Today I received a complimentary copy of Donald Frazier’s most recent book, Blood on the Bayou: Vicksburg,Port Hudson,and the Trans-Mississippi(State House Press, 2015). Don recently contacted me with a question of whether I had ever heard of slaves being impressed specifically as camp servants. I have not. I am certainly aware of the steps taken by the Confederate government during the war that resulted in tens of thousands of slaves being impressed to work on various military related projects. Don shares the story of one such incident:
Plunder also included people. Regulations allowed every officer in the army to keep a servant. Those who had none, picked from among the blacks taken during the campaign. Newly promoted Lieutenant John Sibley of the 2nd Louisiana Cavalry chose a young man named Green, but having no way to keep him for the time being, sent him home to his wife. “He had been with the Yankees and says he belonged east of the Mississippi in the Yankee lines,” Coleman instructed. “He is to remain on the place and work until I call for him.” (p. 370)
Much of my research on the history of Confederate camp servants is centered on the Army of Northern Virginia. I have a few accounts from the Army of Tennessee, but next to nothing from the Trans-Mississippi. What I find most interesting is the fact that this newly-promoted officer was a non-slaveholder and yet his rank alone was sufficient for being assigned a slave.
It is likely that these stories are more prevalent given the density of slave populations along the Mississippi and into Louisiana, but less likely to appear in the postwar literature given that most of these accounts come from Confederate officers who brought their slaves with them into the army.
I would love to hear from those of you who are familiar with Confederate armies operating in the Trans-Mississippi and your understanding of the frequency of this particular practice. Have you come across similar accounts?