White and Black Confederate Soldier
I've been reading online lately about the ongoing argument both for and against the theory that there were black Confederate soldiers. Sons of Confederate Veterans members argue that there were up to 90,000 black soldiers that fought for the Confederacy. I've also read many Northerners say there were no black soldiers fighting for the South. The argument goes on and on, both sides refusing to concede an inch. There is a reason for this argument and hopefully I can shed some light on which side is correct.
Now, if the Northerner agreed that some blacks fought for the Confederacy, it would destroy their entire argument that the war was only about slavery and the white supremacist Southerners desire to oppress another race of humans. The figure of 90,000 soldiers fighting for the South seems a bit high, if you consider being in actual combat with a gun is the only qualification of a soldier. There were numerous black men attached to Confederate armies as cooks, body servants, and even guards and pickets. Most of these men weren't armed, but the guards and pickets were. While Northerners argue that cooks are not soldiers, I used to work with a man that was a cook in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam war. He is a veteran, gets veterans benefits, but by the Northern way of thinking, he isn't a soldier.
In the above photograph you will find an armed black man dressed in a Confederate uniform. How much closer could he get to being a Confederate soldier. I've heard the argument made that because there are no muster rolls for black Confederate's means they weren't really soldiers. If you are in combat, firing a weapon, and someone is firing a weapon at you, then you are a soldier. Does a bullet care if you've been placed on a muster roll?
United States Colored Troops
Another interesting fact that you will notice in all of the photographs of black troops in the Civil War is which side is actually segregated. There are numerous accounts of black men going into combat with white soldiers in Confederate units. You never see a Union regiment with white and black men. Union regiments had white officers, but that was because of the Northern belief that black men weren't intelligent enough to become officers. Accounts of black men going into battle with white men in the South are common. Segregation didn't occur in the South until after the war when Northern politicians began to use black men to retain their political superiority over the country.
There is another argument that the Northern people use to justify there being any black Confederates and that is the belief that black men who fought for the South were being forced to do so against their will. I find this idea preposterous. I can only ask, "Were these men also forced to attend Confederate Reunions following the war?"
Black Confederates at a reunion with White Confederates
There's a lot more false beliefs about the War for Southern Independence. The idea that Southerners are all racists and white supremacists. I'll give you a few examples of some of those evil Southerners that fought to mistreat minorities.
Confederate Cherokee Native Americans
There were members of five tribes that fought for the Confederacy. They were the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. The Cherokee even had a Confederate general. Brigadier General Stand Watie was born in Georgia in 1806 and signed the treaty moving the Cherokee's to Oklahoma. Less than 10% of Cherokee's owned slaves, so the theory of them fighting for slavery is pretty much eliminated from the argument. General Watie is famous for being the last Confederate general to surrender.
Brigadier General Stand Watie
What of other races that fought for the South. Below are photographs of just a few men that fought for the Confederacy who weren't white.
Corporal Charlie Chan born in Shanghai, China fought in Company K, 24th Texas Cavalry (Dismounted) and was killed at the Battle of Franklin fighting in Granbury's Brigade, Cleburne's Division
Colonel Santos Benavides, a Mexican American commanded the 33rd Texas Cavalry Regiment during the war
Jewish Lieutenant Joshua Lazarus Moses commanded a battery of South Carolina Artillery and was murdered at Fort Blakely after having surrendered (more on this in the next blog)
Major General Camille Armand Jules Marie de Polignac was born in France and came to the United States just to fight for the Confederacy
Colonel Ambrosio Jose' Gonzales was born in Cuba who moved to the U.S. in 1849 and served as Chief of Artillery for the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida
Confederate Brigadier General Zebulon York born in Maine offered to raise a brigade of Polish troops for the Confederacy when the conflict began
Black Confederate pickets spotted through a telescope by a Union officer during McClellan's approach to Richmond in 1862
Below are listed examples of black Confederate troops in action
"Officers of the 16th Virginia Infantry posted a young Black male named Ben to guard its surplus rations. When a white private approached and ignored commands to desist, the Afro-Virginian sentry fractured the man's skull with his rifle butt, mortally wounding him. Only after the intervention of General William Mahone himself prevented Ben from being lynched by the dead soldier's comrades. The service of Ben and other black Virginians influenced the 1928 amendment which awarded state pensions to Black males who served on military details or performed guard duty on behalf of the Confederacy."
Written by a member of the 16th Virginia Infantry
"Passing through the yard of a nice farmhouse, we captured some of the Federal outposts, who pleaded for mercy. General (St. John) Liddell swore at them, telling them they were fine fellows, invading our country and then asking pardon. Old Jake (a black man), the bugler, whacked one of them over the head with his saber, saying with an oath: 'You oust get home, den.'"
Private John Berry, 8th Arkansas Infantry, CSA at the Battle of Murfreesboro
"Dan Robertson led Company B, 35th Alabama Infantry into all battles while playing his fife. It is said his fife was a bit shrill. He was fearless and owned by the LaGrange Military Institute. He survived the war and was treated as an equal at all Company reunions."
From the History of LaGrange College
"At Greensport, Alabama, he (Brigadier General Alfred Holt Clanton) was outnumbered six to one by Federal troops, but the brave man decided to attack at dawn. He charged around the bend, personally leading his 200 troops. Pistol in hand and charging on foot. He was only twenty paces away when the Federals opened fire, armed with Spencer repeating rifles. His clothes were riddled with bullets, his entire staff killed or wounded.
During the fighting, a large black soldier named Griffin, a member of his command approached General Clanton and asked, "General, where is Marse Batt."
Clanton was as calm as could be, pointed toward the Federal line and said, "There he is dead."
Griffin charged forward, amid cries to stay back, through the smoke and bullets and picked up the young soldier and returned with him in his arms.
"Is he dead?" Clanton asked.
"I don't know, Sir," he replied, "my Mammy was his nurse and I'm older than he is. I promised to take care of him and bring him to her. I'm carrying him home now.'"
See my blog A Knight Without Fear
And the last quote is from a Federal colonel discussing just how oppressed and mistreated the blacks in the South truly were
"The poor whites are as poor as rot, and the rich are very rich. There is no substantial well-to-do middle class. The slaves are, in fact, the middle class here. They are not considered so good, of course, as their masters, but a great deal better than the white trash...The women sport flounces and the men canes...all are slaves."
Colonel John Beatty, 3rd Ohio Infantry, describing Murfreesboro, Tennessee
If you think about it, nothing that I've written or quoted above was taught in school and probably never will be. As Napoleon once said, "History is a group of lies often agreed upon."