Thursday, August 17, 2017

Descendants of Stonewall Jackson and Thomas Jefferson Speak Out: Take the White Supremacy Monuments Down; Time to Repent

This is Carnot Posey, the nephew of my 4-great grandmother Lucretia Posey Winn. Her brother John Brooke Winn graduated from Franklin College in Georgia, represented Elbert County in the Georgia legislature, and then moved to Wilkinson County, Mississippi, where he claimed a valuable plantation that he operated with slave labor. Lucretia and John's father gave John a number of slaves before he left Georgia. John was a member of the Mississippi Territorial House of Representatives and a federal judge in Mississippi Territory.

Carnot Posey was educated at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and became a lawyer in Woodville, Mississippi. He was appointed by President Buchanan to the position of U.S. District Attorney of southern Mississippi until he resigned from that position to organize a Confederate military unit.

He was elevated to the rank of brigadier general during the Civil War, and was shot in the leg at the battle of Bristoe Station in Virginia in October 1863. He was then taken to the house of a friend in Charlottesville, and died there on 13 November 1863, and was buried at his alma mater, the University of Virginia.

Because his third wife was Catholic, Carnot Posey offered their house as a place for Mass to be said in Woodville before a Catholic church was built there. Two of his sons, John and Carnot Jr., were killed in Yazoo City, Mississippi, on 25 December 1883, after a conflict erupted as they attended a ball similar to the quadroon balls in New Orleans, at which white planters would form relationships with women of color and often live with them up to their marriage to a white woman. The phrase "formed relationships" is euphemistic and not entirely truthful. Though some of these plaçages, as they were called in New Orleans, turned out to be loving and stable commitments, the women involved in these transactions were treated as property even when they were free women of color. They had little choice when white men vied for their favors and picked a mistress to set up in a house in which she would raise their children without benefit and protection of legal marriage.

The shooting of the two sons of Carnot Posey by a group of black and white men resulted in a frenzy of white violence that ended Reconstruction in that part of Mississippi. It is hard to obtain accurate accounts of what went on in the shooting of the two Posey men because so many similar incidents in these years in the South were deliberatey created as flashpoint incidents to incite white mob violence targeting Reconstruction leaders and those assisting them.

Another of Carnot Posey's sons, Jefferson Bryan Posey, legally married a woman of mixed Caucasian and African ancestry in New Orleans in 1872 named Estelle Boyer. One of Carnot Posey's nephews, Stanhope Posey Turnbull, also married a woman of color in New Orleans in 1891, Charity Hampton Lindenmayer, and was threatened, along with his wife, with death when the couple went back to Mississippi to visit relatives following their marriage.

Southern history is not the simple white-on-one-side and black-on-the-other side story that white supremacists make us want to imagine. It has always been much more complex, a complex story of interweavings that crossed racial lines from the very beginning of the slave system in the American South.

Unlike Stonewall Jackson's great-great-grandsons and Thomas Jefferson's direct descendant, who have all spoken out following the Charlottesville events, I am not a direct descendant of Carnot Posey — but I am linked by blood to him through our shared ancestors Thomas Posey and Mary Hodgkins Posey. One of my great-grandfathers was a Confederate soldier in Alabama. All four of my great-grandfathers had brothers who were Confederate soldiers. One of those brothers, who was a Confederate officer in Louisiana, died after the war as a result of injuries he sustained during the war. Another of my great-grandfathers also had a brother who joined a Confederate unit in Arkansas and died in battle in Kentucky. 

My great-grandfather who was a Confederate soldier in Alabama had a brother killed at the battle of McLemore's Cove in Tennessee. Two other of his brothers died of illness in hospitals for Confederate soldiers in Mississippi. Another vanished during the war. My family tree is chock-full of names of people who were killed as Confederate soldiers. It also contains many names of people who were Union soldiers and who promoted the Union cause even while living in the slaveholding South.

Like Jackson's and Jefferson's descendants, I say, Take down the Confederate monuments. Put them in museums.

They have no place in public squares now. What they commemorate was shameful. White supremacy is an evil social arrangement and indefensible one. Our American culture has inflicted incomprehensible wounds on itself for decades now, as it clings to its original sin of racism and refuses to repent from it.

It's time to repent.

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