Thursday, January 17, 2013

Howard Divinity of Copiah County, MS
Slave Narrative

Howard Divinity is on the right.
Photograph Courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Copiah's best known ex-slave was Howard Divinity, or "Uncle Divinity," who, since the close of the war until a few years before his death in 1930, attended practically all of the National Reunions of Confederate veterans and of World War veterans. Richmond, New York, Washington, and many other cities of the nation knew him as a familiar figure when the veterans gathered there. He always wore the gray uniform of the Confederacy, the coat being literally covered with reunion medals. Uncle Divinity was born early in the 1820's and served from 1861 until the close of the war as body slave and cook with Bob Scott, of Copiah County, in Company D, of the Twelfth Mississippi Regiment. While in the Confederate army, Divinity acquired the reputation of being the champion forager in the whole Confederate army and was called the chicken provider of the Confederacy. In 1926 Uncle Divinity made a speech before the Mississippi Legislature in behalf of the Confederate soldiers, their widows, and servants. It is said that when in Washington some years ago, Uncle Divinity learned the difference between a senator and a congressman in the following way:

He went to the senate office building and asked to see his senator. When he was admitted to see John Sharp Williams, the Mississippi senator asked which he would rather have - five dollars, a toddy, or straight whiskey; Divinity came away with five dollars. A short while later Uncle Divinity met up with Congressman Percy E. Quin, representative of the Copiah District. Mr. Quin gave him a silver dollar. Shortly afterwards, Divinity remarked to a group of veterans that he had learned the difference between a senator and a congressman. They asked him what the difference was, and of course he answered - "Four dollars."

Uncle Divinity and his wife Susan lived on the old Rembert place, near Bayou Pierre, until Susan's death some ten years ago. Divinity, who was blind his last years, survived his wife by only a few years.

Census records indicate he was born between 1832-1850, likely around 1845. He was married to Susan and the couple had at least three children: Marilla, Joe and Beulah.

Although the narrative mentions he wore the gray uniform of the Confederacy, I note he has on a regular man's suit, possibly gray with a hat which appears to be one worn by Confederate soldiers.

Divinity's Pension Application

11 comments:

  1. So many different ways of seeing the world both now and in the past. Hard to understand sometimes what guides people's actions.

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    1. If we could walk in their shoes, know their needs, we might understand their actions...Divinity is not telling his story, someone else is, and that too makes it more difficult to understand.

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  2. I agree with Kristen about there being many different ways of seeing the world then and now. I continue to learn so much history from your blog. Until I read this post, I never really knew much about African American Confederate veterans. The story Uncle Divinity gives me a sense of what it was like for one veteran.

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    1. In another life, Uncle Divinity would likely be a politician, talk show host, salesman, etc. He seemed to enjoy being in the spotlight.

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  3. They was important.......loved the photo and story.

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    1. Body servants' contributions were important even if they were on the opposing side.

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    2. True....of body servants on BOTH sides.

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  4. Great story of a good man. He was not alone, there were about 60,000 black Confederate veterans and they were quite proud of their service.
    If you can't understand it is understandable, you've not been taught the truth. The war was not fought about slavery. Lincoln never mentioned slavery until late 1862 and was quite clear that he did not want to free the slaves. The Emancipation was a military tactic, not a social one. (Note: Lincoln only freed slaves in the Southern states. Not in the North nor the boarder states. In fact he didn't free anybody, he had no authority in the South at the time)It was fought about illegal taxes and tariffs placed on Southern goods by the North that were unconstitutional. But to the Confederate soldier, white or black, the war was fought because someone in a blue coat invaded his home and threatened his family. It was that simple. Isn't it interesting that the Southern army was integrated but the Northern army was segregated.

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    1. My ancestors were body servants, not soldiers, according to their Confederate pension applications.

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    2. Ma'am I am certain that the guys they served with would disagree on that score.

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