In light of the recent demonstrations and attacks on historical monuments, there has been an even uglier and darker rumor in circulation on the internet. It is suggesting that black slaves served in the Confederacy during the Civil War. What is even more dazzling and insulting is that this idea is being strongly attested to many folks of the Republican Party. Despite this claim, by any party, it is paramount that the TRUTH of such rubbish is vanquished from our continuance of the historical dialogue. Let us examine the evidence in the presentation.
On January 1st, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, Union Army forces had regained vast areas of the South. While this ‘Proclamation’ was labeled useless because of the establishment of a foreign nation, the reality was that the Union Army, BY FORCE OF ARMS, established policy in its claimed and occupied territories. It is also known that the Confederate Armies exercised their authority to capture and enslave free black people of the northern territories in which they occupied. (This was exactly the case for negroes of the north; if they were caught by Confederate Soldiers, they were immediately returned to a state of slavery. Remember, it’s called a Civil War!)
After the Proclamation, free black negroes of the North began to enlist in the Union Army when President Lincoln authorized the creation of black regiments. By the time the war was ended, black soldiers made up 10% of the Union Army and suffered over 80,000 casualties! However, that is not to say that black Southerners did not aid the Confederacy! There is documentation that suggests that they were FORCED to accompany their masters on the battlefields and were FORCED to be cooks and perform manual labor if it was required; in other words, they were SLAVES! BLACK MEN WERE NOT PERMITTED, LEGALLY, TO SERVE AS COMBAT SOLDIERS IN ANY REGIMENT IN THE CONFEDERACY BY ACTIONS OF THE CONFEDERATE CONGRESS! There were no ‘recognized’ BLACK CONFEDERATE COMBAT REGIMENTS IN THE CONFEDERACY DURING THE WAR; even more revealing is that there is no WRITTEN DOCUMENTATION for black Confederate soldiers receiving payment or pension for military service provided! One major source of information is the ‘Official Records of the War of the Rebellion’; this is a collection of military documents from both sides which span 50 volumes and over 50,000 pages of information about the operations and mundane procedures and practices of the United States Military in that time. (However, it is noted in these documents that some blacks received pensions for their labor duties. If this claim is fabricated, someone took the liberty to record such a claim.)
That is not to say that no black man ever fired a bullet for The Confederacy. There are reports in the ORWR that Union soldiers, seven in total, claiming to have seen black men clothed in Confederate uniform. Three of the soldiers report black men shooting at them. (My ‘educated’ guess is that these instances were probably by FORCE!) There are no eyewitness accounts in these reports by Union Soldiers of ever having an encounter with an ALL BLACK CONFEDERATE REGIMENT! In the same report, there is no confession of a Confederate General or Officer ever having black troops under his command. If there was, indeed, black soldiers serving in the name of The Confederacy, NO ONE ever took the liberty of mentioning such a scene. To top this claim off and bury the inaccuracy of this myth, there is no mention in private correspondence of any CONFEDERATE soldier of seeing or encountering in battle, an ALL BLACK CONFEDERATE REGIMENT OR SERVING WITH A BLACK SOLDIER; there is no diary entry, no letter, or eyewitness account that was orally preserved in existence! (These are not the kind of statistics required for the historian to reevaluate his/her assertions!)
In my view, this PURE and UNADULTERATED conspiracy theory! It is right to investigate, discuss, and preserve our past, even if we disagree with its contents and presuppositions. However, it is pernicious and disgraceful to obfuscate, distort and truncate HONEST historical procedure and method in order to secure our political discourse and opinion.