What No One in the Confederacy Remembered Seeing

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Richmond Times-Dispatch writer, Katherine Calos, who is working on a series of articles to mark the end of the sesquicentennial in Richmond. We talked extensively about the debate in the Confederacy over the arming of slaves. I am always happy to do these interviews, but they come with the risk of being misquoted or left out entirely. Neither happened this time around.

Calos offers a pretty lengthy treatment of the subject, including a number of passages from local newspapers on the debate. I was asked to comment on the debate as well as the myth of the black Confederate soldier.

In reference to the former I offered the following observation that I am happy to see was quoted in full.

Throughout this debate about whether to recruit slaves into the army, no one that I ever came across — no letter, diary, newspaper article, political debate — no one pointed out that black men had already been serving in the army. No one said there is a whole regiment already. No one said I remember seeing a black soldier. There’s not one shred of evidence that anyone in the Confederacy acknowledged that black men were already serving in the Confederate army before March 1865. I think that tells us something.

It tells us that whatever roles blacks were playing in Confederate ranks, the debate over whether to utilize them as soldiers constituted a decisive turn in a radically new direction.

Regardless of what we want to believe, there is no evidence that Confederate soldiers or civilians had ever seen a black Confederate soldier before they paraded on Capitol Square in Richmond on March 23, 1865.

The comments section below the RTD piece promises to be entertaining once it gets circulated.

About the author: Thank you for taking the time to read this post. What next? Scroll down and join the discussion in the comments section. Looking for more Civil War content? You can follow me on Twitter. Check out my forthcoming book, Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, which is the first book-length analysis of the black Confederate myth ever published. Pre-order your copy today.

4 comments… add one
  • Douglas Cline Mar 16, 2015 @ 3:56

    Thanks so much for your honest statement of the facts.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 16, 2015 @ 4:51

      I issued a public challenge a couple of years ago on just this issue. Not a single person has responded with anything close to evidence that would demonstrate that Confederate soldiers and civilians acknowledged the presence of these men before March 1865.

      • John Betts Mar 16, 2015 @ 5:07

        Well obviously it’s a Yankee conspiracy to cover up the truth, Kevin. After all they’ve had control over the Confederate Archives for a 150 years now! Are you blind, man?!? Are you…ah heck can’t even mimic truthers in jest. Confederate Truthers though, I can this being a thing for some. Nice job with the interview. 🙂

        • Kevin Levin Mar 16, 2015 @ 5:12

          It should come as no surprise that some people actually put forward a version of that explanation.

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