Here is a little taste of my forthcoming book, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, which was published last week at Smithsonian. I re-worked a few pages that focus on the role of camp slaves during the Gettysburg campaign.
All too often we try to draw a distinction between the importance that the Confederacy attached to slavery and the military. The preservation of slavery—so the argument goes—may have been the “cornerstone” of the Confederacy, but few enlisted men owned slaves, therefore it was of little concern. Certainly the common soldier was motivated by any number of factors, but this tired argument fails on a number of levels.
Most importantly, it fails to acknowledge the crucial role that enslaved men played in every aspect of the life of the Confederate army. The rank-and-file was reminded each and every day of the importance of slavery. They understood that the army could not camp, march or fight without enslaved men.
The Gettysburg campaign provides the ideal case study to highlight their role in the army. In short, the “cornerstone” of the Confederacy, including its military, was slavery.
Stay tuned for information about a special tour of the Gettysburg battlefield that I will be co-leading on September 28 with Peter Carmichael, James Broomall, and Chris Gwinn.