black confederate, SCVOn March 24, 1865, Robert Toombs wrote a letter to a friend in Virginia expressing his frustration with Jefferson Davis and the recently passed legislation that allowed the Confederate government to recruit freed slaves into the army. Toombs’s arguments closely aligns with public statements made by Howell Cobb and James A. Seddon.

Interestingly, Toombs’s letter appeared in the Augusta Chronicle in June 1865.

We have given him [Davis] all the men who would volunteer, allowed him all the men he could catch at first from eighteen to thirty-five then to forty-five, then all from seventeen to fifty. And the army is smaller to-day and less efficient than on the day the first conscript bill was passed. Now Congress have given him all the negroes, and the result will still be the same, superadded to the most fatal consequences which have ever darkened our progress.

The negro, first, is unfitted for a soldier. Secondly, if I am wrong in that, if he is capable of making a soldier, he ought to be and will be a Yankee soldier… In my opinion, the worst calamity that could befall us would be to gain our independence by the valor of our slaves, instead of our own. If we are conquered by the fortunes of war, we may save our honor and leave the cause to our descendants, who may be wiser and braver than we are and may avail themselves of the accidents of human affairs, and yet win what we are ignominiously throwing away. The day that the army of Virginia allows a negro regiment to enter their lines as soldiers they will be degraded, ruined and disgraced. Lee had just as soon have a negro as a white man in his army. So had West Point generally. Their system is, to make slaves of free men; it failed and the men ran away. Their remedy is to make freemen of slaves. That will not get far enough along to fail; it is a piece of embecile stupidity, as well as treacherous to the cause, well worthy of Davis and Lee, the base traitors from Kentucky and Missouri, &c., who have no constituents to bear, to suffer, or to be disgraced by them.

We have a plenty of men in the Southern Confederacy to whip two such revolutions, if Mr. Davis did not keep them out of the bullet department. He has more men on the pay roll not in active field service than he has muskets. And you may throw in the negroes, and not increase the army. But if you put our negroes and white men into the army together, you must and will put them on an equality; they must be under the same code, the same pay, allowances and clothing. There must be promotions for valor or there will be no morals among them. Therefore, it is a surrender of the entire slavery question.

Thanks to John Hennessy for sharing this source.

16 comments add yours

  1. When I see people today advocating so fiercely for the existence of Black Confederate soldiers in the Civil War, I often think of it as a measure of the success of the Civil Rights Movement. In other words, to imagine a Confederacy where Black men are welcomed as warriors and patriots says to me that for some neo-Confederates, Blacks have made it into the mainstream… although by a completely misguided effort. However, if their opinions existed 150 years ago and within earshot of someone like Robert Toombs, I believe Mr. Toombs would have been insulted by their opinions and perhaps even questioned their sanity. That’s pretty much everything he does here.

    • When I see people today advocating so fiercely for the existence of Black Confederate soldiers in the Civil War, I often think of it as a measure of the success of the Civil Rights Movement.

      Exactly. If you actually fall for this nonsense you are left having to conclude that the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t even necessary, which I know some of these people believe.

  2. And he is writing this when the ANV had about three weeks to live.
    “In my opinion, the worst calamity that could befall us would be to gain our independence by the valor of our slaves, instead of our own. If we are conquered by the fortunes of war, we may save our honor and leave the cause to our descendants, who may be wiser and braver than we are and may avail themselves of the accidents of human affairs, and yet win what we are ignominiously throwing away.” Toombs is right about this: the success of the Lost Cause for a century is an excellent example.

  3. I don’t know how much of a contributor Toombs was to the Lost Cause narrative (he died in 1885) but I think he would be appalled if he knew that the faithful slave narrative had morphed into the belief that 100,000 of the Confederacy’s soldiers were Black men

    • Oh, I think most Confederate soldiers and officers would find the black Confederate myth to be laughable. I don’t mean in terms of the claims re: numbers, but the broader interpretive framework that makes such a suggestion even possible.

  4. Toombs, Cobb, Seddon?

    What were these guys doing in March 1865? Just how influential were they?

    Cobb was in command of the Georgia Reserves – six undersized regiments that spent most of their time guarding prisoners. Backwater. Toombs served in the Georgia Militia. Backwater. And Seddon resigned over some scandal in February 1865.

    The bill to raise black troops actually passed but you (Hall, &c) seem never able to quote any who supported it. It’s no surprise there was opposition. There was opposition in the North to black troops in the Union army.

    • The bill to raise black troops actually passed but you (Hall, &c) seem never able to quote any who supported it.

      What an idiotic comment. I have written extensively about Confederate soldiers, officers and civilians who supported the bill and why. There was indeed a reason why the bill barely passed and not until the very end of the war. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not the post offers evidence as to why that was the case.

      Of course there was opposition to the use of black troops in the North, which you can also read about here on my blog and in most of my published essays and book on the Crater.

    • The only influential confederate types in 1865 were the ones that surrendered or deserted and went home. As to who the most influential men in the South were in 1865 it would be every man wearing Union blue, including thousands of black men who wore it.

    • Hang on a moment, you do realize that by your own words here you are tacitly admitting that there were no black Confederate troops prior to the passage of this law just before the Confederacy’s demise?

  5. John Betts:
    “Hang on a moment, you do realize that by your own words here you are tacitly admitting that there were no black Confederate troops prior to the passage of this law just before the Confederacy’s demise?”

    Not at all…
    The purpose of the law was to raise +units+ of black troops. Prior to March of 1865 there were no units…except for militia.

    Some blacks did serve in the predominantly white units from 1861 on-
    http://cwmemory.com/2013/09/17/potential-black-confederates/

    • Huh. So contrary to what I’ve heard many neo-Confederate apologists claim about this, by your words we’re talking about “some” isolated State militia. Seems rather anomalous which is to be expected in any conflict of this size – and rather short of what these apologists have stated before. In fact, one could give this the dismissive importance you assign to Toombs: “backwater”. This would seem rather apropos given that these units were quickly… de-blackified let’s say, in 1862.

      So what does that leave us with? Oh yes, “somes black did serve in the predominantly white units from 1861 on”. Interesting. In what capacity? Since you freely admit that “prior to March of 1865 there were no [black] units”, are you trying to imply that the units you speak of where “some black did serve” were integrated? Or perhaps that there was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach? Oh my. Either one is fraught with implications not very flattering to neo-Confederate claims…

      Perhaps some muster rolls and postwar pension statements would assist in deciding this. Please feel free to post links to them.

    • I have no idea what you intend by linking to this source. What do you make of the document in the post? You don’t want to make so obvious that you are evading the issue.

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