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Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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13 comments… add one
  • Cash Jan 26, 2010 @ 3:28

    For those calling the 1st LA Native Guards a confederate unit, they were a unit of Louisiana militia. They were never accepted into confederate service.

  • Corey Meyer Jan 26, 2010 @ 2:32

    I am very curious about the Still Standing video trailer on the site. It claims Jackson was a southern gentleman and a champion of enslaved people. Does his role as Confederate general contradict his being a champion of enslaved people for exactly the same reason you stated you do not celebrate Lee or Jackson on Lee-Jackson day?

  • msimons Jan 25, 2010 @ 21:22

    Paul Greenberg greatest OP piece that he wrote way back in 1993. Still a great read and so True.

  • msimons Jan 25, 2010 @ 21:08

    Come on Kevin
    from the link you provided.
    “The Louisiana Native Guard began as a Confederate regiment of free black men,”

    • EarthTone Jan 30, 2010 @ 17:23

      The story of the LA Native Guards has become very confused on the web, not the least because of a fake photo of the Guards that is widely circulated on the Internet. I can talk in very brief detail about the 1st Louisiana Native Guards, which are the subject of the fake picture which Kevin cites at… :

      • Creole (free mixed-race) African Americans were in fact members of the Louisiana state militia at the start of the war.

      • According to James Hollandsworth in his book on the Native Guards, “The Confederate authorities never intended to use black troops for any mission of real importance. If the Native Guards were good for anything, it was for public display; free blacks fighting for Southern rights made good copy for the newspapers.”

      • As I understand it, in early 1862, the LA legislature passed a law which restricted enlistment into the state militia to free white males. Blacks could play a support role – similar to impressed slaves. Even so, the creole militias did not immediately disband.

      • The 1st Louisiana Native Guards did not see any actual combat. They surrendered to Union forces when the city of new Orleans fell to Union forces in April 1862.

      • Subsequently, the Union organized an all-black regiment that was also called the 1st Louisiana Native Guards.

      • From the wikipedia entry for the 1st Louisiana Native Guards:

      “There is a continuing legend that the Confederate Army's Louisiana Native Guard regiment organized in May 1861 was reformed in its entirety as the Union Army's 1st Louisiana Native Guard regiment in September 1862. This assumption is incorrect.

      Of the nearly one thousand enlisted Confederate Native Guard members, only 107 were recorded to have enlisted in the Union “Native Guard” and only ten of 36 officers served the Union. The legend of continuity of regiments is considered by many to have been a propaganda ploy by Union General Benjamin F. Butler.”

      => Although the term Confederate Army is used above, it is more correct to say the Native Guards were part of the LA state militia. The Confederate government did not accept the black militia units for duty as combatants.

      The situation of the LA creoles in the CW is complex and unique, and therefore, not useful for making generalizations about the roles of blacks in the CW. But their story does make for interesting reading.

      It would be nice if the photos of the Guard at the museum exhibit were digitized and made available on the web. I am writing to the African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg to make that request.

      A website dedicated to the Native Guards is here: (That site may well contain some of the pictures on display at the museum exhibit.)

      • Kevin Levin Jan 30, 2010 @ 17:35

        That UVA website handles the controversy of the photo, but anyone looking for a solid history of this unit should consult James Hollandsworth” _The Louisiana Native Guards_ (LSU Press 1995). As far as I am concerned, anyone who chooses to use the “black Confederate” reference here is simply not interested in understanding history.

        • EarthTone Jan 30, 2010 @ 17:51

          Kevin, you are absolutely right – a brief post like mine cannot do justice to the fullness of the story that is told in Hollandsworth's book.

          It's hard for me, though, to see these snippets of so-called facts on the web, and not want to respond with more info. But yeah… trying to right every wrong or misleading statement on the web is probably a lost cause.

          • Kevin Levin Jan 30, 2010 @ 17:58

            That wasn't meant as a criticism. Just wanted to add the reference for those who want to read more. I appreciate the comments.

            • EarthTone Jan 31, 2010 @ 20:36

              Black Confederate Pensioners After the Civil War

              There's a piece by James Hollandsworth on the web titled “Black Confederate Pensioners After the Civil War” that may be of interest if you haven't seen it. It's here:

              The article includes a discussion of the problems in getting reliable information about the role of blacks in the Confederacy, and also, the problems involved in using anecdotal evidence.

              • Kevin Levin Jan 31, 2010 @ 21:10

                I've linked to it a couple of times. It is an excellent article that more people should read. Thanks

  • Brooks D. Simpson Jan 25, 2010 @ 16:02

    “The most famous slurs emanated from Henry Adams, who lived just across Lafayette Square, and who WASPishly joked that Grant’s initials stood for 'uniquely stupid.'”

    I am deeply honored to be confused with Henry Adams, who, by the way, did not move to that location on Lafayette Square until he returned to DC from Harvard during Hayes's presidency. I coined the phrase “uniquely stupid” to describe how Adams & co. treated Grant. Wonderful!

  • James Jan 25, 2010 @ 6:25

    “The Louisiana Native Guard began as a Confederate regiment of free black men, but when New Orleans fell to Union troops, the regiment disbanded.”
    direct quote from article
    they are wrong?

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