How Many Black Confederates Were There?

The latest issue of North and South magazine (Vol. 10, No. 2) includes a short article on so-called black Confederates by Bruce Levine.  I’ve blogged about Levine’s work on black Confederates, including his recent study Confederate Emancipation, which is the most thorough analysis of the issue to date.  There is nothing new in this particular piece, but it does include a reference to Robert K. Krick’s unpublished article on the number of black Confederates based on an analysis of 100,000 service records.  According to Krick only 20 – 30 non-white soldiers could be discerned.  If we take this as a representative sample than assuming a total Confederate army of around 900,000 we arrive, according to Levine, at a total number of 270 black Confederates – far fewer than the thousands claimed by some.

Editor Keith Poulter writes in the editorial that he hopes his magazine can put an end to the question of “whether there were substantial numbers of blacks enlisted in the Confederate army.”  That’s a tall order and one that I suspect will go unfulfilled.  After all, this debate for those who push this silliness is really not about history at all, but about a need to distance the Confederate experience from issues of slavery and race.  If large numbers of blacks voluntarily served in the ranks than it is becomes difficult to argue that the Confederate government was founded with the goal of preserving slavery.  The argument in support of black Confederates is a matter of faith and no amount of evidence will be sufficient to convince otherwise.

12 thoughts on “How Many Black Confederates Were There?

  1. matthew mckeon

    It’s not going away, anymore than creationism or holocaust denial.

    It’s more harmless than the other two. Creationism comes wrapped in a religious/political view that exerts a lot of generally negative influence of US politics IMO, and the holocaust denial people are just disgusting. But the dynamic is the same, and its impervious to reason.

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  2. Marc Ferguson

    Another important part of this issue is that those who Krick, and others, have found were mulattoes “passing” as white. They would not have been allowed to enlist had they presented themselves as black, and their actions were a form of racial and cultural assimilation. They did not identify themselves as black, and so can hardly be considered evidence that “blacks” supported the Confederate cause. In my opinion, their existence argues for the very opposite of what those who push the idea of “black Confederates” want to contend.

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  3. Kevin Levin

    You are absolutely right Marc. In fact, there are plenty of examples of individuals being forced out of service once it was discovered that they were “passing” as white. Any understanding of the broader debate that was going on both inside Confederate ranks and within the government renders the idea of black Confederates as absurd.

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  4. Josephine Lindsay Bass

    Your last statement is just sick! or Slick! What proof have you that any black confederates were forced out of service? In fact you offer no proof of anything, why don’t you start with IMO.

    It is plain as the nose on your face that there was no black revolt 1861-1865 in the South. Not one, they were too busy helping us fight the stinking invading, murdering, robbing yankees to want to revolt for their freedom. Further Proof is in Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan’s total war on Southern Civilians, BLACK AND WHITE; which was the only way they could win the war and force their will at the point of a bayonet and gun.

    Lincoln barely got re-elected and had he and his minions fought honorably there would have been no take over of the 13 Southern States.

    You forget there were a good number of freed blacks in the South. You forget only 6.5% of the population owned any slaves. 1860 census records.

    Not a few of the 6.5% who did own slaves were from the North. Read “Complicity” for some truths about northern slavery.

    Therefore, it is only logical that the vast majority of the Confederate State of America Armies were made up of the yeoman class of the population who did not own slaves, and who fought because we were denied the right to choose our own government, and they were defending the invasion of a hostile takeover.

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  5. Kevin Levin

    Hello Josephine, — Thanks for taking the time to write. As to evidence regarding that blacks were forced out of the service when discovered I would suggest that you start with Levine’s article in N&S magazine. You can pick up a copy at your local bookstore or you can read his book which is now in paperback. If there were no “black revolts” in the South during the war than how do you explain the large numbers of fugitives who fled to the North or Union armies, not to mention those who served in Union ranks. Isn’t this a form of revolt.

    I fail to see what Lincoln’s re-election numbers have to do with this post nor do I see the relevance of northern slavery. Of course northerners owned slaves at one point and it would be a mistake not to situate northern banks and businesses within the institution of slavery right to the end. Your statistics regarding slave ownership are way off. Most historians writing today have concluded that 25% of the white South owned at least one slave.

    I find your reference of “we” to be quite curious.

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  6. HankC

    Josephine,

    In the absence of civil war why was there no major ‘black revolt’ from 1831 (Nat Turner) to 1860?

    An absolute small number of people owned slaves. However, many more people were in slave-holding families – wives, sons and daughters of the (overwhelmingly male) slaveholders. In the seceded states, except Arkansas (20%), at least 24% of families owned slaves.

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  7. Cash

    Kevin,

    To answer Ms. Bass, here is but one example. [Hat tip to Tonia Smith, who originally posted the information]

    On March 10, 1862 Henry and Jonathan Revels enlisted in Co. F, 51st Regiment, N.C. Troops. Henry was a thirty-five year laborer from Robeson County, NC. Jonathan Revels was forty years old, a farmer, and also from Robeson County.

    “Prior to July 1, 1862,” both men were discharged by reason of “Discovered to be a Negro.”

    These men were most obviously passing for white. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been “discovered” that they were both “Negros.”

    Blacks were allowed to be laborers for the confederate armies. In fact, they were most often forced to be laborers for the confederate armies. They were allowed to be teamsters, cooks, and musicians. They were not allowed to be soldiers until March of 1865. If blacks were serving as soldiers in confederate armies in any large numbers prior to then, how to explain the controversy over Cleburne’s proposal to enlist them? How to explain the great debate in the confederate congress over enlisting them? How is it that Robert E. Lee knew nothing of their existence, that none of his commanders knew of their existence, that Jefferson Davis knew nothing of their existence? Bell I. Wiley looked at this question and concluded, , “If persons with Negro blood served in Confederate ranks as full-fledged soldiers, the per cent of Negro blood was sufficiently low for them to pass as whites.” [Bell I. Wiley, _Southern Negroes, 1861-1865,_ pp. 160-161]

    Art Bergeron has written on free blacks who joined the confederate army as soldiers, and who were known to their fellow soldiers as blacks. Here’s one instance:

    “Lufroy Pierre-Auguste was born in St. Landry Parish about 1830. He was the son of Pierre Pierre-Auguste and Gabriele Tessier, free persons of color. The 1860 census shows that Lufroy worked as a stockherder for Francois P. Pitre, Jr. Lufroy left his farm and joined Captain Daniel Gober’s Big Cane rifles, which became Company K, Sixteenth Louisiana Infantry Regiment. The first two muster rolls of this company list him as a free man of color-—the only such instance found in researching these men. None of the men discussed in this manuscript, except for Lutz and possibly Gabriel Grappe, pretended they were white. The other men in their units undoubtedly knew them as free blacks.

    “The Sixteenth Louisiana fought in the battles of Shiloh, Farmington, and Perrysville. On December 8, 1862, while in camp at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Lufroy received a discharge from Confederate service. The reason given for his dicharge was that he was a ‘colored man.’ Apparently superior authorities had finally discovered that he was black and ordered his separation from the army.” [Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., "Free Men of Color in Grey," _Civil War History,_ Vol XXXII, No. 3, September, 1986, p. 250]

    Here’s another: “Jacques Esclavon, a forty-year-old free mulatto farmer of Calcasieu Parish, saw service in a Texas military unit late in the war. Jean Esclavon and Adelaide de la Fosse, free mulattoes, possibly were his parents. On September 11, 1864, he enlisted in Company A, Ragsdale’s Battalion Texas Cavalry. This unit had moved into southwestern Louisiana to perform guard and picket duty around the Calcasieu and Mementau rivers and had enlisted several dozen Louisianians. It is possible that the Texans did not know that Esclavon was black, but existing battalion records showing his assignment to menial duties such as teamster and company cook may indicate they knew his status.” [Ibid., p. 251]

    Jean Baptiste Pierre-Auguste, who joined the 29th Louisiana Infantry, is another example. “In February and March 1865, Jean Baptiste was detailed as a cook for his company’s officers, possibly a duty he received because he was a free black.” [Ibid., p. 249]

    Louisiana, of course, had a unique history of blacks and whites intermingling, but even then the typical fate of the black man who was found out by higher authorities was discharge or detailed to be a laborer, cook, or teamster.

    Regards,
    Cash

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  8. Anonymous

    I have not yet read Bruce’s article in “N&S,” so I don’t know what examples he cites, but I have run into a number of instances of Confederate soldiers eventually being identified as of African descent and consequently discharged. Unfortunately, I’m away from my sources at the moment, and can’t now give specifics, but one I recall from memory was Benjamin H. Ruff/Rough, 6th Virginia Cavalry. A Georgia newspaper commented on an officer from that state being recognised as African American and summarily thrown out of the service.

    Regarding slave revolts in the Confederacy, I would urge Ms. Bass to read the late Winthrop D. Jordan’s “Tumult and Silence at Second Creek: An Inquiry into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy” (Revised edition, Baton Rouge, LSU Press, 1996). The paperback version of this magnificent, Bancroft Prize-winning investigation explores in fullest detail an alleged plot in Adams County, Mississippi, and the gruesome response by the local Vigilance Committee. “Tumult and Silence” is not only a powerful compilation, but a profound meditation on historical sources, their nature and variety, and what they can and can’t tell us. The book is available for as little as $3 in used condition, and I would recommend it to any student as an introduction to the historical method and to the careful analysis of events that “Civil War Memory” does so much to promote.

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  9. Mannie Gentile

    Hi Kevin,

    Somewhere, in the misty past I learned that an army private is called a “private” because he is a private soldier, owned by no one, neither a serf, a vassal, or a slave.

    How then, could there be enslaved soldiers in any army? A private soldier is a free man. A slave, even tricked out in a grey uniform, is simply chattel cannon-fodder.

    Keep up the good work, tell the truth and shame the devil.

    Mannie

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  10. Harrison Thomas LaTour

    3rd Great-Grandfather — Auguste, Lufoy Pierre

    Civil War Service:

    Auguste, Lufoy Pierre. Pvt. Co. K. 16th La. Infty. En. Sept. 29th, 1861, Camp Moore, La. Present on All Rolls from Sept., 1861, to Oct., 1862.

    Roll for Nov. and Dec., 1862, ?Colored Man. Dropped from Roll by Order of Col. Gober, Dec. 8th, 1862.?

    CIVIL WAR HISTORY, Volume XXXII, No. 3, September, 1986

    FREE MEN OF COLOR IN GREY
    Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr.

    Lufroy Pierre-Auguste was born in St. Landry Parish about 1830. He was the son of Pierre Pierre-Auguste and Gabriele Tessier, free persons of color. The 1860 census shows that Lufroy worked as a stockherder for Francois P. Pitre, Jr. Lufroy left his farm and joined Captain Daniel Gober’s Big Cane rifles, which became Company K, Sixteenth Louisiana Infantry Regiment. The first two muster rolls of this company list him as a free man of color-the only such instance found in researching these men. None of the men discussed in this manuscript, except for Lutz and possibly Gabriel Grappe, pretended they were white. The other men in their units undoubtedly knew them as free blacks. The Sixteenth Louisiana fought in the battles of Shiloh, Farmington, and Perrysville. On December 8, 1862, while in camp at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Lufroy received a discharge from Confederate service. The reason given for his dicharge was that he was a “colored man.” Apparently superior authorities had! finally discovered that he was black and ordered his separation from the army. Lufroy went home, but he did become involved in one other incident before war’s end. On May 13, 1865, he surprised two Jayhawkers near Opelousas. These men made up part of a band of outlaws, deserters, and draft dodgers who resisted Confederate authority. The two Jayhawkers fired at him, and he returned fire, hitting one of the men. Lufroy married in 1869, but no further information on his life after the war has come to light so far.

    AUGUSTE, Leufroy Pierre (Pierre & Gabriel TESSIER) m. 14 Aug. 1869 Caroline NORMAND (Opel. Ch.: v. E, # 48).

    AUGUSTE, Lufroid Pierre (Pierre & Gabriel LESSIER) m. 9 Aug. 1869 Caroline NORMAND (Opel. Ct. Hse.: Mar. #5457).

    1870 St. Landry Parish, LA Census Record

    Leufroi Pierre-Auguste 40 M Mulatto LA Farmer $300 $225
    Caroline Pierre-Auguste 37 F Mulatto LA
    Celestine Pierre-Auguste 21 F Mulatto LA
    Narcisse Pierre-Auguste 17 M Mulatto LA
    Azelie Pierre-Auguste 14 F Mulatto LA
    Valmont Pierre-Auguste 13 M Mulatto LA
    Pierre Pierre-Auguste 11 M Mulatto LA
    Eugenie Pierre-Auguste 8 F Mulatto LA *Wife of Valmont LeBlanc brother to William, Elizabeth, Zeolide, Etienne

    Meranthe Pierre-Auguste 6 F Mulatto LA *Wife of William LeBlanc

    1880 United States Federal Census

    Home in 1880: 1st Ward, Saint Landry, Louisiana
    Auguste Lufroid Pierre 50 M Mulatto LA Farm Laborer
    Caroline Pierre 50 F Mulatto LA
    Eustine Pierre 30 F Mulatto LA Daughter
    Ophelia Pierre 9 F Mulatto LA Granddaughter

    1880 United States Federal Census
    Name: Violide Moore *Sister to Valmont, William, Etienne, Elizabeth LeBlanc
    Home in 1880: 1st Ward, Saint Landry, Louisiana
    Age: 25
    Estimated birth year: abt 1855
    Birthplace: Louisiana
    Relation to head-of-household: Wife
    Spouse’s name: Alfred
    Father’s birthplace: Louisiana
    Mother’s birthplace: Louisiana
    Occupation: Keeping House
    Marital Status: Married
    Race: Mulatto
    Gender: Female
    Alfred Moore 33 M Mulatto LA Farm Laborer
    Violide Moore 25 F Mulatto LA
    Cora Moore 10 F Mulatto LA
    Aristile Moore 8 M Mulatto LA
    Ernestine Moore 7 F Mulatto LA
    Ophelia Moore 5 F Mulatto LA
    Celestine Moore 4 F Mulatto LA
    Charlotte Moore 1 F Mulatto LA
    Valmore Leblanc 18 M Mulatto LA *Stepson – this is incorrect as this is Zeolide LeBlanc’s brother, Valmont LeBlanc.

    I believe from the marriage records of Etienne Gallot and Valmont LeBlanc that their father was Julien Guillory or Julien Gallot. He was most likely the father of William, Elizabeth and Zeolide as well. In the St. Landry Parish, LA 1860 census record, the children of Charlotte LeBlanc are listed with the surname of Guillory. The children probably should have been listed as Gallot and not Guillory according to the church and census records that I have found. It appears that some of the children of Charlotte LeBlanc and Julien Gallot took the surname of LeBlanc and the others took the surname of Gallot.

    GALLOT, Etienne (Julien & Charlotte LEBLANC) m. 6 Jan. 1880 Sidonia McCARTHY (Opel. Ch.: v. 2, p. 522).

    LEBLANC, Valmont (Julien Gallo & Charlotte LEBLANC) m. 19 April 1881 Eugenie PIERRE AUGUSTE (Opel. Ch.: v. 2, p. 531).

    In the 1880 St. Landry Parish, LA census record, Valmont LeBlanc is in the household of his sister, Zeolide Leblanc, and her husband, Alfred Moore. Valmont is listed as a stepson but this is incorrect as he is Zeolide’s brother.

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  11. Border

    “Robert K. Krick’s unpublished article on the number of black Confederates based on an analysis of 100,000 service records. According to Krick only 20 – 30 non-white soldiers could be discerned.”

    ========

    What further details do you have on this study?

    Why is it not published?

    *

    Recently I searched through the service records of four Confederate regiments and found 67 free blacks enlisted, mustered and on the rolls.

    That’s 67 in roughly 5,000 or 1.34%.

    Based on Krick’s percentage (0.02/0.03%) I should have found only one.

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  12. Jeff Fiddler

    OK – which regiments, and what was their enlisted status? I am going thru some North Carolina regimental stuff right now, and while there are some black men whose MOS – or whatever you want to call it in the CSA – is not listed, many are. The ones I see are Cook, Servant, Musician.
    Post the ones you have found, please.
    By the way, I think easily the most famous mulatto who served in the U.S. Army – federals, Union, what have you – was John Wayles Jefferson, Colonel of 8th Wisconsin. This Jefferson was the grandson of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, son of Eston Hemings.
    The 8th Wisconsin was a white regiment of course.
    I hate the term “passing for white,” – has anybody ever heard the term “passing for Presbyterian” or “passing for Roman Catholic,” but that’s the way it is.

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