Black Confederates, by Scott Williams
Why haven't we heard more about Black Confederate Soldiers?
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 engaging 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 (aka 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
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 March 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, wagon makers, boatmen,
mechanics, wheelwrights, etc. In the 1920s, 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 1900s, 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 U.S. 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."
Charles Kelly Barrow, et.al. Forgotten Confederates: An Anthology About Black
Southerners (1995). Currently the best book on the subject.
Ervin L. Jordan, Jr. Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia
(1995). Well researched and very good source of information on Black Confederates, but has a strong Union bias.
Richard Rollins. Black Southerners in Gray (1994). Excellent source.
Dr. Edward Smith and Nelson Winbush, "Black Southern Heritage". An excellent
educational video. Mr. Winbush is a descendant of a Black Confederate and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).
This fact page is not an all inclusive list of Black Confederates, only a
small sampling of accounts. For general historical information on Black Confederates, contact Dr. Edward Smith, American University,
4400 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20016; Dean of American Studies. Dr. Smith is a black professor dedicated to
clarifying the historical role of African Americans.
Reading: Black Confederates.
Description: The discovery that more than 'a few African Americans' served the Confederacy in
the Civil War -- and not just as servants -- will strike some readers as contradictory, unnatural, and politically incorrect.
Certainly, most historians have ignored the subject. But history is history: One must deal with past reality, not subordinate
the facts to modern political positions. In researching the subject, Barrow called on the readership of Confederate Veteran,
the official publication of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, to submit information on black Southern loyalists. Did blacks
really serve in the Confederate Army? Did African American Confederates really exist? How many blacks really served in the
Confederate Army? Continued below...
were large and diverse, based on official reports, pension applications, family correspondence, newspaper articles, and published
memoirs, and from that came this anthology of historical documents and accounts. A welcome addition for the buff
and for anyone interested in the African American Confederate experience. "Simply stated, Black Confederates is a must
Recommended Reading: Black
Southerners in Confederate Armies. Description: The little-known story
of black Confederate soldiers. Large numbers of slaves and freedmen served the South, and in some cases as soldiers and sailors
for the Confederacy. This book uses official records, newspaper articles, and veterans' accounts to tell the enlightening
stories of these Black Confederates. Continued below...
As the debate over the role of African-Americans in Confederate armies
continues, this well-researched collection serves as a significant contribution to the ongoing discussion about the numbers
of black Southerners involved and their significant history. "[W]ell-researched study that is easy to read...a nice addition
that presents the facts about African Americans in the Confederate Army."
Reading: Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees
in Civil War Virginia (A Nation Divided : New Studies in
Civil War History). Description: Despite its unwieldy
title, this stout volume is an invaluable addition to African American and Civil War history, a meticulously researched and
detailed collective portrait of the nonwhite population of Virginia,
the leading state of the Confederacy. Beginning with a large, capable, and diverse African American population, free as well
as slave, Virginia found itself, as fear warred with the need for labor, both increasing and decreasing restrictions on it.
At the same
time, that African American population, unanimously in favor of freedom and better lives, was thoroughly divided (yes!) as
to which side it should support in order to achieve these goals. Not easy reading and clearly most useful to the serious history
student, this is an eminently worthwhile candidate for U.S. history collections, nonetheless.
"A great study that is filled with facts about African American Confederate soldiers, aka Black Confederates."
"Why I Wave the Confederate Flag, Written
by a Black Man". Description: Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. "This book is about truth and passion." Continued below...
this book dangerous is its raw honesty. Hervey lifts the veil of Black
decadence at the same time he exposes the lies and political correctness of modern day America. Hervey states: "I show
that the Civil War was not fought over slavery and that the demise of my race in America is not of the White man, but rather of our own making. In this book, I
show how Blacks in America ran away from
physical bondage to one far worse-- mental bondage."