“Imagine” all the Black and White Confederates Living Life in Peace

It’s easy if you head on over to the Petersburg Express’s page on black Confederates.  Crank it up and feel the love.  I think this is exactly what John Lennon had in mind when he wrote this song.

17 comments… add one
  • daltonstanley Sep 9, 2009 @ 5:31

    these soliders fought to keep us free why dont we let them live on in us

    • Kevin Levin Sep 9, 2009 @ 5:36

      You mean southerners who were present as slaves? Are they the ones who kept us free even as they lived as someone’s property? chuckle

  • Mark Sep 3, 2009 @ 14:48

    Clearly John Lennon, who saw himself as an anti-racist, as well as very decidedly anti-military, would be appalled by the use of his song “Imagine” for this black confederate hogwash.

  • Shane Christen Sep 3, 2009 @ 4:04

    It is only further evidence that people insist on believing what they want to believe. Or perhaps the old adage that a lie told often enough garners a measure of truth. Something the Lost Cause and it’s followers are quite adept at doing.

  • Larry Cebula Aug 29, 2009 @ 22:44

    You people are missing the true outrage here, which is not the historical misrepresentations at the site, but rather the rendering of John Lennon’s “Imagine” as an sutoplaying midi file.

    Let’s keep things in perspective.

  • Craig Aug 29, 2009 @ 0:40

    The biography of Nathaniel Banks by Raymond Banks does mention black Confederates who were enlisted in New Orleans and Louisiana shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, but suggests that the enlistments were done as photo opportunities as part of a Confederate propaganda campaign. The black population of New Orleans tended then to be people of mixed African and Anglo-French ancestry whose race was graded according to a fairly elaborate system. Creoles were a significant portion of the city’s population, descendants of the substantial wave of immigration that came to New Orleans between 1790 and 1810 as refugees from the revolution in Haiti. It’s quite possible that some of them had quite sincere Confederate sympathies as it was not unknown for Creoles to serve as slave brokers who had a financial interest in perpetuating the slave system. Outside of New Orleans on the plantations farther north such gradations were not recognized, though I would not be surprised if some plantations had lighter skinned blacks or mulattos who were literate, possessed administrative skills, family or other connections within the Creole community and a much keener sense than your average Simon Legree of the range of African and American heritage represented among the slaves that made up a plantation. Until the French Revolution it was how things worked in Haiti and the Creole know-how had been transplanted and passed down for three or more generations by the time of the Civil War. According to Banks on Banks one of the biggest problems in recruiting slaves freed by the emancipation for service in the U.S.C.T. was the issue of command in that those best suited to the command role were the Creoles who weren’t trusted by the officers of the Union army and perhaps with good reason as the Creole caste would have been far more adept working with white, southern Confederates than with white, northern Unionists whose motives and idealogy may have been far harder to fathom. If you look at enlistments for U.S.C.T. units, I think you’ll find that more African-American soldiers enlisted in Kentucky than in any other state, not because there were more African-Americans in Kentucky, but because Kentucky is where freed slaves had to go if they wanted to enlist.

  • Andrew Smith Aug 28, 2009 @ 10:19

    Was the idea of arming black slaves more popular in Virginia than lets say South Carolina or else where the faithful servant theory didn’t hold ground among violently hateful and fearful slaveowners?

    Also what about free blacks? Didn’t some serve in some state units in Tennessee and Louisana or am I mistaken?

  • James Bartek Aug 28, 2009 @ 8:14

    I’ll take another crack at it:

    M. Hill Fitzpatrick, 45th Georgia, to “Dear Amanda,” 3 November 1864, in Lowe and Hodges, Letters to Amanda, 182. (in reference to the arming of slaves)
    “I had much rather gain our independence without it, but if necessary I say put them in and make them fight. But I hope it will not be necessary. I have long been in favor of making them wagoners and putting them in shops to do government work.”

    The important thing to see here, of course, is not his ambivalent support of black soldiers, but that he distinguishes between “wagoners” and “soldiers.”

    As to the quote which is attributed to Kautz on that other site: “In the fullest sense, any man in the military service who receives pay, whether sworn in or not, is a soldier because he is subject to military law. Under this general head, laborers, teamsters, sutlers and chaplains, are soldiers.” I have no idea if Kautz ever said this, or if it’s taken out of context, and I’m too lazy to go investigate it. So, I’ll assume he did. 🙂

    Two points:

    1) African-Americans, as far as I know, were never paid by the Confederate military. They were pressed by the Confederate military. They labored, but their owners were the ones who received compensation for that labor.

    As Joseph Glatthaar has pointed out in his new study of the Army of Northern Virginia, however, black servants could make a substantial income within the army, but not as part of it. Thanks to the glories of the free market, slaves could hire themselves out to the highest bidder, bouncing from soldier to soldier, and often ended up making more in a month than did the soldiers, themselves. But again – they were NOT paid by the military, but by individual soldiers in a private capacity.

    2) Sure, slaves were subject to military law. If by “law,” we are referring to the casual abuse and summary executions inflicted upon them by random soldiers acting in an unofficial capacity. Slaves, in other words, were not going to be tried before a military tribunal or court-martial for any offense they may have committed. The attempt had, in fact, been made earlier in the war, but it raised too many sticky issues. Masters, for instance, resented the usurpation of power, and destroying someone else’s property (by execution), did not go over well. Then, of course, there was the irrationality of trying before a military court a person – or non-person – who had little standing in civil courts. Ira Berlin published the records of some these military trials (See Berlin, Freedom, “The Destruction of Slavery,” 785-794), and the problems that arose are quite fascinating. Of course, some masters, who feared that slaves would bolt en masse with the approach of the Union army, actually wanted the military to get involved. Within the context of war, they attempted to frame the absconding of slaves as a public issue (claiming that it undermined the war effort), rather than a private one to be dealt with in the civilian arena. Their reasoning was simple: they hoped to execute a few to set an example for the rest. Execution by a private party required civil authorization, however, which was surprisingly difficult to get. Military tribunals (as we all know), operate under fewer restrictions and looser procedures. Shrewd officers, however, did not wish to get entangled in such a legal morass, and refused to do masters’ dirty work for them.

    Shorter: Blacks were not paid by the military, nor were they subject to official military law. Therefore, according to Kautz’s definition, they did not qualify as soldiers.

    Boy, this is fun!

  • Ken Noe Aug 28, 2009 @ 5:15

    Marc: “Fradulent…misquotes” are one big reason it’s hard to take all this seriously. As Kevin knows, there’s a “quotation” from one of my books that was deliberately doctored before it started showing up all over the internet. I’d stop mentioning it, but it popped up again the other day in a chatroom. — Ken

  • Marc Ferguson Aug 28, 2009 @ 4:39

    you might start with the fraudulent quote from Ed Bearrs. This has circulated for years, and it is a misquote. Ed told me so last summer during one of his battlefield tours at Gettysburg. His actual opinion concerning claims of “black Confederates” is that it is “BS” (I am using the initials here, whereas he used the full term).


    • Kevin Levin Aug 28, 2009 @ 4:42


      Thanks for pointing it out. I can’t tell you how often that quote is cited by these people.

  • Ken Noe Aug 27, 2009 @ 18:22


    According to material in the Comer Family Papers at UNC as well as collections at the Alabama Department of Archives and History*, the man identified on the website as “Henry Comer” is a family slave named Burrell. The young officer in the photo is Wallace Comer of the 57th Alabama. He wrote rather positively of Burrell, stating at one point that “a mint could not buy him ther are very few Negroes in the army that are not worth enything to their masters in times like this.” As that statement indicates, Comer thought of Burrell as a good slave, but still a slave who could be sold, not a comrade in arms. And the other “Negroes” in the Army of Tennessee were likewise men with “masters.”



    • Kevin Levin Aug 28, 2009 @ 0:56

      Thanks so much for the information. I would appreciate any additional information on the individuals referenced on this web page. At some point I will put together a videocast of the site and completely blow it out of the water.

  • James Bartek Aug 27, 2009 @ 17:09

    Ok, I’ll bite. Let’s see what can be stirred up this time round!

    I like their definition of a “soldier,” as provided by General Kautz, USA. Too bad Confederates didn’t feel the same way:

    Corporal Charles Baughman, 13th Battalion Va. Light Artillery, responding to news that the Confederacy was thinking of recruiting black soldiers in 1865: (from the Museum of the Conf. archives)

    “I think it is the worst measure that could be proposed. I never want to see one with a gun in his hands. I am perfectly willing that they should be put into the army as wagon drivers, cooks, engineers, etc., but I never want to fight side by side with one. The army would not submit to it and half if not more would lay down their guns if forced to fight with negroes.”

    Clearly an occupational differentiation is being made. Clearly “wagon drivers” and “cooks” did not qualify as soldiers. “Loyal” servants? Perhaps. Soldiers? Get outta here.

  • Corey Meyer Aug 27, 2009 @ 16:55

    I fully agree. I think this is just another attempt to make the confederacy into something it was not. I think you once put up a picture of a document on Weary Clyburn stating his status was not that of a confederate soldier…because he was black. I imagine these “soldiers” here would be concidered the same as Mr. Clyburn.


  • Corey Meyer Aug 27, 2009 @ 16:47

    I count about 10 or fewer named on the site. What happened to all the rest…that 60,000 or so?

    Does the treatment of blacks in the Reconstruction period match with what the page is trying to portray? I think not!


    • Kevin Levin Aug 27, 2009 @ 16:51


      There may be 10 named, but that is a far cry from establishing their status in the Confederate army. Simply showing a black man in a uniform tells us very little about is official status.

Now that you've read the post, share your thoughts.