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."
(in college I specialized in the interpretation of original documents - puzzling out the AWFUL handwriting, finding out about the authors, placing them in a historical context. That's what I love.)
That's what makes history especially interesting to me. The personal stories that fill in the "official big picture".
If you want on (or off) of my black conservative ping list, please let me know via FREEPmail. (And no, you don't have to be black to be on the list!)
Extra warning: this is a high-volume ping list.
Revolts weren't promoted, because it was clear how uncontrollable they could become. Many people had learned of the violent slave revolution in Haiti seventy years before and dreaded a recurrence of such horrors. And if race war began between Blacks and Whites, many unionists would leave the ranks, and take up with the other side. Though we talk about "total war," there were some things that weren't resorted to in the Civil War.
Would slaves have revolted if there'd been more energy put into agitation? Probably not, but loyalty to masters, fear of recriminations, and acceptance of existing conditions shouldn't be assumed to imply an ideological support for the Confederacy. People who live and work in a given country don't necessarily assent to the policies of its government simply because they go on living and working there.
There are different questions here that may not have the same answer. One concerns the degree to which slaves accepted their condition. The other involves whether Blacks took up arms for the Confederacy. Yet another would be what African-Americans thought about the Confederacy. Certainly numbers of slaves accepted their condition because they knew no other, feared change, or were loyal to their masters, but whether this translates into support for the Confederacy is less clear.
The way we define terms also matters. There may not have been a bloody slave insurrection, but there were plenty of small scale, even individual revolts, if leaving the plantation or disobeying orders count as acts of revolt. And surface impressions may be deceiving. Slaves wouldn't always inform masters of their true sentiments.
BTW, you may be able to find your ancestor here.
Bump for the veterans who served on both sides of the late War. They were Americans all, and deserving of our respect.
What's with that right fore hoof, though?
This one's good:
My horse will jump like that off irregular ground, without planting the feet square.
Forrest was a genius, though as my grandmother would say, "Someone you could not possibly invite to dinner."
'Course, he shot at Forrest first. Dumb idiot, I coulda told him how that would turn out.
Note that Forrest brought the knife to the gunfight, but won anyhow. Nerve and determination trumps gunpowder . . . doesn't happen all that often.
Forrest may have been a rough diamond, but he basically saved Rome GA (where most of my family was living at the time) so I owe him a debt of gratitude, possibly for being here at all.
The third largest slaveholder in my ggg grandfather's home county was a free man of color. (The second was Jewish; the first, I regret to state, was my ggg grandfather.)
Nobody disagrees (at least, I don't know anybody) that the system stank. The only argument I will make is that did not make everyone in the system evil. Most people in that time and place, black and white, accepted the system that was there before they were born. If they were basically decent people, they made the system work as humanely as possible. The cruel, the greedy, and the lascivious abused the system - most decent people despised them, many looked the other way. But the same could be said, for example, of lending money at interest, which was considered mortal sin in the Middle Ages. Your average cleric would think of modern Western society as a sink of iniquity, with all of us going merrily to perdition together. We would argue in our own defense that some use "money making money" for good - others for evil. And your average Westerner would go "What?" having never read history in his life.
If cotton was King in 1860 I don't think sails were the main reason. The great boom in cotton came from clothing. Thanks to slavery and the cotton gin, cotton was was cheap. It was suited to the new machine spindles and looms. Sail and steam transportation brought cotton from the Americas to Europe and cheap clothing from there to the rest of the world.
Europeans and Americans gave up homespun woolens and linens or furs and leather or expensive silks for cheap machine-spun cotton clothing. The growing European clothing market and exports to other parts of the world would offset any decline in cotton sail production. The reason cotton declined as time went on was that too many people saw the profits and got into the business: Indians, Egyptians, Mexicans, Africans, Central Asians, and South Americans.
We can't imagine slavery in 21st century America. It's likely that slavery would have been abolished at some point in the last century and a half whatever happened, but it's not true that most slaveowners were looking to get out of the skin trade in 1860. Nor were Northerners trying to keep them in. We can say that smart Southerners should have seen the writing on the wall and sold off their slaves. But at the time that writing was unclear.
Southerners had the option of industrializing along with Northerners in the 1840s and 1850s. Some were keen to do so. But many slaveowners were frightened by the threat to slavery and circled the wagons to the point where compromises and buyouts weren't going to be accepted. It would have been nice if a price had been proposed and accepted for getting out of slavery, but that didn't happen, and wouldn't have happened given Southern fears of what would come next and the great confidence of the planters in the rule of King Cotton.
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