Since it is Black History Month I thought I would look into the myth that has been passed around especially down here in the South when the debate around the American Civil War rages.
That myth is that many free blacks and slaves fought for the Confederacy.
First of all this is a myth….it began in the 20th century to try and counter the slavery issue and what it meant to those in the South.
How and where this myth came about is unclear, but it gained prominence in the late 20th century. There exists little evidence of its truth and considerable evidence of its falsehood. The Confederate government forbade the enlistment of Blacks as soldiers. It did draft Blacks, both free and enslaved, to work for the army. These men and women served as laborers, cooks, teamsters, wranglers, and other jobs with the army, usually under guard of white soldiers. Other enslaved people worked in Confederate industries in support of the war effort, including in mines, on the railroads, and in factories. Slave labor had always been a part of the Southern industry, with slave owners sending people to work for pay, which went into the pockets of the owners. Some owners allowed their enslaved people to keep some, or even all, of their earnings.
Throughout the war, debates in the Confederate congress over the issue of arming enslaved men to serve as combat troops continued. Such ideas were voted down by the Congress until March 1865, less than one month before Lee’s surrender. Even after the Confederates allowed the enlistment of Black troops the concept drew resistance. Robert Toombs, former Secretary of State for the Confederacy, and a general with Lee’s army in early 1865, called the idea of Black troops “â€¦the worst calamity that could befall usâ€¦” In June 1865, he wrote an article in the Augusta Chronicle which included a statement that “The day that the Army of Virginia allows a negro regiment to enter their lines as soldiers they will be degraded, ruined and disgraced”. By the time his opinion appeared in the Chronicle the Army of Northern Virginia had been disbanded following its defeat.
Some black Southerners aided the Confederacy. Most of these were forced to accompany their masters or were forced to toil behind the lines. Black men were not legally allowed to serve as combat soldiers in the Confederate Army–they were cooks, teamsters, and manual laborers. There were no black Confederate combat units in service during the war and no documentation whatsoever exists for any black man being paid or pensioned as a Confederate soldier, although some did receive pensions for their work as laborers. Nevertheless, the black servants and the Confederate soldiers formed bonds in the shared crucible of conflict, and many servants later attended regimental reunions with their wartime comrades.
This is not to say that no black man ever fired a gun for the Confederacy. To be specific, in the “Official Records of the War of the Rebellion,” a collection of military records from both sides which spans more than 50 volumes and more than 50,000 pages, there are a total of seven Union eyewitness reports of black Confederates. Three of these reports mention black men shooting at Union soldiers, one report mentions capturing a handful of armed black men along with some soldiers, and the other three reports mention seeing unarmed black laborers. There is no record of Union soldiers encountering an all-black line of battle or anything close to it.
All in all the myth was inaccurate….basically it was an attempt to re-write history to try and illustrate some positivity of Blacks in the South.
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”