Skip to comments.General Cleburne’s Radical Plan
Posted on 01/06/2014 4:53:35 AM PST by iowamark
On Jan. 2, 1864, Gen. Joseph Johnston, the commander of the largest Confederate army outside Virginia, called an evening meeting of his subordinate generals in his headquarters in northwest Georgia. The purpose of the meeting was kept secret from all but a few. When they arrived, they found Gen. Patrick Cleburne, an Irish immigrant and one of Johnstons best division commanders, who presented a radical proposal: to enlist slaves as rebel soldiers in exchange for their freedom.
Cleburne, who did not own slaves, focused on three points. First, the North had an insurmountable three-to-one manpower advantage among whites. Second, since the Union started enlisting African-Americans the previous year, blacks would increasingly be fighting against the Confederacy if they did not fight for it. Third, slave liberation would remove the chief obstacle to diplomatic recognition.
Thirteen fellow officers from Cleburnes division, including three generals, had already endorsed the plan, which came to be known as Cleburnes Memorial. Still, for obvious reasons, the proposal met with resistance defending slavery was, after all, the chief reason the Confederate had been formed; most of the seven original rebel states cited protection of slavery as a prime motivation for secession. But there was another, less well-appreciated reason: Fear of slave uprisings was endemic in the South, particularly in the cotton-growing regions, where slaves might outnumber whites by two to one, or more.
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