Here is another example of a newspaper clipping on the subject of black Confederates with the compliments of Vicki Betts. [See here and here ] This is just the kind of evidence that certain parties love to tout as indisputable proof of the existence of black Confederate soldiers. I have to say that if I came at this issue with no prior background knowledge of Confederate policy on this issue and lacked the ability to ask careful questions of my sources I might be drawn in as well.
NASHVILLE DAILY UNION, February 19, 1863, p. 4, c. 1
Negroes Fighting in the Ranks of
The following letter containing facts of much interest to the public, is printed by the author’s permission in the Washington Republican of yesterday:”Washington, D. C. Feb. 2, 1863.
“Hon. William Whiting, Solicitor of the War Department”
“Dear Sir: While at Yorktown, soon after its evacuation by the rebels, I was informed that during the siege the guns in those fortifications were manned and served by negroes, who were recognized as soldiers in the rebel army.
“A few days subsequently at West Point, the day after the fight at that place, I was informed by some of our officers and men engaged in that fight that during the engagement our forces encountered a full company of negroes, armed and equipped, serving in the rebel army; that said negro soldiers drove a portion of our forces into a swamp and deliberately cut the throats of our officers and men, and that our troops caught one of these negroes with a commission in his pocket for a lieutenancy in the rebel army signed by Jeff. Davis.
“At Mechanicsville a full regiment of blacks was seen under drill, in full view of our lines, for several days.
“The above facts are well known and often spoken of. All this, if true, shows conclusively that there does not seem to be any nice question with Davis as to the equality of blacks, such at least as is now raised in Congress by his friends on the same question.
“Thos. W. Beardslee.”
We have evidence also that negroes are enlisted in the rebel army, and paid as white soldiers are, and the man who gives this evidence is a captain in the rebel army. Read the following advertisement from the Georgia Constitutionalist:
Deserted from Company A, 29th Georgia Regiment, stationed at Dawton Battery, on Savannah River, John Rose, 22 years of age, about 5 feet 7 inches in height, complexion a brown black. He is a free negro and an excellent drummer. Was enlisted October 16th, 1861, and deserted November 13th, 1862. He is at present concealed in Savannah.
W. H. Billapp,
Captain Commanding Dawton Battery.
- Who is Thomas W. Beardslee and why is he writing to Whiting?
- Is there any evidence in the Davis papers that he signed a commission for a black individual?
- Is there any way to identify the “company of negroes” in the Confederate army identified as having taken part in battle? How about evidence of the brutal killing of Union officers and enlisted men by black men?
- Has anyone located payment vouchers to black soldiers that would confirm the claim about equal pay?
There is also the question of why a clipping from a Washington newspaper is being reprinted in Nashville. Keep in mind that the D.C. paper has a Republican Party affiliation (not sure of the Nashville paper) and its inclusion of this curious notice came at the beginning of the recruitment of black Union soldiers following the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. It seems to me that its inclusion in Nashville is part of an attempt to recruit black men for military service. The letter itself was written to a Republican. Whiting was appointed to the position of Solicitor of the War Department by Lincoln in 1862 and came from an abolitionist family:
Mr. Whiting was never so absorbed in his profession as to lose his inherited interest in public questions. His father was one of the early and uncompromising abolitionists of New-England. When the great crisis of the nation was approaching, Mr. Whiting was especially interested in the legal and constitutional questions which the monstrous pretensions of that system forced into prominence. In private communications and public addresses, just before and after the beginning of the war, he showed how earnestly he had grappled with, and how thoroughly he had explored the great crucial questions of the hour. He was among the first, almost the first among lawyers, to claim that the United States had, under the constitution, full belligerent rights against those who inhabited the states in rebellion, — among which were the rights to emancipate their slaves, to capture and sequestrate their property, and to exercise all the powers of war against a public enemy.
Given his abolitionist roots it is likely that Whiting supported the recruitment of black troops and it is possible that Beardslee understood that the solicitor would be receptive and pass on information that might expedite the process.
An interesting little piece of evidence.