Why I am Not Interested in Your “Research” on Black Confederates

As you might imagine my inbox has been flooded over the past few weeks by people interested in sharing their research on black Confederates. These messages usually open with the bold claim that the conclusions in my new book are fundamentally flawed. Turns out, there were plenty of black men serving as soldiers in the Confederate army.

You may or may not be surprised to hear that I have spent very little time reviewing what turn out to be long lists—some of them literally copied and pasted from one another—of supposed black Confederates. These lists include cooks, musicians, impressed slaves working on earthworks, body servants, and even a few listed in muster rolls as privates.

The problem with this approach is that these lists are formulated with very little attention to historical interpretation. It’s a kind of “gotcha history” designed to make an incredibly narrow point that ultimately has very little to do with the project that culminated in my new book.

I didn’t go looking for black soldiers because the Confederacy remained consistent from the spring of 1861 until the final weeks in March 1865 in maintaining that this war was to be a white man’s war with the goal of defending slavery and white supremacy.

As I have pointed out numerous times, no one engaged in the slave enlistment debates of 1864-65, regardless of their position, argued that black men were already serving as soldiers in the army. Entire regiments published statements on this issue and not one mentioned that black men were already present as soldiers. General Robert E. Lee didn’t bring it up or anyone in the highest echelons of the military. No one in the Confederate Congress was aware of the presence of black soldiers.

The goal of the first two chapters on the war are focused specifically on how real Confederates viewed the tens of thousands of black men who were present in the army performing a wide range of roles. That is what takes my research from a collection of individual sources and raises it to the level of a full-blow historical interpretation. You can disagree with it, but you are going to need to do more than put together a list of random sources. What’s need is the interpretation, which arises out of a set of questions you hope to answer in the process.

This takes time. While I have been researching and writing blog posts going back to 2008 the actual writing of this book began in 2015. I worked closely with a small group of writers here in Boston, including Civil War historians that included Nina Silber, Heather Cox Richardson, and Megan Kate Nelson. They critiqued the first two chapters by pointing out places that needed work from the kinds of sources I had collected to my own interpretation of those sources.

I had fellow blogger Andy Hall and historian Colin Woodward, whose book Marching Masters was indispensable to my own thinking, read through these chapters and they also provided thorough critiques.

Finally, the review process at UNC Press demanded a thorough vetting that included two anonymous Civil War historians. They also pushed back and forced me to revisit numerous places in the book that needed work.

My point is not to place my work on a pedestal or to suggest that it is beyond criticism. Far from it. History is always undergoing revision as we pose new questions that lead to new interpretations and discover new evidence.

I am happy to engage in debate/discussion about the place of free and enslaved blacks in Confederate armies, but first read the book. Try to get a sense of the questions that guided me through the first two chapters on the war itself, the interpretation I lay out and the evidence used to support it.

Thank you.

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.

59 comments… add one
  • Lucy B Roper Aug 29, 2019 @ 10:18

    I have more Confederate ancestors than one can shake a stick at. None of them ever mentioned in letters back home “black Confederate soldiers.” The issue should be settled when you look on a black individual’s application for a pension. As you well know, it required the name of who owned them and the service performed: “Musician, forager, bodyservant, wagon driver, etc. etc. Some of my friends have broken fellowship with me because I do not believe in this absurd concoction.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2019 @ 10:22

      Hi Lucy,

      I completely agree. I include an entire chapter on pensions in the book. Hope you have a chance to read it.

      • David Aug 29, 2019 @ 10:47

        I would be very suprised if any black folks fought for the Confederate Army. That would make zero sense because the Confederate Army was about preserving Slavery

  • Margaret D. Blough Aug 29, 2019 @ 10:49

    The apologists, ironically, are the ones who want to impose modern definitions on 19th century roles and actions. Aside from the prestigious status Southern whites, particularly among the planter class, accorded soldiers, the core principle of the slavery as a positive good for both races, required believing that blacks were not capable of competing with white men on an even basis. For me, the key quote has always been Howell Cobb’s during the 1865 proposal to arm blacks, ““If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong”. Not only was Cobb a powerful politician, he’d raised Cobb’s Legion at the beginning of the war and, for a while, had a field command. His brother, T.R.R. Cobb, was not only a general officer killed in action, but, before the war, he’d written and published what he hoped would be the definitive scholarly work in support of slavery. If Howell Cobb didn’t know about any black soldiers in Confederate armies before the 1865 proposal, they didn’t exist.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2019 @ 13:47

      Completely agree, Margaret.

  • fairmontscv Aug 29, 2019 @ 12:06

    “I am happy to engage in debate/discussion…”

    No, actually, you’re not. I long ago challenged you to debate me, in a public arena of your choosing, on this very topic. You demurred (which is my polite, erudite, educated way of saying you chickened out), writing “that’s not the way I do history”, and then had the illogical temerity to call me, personally, a “coward”. I have been sharing that exchange with historians and writers on historical subjects ever since.

    So no, you are not in any way “happy to debate”. Anything but. Unless you now suddenly and conveniently “do history” differently?

    David A. Vazquez
    Norfolk, VA

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2019 @ 12:33

      You have prove time and time again that you have absolutely nothing serious to offer in connection to this discussion. What amazes me is that you continue to come around. Don’t bother to respond because your comment will not be approved.

      Good day.

      • Alec M Kohut Aug 29, 2019 @ 13:40

        This reminds me of all the creationist hacks that are always willing to “debate,” real scientists on the topic of Evolution.

        • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2019 @ 13:47

          Yep. Couldn’t have said it any better myself.

        • jgoodguy Aug 29, 2019 @ 14:53

          Back in the day, I actually debated creationist critters online and watched real experts debate. No matter how much research was put into something, they would counter with opinion, BS or already debunked facts. They were bottomless containers of spouting rhetoric. Eventually experts quit debating because it was not worth it. Global warming debates are like that like that today.

          At some point, one can only pick their battles and rest their case to the remainder.

          IMHO some definitions of Black Confederates are so vague that any African American living in the Confederacy could be a Black Confederate. Every enslaved person in the Confederacy served the Confederacy in some way, from the babe enriching its owner by being born to the elderly telling stories.

          • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2019 @ 15:16

            “IMHO some definitions of Black Confederates are so vague that any African American living in the Confederacy could be a Black Confederate.”

            This is a huge problem with this debate. The starting point has to be how real Confederates understood the place of free and enslaved black men in the Confederate army during the war. Luckily, they told us and they were consistent throughout the war.

          • Joshism Sep 1, 2019 @ 17:04

            “No matter how much research was put into something, they would counter with opinion, BS or already debunked facts. They were bottomless containers of spouting rhetoric. Eventually experts quit debating because it was not worth it. Global warming debates are like that like that today.”

            It’s basically the same problem as UFOs or the JFK assassination. In the mind of the typical proponent, if they can find any shred of evidence that their opponents cannot conclusively disprove they think they have proven their point.

    • Jimmy Dick Aug 29, 2019 @ 15:25

      I would love to watch this debate. I would love to see David lose it as his claims get debunked and all he can do is stand there repeating the same lies over and over again while ignoring the fact that he would be making himself look like an absolute idiot.

      It is not just David, though. It is all these folks who prefer to believe in fantasies while facts stare them in the face. They want a history that supports their fantasy and that history does not exist. It never has existed. In fact, it is not even about history. It is about creating a heritage that supports their fantasy which does not involve actual facts.

      • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2019 @ 15:39

        The entertainment value might last 5 minutes and then it’s just a waste of time.

    • jgoodguy Aug 29, 2019 @ 15:59

      Feel free to drop in at https://www.jggscivilwartalk.online and challenge me. If you can beat the bush league, maybe you got something. If not saves everyone time.

  • Robert Bailey Aug 29, 2019 @ 14:33

    General Patrick Cleburne proposed arming blacks for the Confederate army in 1864 and quickly became the elephant in the room. He never said anything about blacks already fighting for the South. You would think if he had any knowledge of any he would have cited this information in support of his position. I think the folks in Richmond were relieved he met his end before he could further his position.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2019 @ 14:42

      You are correct that Cleburne and the rest of the high command of the Army of the Tennessee failed to report a single instance of a black man fighting as a soldier. By the time he was killed in action the debate had been raging throughout the Confederacy for months.

  • Donald Thompson Aug 29, 2019 @ 17:02

    Kevin,
    I wish to God that your latest book would finally utter “Amen” and bring to a close the myth of the African American Confederate. We both know, however, that’s a pipe dream, regardless of your very reasoned and well researched book.
    About 2012 I saw a Black Confederate re-enactor at the annual observance of the battle of Fredericksburg. I wanted so badly to ask him “Why are you doing this?” I felt like he was betraying every living and breathing African American in America.
    Thanks,
    Donald Thompson

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2019 @ 17:19

      I’ve never operated under the assumption that a book can stamp out a myth. My hope is to see the book in the hands of people who are genuinely interested in the subject and want to learn. I am overwhelmed by the positive response so far. FYI, I discuss black reenactors in the book.

  • Dan Aug 29, 2019 @ 17:24

    Good post! You stated several arguments of no evidence from Southern contemporaries. What you left out is there are no letters by Northern soldiers or Northern press of Northern regiments engaging Southern Black regiments. Can’t imagine such engagements would not be well discussed in letters, Northern military strategies, and press.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2019 @ 17:31

      There are certainly plenty of accounts published in Northern newspapers, especially during the Peninsula Campaign when the two armies were in close contact with one another during an extended period of time. Those accounts have to be understood within the context of the push to convince Lincoln to begin recruiting black soldiers in the US army. You are right that these reports went unconfirmed by the Confederate press. In fact, Confederates denied they were using blacks as soldiers. They viewed as a conflict to the goal of the war and their Southern honor.

  • James Carter Aug 29, 2019 @ 21:27

    There literally is no such thing as a Black confederate. How can there be if the Black is in systemic forced servitude. Or even not in anyway understanding the entire event in itself. The individual’s incompetence due to deprivation of any knowledge of state of himself or his people can only point out his mental and physical enslaved state. Therefore it is impossible to be a Black unpaid or non-profit Confederate. Not to mention that the confederate army killed all Black union prisoners captured that were hired and paid free Blacks serving with full knowledge of the war as an event. Blacks under the South’s control were in ignorance and not paid men of free knowledge or will. It is likecthe myth that the Irish were slaves, when some 34% of Todays Blacks have Irish last names as was the 1st Governor Patrick Henry. Why there lies persist then they should be LITTERALLY”GONE WITH THE WIND” LIKE “SCARLETT O’HARA”. AND WHITES OF HATE HERITAGE REFUSE TO FACE THEIR IMMORAL CHRISTIAN HYPOCRISY, LIKE THOSE THAT GENOCIDE AND LANDGRABBED FROM THIS LANDS NATIVES. THESE CONFEDERATES THAT YELLED NORTHERN AGGRESSION AS THEY ATTACKED FORT SUMPTER IN TREASON.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro Aug 31, 2019 @ 11:52

      I don’t buy into the Black Confederate myth either but there’s a lot of things wrong with what you posted. Kevin cites numerous examples in his book about enslaved and free Blacks doing many other jobs in service to the Confederacy. But the pint is, they were not enlisted as soldiers during the war.

      If yoiu really want to push it, “systemic forced servitude” could also apply to the Confederate draft, In fact, it’s one reason why White southerners bristled at the idea of being drafted, because it made them feel like they were slaves.

      Confederates did not kill all of the USCT soldiers who tried to surrender. On September 25, 1864, officers and enlisted men ot the 110th USCT and the 111th USCT were taken prisoner by Nathan Bedford Forrest and his troops at the battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle. Unfortunately, many of these men were either sent to prison camps or were enslaved, Also, I work for the National Archives and I know of someone who came there and spent a lot of time researching USCTs who were not murdered by COnfederate troops.

  • Karl burkhalter Aug 29, 2019 @ 22:57

    A young Black man from New Orleans saved the Confederacy on June 8th 1864 by bringing General Sheridan’s plans, of an impending raid, to General Thomas Rosser. He first approached Confederate Captain Thomas Conrad, who was Scouting the Union perimeter. Both officers recorded this man’s heroic actions. He was in a Federal Uniform when he found Conrad. At that point Conrad would have been justified in shooting him and the Union Army would have surely hanged him had he been discovered, as they did Black Guide, Martin Robinson, a few months earlier.

    Had Sheridan been successful General Lee would have been starved out of position within weeks. The surprising part to me is that Hampton did not hesitate and moved the entire ANV Cavalry Corps immediately, on this young man’s word. He was trusted absolutely. It is hard to know how long the Black man had been working as a Confederate Agent, but he may have been the Black man who led Rosser and Stuart to Catlett’s Station 2 yrs before to capture Union General Pope’s HQ.

    I have been intently searching the CSA Records and accounts Louisiana’s Black society to identify him. No luck so far, but his loyalty to the CSA is, to me, is now, even more than understandable. Union Army exploited both slaves and Free Blacks, shamelessly, after they took the City in 62. So his Southern sympathy is quite logical. Even though i haven’t found him, I think I understand him better, now.

    The photo is of two brothers in Confederate Uniform, from NOLA. the Black man is of the right age and appearance, being an 18 yr old Mulatto. But have hit numerous road blocks attempting to get Info about the Photo. UVA has Rosser papers, but refuses access. There are a lot of people who absolutely refuse to acknowledge Blacks might have aided the CSA willingly, much less, tremendously.

    Trevilian Station: Wade Hampton Emerges from the Shadow of J.E.B. Stuart
    Posted by Daniel Michael C Davison

    Fought to a standstill by Lee’s army at Cold Harbor northwest of Richmond, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant decided to strike out for the logistical hub at Petersburg. As a diversion, Grant decided to send his cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, with the divisions of Brig. Gens. Alfred Torbert and David Gregg west. Sheridan was directed to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad as he moved toward the Shenandoah Valley and rendezvous with Union forces under David Hunter.

    On June 8, Hampton received word from his scouts of Sheridan’s movement. Along with Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee’s division, Hampton and his troopers set out to intercept the Federals. In two days of hard marching, Hampton was able to place his men squarely across Sheridan’s path. As darkness descended across on the night of June 10, Hampton’s division bedded down in the vicinity and just west of Trevilian Station. Lee was several miles to the east at Louisa Courthouse. Sheridan lay a few miles north of the Confederates near the hamlet of Clayton’s Store.

    Hampton decided to move out and attack Sheridan the next morning. “General Lee was ordered to attack on the road leading from Louisa Court-House to Clayton’s Store, while my division would attack the road from Trevilian Station to the same point” Hampton wrote. “By this disposition of my troops I hoped to cover Lee’s left and my right flank; to drive the enemy back if he attempted to reach Gordonsville by passing to my left, and conceal my real design, which was to strike him at Clayton’s Store after uniting the two divisions.”

    Early on the eleventh, elements of Brig. Gen. Matthew C. Butler’s brigade of Hampton’s division started north along the Fredericksburg Road. It was not long before they encountered the advance of Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt’s brigade of Torbert’s division. As the fighting intensified, Hampton pushed up Brig. Pierce M.B. Young’s brigade, led by Col. Gilbert Wright to reinforce Butler. Torbert, supported by Gregg, added Col. Thomas Devin’s brigade to the Union line and the two sides slammed away at each other in a dismounted fight.

    “I hoped to effect a junction with Lee’s division at Clayton’s Store in a short time; but while we were driving the enemy in front it was reported to me that a force had appeared in my rear” Hampton recalled. Inexplicably, Lee had not moved quickly enough and had allowed Brig. Gen. George A. Custer’s brigade to slip through the gap between the two Confederate divisions. If Custer could maintain his position, he would make Hampton’s line on the Fredericksburg Road untenable.

    Fortunately, the Confederates had troopers on hand to deal with Custer. Hampton’s uncommitted brigade under Brig. Gen. Thomas Rosser moved to engage Custer’s troopers. Rosser was joined by Lee’s division, moving in from Louisa. This combined force soon hemmed in Custer. Still, Hampton had to deal with the Federals moving south along the Fredericksburg Road. Unable to maintain his position, Hampton pulled back and formed a new line to confront the Federals, abandoning the area around Trevilian Station. Eventually, the Confederates withdrew farther to the west and consolidated on property owned by the Ogg family.

    Despite having been forced from each line he held on June 11, Hampton remained confident in his ability and the spirit of the men under him. “The two generals had very different ideas about the day’s work; Sheridan supposing the battle was over, and Hampton knowing that it had not been fought yet” recalled a member of Rosser’s brigade. In preparation for the next day, Hampton relinquished command of his division to Matthew Butler.

    The following afternoon, while Gregg engaged in the destruction of the railraod, Sheridan dispatched Torbert to engage Hampton. For several hours, combat swirled about the Ogg Farm. Late in the day, after being reinforced by Lee, Hampton launched a flank attack which rolled up Torbert’s right and forced the Federals back to their lines around Trevilian Station. Unable to break through, Sheridan abandoned the expedition and began his return march to Grant’s armies. Hampton pursued and on June 24, attacked and stampeded Gregg’s division near Samaria Church some twenty miles from Richmond.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2019 @ 0:55

      Thanks for sharing this story. You said:

      I have been intently searching the CSA Records and accounts Louisiana’s Black society to identify him. No luck so far, but his loyalty to the CSA is, to me, is now, even more than understandable. Union Army exploited both slaves and Free Blacks, shamelessly, after they took the City in 62. So his Southern sympathy is quite logical. Even though i haven’t found him, I think I understand him better, now.

      Motivation is complex. I assume that you have accounts from this individual himself about why he did what he did, though to be honest that isn’t even clear at this point.

      There are a lot of people who absolutely refuse to acknowledge Blacks might have aided the CSA willingly, much less, tremendously.

      I’ve done extensive research at the UVA archives and have had to deal with restrictions. All archives place restrictions on specific collections for one reason or another. It has nothing to do with the intent to hide information, certainly not what you assume is intentionally being hidden.

    • Mike Furlan Aug 30, 2019 @ 13:29

      “There are a lot of people who absolutely refuse to acknowledge Blacks might have aided the CSA willingly,”

      There seems to be at least as many people who absolutely refuse to acknowledge that African Americans were not honored as soldiers by the Confederacy until the very end of the war.

      You are not even attempting to have a discussion.

      Kevin says, “Sky is Blue” you respond with, “But that rock is Grey!”

  • John R Parrish Aug 30, 2019 @ 4:59

    Another modernized history of the civil war…This is no different than the “So good a cause” rhetoric, each shouting whatever facts fit their narrative (and sell books) that only serves to throw gas on racial tensions, and line the authors pockets with cash…
    The civil war is not ancient history and literature produced during that era is still available without the modern spin.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2019 @ 5:06

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and for reinforcing the central point in the post.

  • Stan Aug 30, 2019 @ 5:15

    It seems like all the opinions are ones that agree with you. Why you say you’re happy today to discuss, it seems that you have no appetite for anyone questioning you. At least, that is my impression after reading your response to David A. Vazquez.
    Furthermore, refusing to accept his reply seems to indicate your obvious lack of willingness to debate….”don’t bother to comment, your comment will not be approved”

    • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2019 @ 5:17

      Do you have a question about the book? Have you read it? If so, I am happy to entertain any question you may have.

      • Leslie Churchwell (@sxycelry) Aug 30, 2019 @ 5:55

        I would have probably , actually, read this book(if I came across it, which would be very likely) if I hadn’t just read this thread & your absolute arrogant attitude and psuedo-dialogue with persons TRYING to tactfully converse with you. This is obviously my brains own reetorical coping mechanism for all the horse manure in this thread, but I just seem to genuinely wonder why you cannot, in any fashion, listen to anyone who doesn’t align perfectly with your own beliefs & probable vitriol.
        I wrongly assumed by a few quotes I’ve seen of yours, combined with some historical speak within several internet conversations, that you had a sense of humble ope -mindness, that accented your intelligence. It seems, as I see more & more of your “crap” talk, that you’re actually just another brain-washed, historian wannabe that has no real desire to show different sides(at least that’s how you show yourself here & the few other places I’ve experienced your mumblings) & plausible theories based on different facts given. There is so much we actually know, and so much we actually DON’T KNOW. To act like you know ALL of the above is not only infantile, it shows your malfunction as a proposed “serious” , history professional.
        I have no problem reading someone’s work that I may agree with or may not agree with…nor do I turn from views against my own in the written word of someone’s own appeal to inform, as I like hearing others’ sides, opinions, theories, and how they put information together in a usuable & well-written/thought out work of art. I would have to say though, from the way you speak to people here, I can’t even begin to believe anything you’ve written is work of anything more than pure over-heated guano, melting over fish innards in The Florida Sun. I’ll make sure to pass this along to my large circle of historical group societies, fanatics, personal friends, & all Southern Folk/Natives who think like myself, & would have read your book otherwise, just to be sure they know it is hot garbage. We need to pass by these poor, wasted trees & make sure people are hitting the recycling bin with them when they toss ’em away so it’s not a total loss when it makes it to its final desdestinat at the landfill. It’s really a shame because as I said, I enjoy other views and theories, regardless.
        It is what it is.
        My apologies for any run-in sentences above. If this comment is disapproved, I am quite content with that decision, as long as you get to read it through… If you are able(?).

        • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2019 @ 6:06

          Hi Leslie,

          Thanks for taking the time to respond. I am sorry the post turned you off and that it may prevent you from reading the book. The post reflects 10+ years of having to deal with folks committed to perpetuating myth and downright bad history. If you honestly believe that the post reflects an unwillingness on my part to engage in good faith discussion than there is probably no reason to continue this thread.

          Again, I thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. All the best.

        • Msb Aug 30, 2019 @ 9:47

          Let me get this straight. You marched into Kevin Levin’s “house” (his blog) to lengthily and rudely announce that your offense over one post will enable you not only to avoid reading his new book but also to use your ignorance of its content to trash it to everyone who will listen to you.
          Ranting is rarely persuasive.

  • Randy Jones Aug 30, 2019 @ 7:49

    Sir, I respect that this book is well written and no doubt does have what you believe to be the truth in it. I wasn’t there and have no personal proof of a different view. I do however have other written works that indicate there were indeed a few blacks who fought for the south. One thing I ran across is there were no black ‘soldiers’ in the Southern Armies but there were black teamsters, cooks and support personnel; most of those were not considered ‘regular army’. I know the Texas militia had one of the highest ranking black soldiers in it. I’d say a few, but not many. I visited the grave of a man named Bill Yopp (if I recall correctly) about 45 years ago in a cemetery just north west of Atlanta, who was reported to be a black confederate, one of the last to be buried there.

    I attended a re-enactment recently and spoke with a black guy, possibly in his 30s, and asked why he was dressed like a southerner instead of a yank. He said he had planned to join a group honoring the GAR because he knew he had an ancestor that fought in the War of Northern Aggression, but when they got the records from his relatives, his forefather was with a Calvary unit on the Southern side. He became a member of the SOC.

    I am in the middle of a relocation, but once I settle in, I will buy your book and give it an honest read with an open mind. I would imagine we do agree on at least one thing: When our Nation’s Constitution was written stating all men were created equal, slavery should have been outlawed.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2019 @ 8:08

      I very much am looking forward to what you think of the book. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Wesley Na Aug 30, 2019 @ 9:30

    The Union army was segregated, proving they firmly believed in white supremacy also.
    The Confederacy had Native American generals, the Union did not.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2019 @ 10:04

      I hope you feel better now. 🙂

  • Cody C. Engdahl Aug 30, 2019 @ 11:02

    Rock on, man. I get it too for my little book called The American Civil War WAS About Slavery. viewbook.at/CivilWarSlavery.

  • CliosFanBoy Aug 30, 2019 @ 14:26

    My copy arrived today. Am looking forward to reading it. Will you be selling copies at your DC appearance at the National Archives??

    • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2019 @ 16:29

      Glad to hear it. Yes, there should be copies for sale.

      • Msb Aug 31, 2019 @ 5:22

        Great! I hope to attend but am not sure if I can get a copy beforehand.

        • Kevin Levin Aug 31, 2019 @ 5:35

          Looking forward to meeting you.

          • Bryan Cheeseboro Aug 31, 2019 @ 11:54

            Kevin,
            I know you’re planning to speak in Baltimore (September 30) but are you planning on coming to the National Archives as well? If so, what day?

  • lloyd1927 Aug 30, 2019 @ 16:44

    Certainly, no blacks were enlisted as Confederate soldiers. There are cases were Confederate veterans were falsely reclassified later, but they were “white” when they were in the armed forces of the CSA.

    Throughout the United States, sons and husbands went to war. Like countless other American families, the Osbornes of St. Augustine were torn between loyalty to their state and to their country. The Osborne family was of Hispanic heritage, light-brown complexion, and middle-class status. They were listed as members of the White endogamous group in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. The father, Samuel Osborne was a shipwright. His elder son, Sam Jr., was a journeyman in his father’s trade. His younger son, Manuel, was an apprentice who drilled once a month with the local militia unit, the St. Augustine Grays. When war broke out, the Grays were activated into the Third Florida Infantry, Company “A,” and young Manuel marched off as a White solder to fight for the Confederacy. A few months later, in March of 1862, a U.S. Army regiment under General David Hunter landed in St. Augustine and recruited for the Union. Samuel and his elder son joined the fight to end slavery. To the Yankee eyes of the U.S. Army, the two Osborne men looked Black, despite the family’s census records. And so, the Army shipped them to X Corps HQ in Hilton Head, South Carolina, for basic training.[847] They were posted to the First South Carolina Volunteer Infantry (later renamed the 33rd US Colored Troops), and served as Black soldiers until war’s end. The divided brothers and father never met in battle. All survived and they reconciled after the war. Manuel moved to Ft. Lauderdale, then retired back home to St. Augustine. All three men received military pensions; two from the U.S. Army, one from the former Confederate State of Florida. Manuel’s name appears prominently in the town’s muster roll of heroes who wore gray; the Confederacy saw him as White. His father and brother, who wore blue, only recently received recognition from the city; the Union saw them as Black. During Reconstruction, an avalanche of well-meaning Northerners buried Florida’s lower South culture. The 1870 and 1880 censuses list the entire Osborne family as “Negroes.”[848]

    Sweet, Frank W. Legal History of the Color Line: The Rise and Triumph of the One-Drop Rule (Kindle Locations 6331-6332). Backintyme. Kindle Edition.

    [848] Most of the Osborne family’s story is reported in Jaqueline K. Fretwell, Civil War Times in St. Augustine (St. Augustine, 1986), 96. Their census and tax records are available at the Research Library of the St. Augustine Historical Society.

    Sweet, Frank W. Legal History of the Color Line: The Rise and Triumph of the One-Drop Rule (Kindle Locations 12398-12400). Backintyme. Kindle Edition.

    • Mike Furlan Aug 31, 2019 @ 9:30

      “To the Yankee eyes of the U.S. Army, the two Osborne men looked Black, despite the family’s census records.”

      Great example that helps explain what “Black” meant in practice.

      Black was more like “who was not white”. Which as we see here could be an arbitrary decision.

      ” the local militia unit, the St. Augustine Grays”

      Are you sure it wasn’t the “Blues?”

  • Ray Sholar Sep 1, 2019 @ 4:57

    Northern propaganda, written by the Victor’s. You can talk and talk but until you had ancestor blood shed for the Condederacy and family in the south involved you have just glancing proof. Slavery was only a small part of the cause. Home and hearth was primary. Troops sent to subjugate a population was not the way to solve a problem. The south is just now recovering. We know how the yankee army used the USCT as gun fodder. (Nashville) and forced to lead in the face of extreme fortifications. You writing is excellent but skewed to the northern ideals.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 1, 2019 @ 5:13

      Hi Ray,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and for reinforcing one of the main points of the post.

    • Mike Furlan Sep 2, 2019 @ 16:38

      Ray make a point bigger than the issue of “Black Confederates”.

      “We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection.”

      https://www.truthdig.com/articles/america-the-illiterate/

      The war was complex, and the topic of USCT as “gun fodder” is one example. He might learn something if he asked Kevin about Burnside’s reasoning in not having the USCT lead the assault.

  • jgoodguy Sep 1, 2019 @ 7:44

    Looks like this is turning more into a Black Confederate thread(?) than a critique by actual readers of the book.

  • Shoshana Bee Sep 1, 2019 @ 22:31

    Getting back to the actual contents of the book…

    I was just reading the statistic in chapter 1 that states “one in twenty, or one in thirty soldiers” brought a servant”. It would not be hard to imagine a startled observer seeing an image of 500 Black men marching amongst 10,000 troops and jumping to conclusions. The old canard of a ‘picture being worth a 1000 words’ all depends on the context of the photo and who is supplying the words.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 2, 2019 @ 0:56

      I really wish I could have nailed it down even further, but it definitely gives you a sense of the presence of enslaved labor and their importance to the ability of the army to function in camp, on march, and even on the battlefield.

      • jgoodguy Sep 2, 2019 @ 6:32

        That is an important point your book brings to the general public’s attention.

    • jgoodguy Sep 2, 2019 @ 6:07

      We have the Steiner report 3000 marching blacks in a 64000 man army which is 1 in 21 and that ‘picture’ generates a ‘Black Confederate’ context, mental photo and lots of supplied words by ‘Black Confederate’ advocates.

      • Kevin Levin Sep 2, 2019 @ 7:33

        Right and as I point out in the book there may have been as many as 10,000 enslaved men with Lee’s army during the Gettysburg Campaign.

        • Shoshana Bee Sep 2, 2019 @ 8:03

          This brings up another point: the AOP & ANV were not as unequally matched as I once thought they were (you may state this in the book beyond where I have read) The sheer numbers of fighting men that the enslaved freed up for the ANV boosted the effectiveness of Lee’s forces. Honestly, the fact/truth is far more interesting than the myth, when you delve into what the enslaved were really doing for the confederate army.

          • John R Parrish Sep 2, 2019 @ 9:07

            Basically the same jobs union “contraband blacks” were doing for a good portion of the war.

            • Kevin Levin Sep 2, 2019 @ 10:16

              To a certain extent, but their legal status was certainly different. In fact, we know that thousands of contraband ended up serving as soldiers in the US army.

  • Bob Huddleston Sep 2, 2019 @ 17:48

    Some years ago I found a couple of reports in the National Archives from the headquarters’ files of the Army of the Potomac on the presence of African-Americans with the army, both public employees (i.e., teamsters with the Quartermaster Corp) and private (servants). Unfortunately the reports only cover the mounted troops but they provide a guide to attempting calculations on how many blacks were with the army.

    In August 1863 there were 571 “Colored persons employed in public and private capacity” in the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac.

    If we use the July 1 strength figures of Busey and Martin, we find that the Cavalry Corps then had 15,562 officers and men. One contraband to every 27 ½ men (I am assuming that the numbers of blacks stayed constant even though the number of soldiers dropped significantly).

    Multiplying from Busey and Martin’s figures, the Army of the Potomac had 112,735 officers and men, which would calculate to 4,137 contrabands.

    The smaller Army of Northern Virginia had 80,025 officers and men. Making the same division, we come up with 2,936. Let us assume that the Yankee cavalry corps had half the per capita number of African-Americans serving them as their Rebel counterparts had, and we have 5,872 blacks.

    (If you are interested, I will send privately a transcription of the reports)

Now that you've read the post, share your thoughts.