“It’s About Heritage”

reenactorsPeople forget that slavery existed in the whole country at the time, and less than 10 percent (of Confederates) actually owned slaves,” Waller said.

It must be about heritage because it certainly isn’t about history.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

23 comments… add one
  • London John Jan 25, 2013 @ 12:38

    In addition, many or most non-slaveholders in the CSA probably expected to own slaves later in life. Not to do so was not to succeed in the slave states.

  • Jimmy Dick Jan 25, 2013 @ 12:20

    I’m waiting for the ones who say their ancestors avoided serving in the CSA for either opposing the war or having more than 20 slaves so they were exempted from serving. I also want to see the ones who say their ancestors were deserters from the CSA which statistically speaking should be quite a few of the living descendents.

  • GDBrasher Jan 25, 2013 @ 8:47

    Everyone is correct in pointing out the numbers problem of slave ownership, but there is a bigger issue. While the % who owned slaves, or came from families who owned slaves, might be considered low by some people, the % of white southerners who were committed to maintaining white supremacy was an overwhelming majority. And maintaining slavery was seen as crucial to maintaining that white supremacy. Therefore,.dissecting the % of white southerners who owned slaves does not get to the heart of how many people were determined to maintain the institution.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2013 @ 9:08

      They all understood what the consequences would be if they failed.

    • woodrowfan Jan 25, 2013 @ 11:32

      Actually he’s not. The figures he quotes only work if you count the border states that remained in the Union. If you look at the figures from the 1860 census as to the percentage of families that owned slaves in the 11 confederate states, they range from a low of 20% in Arkansas to 49% in Mississippi and 46% in South Carolina. Outside of Arkansas, in every Confederate state at least 1/4 of all families owned at least one slave, and it was over a third of all families in 5 states.

      You are right, of course, on white supremacy, but don’t let them pull the old “there were not many slave owners!” trick.

      • GDBrasher Jan 25, 2013 @ 17:11

        Woodrow, just to clarify, I didnt say he was correct. I said that everyone else who has commented here about the problems with his numbers are correct. No one was letting him get away with that “trick,” including me. I was pointing out that there is a bigger issue than the numbers.

        • woodrowfan Jan 25, 2013 @ 18:10

          GD: I know. I apologize if it seemed as if I was arguing with you. I was trying to add to what you said, not disagree. My apologies for wording it poorly.

    • Tom Jones Jan 25, 2013 @ 18:41

      All good points and let’s also remember that the vast majority of Northerners were also white supremacists and that until the Emancipation Proclamation, they were fighting to stay united with the South, slavery and all, but on their terms.

  • RyanQ Jan 25, 2013 @ 7:14

    In his book, “General Lee’s Army” Joseph Glatthaar makes a really good point. In summarizing, his point that actual slave owners in the Confederate forces may have been a low percentage, but when you looked at the soldiers’ parents, or extended families, the percentage of people associated with slavery jumped way up (I forget the actual count right now). Just because soldiers didn’t own slaves, doesn’t mean their fathers didn’t.

    • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas) Jan 25, 2013 @ 7:50

      A minor point — Glatthaar was using census records, and so wasn’t looking at extended families, because those connections are not revealed in those records — they only document people living in the same residence. (The census now uses the term “household,” but the scope remains the same right down to the present.) Of course most individual Confederate soldiers did not personally own slaves, which represented a very large capital investment. Nonetheless, Glatthaar found was that solders who enlisted in what would later become the Army of Northern Virginia were (1) disproportionately more likely to be slaveholders themselves, personally, than others of their age cohort, and (2) disproportionately more likely to come from a slaveholding household than the population as a whole. Here’s what Glatthaar wrote:

      Among the enlistees in 1861, slightly more than one in ten owned slaves personally. This compared favorably to the Confederacy as a whole, in which one in every twenty white persons owned slaves. Yet more than one in every four volunteers that first year lived with parents who were slaveholders. Combining those soldiers who owned slaves with those soldiers who lived with slaveholding family members, the proportion rose to 36 percent. That contrasted starkly with the 24.9 percent, or one in every four households, that owned slaves in the South, based on the 1860 census. Thus, volunteers in 1861 were 42 percent more likely to own slaves themselves or to live with family members who owned slaves than the general population.

      The attachment to slavery, though, was even more powerful. One in every ten volunteers in 1861 did not own slaves themselves but lived in households headed by non family members who did. This figure, combined with the 36 percent who owned or whose family members owned slaves, indicated that almost one of every two 1861 recruits lived with slaveholders. Nor did the direct exposure stop there. Untold numbers of enlistees rented land from, sold crops to, or worked for slaveholders. In the final tabulation, the vast majority of the volunteers of 1861 had a direct connection to slavery. For slaveholder and nonslaveholder alike, slavery lay at the heart of the Confederate nation. The fact that their paper notes frequently depicted scenes of slaves demonstrated the institution’s central role and symbolic value to the Confederacy.

      More than half the officers in 1861 owned slaves, and none of them lived with family members who were slaveholders. Their substantial median combined wealth ($5,600) and average combined wealth ($8,979) mirrored that high proportion of slave ownership. By comparison, only one in twelve enlisted men owned slaves, but when those who lived with family slave owners were included, the ratio exceeded one in three. That was 40 percent above the tally for all households in the Old South. With the inclusion of those who resided in nonfamily slaveholding households, the direct exposure to bondage among enlisted personnel was four of every nine. Enlisted men owned less wealth, with combined levels of $1,125 for the median and $7,079 for the average, but those numbers indicated a fairly comfortable standard of living. Proportionately, far more officers were likely to be professionals in civil life, and their age difference, about four years older than enlisted men, reflected their greater accumulated wealth.

      One can debate endlessly what motivated individual men to volunteer for Confederate service; I’m quite sure their reasons were as varied as they themselves were as individuals. What Glatthaar’s data shows, though, is that when the war began, when it was still purely a fight between volunteers (no conscription yet on either side), its was disproportionately men who were slaveholders themselves, or who came from slaveholding households, who answered Richmond’s call to arms.

      • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2013 @ 8:03

        Thanks for clarifying that, Andy.

        • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas) Jan 25, 2013 @ 8:22

          It’s an important consideration, that “extended family” business. I’ve seen people carp about Glatthaar’s findings, arguing that he’s scooping up data from far-flung cousins and aunts and uncles and other relatives to pad his numbers. Folks who’ve actually worked with 19th century census enrollments know that you cannot make those connections from that data; the average free “family” listed in the 1860 census in the Southern states included only between five and six persons, of all ages. What the census then listed as a “family” (and now calls a “household”) were people living under the same roof.

      • TFSmith1 Jan 26, 2013 @ 1:28

        Nicely done, Andy.

        The percentage of CSA volunteers who who rode horses or hunted with dogs that were owned by others is presumably worth considering – if they believed what they said they believed, the difference between a horse, dog, or slave was non-existent.

        Except that the average white southerner was presumably related to more slaves than horses or dogs, of course.


  • Bummer Jan 25, 2013 @ 6:35

    Bummer would sure like to chat with the Union Trooper in this group. All these boys look well fed, for a bunch of share-cropper rag-a-muffins. The most distinguished of the group, is the trooper on the throne, while all the Heritage folks are celebrating his presence. After all, the war wasn’t about slavery. The “old guy” just doesn’t get it.

    • Billy Bearden Jan 25, 2013 @ 18:14

      Yes, shame on them, shame on us all! We must always mention slavery in all aspects of honoring one’s ancestors. Every 10 minutes we must make public statements every single person who swore allegience to, fought for, lived in, passed thru or heard tell of the CSA was only doing so for slavery, slavery was the sole exclusive reason for both secession and war, slavery was the be all end all and only reason. We should wear placards with our uniforms – farb or not – I SUPPORT SLAVERY!

      I can see why you dont get it. Hatred is a hard fog to get clear vision thru. I feel so bad for you.

      May God Bless you, and ease your burdens and soften your heart….

      • TFSmith1 Jan 26, 2013 @ 1:28

        Grown men playing dress up.

      • Brooks D. Simpson Jan 26, 2013 @ 12:27

        I think that might make up for decades of denial that slavery had nothing to do with it, so I applaud this suggestion as a shrewd way to redress a long-standing imbalance in the other direction.

        It seems Billy’s coming around at last.

      • MC Planck Mar 11, 2017 @ 20:23

        That’s an excellent idea! Just like every time we see people in Nazi uniforms, we remind them that Nazism was all about the Holocaust. If you honor the legacy of the Nazis, you support the Holocaust.

        As a policy, it seems to work in Germany, where you see very, very few people embracing Nazi ideology and culture. And you never see people flying the Nazi battle flag. We should definitely try it here, and I applaud you for your suggestion.

  • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas) Jan 25, 2013 @ 6:06

    emphasizing that “slavery was an abomination no matter what culture
    it’s in,” group member Gene Bonfoey questioned the moral ground of the
    U.S. government, which was simultaneously engaged in “annihilating the

    So says the man posing for pictures alongside a Buffalo Soldier reenactor.

    • woodrowfan Jan 25, 2013 @ 11:32


  • Robert Baker Jan 25, 2013 @ 5:36

    In the immortalized words of Robert Lee Hodge, “Farb.”

    • bummer Jan 25, 2013 @ 7:19

      Love it!

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