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 There is nothing new in this particular piece, but it does include a reference to Robert K. Krick’s unpublished article on the number of black Confederates based on an analysis of 100,000 service records.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.