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Robert E. Lee's Orderly: A Modern Black Man's Confederate Journey

di Al Arnold

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Al Arnold is a descendent of a slave, Turner Hall, Jr. "Uncle Turner," as he was known in his later years, served in the Confederate army as an orderly for two Confederate soldiers and Robert E. Lee. As a slave, Turner Hall, Jr. was owned by another prominent Civil War general, Nathan Bedford Forrest.Al began researching his ancestor's life in 2008. At a family reunion, he saw a newspaper caption indicating his ancestor, Turner Hall, Jr., served Robert E. Lee as an orderly in the Civil War. To Al's amazement, his research found a proud Black Confederate who held both Civil War generals in high esteem, even well after the war. At the age of ninety-five, Turner Hall, Jr., cherished a gift from Nathan Bedford Forrest as one of his most treasured possessions.Al was further intrigued that his great-great-grandfather was a celebrated man in his community of Hugo, Oklahoma. He was commemorated as Hugo's "most distinguished citizen" by blacks and whites as a result of his Civil War service. Turner Hall, Jr., lived to be a hundred and four years old. He attended the last Civil War reunion in 1938 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Newsreel cameraman captured him displaying his reunion medals as an example of the typical black Confederate.In 1940, he was interviewed as a Black Confederate by a nationwide talk radio show in New York City. Turner Hall, Jr., left a trail for his family that Al has uncovered. Al shares his personal journey into his Confederate heritage as a modern Black man. He makes a connection through the life of his ancestor and embraces the premises that history should unite us instead of divide us. He argues that African Americans dishonor their ancestors by attempting to destroy Confederate heritage and by neglecting the historical impact that slaves had on both sides of the Civil War. This is the honest thoughts of a modern black man who has wrestled with his Confederate heritage while being a Black Christian man in America and who is connected to two famous Civil War generals.… (altro)

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I highly commend Al Arnold on his historical memoir. He writes about one of the most famous African American Confederate participants of the Civil War, his very own ancestor, Turner Hall, Jr. Arnold uses his own recollections of stories passed down through the generations along with photos to instill in today's Southerners, especially those of African American descent, that they should be proud of their Confederate heritage, because their ancestors earned it. He stresses that through Christ, African Americans can rise above the thoughts of past injustices done to them and become great Christian men of honor and success. However, he stresses, that they must rethink who they are and learn to work together, not fight each other, to better their lives.

By telling Mr. Hall's story with the backdrop of the Civil War, Mr. Arnold demonstrates the greatness already embedded in the African American ancestry, even when their stories have went mostly untold; left forgotten, which is a grave travesty.

You cannot tell the history of the Civil War without African Americans. It is impossible to tell one without the other. This is not solely because of slavery. In the beginning, the Northerners believed the "insurrection" would end within six months. They never imagined the power of African American Confederates to keep the war going year after year. It is a testament to the tenacity as much as the sheer determination of Confederate blacks to fight for and with
their Caucasian counterparts and practically family. These children grew up together. When the white soldiers went off to fight, they took their childhood friends along to look after their needs as well as workloads. Most other slaves kept the homelands profiting in order to enable the war to continue for as long as it did. They did not rebel en mass like the Northerners believed they would.

I loved that Mr. Arnold was able to finally, as a historian, remind laymen of this fact. As a historian, myself, I remember the saying, "History was always written by the victor". It wasn't until the ladder part of the twentieth century that any other story was given any merit much less any care. However, Mr. Arnold reminds us that this false sense of history was far from the truth. He reminds us that real history is so much richer and more complex than we have ever been lead to believe. And, the untold stories need to be told in order for us to keep the momentum going, to keep each one of our heritages alive and thriving. There is so much more to this book than meets the eye. And, the proof can be found in the life of Mr. Turner Hall, Jr.

Thank you to Publish Green and NetGalley for giving me a free copy of this book to read and give an honest review. ( )
  Connie57103 | Dec 4, 2015 |
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Al Arnold is a descendent of a slave, Turner Hall, Jr. "Uncle Turner," as he was known in his later years, served in the Confederate army as an orderly for two Confederate soldiers and Robert E. Lee. As a slave, Turner Hall, Jr. was owned by another prominent Civil War general, Nathan Bedford Forrest.Al began researching his ancestor's life in 2008. At a family reunion, he saw a newspaper caption indicating his ancestor, Turner Hall, Jr., served Robert E. Lee as an orderly in the Civil War. To Al's amazement, his research found a proud Black Confederate who held both Civil War generals in high esteem, even well after the war. At the age of ninety-five, Turner Hall, Jr., cherished a gift from Nathan Bedford Forrest as one of his most treasured possessions.Al was further intrigued that his great-great-grandfather was a celebrated man in his community of Hugo, Oklahoma. He was commemorated as Hugo's "most distinguished citizen" by blacks and whites as a result of his Civil War service. Turner Hall, Jr., lived to be a hundred and four years old. He attended the last Civil War reunion in 1938 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Newsreel cameraman captured him displaying his reunion medals as an example of the typical black Confederate.In 1940, he was interviewed as a Black Confederate by a nationwide talk radio show in New York City. Turner Hall, Jr., left a trail for his family that Al has uncovered. Al shares his personal journey into his Confederate heritage as a modern Black man. He makes a connection through the life of his ancestor and embraces the premises that history should unite us instead of divide us. He argues that African Americans dishonor their ancestors by attempting to destroy Confederate heritage and by neglecting the historical impact that slaves had on both sides of the Civil War. This is the honest thoughts of a modern black man who has wrestled with his Confederate heritage while being a Black Christian man in America and who is connected to two famous Civil War generals.

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