It’s one of those quotes that sticks out like a sore thumb on many black Confederate websites: “When you eliminate the black Confederate soldier, you’ve eliminated the history of the South.” The only problem is that if you search for this quote Online you run into any number of problems not the least of which is authorship. Let’s take a quick tour.
- The quote was posted today at the Southern Heritage Preservation Facebook Page and attributed to Robert E. Lee in 1864. Carl Roden responded with a correction: “Actually it wasn’t Robert E. Lee who said that, it was historian, Erwin L. Jordan, Jr. who did good work on telling the story of Black Confederates and their service…its still a good quote none the less.”
- Over at the 37th Texas website the quote is attributed to Dr. Leonard Haynes, an African-American professor at Southern University.
- The Southern American of Color also attributes the quote to Professor Haynes.
- Finally, no surprise that Calvin E. Johnson also utilizes the quote over at Edgerton’s site and attributes it to Haynes.
An Online search for the quote will yield page after page of websites that apparently have cut and pasted the passage. Most of them attribute the quote to Professor Haynes. What you will not find, however, is a single reference to the source of the quote. There are no references to any publications on the subject or even a speech in which he may have made the claim. The claim of authorship seems to be based on nothing more than that has been cut and pasted countless times. If you are looking for an example of why an uneducated search on the Internet is so dangerous look no further.
So, who is Leonard Haynes? Start with this biography of the man [and here]. He earned a Ph.D in higher education and served in the Department of Education during both Bush administrations. Dr. Haynes sounds like an interesting guy, but I can find nothing that points to a single publication or presentation on the subject. Is there any evidence that he has ever written anything about the Civil War let alone the subject of black Confederates?
Hey kids, if you don’t know how to search and assess Online sources then stay away.
You’re referring to Leonard Haynes III. His father was a professor at Southern, and wrote on black confederate soldiers. This is the Dr. Leonard Haynes to which these sources are referring. I met Dr. Haynes and spoke from the same podium as he in 1995 at the dedication of the Last Capitol of the Confederacy monument in Danville, VA. I have photographs of the event.
I believe I also have a VHS tape somewhere of the entire event, including Dr. Haynes’s address. I will have to hunt it down.
Since this is being revisited, I have always wondered, if it is true on any level beyond servitude that black men were actual Confederate soldiers fighting the Union, does that not make the Southern efforts at subjugation after the Civil War was over and the slaves all “freed” even more heinous, not less?
I have no doubt that some black men passed as whites during the war. There is some evidence that early on a few black men joined militia units, but the historical record suggests that they did not make the transition into Confederate service for the obvious reasons.
I know this is an old article, but… …
I got interested (on a whim) as to whether or not Black men served as soldiers for the Confederacy and ended up here. The simple answer (Yes or No) is so amazingly obscured, I gave up and this quote caught my eye… I did a quick search and found that the book “Black Southerners In Confederate Armies: A Collection of Historical Accounts” (By Charles Kelly Barrow, J.H. Segars) also attributes that quote to Leonard Haynes of the above mentioned Southern University. If I am reading it correctly, page 162 of that book states, it was in the AP and sourced from an article in “The New Star” from Baton Rouge, LA on 28 Jan. 1992.
That, of course, doesn’t mean it’s true… just that it gives a source that could most likely be looked up and verified… I don’t have a Lexus-Nexus account to do that, but someone who does might be able to find it there.
Whether or not he actually said it, I would tend to believe that there were, indeed, armed, black soldiers fighting in the confederacy. Why? Because the reality is nearly always makes you scratch your head in disbelief…
I recommend that you begin your investigation with Bruce Levine’s book, Confederate Emancipation (Oxford University Press). I have written extensively on this subject here on this blog and in print. See here, here, and here.
The Dr. Leonard Haynes mentioned in these discussions was an acquaintance of mine, and was a Hardvard-educated professor at Southern University. He spoke widely on the subject of Confederate heritage and history in general, and about black Confederates in particular. I was told Dr. Haynes passed away in the late 1990s, which was a blow to those of us who valued his friendship but also a great disappointment as we understood he was working on a book about black Confederate soldiers. I suspect (but do not know) that the Dr. Leonard Haynes bio linked to these discussions may be that of his son. I miss Leonard Haynes, who was a man of good humor, strong conviction – and just plain fun to be around.
Thank you for the comment. Unfortunately, most of the people who cite Dr. Haynes are only interested in a vague quote that has been cut and pasted on hundreds of websites. It is unfortunate that he was not able to complete his project on the subject, but as far as I know he never published anything on the subject that would justify describing him as an expert.
Was there any mention or reference to black Confederate soldiers before the movie “Glory” came out?
What’s slimy about this, is its Lost Causers patting themselves on the back, there’s damn little “honoring” involved.
I can find only a few references. This whole thing has been driven by the Internet and the ability to cut and paste.
Actually there have been references to Black Confederates well before then, especially in Southern newspapers detailing the passing of such men.
Indeed Matt you mention the movie “Glory” but did you know that prior to that movie few people outside “Civil War” academia even knew about Black Union soldiers. Of course the USCT was mentioned in history books, but as general knowledge to the public unless you were into history then most would not have known of it.
As for we “Lost Causers” (at least you choose a term that is less disambiguous as “Neo-Confederate”) though I prefer Southern heritage defender–though that term also has meanings that go well beyond just this war, and indeed Southern history in pre-colonial America, but that’s another matter) we have always known and honored these body servants and musicians, these “unofficial rebs” (LOL I should recommend that as a book title). Folks like you just haven’t been paying attention to us doing so till oh the last dozen years or so.
You prefer “Southern heritage defender” which assumes that you have some kind of monopoly on the scope of southern heritage. You claim that mantle and push away others who have just as much a claim on this history as you do.
What sources are you referring to here? I would love to know.
The term “Lost Cause” was coined by ex-Confederate, Edward Pollard, who used it as the title for one of his books.
Well Kevin, despite the term, I for one have never come across an official reference to anyone who honors Confederate Veterans and erecting monuments to said American soldiers calling themselves “Lost Causers”…and I know you are big on official sources.
I suppose “Unreconstructed Reb” would be a term some ex-Confederates used, but since nobody alive served in the war, and I don’t recall Stephen D. Lee’s Charge to the Sons of Confederate Veterans including exclusive rights to that term, I doubt it would be particularly accurate either.
The term is one of my own choosing, though I do not claim a monopoly on the subject of Southern heritage.
Southern heritage, as you know, deals with the many cultures and historical experiences of all Southern-born Americans dating back to the first Native-American tribes, later white colonialism, the many African-American cultures (Creole and Gullah, ect.) not to mention Civil Rights history. Frankly I doubt there is an expert on all of the above–unless one has studied for a lifetime and written an extensive memoir, and even then I doubt one can cover it all.
My own claimed expertise is Carolina history from the pre-colonial era and the American Revolutionary War’s Southern Theater and Cherokee Wars.
No quite a few people can claim to be defenders of all these aspects of Southern heritage and history. I choose to defend what I see as attacks on Confederate historical heritage. I would be just as disgusted if any one of the other aspects of Southern heritage and history were being assaulted…and believe me, some of them are quite frequently.
I agree with much of what you have to say here, but I find it interesting that folks on your FB site feel so comfortable lashing out to fellow southerners as engaging in heritage bashing. That seems to imply to me that only certain people have a legitimate claim to remembering the past or that there is a right way and a wrong way to do so.
Depending on the circumstances. Its one thing to hate those aspects of Southern heritage (not saying those who do are right or wrong, again depends of circumstances) its quite another for individuals to impose that hatred on people who have done no personal wrong, pretend its a virtue to do so and imply its the right way to view the situation, that can never be tolerated.
Like I said, it must be nice to feel as if you alone have the right to determine who, and under what conditions, has a legitimate claim on the past. I also think its interesting that disagreements are almost always reduced to an assumed “hatred” of all things Southern. Now that is quite amusing.
I only wish it were amusing sir. Sadly I know from far too much experience that it is otherwise.
Also Kev, you and many folks here have made some rather interesting assumptions about the motives of people like me too, particularly those of the SCV and UDC, all based on dubious sources.
You have suggested that observing Confederate Memorial Day, and even the display of the Confederate battle flag has some hidden agenda beyond the face value of honoring the dead of the Southland. That defense of these practices and other displays of Southern symbols serves some racial agenda, again with little or no real proof to show for it.
Oh and further, you have suggested that the SCV and UDC have “invented” Black Confederate “soldiers” (even unofficial Rebs) as part of such an alleged conspiracy, a charge that is very insulting.
I more than anyone know exactly what goes into the efforts to discover the identity of an unknown soldier’s grave all too well.
Let me tell you a story, sir.
About 10 miles from where I live there is a cemetery in downtown Chester County, SC with a Confederate section where approximately 55 Unknown CSA soldiers are buried–until 3 years ago that number was 56. The reason, during the war the headstones were wooden ones and were used as firewood by Union occupation soldiers during reconstruction, and the main burial records at city hall were lost in a fire in 1890.
The SCV has been making a effort over the past 20 years to learn the identities of these men and boys in order to get proper headstones for the graves. Only one was discovered so far.
Now here is where it gets interesting. Not only did the identity have to be confirmed but the actual plot had to be discovered since removing a random headstone and just dumping the new stone would be a violation of the SCV’s rules. The actual grave had to be identified itself.
Further permission from the relatives of the deceased had to be acquired, not to mention other red-tape that I don’t want to go into.
Point is given how through a job the SCV prides itself in doing to honor these soldiers, it is inconceivable that there would be such an agenda to “invent” a soldier from a black man and go through all the trouble just to score some “social points” not to mention a disgrace to the Confederate soldier’s name to do so–and believe me that is something we do NOT take lightly.
As for legitimate claims to the past, I claim nothing more than anyone else, and as for the “assumed hatred” I think the accusations of those who attack these efforts and their own words and condemnation enough…wouldn’t you?
Actually, the opposite is true re: what I have said about the Confederate flag. I have encouraged my readers not to generalize about those people who wish to display the flag. What I have said, however, is that no one has control over the meaning of that symbol given the ways in which it has been used throughout the twentieth century. Perhaps you can point to a post in which I claimed a “hidden agenda”.
I have never gone to the same lengths that folks regularly do on your FB site. I have never suggested that people come to my place of work to threaten me and as you well know, that is exactly what happened. I have never called someone a Holocaust Denier or Jew or any of the insults directed at me.
You said: “Oh and further, you have suggested that the SCV and UDC have “invented” Black Confederate “soldiers” (even unofficial Rebs) as part of such an alleged conspiracy, a charge that is very insulting.”
What I have said is that the SCV and UDC have distorted the past by misinterpreting evidence. Whether you find that “insulting” or not is irrelevant because you don’t own the past. I have never used the word, “conspiracy”. It’s just really bad history.
Well Kevin, considering that if was from the mouths of Holocaust Deniers that I first heard your name, I trust you will forgive me for the unfortunate association…and I have an certain I never called you a Jew (or for that matter would I consider the word Jew an insult at all given then that my great grandmother was one).
Actually there you and I have much in common. I have been called many things from all those who hate Southern Confederate heritage and its symbols, or seek to destroy those who honor them, among them are (and I promise to keep it clean): racist, bigot, redneck (*a term I do not find much of an insult), white trash, race-traitor, n***er lover, Jew-whore (WFT?), f***ot (my sexual preferences are nobody’s business), trailer trash, honky, cracker, Jew-boy (nice try I’m a Methodist), terrorist, traitor, and oh my most recent personal favorite term of less than endearment….one of the “Holocaust Deniers of American History.”
I suspect I will hear much more in the future, but then again the folks who throw these insults around daily only show their own bitter feelings while I soldier on and clean the headstones without regret.
Again though there is no proof that either the UDC or SCV has “misrepresented evidence” of any sort and I defy you to point to a single example and prove that any such “misrepresentation” was deliberate.
Its true nobody owns the past, I trust you include yourselves and the likes of Corey Meyer in that view.
As for the flag issue, the argument that only the men who served under the flag can define its original meaning is a valid one, though you make a point about interpretation in the 20th century. Of that I can only add that this is a new century and how modern-day people view that flag is still begin defined. What might be acceptable one way or the other today may not be the case 20 years from now…who knows, given the way black rappers are adopting the flag, it may well be an “in thing” in the next decade? Frankly so long as those who misuse that flag for racist purposes come out the ultimate losers I do not really care.
Anyhow as to the subject of Black Confederates, I fear we will always disagree on the interpretation of the facts and the manner of their service–fact is that neither of us were there and do not know what was in the minds of these men, except by their actions as reported by those who saw them.
None-the-less how you choose to look as these body servants, teamsters, musicians, and cooks (slave and freedmen alike) is your business, but do not make the mistake of thinking that those who respect the service of these men will ever allow them to be forgotten, their memories and status as men dehumanized, or their descendants who honor their service mocked for their pride in them.
As you said, nobody owns the past….and you are quite right there sir, nor does anyone have a monopoly on the interpretation of it. Peace out.
I believe that we honor the memory of African Americans who were present in the army by doing good history. The insults that you have had to deal with have no place in mature/intellectual discourse.
The Confederate flag will continue to be a divisive issue because of its history. I tend to agree with John Coski of the Museum of the Confederacy who believes that the only place for that flag is in a museum where it can be properly interpreted.
Keep in mind that I never accused you specifically of calling me anything. What I was pointing out was the insults posted by administrators of your FB page and/or guests.
Thanks, all! That’s what I want to hear…the original voices. I want to know who these people are.
Can anyone refer me to a diary written by a black soldier (either side) and/or refer me to a person who has written a book about their black ancestors fighting in the Civil War? Without those, I think we white people are just spinning our wheels.
I see a lot of guesswork here when what we really need are the people who know best. That’s hard to get because black people then, especially if they were slaves, were often kept illiterate or were prevented from writing anything due to masters’ orders or simple busyness.
There are a number of good books that survey the black experience in the U.S. Army. Start with McPherson’s _The Negro’s Civil War_. You may also want to look at The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish, _Freedom’s Soldiers_ ed. by Ira Berlin and Redkey’s ed. _A Grand Army of Black Men_. There are plenty of additional books to look at, but this is a good place to start.
I especially like A Grand Army of Black Men, as it’s a collection of the mens’ own writing: their words.
I agree. There is also Andrew Ward’s _The Slaves’ War_ in which he tries to organize their words into a coherent narrative; unfortunately, I think he loses the power of their individual voices.
YIKES! Why is this so expensive? http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=A+Grand+Army+of+Black+Men&x=0&y=0
It’s called Cambridge University Press. 🙂
Go to http://www.bookfinder.com and set your preferences to “total price including postage.” Search for title only, There are several copies for less that $20, including postage.
Do these all have writings by the black men?
Here are some other choices, all collections of letters and documents on the USCTs: George Stephens, _Voice of Thunder: The Civil War Letters of George E. Stephens_; _Thomas Morris Chester, Black Civil War Correspondent: His Dispatches from the Virginia Front_; James Gooding, _On the Alter of Freedom a Black Soldier’s Civil War Letters from the Front_; Saint, _Dear Ones at Home: Letters from Contraband Camps_; and Berlin, et. al, eds., _The Black Military Experience_, part of “Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867 Selected from the Holdings of the National Archives of the United States” (the other volumes in the series are also excellent”).
Sorry, but in each of your posts I see much smoke, but very little fire.
Do you actually have any primary sources, verifiable ones, you can give to support your view of black Confederate soldiers?
At any rate, Kevin, I only came here because I was mentioned…a rare “honor” and like you I am irked by imperfections, so I offer my thanks for correcting my mistake on who made the actual quote.
Since you will be leaving soon and your many works archived (much of it I admit is impressive and of which I approve of) it occurs to me that this could well be the last time we correspond I would not leave you on an argument–which I admit was most stimulating debate (no counting the few times it seems we went the,,,,er, Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson route, LOL jk).
You mention accusation I have made in the past, much of it based on second hand information…and I have to admit I was not impressed that the first mention of your name in regards to this topic came from such uh….sordid sources (that’s the most flattering term I could use for that sort). Perhaps my initial accusations were unfounded, or just not as informed as they should of be, if so this Southern boy offers you his apologies sir.
I will not apologize for my views, or my defense of them, but neither will I condemn you for sticking to your own, no matter how much I disagree. I think you can agree that sometimes just differences in remembering the war can be as heated as the war itself, sharp words being as angry as musket fire and wounded pride being as seemingly painful as a bullet wound. However much so for either of us, for my part I do not consider you an enemy for your views, and hold no condemnation of you personally as an American and a historian.
I do wish you luck on your future endeavors in Boston.
C. Roden, (member SC Div. SCV)
I appreciate the comment, Carl.
The Black Confederate stories aren’t honoring these men, its using them to honor the Confederacy.
In fact, by engaging in sloppy history these stories dishonor their memory.
Denying their bravery and saying they are not worthy of being considered soldiers does even worse Kevin.
The point is that they were not considered soldiers by the government, their owners or the white soldiers in the army. It’s irrelevant how we choose to remember them. That’s called presentism.
I completely agree that they are worthy of being remembered, but we have an obligation to get the history right.
So the opinion of the aged Confederate Veterans who thought these men were worthy to stand by them and honor them as soldiers when they died is irrelevant? I really want to be sure I read that right, I mean surely you of all people are not saying the opinion of the survivors of a terrible war is meaningless are you?
Besides were not talking governments here were talking about the lives and memories of men who served in war and saw things that would probably ruin you and me for life.
The stories of these reunions is incredibly interesting, but what evidence do you have that former Confederate veterans now viewed these former slaves and impressed workers as soldiers? No doubt, they embraced the opportunity to share stories about the war, but what documentation are you basing any of your claims on? Again, you fail to cite a single primary or secondary source.
Kevin, you have been given plenty of sources over the years, though all you and Andy choose to do is pick them apart, downplay their significance and mock the sources themselves as unworthy of recognition.
Its clear that no specific documents or evidence would convince you.
There is official evidence from US Army sources, of Northern and British eyewitnesses, of newspaper accounts, and for all of that none of it seems to meets approval by one set of guidelines or another.
You have made it clear from minute one that you view any sort of Confederate heritage supporter as someone with a “neo-Confederate” agenda and not as real historians who wish only to preserve records. You have accused people of revisionism and mocked those who have done nothing more than care about their ancestral history because you feel there is no reason to take pride in it.
Frankly I am offended by the attempts to bury the memories of some of these men just because their existence is somehow threatening to whatever agenda you advance. To me you are no better than the people who have whitewashed American history until fairly recently, pushing minority contributions (except for the one that meet certain approval) into the back of the bus.
Of course you can set whatever rules you want here, I wonder though why you have never deemed it necessary–as one who advances “truth” that is–to come to our site on FB as your friend Corey has and tested yourself and your knowledge and ideals there?
And Andy, if you are also reading this, for all of your research and your conclusions, I wonder why it is you have never bothered to try and take your facts to the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs and had them personally remove the so-called “bogus soldiers headstones” for these black veterans of the South? I mean surely they would not laugh you out of the building given your expertise and your credentials right?
Food for thought.
I have considered plenty of sources on this site and I have done my best to give them as careful a reading as possible. That we disagree does not necessarily imply that I am “downplaying their significance” or “mocking the sources.” It means that we disagree. Historians always disagree about how to interpret the past, which is what makes the process itself so interesting.
The FB page you speak of does not offer a welcoming atmosphere and as far as I can tell there is very little actual history discussed. Most of what I’ve seen are your typical vague generalizations about folks who are supposedly threatening all things Southern. At times the commentary is downright silly.
And you justify that quote how sir?
I also honor the service of black men who served the British during the American Revolution. Black Tories and Black Whigs are also a fascinating subject, but honoring the service of those who fought for the so-called “wrong side” does not mean the same as honoring the British Empire and its war to subdue 13 independent States.
I just finished ready Chandra Manning’s “What This Cruel War Was Over” and was struck by the reaction of many of the Confederate soldiers she quoted when the CSA Congress considered enlisting slaves as troops. The most common reaction seems to be one of horror and “Why are we fighting if blacks are to be made equal?” The actual Confederates during the war seemed to consider the idea of black troops as, at best laughable, and at worst, treasonous to the cause for which they were fighting.
But hey, why quote the actual primary sources when you can make stuff up and post it on the internet!
Manning is not the first historian to point this out, but she does do a thorough job of it. I have never read a letter or diary by a Confederate soldier that acknowledged the presence of black men as soldiers.
Roden’s causal misspelling of Ervin Jordan’s first name actually says a great deal about how things like this happen — the details just aren’t that important to them.
I really am not as interested in who originally said this as I am in the fact that someone, somewhere, decided that Haynes (presumably) wasn’t good enough as a source, and made an intentional and deliberate decision to put Lee’s name on it. It’s absolute dishonesty of the rawest sort.
That website is an absolute joke.
And we love you too Andy…nice hat by the way.
It’s absolute dishonesty of the rawest sort.
An accurate, if brief, summary of the entire “yes there were lots of black confederates” argument.
The first use of the phrase to show up on Google Books is Charles Kelly Barrow’s 1995 book: http://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&tbo=1&q=%E2%80%9CWhen+You+Eliminate+the+Black+Confederate%E2%80%9D&btnG=Search+Books
He doesn’t offer a footnote.
Footnotes? We don’t need no stinkin’ footnotes.
Anyone have access to Baton Rouge newspapers?
“And in an AP article of January 28, 1992 (Monroe, LA The New Star), Professor Leonard Haynes of Southern University states: “When you eliminate the Black Confederate soldier, you’ve eliminated the history of the south.”
(Actually, it’s the News Star, and its online archives doesn’t go back that far. It was not picked up by the New York Times, which is the only online newspaper index that we have that covers 1992)
From _Black Southerners in Confederate Armies: A Collection of Historical Accounts_, as found in Google Books.
I’m not saying this is a good citation–I’m just saying that’s the citation that’s given.
Thanks to you as well, Vicki.
This is a monster link, but it points to two other references that might be accessible to someone out there:
Richmond Times – Dispatch – Aug 9, 1992
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.) – June 22, 1992
I found this in Google Books:
It gives the source as an AP article by Haynes dated 28 January 1992 in The New Star (Baton Rouge), which I guess should be The News Star?
Well, at least now we have a source. Thanks Brett.
Great point about examining sources on the Internet! It’s amazing how easy it is to fall into the trap of believing what we read just because someone put it out there and attached a title to it.
So the real question is, WERE there any black Confederates that willingly fought for the South? When I mean willingly, I mean that their service wasn’t in exchange for freedom or anything other than what a white Confederate soldier would have been offered. There are some sources that say yes, there were black Confederates, and others that say no.
Thanks for the comment, Katherine. It’s not an easy question to answer. I recommend starting with this page to get a sense of what I’ve written about this subject: http://cwmemory.com/black-confederate-resources/
Your comment on the resources page caught my eye in that there doesn’t seem to be evidence of black Confederate soldiers who were equal or even similar to their white counterparts. Am I reading this correctly? If so, that was the conclusion I had reached upon reading so many contradictory articles in the past.
–One of the biggest problems is the lack of any consensus on language and how to describe the presence of free and enslaved blacks in Confederate armies. In my view we must begin by assuming that blacks were not soldiers based both on the refusal on the part of the Confederate government as well as the almost complete lack of wartime evidence (enlistment papers/muster rolls, etc.)–
You are reading it correctly. These are basic points that are often overlooked by the advocates of this narrative.
First of all hello Kevin, sorry to hear about the financial situation but hey we’re all struggling.
Now I would like to address the correction, ironically I went back over my research about an hour after posting that and found you are indeed correct about who made the quote.
First, I am not sure what financial situation you are referring to.
Your mistake is reflective of the kinds of mistakes that can be found on that website on a daily basis. It really is a joke.
Sir I could point out quite a few mistakes on yours too, but I am not here to troll….since its your site you are free to do as you please though.
Of course you can find mistakes on this site. Andy Hall recently demonstrated that the president of your site cut and pasted his own words without attribution. Your site has problems that go way beyond simple factual mistakes. It’s one of the best examples of why the Web can be such a dangerous place for people who are uninformed.
I have a question from something I read:
“As you research information on African Americans who served during the American Civil War, recognize that historians do not discount the presence of African Americans traveling with their slaveholders. Pension records prove they were present. However, the current splitting of hairs is in regards to the classification of these noble men who toiled during the American Civil War for and with their masters.
In other words, slaves could not officially enlist in the Confederate States Army because they were classified as property. However, in the 21st Century, there should be no justifiable reason to continue to treat these men merely as goods. They deserve to be publicly acknowledged for the military duties in which they performed from April 1861 to April 1865. These African-American men were drummers, teamsters, laborers, cooks, and scouts to name a few.”
There is no doubt in my mind that voluntary service or not, these men should be honored. My question is, however, did ANY slaves voluntary serve in the Confederate army, or would the promise of freedom been the motivating factor?
Let me try to handle your questions in turn:
1. Pension to former slaves were granted by most of the former Confederate states. The important point to keep in mind is that even at the turn of the twentieth century these men were still recognized as slaves and not soldiers. This article will help: http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/articles/289/black-confederate-pensioners-after-the-civil-war
2. The question of how we should view them today is a complex issue. As historians we must be sensitive to the historical record and in this case it is very clear. Until the very end of the war the Confederate government took steps to prevent free and enslaved blacks from serving as soldiers. Slaveowners objected to attempts on the part of the Confederate government to impress their property. If someone chooses to view these men as something other than slaves than they are simply not engaged in historical inquiry.
3. You will find scattered accounts of blacks who managed to pass as whites. We know this because of the number of examples where soldiers were forced out of the army once their racial identity was revealed. No doubt, you will find a few exceptions to this rule, but that is to be expected given the size of these armies and the number of people involved. It does not in any way change our understanding of how the government, the general population, and the military perceived race.
Thank you, Kevin. You know, when I think of soldiers, I think in general terms of men (and in modern ages, women) who serve in wartime. I am not sure it matters too much what terms we use as a title so long as we define that title. In any event, as Andy says, we cannot know the motivation of African American Confederate soldiers, and that’s what I am trying to find out.
When I wrote my book, I had similar problems. Motivations are still largely unclear, and that’s one thing I was trying to address through poetry. Much of written history deals with records of battle strategy and narratives of civilian suffering. Some of the stories talk about values, but in the end, what makes someone tip over the edge and fall into war? What did these people really feel? And what did slaves believe about all this?
Historians and sociologists can guess, but it’s only a guess. And that is what blurs the issue, especially when we all have only parts of the truth.
Katherine, I think most of us here would agree with much of the first two paragraphs.
Speaking for myself, the problematic issue is that those who push the BCS meme intentionally blur distinctions between civilian, non-combatant support roles (laborers, servants, cooks) and formally-enlisted soldiers, in the ranks and under arms, by tossing around ill-defined words like “served” and “fought.” They routinely use analogies, stretching from Tacitus right down to the present, to redefine these men’s status as “soldiers” writ large, when in fact primary sources from 1861-65 make their actual status abundantly clear.
More seriously, In my view, they routinely ascribe motivations to these men that they simply cannot know, and turn a blind eye to most of these mens’ status as slaves and the reality of coercion (legal and otherwise) that goes with that. The BCS meme, simply put, is a modern update of the”faithful slave” narrative that’s been a cornerstone of Lost Cause orthodoxy for well over a century.
To challenge this meme is not to degrade or demean these mens’ stories, and it is not (as suggested in the quote) “splitting of hairs.” I genuinely believe that the best thing we can do to honor these men is to tell their stories as accurately as we can, and to acknowledge that there’s much we simply don’t know. It doesn’t honor them at all to build up a mythos around them that consists of little more that patriotic cliches and wishful fantasy.
Actually quite a few of them did serve voluntarily, A number of the body servants mentioned were in fact free blacks who hired themselves out to a Confederate officer or to a unit because it was the only way they could join up.
Why would they? Maybe for the same reason the white soldiers went in the beginning, for the “adventure” of war. Individual motivations are unique to every story, just as they are for those black men who served in the USCT.
As far as slaves go, almost certainly there were those who asked to go with their young master to war, if only to do something they had never done before. In some accounts I read of many of them found army life a much better life than working on a farm, or at least not much different. And in a few cases these slaves lived much better as a body servant, including being able to secure and keep firearms (an act forbidden by many Southern state laws of the time) and acquiring proper clothing and shoes from the battlefield dead (not to mention other items some would never need again…this happens in every war and not unique). Such a life (even with the dangers of enemy fire) would appeal to someone who spends their lives toiling sun up to sundown with no pay and very little reward.
There were many cases where black Confederates served on even after the master or men they went to war with were killed and they had no reason to stay. Sometimes they were taken prisoner by the Union along with their masters and refused to take the oath of loyalty, even though they were now “contraband”.
Sometimes these motives of loyalty didn’t even apply to the color of uniform. Some former slaves who joined the USCT would refuse to fire into Confederate regiments where they knew their former master was. One such story told of a slave who’d run away and joined the Union refused to fire in the Confederate regiment his master was in because that young man had saved him from a terrible beating and he was repaying the debt.
Human beings are very funny that way, we have (for the most part) no group-mind mentality and make our choices based on what may be the smallest little thing on our characters.
But don’t take my word for it, read the stories for yourself.
There are a number of assumptions in this comment about why slaves did what they did. Notice the implicit assumption at work here that assumes a great deal of freedom for people who did not have control over their own decisions. More disturbing is the lace of any references or wartime documentation from the slaves themselves that sheds light on motivation. This is standard operating procedure among people in this community. What does it even mean to be “loyal” as a slave? Again, what wartime evidence do we have from the slaves themselves?
Kevin, I never claimed I knew what motivates any of these men, anymore than you can claim personally what every member of the USCT’s motivations were. Frankly I doubt either of us is qualified to comment on the Black Experience, I think you would agree there at least?
I’ve published extensively on the black experience at the Crater. I’ve never tried to make a sweeping claim about the motivations of USCTs for precisely the same reasons that I pointed out regarding the experiences of black southerners. In most cases, we simply do not have sufficient documentation.
Carl, I am genuinely curious about your statement that “quite a few of them did serve voluntarily.” Could you point me at a primary source (not a website) that illustrates this point?
Don’t hold your breadth, Larry. Expect something along the lines of a cut and paste job. 🙂
Oh no by all means do hold your breath….you too Kevin.
Larry, I would give you the sources however Kevin has made it perfectly clear that I am not allowed to post the names of sites he personally disapproves of….guess you will just have to do the research for yourself and get your hands dirty like the rest of us.
You are free to cite the sources. Provide the names of scholarly books, articles or archival collections that you are familiar with. Please don’t waste our time with websites set up by individuals who are unqualified to discuss this issue. Let’s talk publications and archival sources. Go for it.
Unqualified by who’s standards exactly Kevin? Yours?
What makes you qualified?
Yes, by my standards. You contribute to silly little FB page that engages in all sorts of judgments about people, including me. Most of the accusations and attacks have nothing to do with scholarship at all. So, what qualifies all of you to issue in such personal attacks?
Actually Katherine, it depends on distinction.
If you are talking about African-American men formally enlisted as Confederate soldiers, or allowed officially to serve as soldiers, then in that regard the answer would be no.
However, there are the individual stories of black men who served in many service capacities in the Confederate army, slaves and freedmen, and quite a few of them did see combat.
Many drummers and fifers in the Confederate army were black men and boys, and they did indeed see combat, as did their white counterparts, of that there is little doubt given the stories of such musicians wounded during the course of the war…and these men were definitely enrolled into their units.
Now the subject of Body Servants is a tricky one. Does a loyal servant who run out into the battlefield to bring back his wounded (or more likely dead) master qualify as a “soldier”? It may depend on the individual circumstances in that regard. Did said servant have to pick up and use a weapon as some did? Did they wait till night and sneak out to search?
Same with laborers, teamsters, ect. Did picking up a weapon automatically make them soldiers, even unofficially? Does that mean if so do they deserve to be honored as soldiers?
What of those black men captured in Confederate uniform who served as POWs in Union camps, given the chance to take the oath of loyalty and refused? Were they soldiers because of their loyalty?
I am reminded of an episode of the TV Series M*A*S*H* one of my personal favorites for the way it shows what war really is beyond the tactics, the rhetoric and the so-called “glory” everyone talks about and for which I have little patience for, but I digress.
In the episode one of the main characters B.J. Honeycutt is on a fishing trip and the helicopter spots a wounded GI waving for assistance. He lowers a rope to the man to tie on so they can lift him to safety. However at that moment the chopper comes under enemy fire and the engine is hit (or maybe the fuel tank, I forget) and the chopper cannot carry all three of them, so B.J. a doctor who is sworn to protect and preserve life has to make the choice of cutting the rope, leaving the wounded soldier to his certain death, and saving his own behind.
Later on he is awarded the Bronze Star for his act of “heroism” under fire. He comments to his friend Hawkeye (my favorite character) disdainfully that they spend their time thumbing their noses at the army and the insanity of the war around them but the moment he cut that rope he became a soldier.
Its a line that stuck with me quite a bit whenever I hear the stories of these individual African Americans who served in the Confederate army. Does that mean I personally think they were soldiers? Perhaps.
Although there is one point of reference that never seems to be brought up much by either Deniers of Black Confederate “soldiers” or by supporters, and that would be what did the men of the Confederate army themselves think?
After the war in many photographs of reunions of Confederate Veterans, you will see many black faces, often in Confederate uniform and with reunion ribbons. You will also see those old body servants in the footage at Gettysburg reunions too.
Now anyone who does research on the veterans themselves after the war knows that in order to be honored as a veteran one has to be able to prove service in the war, as well as be vouched for by other members. In the case of Black Confederates this becomes very significant. Remember that in many cases these former Confederates were products of their time, when America saw race in a much harsher light. Such people would never have allowed anyone of color to be a part of such a tightly held group of men unless they felt these individual men were worthy to stand with them as soldiers, or earned their respect through personal heroism.
As a ten-year member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (by which I am now totally vilified as far as many here are concerned, LOL!) all I can say is if those old veterans felt these men deserved the honor of being called a “soldier” or a “veteran” then frankly that is good enough for me. Most times what is official and what really happened are rather blurry in war….particularly one so mired as this one.
Well, there’s my two bits at any rate, take them however you please.
Notice that Mr. Roden fails to include one scholarly reference. You will find a number of worthwhile sources on the page that I linked to in the earlier comment.
You will not be permitted to leave links to bogus internet sites, all of which I have referenced on this site. You are free to post links to whatever amateur sites you wish on your own sites. You can’t even get a simple reference correct, which everyone can see in this post. As far as I can tell you are not an authority on anything related to Civil War history.
MASH is one of my favorite shows, Carl. Though humorous, the seriousness of war comes through more than anything else, IMO. I believe the doctors also were “soldiers.” But I’m not military, so my usage is probably vague.
Incidentally, my favorite MASH character is Klinger. 🙂
The doctors (and nurses) in MASH were soldiers because they held commissions in the U.S. Army. There’s no ambiguity of status there. 😉
Ha! So Hawkeye was wrong about his own status, eh? That makes me feel better somehow. 🙂
Poor Hawkeye, done in by a sharp looking intellectual like Andy.
Hawkeye, et al, was a non-combatant but they still held commissions in the US Army.
LOL I liked him too, though I also liked Colonel Potter and Major Winchester too (at least in a couple of episodes where he isn’t acting like a….well you know what).
“…there doesn’t seem to be evidence of black Confederate soldiers who were equal or even similar to their white counterparts.”
Of course the USCT soldiers receiving $10 a month instead to $13 like their white counterparts and after the war denied participation in the Washington D.C. Victory Parade with the white Union soldiers can attest to how that feels though can’t they?
You are absolutely right to point out the discrimination that black Union soldiers faced in the United States army, but what does that have to do with the role of slaves and free blacks in the Confederate army? No one denies this.
The roles of slaves and free blacks in the Confederate army is much the same as the role they played in the Union army prior to the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. Nice try.
No, it’s not. That is a ridiculous claim and one that apparently reflects very little understanding of the historical record.
Unlike you my understanding of the historical record predates the War Between The States.
My main area of learning is the Southern Campaign of the American Revolutionary War, during which I might add Black men served both the American and British forces in much the same capacity on either side as they did for the Confederate army.
I am quite familiar with the American Revolution and the story of African Americans in this war is particularly interesting. That said, I fail to see what this has to do with the Civil War.
It has everything to do with it.
Technically the War Between the States was a second American Revolution rather than a “civil war” in terms of the fact that the CSA was not trying to overthrow the US government and impose a different government in Washington DC.
The manner in which African-Americans served in the American Revolution and during the WBTS is not really all that different, except for the fact the US Government formally authorized the USCT into whole regiments. In the American Revolution blacks served in much the same capacity in both British and Patriot armies as they did in the CSA. Ironically it was the Hessians who formally enrolled black slaves into service (in the formal British Army this was not allowed, although several Tory militias incorporated black men as soldiers). In the case of Americans black men as soldiers were few and far between rather than whole regiments and these men were body servants and cooks as well, and not always formally enrolled either.
The point is there is precedent and no matter what you think of the Confederate cause pro or con the facts stand that they were there and behaved as loyally for the most part as did their counterparts in America’s former wars.
Frankly I don’t know why acknowledging a few hundred or thousand individual men who served in gray offends or frightens you so, I mean it changes nothing in the perception of the war and its reasons, nor does it alter the fact far more black men served the Union cause.
Once again you have failed to provide a single secondary or primary source. Nothing about your comments “offends” or “frightens” me. I am simply waiting for you to do something other than make vague claims. Sorry if that is a problem.
There were no USCTs in the Grand Review – actually, Grand Reviews – held in Washington at the end of the war. The May Grand Review was for the Army of the Potomac and the next day, for Sherman’s army. The Sixth Corps of the AoP had not yet returned to DC and when it did a couple of weeks later, it also had a parade.
All of the Eastern USCTs were in the Twenty-fifth Corps of the Army of the James. They were being used for occupation duty in Virginia and North Carolina and a number of them had already been loaded on ships at Norfolk and sent to New Orleans and Texas.
But it was not deliberate racism that kept the USCTs from a Grand Review. The Eighth Corps, which had been stationed in Maryland (and fought at Monocracy) also did not have a review –indeed they were used for crowd control at THE Grand Review. Nor were the troops of Butler’s old Army of the James given a parade.
The decision to keep the USCT in use in the South was a political, economic and personal one: the USCTs were the last volunteers mustered out, long after most of the White troops had gone home. Economically this made sense, since many of these people had no where to go – sort of a “GI Bill” for them. Politically the Northern voters wanted the [white] Boys home (the same thing happened in 1945).
Of course the Western troops, except for those who had come with Sherman had no Grand Review, nor did Schofield’s men in the Carolinas. For that matter, Sheridan himself had been detached and sent to Texas to take command there against Maximillan and missed the Grand Review.