Why I Am Still Willing To Talk About It

I haven’t thought much about the subject of black Confederates in any serious way lately, but the brief interaction I had last night with a Twitter follower serves as a reminder of why I think it’s still important. Here is a link to the photographs referenced by @RRT2451.

Black Confederate Tweet

CraterThanks for reading this post. Scroll down, leave a comment and join the conversation. Follow me on Twitter and join the Civil War Memory Facebook group for continuous updates and additional links to newsworthy items from around the interwebs. Stay up to date by subscribing to this blog’s feed. You can also check out my recently published book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.

6 comments… add one
  • Paul Taylor Sep 18, 2014

    This whole issue never ceases to amaze me. While it is statistically probable that a black slave or two picked up a musket at some point and fired it at the Yankees, it strains credulity to think that in the big picture, those relatively few random incidents therefore equate to the war not being about slavery. To think that these men had a choice as to whether or not they followed their masters into battle is simply a head-scratcher.

  • tmheaney Sep 18, 2014

    According to the Alabama archives, the source of the portrait of Mat Gray, he was “Mat Gray, former slave who fought for with his master for the Confederacy during the Civil War. [African American]” [Source: http://digital.archives.alabama.gov/cdm/ref/collection/photo/id/1178%5D

    So, a slave taken to war by his master, not a Confederate soldier.

  • Brooks D. Simpson Sep 19, 2014

    Strange dude. At one point he had slaves deserting their servants. Really. Funny to see him get entangled in his own [il]logic.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 19, 2014

      Yeah, I may just block him if he continues. It’s no longer interesting.

  • Michael C. Williams Sep 23, 2014

    Northern Sources

    From the The War of the Rebellion:
    A Compilation of the Official Records
    Of Union and Confederate Armies:

    August 1861, Series I, Volume IV Colonel John W. Phelps (1st Vermont Infantry) They—the enemy—talked of having 9,000 men. They had twenty pieces of artillery, among which was the Richmond Howitzer Battery, manned by Negroes.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    May 1862, Series I, Volume XIV Colonel Benjamin C. Christ (50th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers) There were six companies of mounted riflemen, besides infantry, among which were a considerable number of colored men.”
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    July 1862, Series I, Volume XVI, Lieutenant Colonel John G. Parkhurst (9th Michigan Infantry) There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    July 1862 Series III, Volume II Richard Yates, Governor of Illinois. Excerpt from a Letter to President Abraham Lincoln:
    They [CSA] arm Negroes and merciless savages in their behalf. Mr. Lincoln, the crisis demands greater efforts and sterner measures.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    Sept. 1862 Series I, Volume XV Major Frederick Frye (9th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers) Pickets were thrown out that night, and Captain Hennessy, Company E, of the Ninth Connecticut, having been sent out with his company, captured a colored rebel scout, well mounted, who had been sent out to watch our movements.”
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    Sept. 1862 Series I, Volume XIII Major General Samuel R. Curtis (2nd Iowa Infantry) We are not likely to use one negro where the rebels have used a thousand. When I left Arkansas they were still enrolling Negroes to fortify the rebellion.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    Oct. 1862 Series I, Volume XIX, Part I-Reports Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Wheeler Downey (3rd Maryland Infantry, Potomac Home Brigade) Question by the Judge Advocate.: Do you know of any individual of the enemy having been killed or wounded during the siege of Harpers Ferry?
    Answer. I have strong reasons to believe that there was a negro killed, who had wounded 2 or 3 of my men. I know that an officer took deliberate aim at him, and he fell over. He was one of the skirmishers of the enemy, and wounded 3 of my men. I know there must have been some of the enemy killed.
    Question. How do you know the Negro was killed?
    Answer. The officer saw him fall.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    Jan. 1863 Series I, Volume XVII Brigadier General D. Stuart (U.S. Army 4th Brigade and Second Division) I t had to be prosecuted under the fire of the enemy’s sharpshooters, protected as well as the men might be by our skirmishers on the bank, who were ordered to keep up so vigorous a fire that the enemy should not dare to lift their heads above their rifle-pits; but the enemy, and especially their armed negroes, did dare to rise and fire, and did serious execution upon our men.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    June 1863 Series II, Volume VI Lieutenant-Colonel William H Ludlow (Agent for Exchange of Prisoners / 73rd New York Volunteer Infantry) And more recently the Confederate legislature of Tennessee have passed an act forcing into their military service (I quote literally) all male free persons of color between the ages of fifteen and fifty, or such number as may be necessary, who may be sound in body and capable of actual service; and they further enacted that in the event a sufficient number of free persons of color to meet the wants of the State shall not tender their services, then the Governor is empowered through the sheriff’s of different counties to impress such persons until the required number is obtained.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    September 1863 Series III, Volume III Thomas H. Hicks (United States Senator, Maryland) Excerpt from a Letter to President Abraham Lincoln:
    I do and have believed that we ought to use the colored people, after the rebels commenced to use them against us.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    Aug. 1864 Series I, Volume XXXV, Part I, Reports, Correspondence, etc. Brigadier General Alexander Asboth (U.S. Army, District of West Florida) We pursued them closely for 7 miles, and captured 4 privates of Goldsby’s company and 3 colored men, mounted and armed, with 7 horses and 5 mules with equipments, and 20 Austrian rifles
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    Nov. 1864 Series I, Volume XLI, Part IV, Captain P. L. Powers (47th Missouri Infantry, Company H) Correspondence, Etc. Series I, We have turned up eleven bushwhackers to date and one rebel negro.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    April 1865 Series I, Volume XLIX, Part II Major A. M. Jackson (10th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery) The rebels are recruiting negro troops at Enterprise, Mississippi, and the negroes are all enrolled in the State.
    After the action at Missionary Ridge, Commissary Sergeant William F. Ruby forwarded a casualty list written in camp at Ringgold, Georgia about 29 November 1863, to William S. Lingle for publication. Ruby’s letter was partially reprinted in the Lafayette (Missouri) Daily Courier for 8 December 1863: “Ruby says among the rebel dead in the [Missionary] Ridge he saw a number of Negroes in the Confederate uniform.”

    William F. Ruby
    Residence Tippecanoe County IN;
    Enlisted on 9/18/1861 as a Private.
    On 9/18/1861 he mustered into “E” Co. IN 10th Infantry
    He was Mustered Out on 9/19/1864 at Indianapolis, IN
    Promotions:
    * Comm Sergt 3/20/1863 (Estimated day)
    Intra Regimental Company Transfers:
    * 3/20/1863 from company E to Field & Staff (Estimated Day)

    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Southern Sources

    Richmond Daily Dispatch.
    Friday Morning…April 19, 1861.
    The Newbern (N. C.) Progress, of the 17th inst., says:
    The committee, of which we were a member, having performed the commission they were sent to do, returned by a special train last night. There are now about 150 to 200 men under arms at Fort Macon, and everything is being put in order. Should a Government vessel attempt to enter the harbor they will receive a warm reception, certain.
    The ladies of Newbern were busily engaged yesterday making bedding and other things necessary for the comfort of our military companies who went down to Fort Macon last night.
    Yesterday, when our military companies were beating up for recruits, about sixty free negroes volunteered and went down to Fort Macon to do battle for their country, while another gave twenty-five dollars cash to help support the war; and still another, who is a poor man, having just arrived at our wharf with a load of wood for sale, delivered it up to the town auctioneer, with a request to sell it and appropriate it in the same way.
    ———————————
    Monday morning…April 22, 1861.
    The Newbern Progress, speaking of the colored population, says:
    We learn from Mayor Lane that 15 or 20 more free negroes came forward yesterday morning and volunteered their services to go to the Fort and work or assist in the defence of the Fort, if required. Laborers enough having gone to the Fort, they were not sent down, but requested by Mayor Lane to hold themselves in readiness
    ———————————
    Petersburg, April 23, 1861.
    Large numbers of free negroes have offered their services, and will be sent to Norfolk to erect batteries. Many of the poor creatures are out of employment, in consequence of the closing of the tobacco factories, and it would be a mercy to give them some useful work to perform, if only for their bread and meat.–Some of the more thrifty of the class have subscribed liberally to bear their expenses–one of them as much as $100; others smaller sums.
    ———————————
    Richmond Dispatch.
    Thursday morning…April 25, 1861
    About fifty free negroes → in Amelia county have offered themselves to the Government for any service.
    In our neighboring city of Petersburg, two hundred free negroes offered for any work that might be assigned to them, either to fight under white officers, dig ditches, or anything that could show their desire to serve Old Virginia. In the same city, a negro hackman came to his master, and insisted, with tears in his eyes, that he should accept all his savings, $100, to help equip the volunteers.–The free negroes of Chesterfield have made a similar proposition. Such is the spirit, among bond and free, through the whole of the State. The fools and scoundrels who calculate on a different state of things, will soon discover their mistake.
    ———————————-
    Richmond Dispatch.
    Thursday morning…April 25, 1861
    The following items are from the Norfolk Argus:
    A large number of slaves are busily working upon the batteries and other means of defending the harbor. The services of many of these stalwart sons of Africa have been tendered by their generous owners and they enter upon their new duties zealously and eagerly.
    Captain Walker, of the ship schooner Zephaniah, which arrived from Baltimore on Mondaynight, reports that on his way down the Bay he saw two large steamers, probably transports, bound up. One of them appeared to be filled with troops. He also saw a third steamer, yesterday, take troops to Fort Monroe.
    A list of thirty-two worthy free negroes of this city, who have offered their services in the work of defence, or in any other capacity required, has been sent in to the Captain of the Woodis Riflemen.
    ————————————
    The Daily Dispatch: may 20, 1861.
    Petersburg, May 18, 1861.
    The company of free negroes, under the command of Captain Finn, who have been engaged at Norfolk for several weeks, returned this afternoon, to spend the holidays with their wives and sweethearts. They will go back next week. It did one good to look on their happy, joyous faces, on which not a care of any kind has left its imprint. They appeared to be quite flush of the needful, and as soon as they were disbanded, numbers of them proceeded to the market-house, for the purpose of treating their families to the delicacies of the season. Mon Coeur.
    ————————————-
    The Daily Dispatch: July 17, 1861.
    The Convention and the free negroes .
    –The Convention, after authorising the impressment of the free negro population to aid in works of defence, further provides– That all free negroes thus detailed, and appearing at the place of rendezvous, shall be received into public service (under such officers as may be detailed by the Commandant as aforesaid to receive them) as laborers, on condition that they be entitled to such compensation, rations, quarters, and medical attendance, as may be allowed other labor of a similar character employed in the public service; and that they shall not be detained, at any one time, for a longer period than thirty days, without their consent.
    That any free nervously detailed and notified as aforesaid, who shall fail or refuse to obey the requisition as aforesaid, shall be subject to the penalties provided by law for persons drafted from the militia and failing or refusing to obey such draft.
    Such free negroes shall, whilst engaged in the public service as aforesaid, be subject to the rules and articles of war.
    ————————————–
    The Daily Dispatch: September 19, 1861
    Contribution from free Negroes.
    The Charleston Mercury says:
    The free colored men of Charleston have contributed $450 to sustain the cause of the South. The zealous and unfailing alacrity with which this class of our population have always devoted their labor and their means to promote the safety of the State, is alike honorable to themselves and gratifying to the community.
    ————————————–
    The Richmond Daily Dispatch: December 28, 1861.
    The skirmish near Newport News. The following paragraph in reference to a skirmish near Newport News, we take from the “Situation” article of the New York Herald, of the 25th inst.:
    The skirmish at Newport News on the 22d was a brisk affair, considering that the 20th New York regiment, engaged on our side, had only two companies in the field, and were suddenly surrounded at Newmarket Bridge by force of 700 rebel cavalry and infantry, but succeeded in cutting their way through them without losing a man. Six of the 20th however were slightly wounded.–
    Ten of the enemy are known to have been killed, and a number wounded. Seven dead bodies were found yesterday morning; one was that of an officer, and was taken to Newport News. He wore buttons lettered ” A. M. M.,” perhaps the Alabama Minutes Men. It is reported that a whole company of negroes were engaged, and two of our men are known to have been shot by them. General Mansfield and Acting Brigadier General Weber, highly complimented the troops engaged, for their coolness and bravery.
    ————————————–
    Tuesday morning…Jan. 29, 1861.
    Items from Georgia.
    Joe Clark, a colored barber of this city, has written a letter to Gov. Brown, offering to raise a company of free colored men, to be enlisted in the service of the State of Georgia in the present crisis. Whatever may be thought of the policy of enlisting soldiers of this cast, the offer is a patriotic one, and ought to show the “philanthropists” of the North that the free colored population of the South do not appreciate their efforts in behalf of the negro race. Joe served in the Indian war of 1836, and still limps occasionally from a wound received in that campaign.
    ————————————–
    Richmond Dispatch
    Friday morning…May 24, 1861
    Clarksville, Mecklenburg co., May 21, 1861
    A servant of Thomas B. Wall, of this county, insisted so much on going with Capt. Finley’s company, that his master consented for him to go. He was told that his clothes were not fit; he replied that he had money to buy suitable clothing. When told that he would have to pay his expenses on the railroad, he said he had fifty dollars which he had made by hard work, and he wanted to go to fight, to die for the South. The conduct of this intelligent servant is much praised.
    ————————————-
    The Daily Dispatch: September 19, 1861
    Gen. Lyon killed by a Darkey,
    The Fort Smith (Ark,) Times contains the following in relation to the death of General Lyon at the battle of Oak Hill, in Missouri: A negro man, body servant to Capt. John Griffith, of the gallant Third, was in the hottest of the fight, at Oak Hill, and fought in the last charge like a tiger. He claims to have killed Gen. Lyon. He says, he shot a man in the breast, that was on a large grey horse, and was waving his hat, and he saw him fall. Thus it is very probably that the Abolition Lyon fell by the hands of a darkey.
    This same black man, finding his youngest master. Benj. Griffith, wounded in the calf of the leg, picked him up, and carried him off of the field; notwithstanding, Ben resisted it with all his might, as he wanted to fire a few more rounds at the Dutch..
    ————————————–
    Arrival of French officers at Mobile — appropriate escort Promised to prisoners.
    Mobile, Sept. 24.
    –Three officers from the French
    Ship corvette Savoissier arrived this evening, bringing a mail bag. An immense crowd congregated at the landing to greet them on their arrival. The vessel is anchored near the passes.
    It is understood that the prisoners expected to-morrow will be escorted to the parish prison by a colored company.
    ————————————
    Richmond Dispatch.
    Tuesday morning…Sept. 24, 1861.
    Free Government transportation.
    Entitled to transportation.
    Officers and soldiers, under orders and on official business.
    Paymaster’s clerks, under orders.
    Soldiers left behind, sick or by accident, and recruits with orders, are entitled to transportation to their companies.
    Sick and wounded soldiers, having an order for transportation from a Medical Director or from a Surgeon General, home and back.
    Rejected recruits.
    Soldiers honorably discharged, except those discharged for wounds or sickness, who are provided for by railroad resolutions.
    Officers and soldiers transferred by order of the War Department or General Commanding.
    Horses of officers, according to regulation allowance.
    Assistant Surgeons on duty, obeying first order.
    Recruiting officers, on recruiting service, by authority of their regimental officers and with the approval of the officer commanding the post.
    An escort of one man will be allowed with the remains of deceased officers and soldiers.
    Stores and supplies for troops or hospitals.
    Colored cooks and musicians, when included as members of companies.
    ————————————

    I want you to try and explain this Kevin.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 23, 2014

      “I want you to try to explain this Kevin.”

      I would if I thought you were really interested.

      Why don’t you offer an interpretation of the sources YOU provided? Do you even know where to begin? What questions do you think they address? What questions do they not answer? Make a claim.

      This is the standard approach that many take in regard to this subject. They collect a bunch of sources – usually the same sources cut and pasted – and present it as if that is the end of the process. Again, you provided them so tell me how to interpret the sources.

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