A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Richmond Times-Dispatch writer, Katherine Calos, who is working on a series of articles to mark the end of the sesquicentennial in Richmond. We talked extensively about the debate in the Confederacy over the arming of slaves. I am always happy to do these interviews, but they come with the risk of being misquoted or left out entirely. Neither happened this time around.
Calos offers a pretty lengthy treatment of the subject, including a number of passages from local newspapers on the debate. I was asked to comment on the debate as well as the myth of the black Confederate soldier.
In reference to the former I offered the following observation that I am happy to see was quoted in full.
Throughout this debate about whether to recruit slaves into the army, no one that I ever came across — no letter, diary, newspaper article, political debate — no one pointed out that black men had already been serving in the army. No one said there is a whole regiment already. No one said I remember seeing a black soldier. There’s not one shred of evidence that anyone in the Confederacy acknowledged that black men were already serving in the Confederate army before March 1865. I think that tells us something.
It tells us that whatever roles blacks were playing in Confederate ranks, the debate over whether to utilize them as soldiers constituted a decisive turn in a radically new direction.
Regardless of what we want to believe, there is no evidence that Confederate soldiers or civilians had ever seen a black Confederate soldier before they paraded on Capitol Square in Richmond on March 23, 1865.
The comments section below the RTD piece promises to be entertaining once it gets circulated.