Virginia Historical Society Interprets Confederate Conscription

This is the second video that I’ve posted from the Virginia Historical Society’s traveling exhibit, “An American Turning Point”.  This one addresses the issue of conscription, but it also introduces visitors to women as political agents.  It’s always nice to see an exhibit move past the traditional and one-dimensional image of Civil War era women as Melanie Wilkes caricatures.

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

Purchase your copy today!

16 comments… add one
  • Marooned Mar 18, 2012 @ 10:29


    Indeed. Wow!

    Subjects which have not been publicly addressed for at least a hundred years are still important and relevant. Congratulations to the Virginia Historical Society.

    It reminds me that the issues of the Civil War era (leading in, the war itself and the results) are still dynamically central to all of us in America. Just as we cannot understand ourselves without a good grasp of our English social & political predecessors, to ignore these events leaves major gaps in understanding who we are.

    Even as the Commonwealth of Virginia goes through another spasm of political… “Issues”… this reminds me of the solid foundation of The Old Dominion..

    With honest and forthright truth telling like this, my confidence that the Commonwealth will come out stronger and better is increased.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Mar 18, 2012 @ 1:33

    That is a great video. Not just as a Confederate subject; but because it shows how ordinary people would feel faced with the circumstances of war and death. It would be great to see this as a full-length feature.

    Do the Black Confederate Soldier supporters ever bring up the 20-slave exemption?

    • Ray O'Hara Mar 18, 2012 @ 7:40

      No Bryan they just insist New England through the slave trade forced slavery on the South so how dare any ever mention slaves and slavery as it was all the Yankees fault.

  • John Mar 17, 2012 @ 4:18

    Davis’s Confederate conscription/draft was the first in this nations history and later became the first FORCED draft of which unless you were a slave holder or rich, were mandatged to serve for the entire time of the war. States Rights advocates were up in arms to see their federal government becoming mor like the government them seceeded from.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 17, 2012 @ 4:21

      It’s a narrative that has been lost and displaced by one that views Lincoln as inaugurating the era of an intrusive central government.

      • Pat Young Mar 17, 2012 @ 15:02

        If the Confederates had triumphed, you might have seen a permanent draft in place as the threat of a northern supported slave insurrection became a fixture of life.

        • Andy Hall Mar 17, 2012 @ 16:17

          What-its are always dicey, but there’s reason to see that as plausible. Even without an armed conflict, the Southern states were tightening restrictions on slave-holding and free African Americans, and it got worse when the war came.

          As just one example, the Texas State Constitution adopted in 1845, when Texas joined the Union, included provision for the Legislature to pass laws allowing the emancipation of slaves. But the Constitution of 1861, adopted upon secession and joining the Confederacy, barred outright any emancipation of slaves, either by act of the Legislature or by individual owners.

          Far from the institution beginning to show signs of gradually fading away, political leaders were doing what they could make it stronger, and working to shut down practices that they saw as weakening the system, like manumission.

          • Ray O'Hara Mar 17, 2012 @ 16:33

            The CSA also had many leading voices dreaming of expansion.
            I can’t see the hoi polloi who enlisted or submitted to being drafted based on the “defending out homes” canard ever going along with invading Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

            • Pat Young Mar 17, 2012 @ 18:13

              Ray, the Confederates had already tried their hand at expansion as early as Feb 1862 with their invasion of New Mexico. This was not simply a raid like the Gettysburg campaign, it was intended to detach new territory for slavery. A “civilian” governor was even appointed. Chihuahua and Sonora were viewed as easy targets by the Confederates. And let’s remember that slavery’s hero, William Walker, had only been executed three months before the secession crisis began in 1860.

              These Confederate leaders might well have put their slaveholders republic into a state of permanent aggression against Latin America.

              • Ray O'Hara Mar 18, 2012 @ 7:37

                New Mexico was part of the US and the CSA could make a reasonable claim to it as it was acquired with and is adjacent Texas. The moves there were similar to going after Ok, M0 and Ky.

                Mexico and environs “South of the Border” were an entirely different deal.

                • Kevin Levin Mar 18, 2012 @ 7:43

                  Let’s be clear that New Mexico was a territory during the Civil War.

                  • Ray O'Hara Mar 18, 2012 @ 9:04

                    as was Ok.
                    Slaves being barred from the territories was a major Southern complaint. The planters class felt they had as much right to them as any other American citizen.

                    • Kevin Levin Mar 18, 2012 @ 9:05

                      No disagreement there.

                • Pat Young Mar 18, 2012 @ 12:36

                  Confederate policy in New Mexico was more in the tradition of the fillibustering expeditions than of the Ky or Mo situation. The territory was overwhelmingly Latino. Rather than follow the pattern elsewhere of using rump NM elements to set up a Confederate alternative government, the Confederates appointed a white, non-New Mexican (Baylor) as governor.

                  The expedition resembled William Walker much more than it did Sterling Price.

                  • Ray O'Hara Mar 19, 2012 @ 18:05

                    It was still America and much different than invading a “foreign” country. It was land they claimed that had a right too.
                    It wasn’t at all like Walker’s expedition.

        • Lyle Smith Mar 18, 2012 @ 5:48

          A permanent draft is called mandatory service in Europe or South Korea today.

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