Why is it that the best evidence for the existence of black Confederate soldiers is typically pulled from Union accounts? Why is the evidence from Confederate soldiers so sketchy on this topic? As I’ve said before, I’ve read literally hundreds of accounts by Confederate soldiers during the summer of 1864 and in the wake of the battle of the Crater and have not come across one single reference to a black soldier. You would think that in the wake of the Crater and in response to their first experience fighting large numbers of USCTs that Confederates would point to their own loyal and brave black comrades. Listening to this interview reminds us of just how absurd this debate has become. Melvin Patrick Ely is one of our most respected historians of race relations in Virginia before the Civil War and his study, Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War, is a must read. Unfortunately, the SCV representative can do little more than cite one of the standard references by Lewis Steiner, which alone tells us next to nothing about black Confederate soldiers.
I also agree with Ely that some southern blacks fought for the Confederacy. Given the restrictions that were imposed by the Confederate government and the army itself it is likely that these men passed as white. Their stories need to be told as it complicates our understanding of race relations and gives us a deeper sense of the challenges that freed blacks faced in parts of the South. At the same time I suspect that the number is probably very, very small. How does 25 sound?