 138th, you were in the 54th. you were a private, you were a colonel. one-man talks in his papers about the great speeches black comrades gave. were there people who kept them out? yes, but the idea of a post
built on comradeship of all soldiers. regardless of where they were integrated. >> am i correct that there were no black troops in the grand review? if so, why? >> there were no black units. i have heard it were black pioneers, like service troops. people have said they had pitchforks and shovels. one of the reasons they are not
there -- yes, there was definitely racism. the 25th corps, part of the army of the james comer was moved for the review to texas to guard the border. remember, the french had moved in, there was a civil war. maximilian was their puppet. they needed a unit -- the thing about colored troops, the 25th corps, because they were recruited late, they had time on the clock. very few corps had time on a three-year enlistment. so they had time to send them to a strategic hotspot in history, the border with mexico, and they did so because they did not have to demobilize regiments. the 25th corps was on its way to texas, i believe, at that point, they were not available. they were already slated for another mission. that could have been people in the west. you don't have a corps, you had the people who did so well at
nashville, that was sherman and whatever. the 25th corps, the most likely people to be there, were on the way to texas. kathryn? >> i would like to know, i was so interested in the rhetoric you were talking about from the soldiers, and the biblical voices that came across. i know it is not a fair question, but i am asking you unfairly. in your research, to do see a shift in the rhetoric. -- in the rhetoric? naturally, i'm interested in lincoln's role in all of this, if one can trace and see, does it become holy war after emancipation? does the rhetoric change? you are looking years later, but i'm looking at what ways lincoln
might or might not have been influenced by the thing which of the black soldiers. >> you don't see a lot of lincoln. you see the battle hymn of the republic. what you see is, how they described slavery, which i would say is very "uncle cons cabin," maybe they were still reading it. there is a shift. union soldiers get really angry about everyone slobbering over the loss cause and robert e. lee. they were furious. i could have for it in an entire chapter about how angry they work. they said, we united the nation, we have nothing against the confederate soldiers, but what is this? why is lee in the hall of congress? they were furious. the other was a pride in the united states's ascendancy in world power.
they solve the efforts to reunite the nation as a nation of free men. because only then could we be an exemplary to the world. more importantly, i didn't see much lincoln, but a lot of religion. they were constantly talking about abraham sacrificing his son, exodus, a blood sacrifice like jesus on calvary. there was a lot of religious imagery. but no, i did not see that much lincoln. they were definitely -- there were changes in rhetoric. anger at the lost cause seeming to win, absolute fury about that, but also an acknowledgment about the way the united states was rising in the world, which