“A Confederate Negro General”

black confederate camp

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.


Sons of Confederate Veterans Confirm What We Knew All Along


The Georgia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans has issued a statement in response to plans to erect a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr. atop Stone Mountain. As you might suspect, they are not pleased. Their statement is couched in some history of the site as well as their legal reading that supposedly prevents the erection of additional monuments on the landscape. The SCV has had little success with legal cases in the past, so I don’t put much stock in their reasoning. More interesting, however, are their concerns about how a monument to King alters the meaning of the site. [click to continue…]


MLK Soon To Top Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain

Update: Thanks to those of you who pointed out my rookie mistake re: “the mountain top” reference in King’s speech. I guess it doesn’t really matter what speech of his they etch into that monument.

Over the summer, individuals and organizations protesting the removal of Confederate flags from public places gathered numerous times at Stone Mountain, Georgia in view of its relief monument to Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. Protesters may think twice about doing so in the future since it was announced that a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a museum exhibit about the service of United States Colored Troops will be funded with visitor entrance and parking fees. [click to continue…]


A Camp Servant at De Battle Uv De Crater


Here is a little gem that I somehow missed in my research on the battle of the Crater. I will, however, include a few stanzas in my book on camp servants and Black Confederates. What follows is a poem written by a former camp servant who was present at the Crater on July 30, 1864. It was included in a book of slave reminiscences published in 1916 by Mary Louise Gaines. The poem was written by “Old Sam” and falls neatly within a body of postwar literature that glorified the Old South and the relationship between the races at a time of intense racial violence and political realignment following Reconstruction. [click to continue…]


“I Have Been on the Battlefield”

black confederate camp

Over the past few days I’ve been working through wartime accounts of camp servants who took part in battles in one form or another. It’s a challenging topic for a number of reasons. As you might imagine wartime accounts authored by camp servants are next to impossible to find for the obvious reasons and the accounts of their masters must be treated with care. Postwar accounts by former slaves, in some cases written decades after the war, are even more difficult to interpret.

In dealing with the wartime accounts one thing I have noticed is that officers did not seem to make any assumptions about how their slaves would behave once a battle commenced. There is very little evidence that they intended for their servants to follow them onto the battlefield. I have found plenty of accounts of masters who specifically assigned their servants to guard their personal items, treat the wounded, bury the dead, assist doctors and a few that expected a meal to be ready once the battle ceased. [click to continue…]