Skip to comments.Black Confederates
Posted on 01/08/2004 6:40:27 PM PST by stainlessbanner
Black Confederates Why haven't we heard more about them? National Park Service historian, Ed Bearrs, stated, "I don't want to call it a conspiracy to ignore the role of Blacks both above and below the Mason-Dixon line, but it was definitely a tendency that began around 1910" Historian, Erwin L. Jordan, Jr., calls it a "cover-up" which started back in 1865. He writes, "During my research, I came across instances where Black men stated they were soldiers, but you can plainly see where 'soldier' is crossed out and 'body servant' inserted, or 'teamster' on pension applications." Another black historian, Roland Young, says he is not surprised that blacks fought. He explains that "some, if not most, Black southerners would support their country" and that by doing so they were "demonstrating it's possible to hate the system of slavery and love one's country." This is the very same reaction that most African Americans showed during the American Revolution, where they fought for the colonies, even though the British offered them freedom if they fought for them.
It has been estimated that over 65,000 Southern blacks were in the Confederate ranks. Over 13,000 of these, "saw the elephant" also known as meeting the enemy in combat. These Black Confederates included both slave and free. The Confederate Congress did not approve blacks to be officially enlisted as soldiers (except as musicians), until late in the war. But in the ranks it was a different story. Many Confederate officers did not obey the mandates of politicians, they frequently enlisted blacks with the simple criteria, "Will you fight?" Historian Ervin Jordan, explains that "biracial units" were frequently organized "by local Confederate and State militia Commanders in response to immediate threats in the form of Union raids". Dr. Leonard Haynes, an African-American professor at Southern University, stated, "When you eliminate the black Confederate soldier, you've eliminated the history of the South."
As the war came to an end, the Confederacy took progressive measures to build back up its army. The creation of the Confederate States Colored Troops, copied after the segregated northern colored troops, came too late to be successful. Had the Confederacy been successful, it would have created the world's largest armies (at the time) consisting of black soldiers,even larger than that of the North. This would have given the future of the Confederacy a vastly different appearance than what modern day racist or anti-Confederate liberals conjecture. Not only did Jefferson Davis envision black Confederate veterans receiving bounty lands for their service, there would have been no future for slavery after the goal of 300,000 armed black CSA veterans came home after the war.
1. The "Richmond Howitzers" were partially manned by black militiamen. They saw action at 1st Manassas (or 1st Battle of Bull Run) where they operated battery no. 2. In addition two black "regiments", one free and one slave, participated in the battle on behalf of the South. "Many colored people were killed in the action", recorded John Parker, a former slave.
2. At least one Black Confederate was a non-commissioned officer. James Washington, Co. D 35th Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army, became it's 3rd Sergeant. Higher ranking black commissioned officers served in militia units, but this was on the State militia level (Louisiana)and not in the regular C.S. Army.
3. Free black musicians, cooks, soldiers and teamsters earned the same pay as white confederate privates. This was not the case in the Union army where blacks did not receive equal pay. At the Confederate Buffalo Forge in Rockbridge County, Virginia, skilled black workers "earned on average three times the wages of white Confederate soldiers and more than most Confederate army officers ($350- $600 a year).
4. Dr. Lewis Steiner, Chief Inspector of the United States Sanitary Commission while observing Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson's occupation of Frederick, Maryland, in 1862: "Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in this number [Confederate troops]. These were clad in all kinds of uniforms, not only in cast-off or captured United States uniforms, but in coats with Southern buttons, State buttons, etc. These were shabby, but not shabbier or seedier than those worn by white men in the rebel ranks. Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie-knives, dirks, etc.....and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederate Army."
5. Frederick Douglas reported, "There are at the present moment many Colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but real soldiers, having musket on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down any loyal troops and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government and build up that of the rebels."
6. Black and white militiamen returned heavy fire on Union troops at the Battle of Griswoldsville (near Macon, GA). Approximately 600 boys and elderly men were killed in this skirmish.
7. In 1864, President Jefferson Davis approved a plan that proposed the emancipation of slaves, in return for the official recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and France. France showed interest but Britain refused.
8. The Jackson Battalion included two companies of black soldiers. They saw combat at Petersburg under Col. Shipp. "My men acted with utmost promptness and goodwill...Allow me to state sir that they behaved in an extraordinary acceptable manner."
9. Recently the National Park Service, with a recent discovery, recognized that blacks were asked to help defend the city of Petersburg, Virginia and were offered their freedom if they did so. Regardless of their official classification, black Americans performed support functions that in today's army many would be classified as official military service. The successes of white Confederate troops in battle, could only have been achieved with the support these loyal black Southerners.
10. Confederate General John B. Gordon (Army of Northern Virginia) reported that all of his troops were in favor of Colored troops and that it's adoption would have "greatly encouraged the army". Gen. Lee was anxious to receive regiments of black soldiers. The Richmond Sentinel reported on 24 Mar 1864, "None will deny that our servants are more worthy of respect than the motley hordes which come against us." "Bad faith [to black Confederates] must be avoided as an indelible dishonor."
11. In March 1865, Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary Of State, promised freedom for blacks who served from the State of Virginia. Authority for this was finally received from the State of Virginia and on April 1st 1865, $100 bounties were offered to black soldiers. Benjamin exclaimed, "Let us say to every Negro who wants to go into the ranks, go and fight, and you are free Fight for your masters and you shall have your freedom." Confederate Officers were ordered to treat them humanely and protect them from "injustice and oppression".
12. A quota was set for 300,000 black soldiers for the Confederate States Colored Troops. 83% of Richmond's male slave population volunteered for duty. A special ball was held in Richmond to raise money for uniforms for these men. Before Richmond fell, black Confederates in gray uniforms drilled in the streets. Due to the war ending, it is believed only companies or squads of these troops ever saw any action. Many more black soldiers fought for the North, but that difference was simply a difference because the North instituted this progressive policy more sooner than the more conservative South. Black soldiers from both sides received discrimination from whites who opposed the concept .
13. Union General U.S. Grant in Feb 1865, ordered the capture of "all the Negro men before the enemy can put them in their ranks." Frederick Douglass warned Lincoln that unless slaves were guaranteed freedom (those in Union controlled areas were still slaves) and land bounties, "they would take up arms for the rebels".
14. On April 4, 1865 (Amelia County, VA), a Confederate supply train was exclusively manned and guarded by black Infantry. When attacked by Federal Cavalry, they stood their ground and fought off the charge, but on the second charge they were overwhelmed. These soldiers are believed to be from "Major Turner's" Confederate command.
15. A Black Confederate, George _____, when captured by Federals was bribed to desert to the other side. He defiantly spoke, "Sir, you want me to desert, and I ain't no deserter. Down South, deserters disgrace their families and I am never going to do that."
16. Former slave, Horace King, accumulated great wealth as a contractor to the Confederate Navy. He was also an expert engineer and became known as the "Bridge builder of the Confederacy." One of his bridges was burned in a Yankee raid. His home was pillaged by Union troops, as his wife pleaded for mercy.
17. As of Feb. 1865 1,150 black seamen served in the Confederate Navy. One of these was among the last Confederates to surrender, aboard the CSS Shenandoah, six months after the war ended. This surrender took place in England.
18. Nearly 180,000 Black Southerners, from Virginia alone, provided logistical support for the Confederate military. Many were highly skilled workers. These included a wide range of jobs: nurses, military engineers, teamsters, ordnance department workers, brakemen, firemen, harness makers, blacksmiths, wagonmakers, boatmen, mechanics, wheelwrights, etc. In the 1920'S Confederate pensions were finally allowed to some of those workers that were still living. Many thousands more served in other Confederate States.
19. During the early 1900's, many members of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) advocated awarding former slaves rural acreage and a home. There was hope that justice could be given those slaves that were once promised "forty acres and a mule" but never received any. In the 1913 Confederate Veteran magazine published by the UCV, it was printed that this plan "If not Democratic, it is [the] Confederate" thing to do. There was much gratitude toward former slaves, which "thousands were loyal, to the last degree", now living with total poverty of the big cities. Unfortunately, their proposal fell on deaf ears on Capitol Hill.
20. During the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913, arrangements were made for a joint reunion of Union and Confederate veterans. The commission in charge of the event made sure they had enough accommodations for the black Union veterans, but were completely surprised when unexpected black Confederates arrived. The white Confederates immediately welcomed their old comrades, gave them one of their tents, and "saw to their every need". Nearly every Confederate reunion including those blacks that served with them, wearing the gray.
21. The first military monument in the US Capitol that honors an African-American soldier is the Confederate monument at Arlington National cemetery. The monument was designed 1914 by Moses Ezekiel, a Jewish Confederate. Who wanted to correctly portray the "racial makeup" in the Confederate Army. A black Confederate soldier is depicted marching in step with white Confederate soldiers. Also shown is one "white soldier giving his child to a black woman for protection".- source: Edward Smith, African American professor at the American University, Washington DC.
22. Black Confederate heritage is beginning to receive the attention it deserves. For instance, Terri Williams, a black journalist for the Suffolk "Virginia Pilot" newspaper, writes: "I've had to re-examine my feelings toward the [Confederate] flag started when I read a newspaper article about an elderly black man whose ancestor worked with the Confederate forces. The man spoke with pride about his family member's contribution to the cause, was photographed with the [Confederate] flag draped over his lap that's why I now have no definite stand on just what the flag symbolizes, because it no longer is their history, or my history, but our history."
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Great men such as HK, Hervey, Winbush, and untold others have traced their proud heritage across the South. We honor those men and the forefathers at the table. For their service we are thankful, their courage is strong.
Another previous FR thread (and a great story!): Former Slave's Family Sees Him Honored At Last (Chris Columbus in Florida)
I only became aware of these men by reading on my own. They were never mentioned in any of my history books from grammar school through college.
To those liberals wanting to outlaw the stars and bars: Sit down and shut up. You don't know history and you don't know what you're talking about.....
We found a black lady who served as a cook in the Confederate Army and was on the veteran's pension rolls. Her name was Lavinia Thompson from Springfield, SC. We are forming an Order of Confederate Rose chapter and naming it after her.
God Bless 'em!
Some of the items are downright silly: anecdotal items strung together to make a case, not a serious consideration of significant facts. Douglass would make much of rumors of Black Confederates to get concessions from the Union government. Northerners would credit all manner of rumors of what was going on in the South, and may not always have distinguished troops from laborers.
Davis's last ditch feelers to gain foreign recognition shouldn't be valued more than they deserve. There was still enough support for slavery to frustrate such plans up to the last desperate weeks of the war.
It's not hard to believe that some slaves stood by their masters. But such loyalty didn't add up to what the author wants to make out of it: a vote of confidence in the Confederacy.
Wages of free black workers at one defense plant say little about the overall condition of Blacks in the Confederacy. Black Union troops, contrary to this article, did eventually receive pay equality with White troops. We have only the author's word that the same was true of Black workers with the Confederate army, and it's doubtful that he'd make the same claim about slaves under army control.
Sir Moses Ezekiel does sound like an interesting character. It's worth noting, though, that segregationist Woodrow Wilson dedicated the monument. "Black Confederates" -- real or imagined -- don't add up to racial equality or integration, as we understand such ideas.
Thanks, Sam. And thank you, Stainless, for posting this article. I will enjoy having these references to summon when I argue with all the fools who inevitably will argue this point.
Bob Graham began re-enacting the Civil War in 1992 as a rider with the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry, an experience that has given him newfound respect for both the Confederate cavalrymen and the animals they rode. His cavalry re-enactment experience actually helped Graham to hone his artist's skills. "When I look back on some of the early paintings of horses I did, they look to me like potatoes with toothpicks for legs," he explains. "they actually look sort of unnatural, with this huge body on top pf legs that seem to go every which way. But, as I spent more time with them, I began to recognize their differences. Now, painting a horse is like doing a portrait. You see the differences in their veins, in the way their nostrils flare, or how some horses' manes flip up on the ends."
FRIDAY, February 10, 1865.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
SECOND CONGRESS-SECOND SESSION
EMPLOYMENT OF NEGROES AS SOLDIERS
Mr. Wickham, of Virginia, moved the indefinite postponement of the bill. He was opposed to its going to a select committee. If it went to any committee it should go, in the regular channel, to the Committee on Military Affairs. He wished, however, this question of arming and making soldiers of negroes to be now disposed of, finally and forever. He wished it to be decided whether negroes are to be placed upon an equality by the side of our brave soldiers. They would be compelled to. They would have to camp and bivouac together.
Mr. Wickham said that our brave soldiers, who have fought so long and nobly, would not stand to be thus placed side by side with negro soldiers. He was opposed to such a measure. The day that such a bill passed Congress sounds the death knell of this Confederacy. The very moment an order goes forth from the War Department authorizing the arming and organizing of negro soldiers there was an eternal end to this struggle.-(Voice-That's so.)
The question being ordered upon the rejection of the bill, it was lost-ayes 21, noes 53. As this vote was regarded as a kind of test of the sense of the House upon the policy of putting negroes into the army, we append the ayes and noes-the question being the rejection of this bill authorizing the employment of negroes as soldiers:
Ayes-Messrs. Baldwin, Branch, Cruikshank, De Jarnette, Fuller, Garland, Gholson, Gilmer, Lamkin, J. M. Leach, J. T. Leach, McMullin, Miles, Miller, Ramsey, Sexton, Smith, of Alabama, Smith, of North Carolina, Wickham, Witherspoon, Mr. Speaker.
Noes-Messrs. Akin, Anderson, Barksdale, Batson, Bell, Blandford, Boyce, Bradley, H. W. Bruce, Carroll, Chambers, Chilton, Clark, Clopton, Cluskey, Conrad, Conrow, Darden, Dickinson, Dupre, Ewing, Farrow, Foster, Funsten, Gaither, Goode, Gray, Hartridge, Hatcher, Hilton, Holder, Holliday, Johnston, Keeble, Lyon, Pugh, Read, Rogers, Russell, Simpson, J. M. Smith, W. E. Smith, Snead, Swan, Triplett, Villere, Welsh.
If any number of black soldiers had been serving in the ranks of the CSA armies, how did it escape the notice of Congress?
It also escaped the notice of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and others:
Page 246, Confederate Veteran, June 1915. Official publication of the United Confederate Veteran, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Confederated Southern Memorial Association.
Gen. Howell Cobb, an unbeliever in this expedient, wrote from Macon, Ga., January 8, 1865: "I think that the proposition is the most pernicious idea that has been suggested since the war began. You cannot make soldiers of slaves or slaves of soldiers. The moment you resort to this your white soldiers are lost to you, and one reason why this proposition is received with favor by some portions of the army is because they hope that when the negro comes in they can retire. You cannot keep white and black troops together, and you cannot trust negroes alone. They won't make soldiers, as they are wanting in every qualification necessary to make one. :
Samuel Clayton, Esq., of Cuthbert, Ga., wrote on January 10, 1865: "All of our male population between sixteen and sixty is in the army. We cannot get men from any other source; they must come from our slaves... The government takes all of our men and exposes them to death. Why can't they take our property? He who values his property more than independence is a poor, sordid wretch."
General Lee, who clearly saw the inevitable unless his forces were strengthened, wrote on January 11, 1865: "I should prefer to rely on our white population; but in view of the preparation of our enemy it is our duty to provide for a continuous war, which, I fear, we cannot accomplish with our present resources. It is the avowed intention of the enemy to convert the ablebodied negro into soldiers and emancipate all. His progress will thus add to his numbers and at the same time destroy slavery in a most pernicious manner to the welfare of our people. Whatever may be the effect of our employing negro troops, it cannot be as mischievous as this. If it ends in subverting slavery, it will be accomplished by ourselves, and we can devise the means of alleviating the evil consequences to both races. I think, therefore, that we must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves used against us or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our soldiers' social institutions. My own opinion is that we should employ tl1em without delay. I believe that with proper regulations they can be made efficient soldiers. They possess the physical qualifications in an eminent degree. Long habits of obedience and subordination, coupled with the moral influence which in our country the white man possesses over the black, furnish an excellent foundation for that discipline which is the best guarantee of military efficiency. We can give them an interest by allowing immediate freedom to all who enlist and freedom at the end of the war to their families. We should not expect slaves to fight for prospective freedom when they can secure it at once by going to the enemy, in whose service they will incur no greater risk than in ours. In conclusion, I can only say that whatever is to be done must be attended to at once."
President Davis on February 21, 1865 expressed himself as follows: "It is now becoming daily more evident to all reflecting persons that we are reduced to choosing whether the negroes shall fight for or against us and that all the arguments as to the positive advantage or disadvantage of employing them are beside the question, which is simply one of relative advantage between having their fighting element in our ranks or those of the enemy."
Would Lee and Davis have had those points of view had there been any number of blacks in ranks?
There is no -credible- evidence of blacks in active rebel service.
"It's pure fantasy,' contends James McPherson, a Princeton historian and one of the nation's leading Civil War scholars. Adds Edwin Bearss, historian emeritus at the National Park Service: 'It's b.s., wishful thinking.' Robert Krick, author of 10 books on the Confederacy, has studied the records of 150,000 Southern soldiers and found fewer than a dozen were black. 'Of course, if I documented 12, someone would start adding zeros,' he says.
"These and other scholars say claims about black rebels derive from unreliable anecdotes, a blurring of soldiers and laborers, and the rapid spread on the Internet of what Mr. McPherson calls 'pseudohistory.' Thousands of blacks did accompany rebel troops -- as servants, cooks, teamsters and musicians. Most were slaves who served involuntarily; until the final days of the war, the Confederacy staunchly refused to enlist black soldiers.
"Some blacks carried guns for their masters and wore spare or cast-off uniforms, which may help explain eyewitness accounts of blacks units. But any blacks who actually fought did so unofficially, either out of personal loyalty or self-defense, many historians say.
"They also bristle at what they see as the disingenuous twist on political correctness fueling the black Confederate fad. 'It's a search for a multicultural Confederacy, a desperate desire to feel better about your ancestors,' says Leslie Rowland, a University of Maryland historian. 'If you suggest that some blacks supported the South, then you can deny that the Confederacy was about slavery and white supremacy.'
"David Blight, an Amherst College historian, likens the trend to bygone notions about happy plantation darkies.' Confederate groups invited devoted ex-slaves to reunions and even won Senate approval in 1923 for a "mammy" monument in Washington (it was never built). Black Confederates, Mr. Blight says, are a new and more palatable way to 'legitimize the Confederacy.'"
-- Wall Street Journal, May 8, 1997
"There seems to be no evidence that the Negro soldiers authorized by the Confederate Government (March 13, 1865) ever went into battle. This gives rise to the question as to whether or not any Negroes ever fought in the Confederate ranks. It is possible that some of the free Negro companies organized in Louisiana and Tennessee in the early part of the war took part in local engagements; but evidence seems to the contrary. (Authors note: If they did, their action was not authorized by the Confederate Government.) A company of "Creoles," some of whom had Negro blood, may have been accepted in the Confederate service at Mobile. Secretary Seddon conditioned his authorization of the acceptance of the company on the ability of those "Creoles" to be naturally and properly distinguished from Negroes. If persons with Negro Blood served in Confederate ranks as full-fledged soldiers, the per cent of Negro blood was sufficiently low for them to pass as whites."
(Authors note: Henry Clay Warmoth said that many Louisiana mulattoes were in Confederate service but they were "not registered as Negroes." War Politics and Reconstruction, p. 56) p. 160-61, SOUTHERN NEGROES, Wiley
There is -no- credible evidence that even a small number blacks served as soldiers in the rebel armies.
"Gentle stranger, drop a tear,
The C.S.A. lies buried here:
in Youth it lived and propered well,
But like Lucifer it fell:
Its body here, its soul in -- well
E'en if I knew I wouldn't tell.
Rest C.S.A. from every strife,
Your death is better than Your life:
And this one line shall grace your grave --
Your death gave freedom to the slave."
Davis's last ditch feelers, if true, were meaningless since constitutionally Davis lacked the authority to end slavery. Neither he nor the confederate congress could make any law whatsoever affecting slave ownership. His promises, if made, were empty and were only a ruse.
The USSC was a civilian organization.
I got so tired on hearing about Dr. Steiner that I found his phamplet online. Let's quote Dr. Steiner by all means.
"Jackson's name was always mentioned with a species of veneration, and his orders were obeyed with a slavish obedience unsurpassed by that of Russian serfs.
The men generally looked sturdy when in ranks, yet a cachectic expression of countenance prevailed, which could not be accounted for entirely by the unwashed faces that were, from necessity or choice, the rule. Those who have fallen into our hands show worn-out constitutions, disordered digestions and a total lack of vital stamina. They do not bear pain with any fortitude, and their constitutions seem to have very little power of resistance to disease. The rate of mortality in the rebel sick and wounded is double or treble that found in the Hospitals containing our men."
-- Dr. Lewis Steiner, 1862
"Sunday, September 14th.Major-General Banks' corps d'armee, commanded by Brigadier-General A. S. Williams passed through town this morning on its way to the front. The men were in the best possible spirits, all eager for the fray. They are fighting now for and among people who appreciate their labors, and who welcome them as brothers. Brigadier-General Gordon said that "the reception of the troops by the citizens of this place was equal to a victory in its effects upon the men of his command."
The veteran troops were all in vigorous health, and the new levies made up of strong, athletic men, whose intelligent faces beamed with strong desire to press rapidly upon the retreating foe. We had never greater reason to be proud of our army. During the afternoon of the day, the memorable engagement at the South Mountain Pass took place, in which our new levies vied with the veterans in pressing the Confederates up the side of the mountain, and then over into the valley beyond. Our military commanders will bear testimony, in proper form, to the heroic courage shown by our army in this well-fought action. The rebels had tried to make a stand at several points on the road prior to this engagement, but were gallantly driven forwards by our troops. On Wednesday the great battle of Antietam was fought, with such a display of strategy and power on the part of our General, and of heroism and daring from our men, that the enemy was glad to resign all hopes of entering Pennsylvania, and to withdraw his forces across the Potomac. A great victory had been gained; the enemy had been driven from loyal soil, and McClellan had shown himself worthy of the love, (amounting almost to adoration,) which his troops expressed on all sides."
WhiskeyPapa: Adds Edwin Bearss, historian emeritus at the National Park Service: 'It's b.s., wishful thinking.' (post #36)
It seems that Ed Bearss has contradicted himself here.
Also, many Southerners tend to reject him as well as McPhearson as Yankee propagandists. As to Dr. Steiner, let us attempt to separate his statements into fact and opinion, much of which appears to be propaganda for his own (Union) side.
I'm with you on that 4CJ!!
I just think it was too bad that the CSA could not get them involved much sooner and in greater numbers. Things might have been a little different. :)
Graham draws 'em better standing than moving, and he has a little trouble with the lower foreleg perspective in a front view moving, viz:
But I'm quibbling. I especially like this one:
He catches exactly the neck and head of a grade horse (and those critters have their uses, uncomfortable as they are), and the way a tired horse will brace his forelegs to support his rider's weight.
In keeping with tradition, we shall honor all those who served.