“A Confederate Negro General”
You can place this one into that ever growing file of wartime accounts that point to the fact that real Confederates never heard of black Confederate soldiers before March 1865. The following appeared in the Richmond Daily Dispatch on June 1, 1864. Enjoy.
–A correspondent of the Houston Telegraph says:
I saw in a Boston paper, not long ago, a statement that we had not only negro troops, but negro officers in our armies. This prodigious tale probably originated as follows:
In the army of Tennessee a Brigadier General had a negro servant who was raised with him from childhood, and who wore all his cast-off clothes Coffee was very proud of an old uniform coat of his master’s, and wore it on gain days. In time or battle, mounted on a spare [h]orse of the General’s, and with excitement, he would charge up and down the field beyond the reach of the shells and On one of these occasions the enemy were in full retreat, and our forces advancing, when a Sergeant with fifteen or twenty prisoners came up with the sable General as he was careering at headlong speed over the plain.
“General,” said the Sergeant, “what shall I do with these prisoners? ”
“Double quick the d — d rascals to the rear,” was the emphatic
Accordingly, the humorous Sergeant trotted his Yankees down the broken road for a mile and a half, and they never could be convinced afterwards that Cuffee was not in the military employ of Cousin Sally Ann.
Interesting that the storyteller acknowledges that the servant was present on the battlefield, but makes it a point to note that he remained out of the “reach of the shells.” I’ve come across a number of these kinds of accounts, which I interpret as white Southerners holding on to a racialized understanding of the battlefield. White men behaved bravely on the battlefield and black men served as an extension of their character, but did not supersede it.