To prove his point, Horton enlisted many facts and images that are always captivating when revisited. Take, for instance, the purported photograph of the 1st Louisiana Native Guard. Jerome S. Handler and Michael L. Tuite, Jr. do a wonderful job describing the origins of this photograph in their online piece "Retouching History: The Modern Fascination of a Civil War Photograph". On a quick first glance, the photo includes 17 black infantrymen dressed in greatcoats with their arms and equipment. Labeled as an 1861 photograph of black Confederate soldiers, the image was once available for sale on the web at a neo-Confederate site.
Horton ably described the manipulations to produce this photograph. As Handler and Tuite convincingly show, when compared to a photograph of 18 black northern soldiers and their white officer in a Philadelphia studio, one quickly deduces how others manipulated this image into the photograph for sale. By cropping out both the northern officer and a black soldier on his immediate left while obscuring some details like belt buckles bearing the 'U.S' insignia, some person(s) deliberately manipulated this image in attempting to produce the illusion that black soldiers fought for the Confederacy.
This photo left a significant impression upon the audience, and provided an important entry into the motivations behind the doctoring of such images. As many white Americans did in the early twentieth-century with the image of the faithful slave, modern day neo-Confederate have latched onto the fallacy of black Confederates as a way to blunt the fact that the South seceded to protect the institution of slavery. Horton called on public historians to confront this trend and remind Americans how slavery was central to the Civil War.He drove this point home by referring to the proceedings of the secession conventions in the various southern states as well as the writings of the southern secession commissioners that Charles Dew mined for his accessible and pointed Apostles of Disunion. Indeed, Horton pointedly encouraged the audience to use the words of the Confederate leaders themselves against any claims that black southerners fought for the Confederacy. Bruce Levine further explored the problem of black Confederates in his wonderful and richly researched Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (Oxford). Noting the very limited emancipation plans that a decided minority of Confederate officials harbored later in the war, Levine stresses how these plans only emerged close to the Confederacy's defeat and deeply embedded within the institution and culture of slavery. He notes that these few Confederate officials were willing to grant "no more than the most limited, circumscribed form of freedom to the black soldiers they expected to recruit" and that, by doing so, they desired to maintain strict control of the population of black southerners to keep them "as a cheap and malleable plantation labor force" despite the crumbling of slavery through the efforts of both black southerners and the Union Army. Still, the grand majority of slave owners and non-slaveholding white southerners stridently opposed any form of extremely limited emancipation given the Confederacy's explicit link to slavery and, more importantly, black southerners possessed no desire to fight for the preservation of the institution of slavery and a slave society given the ever increasing likelihood of freedom and slavery's destruction (15). In essence, Levine forever drives a stake through the heart of this belief in the existence of black Confederates. James Horton, in his lectures, continues to both spread this message beyond the academy and combat the still formidable presence of the Lost Cause.