What No One in the Confederacy Remembered Seeing

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.

4 comments… add one
  • Douglas Cline Mar 16, 2015 @ 3:56

    Thanks so much for your honest statement of the facts.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 16, 2015 @ 4:51

      I issued a public challenge a couple of years ago on just this issue. Not a single person has responded with anything close to evidence that would demonstrate that Confederate soldiers and civilians acknowledged the presence of these men before March 1865.

      • John Betts Mar 16, 2015 @ 5:07

        Well obviously it’s a Yankee conspiracy to cover up the truth, Kevin. After all they’ve had control over the Confederate Archives for a 150 years now! Are you blind, man?!? Are you…ah heck can’t even mimic truthers in jest. Confederate Truthers though, I can this being a thing for some. Nice job with the interview. 🙂

        • Kevin Levin Mar 16, 2015 @ 5:12

          It should come as no surprise that some people actually put forward a version of that explanation.

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