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"Black men in the Confederate army": what the newspapers said - 1861-1865

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Andersonh1, Sep 12, 2016.

  1. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Sergeant Major

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    With all the discussion about whether black men served as armed soldiers in the Confederate Army, I wanted to start researching contemporary accounts from the war years, 1861-1865, and see what made the newspapers. Thanks to the Library of Congress, there are huge amounts of old papers online, with a pretty good search engine, so it's not hard to find what the papers of the day said. So far I've found rumors, eyewitness accounts, editorials and random references. There was a range of opinion about the topic, just as there is today.

    The purpose of this thread is not to necessarily prove or disprove anything, it's to explore what the news of the day said about the concept. If you want to debate the existence of black Confederates, there are numerous other threads dedicated to that topic. While here, please confine discussion and commentary to posted articles and any observations you may have about them. Any supporting information that tells us about people, places or battles mentioned in an article is also welcome.
     
    Klaudly and Rebforever like this.

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  3. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Sergeant Major

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    With all the discussion about whether black men served as armed soldiers in the Confederate Army, I wanted to start researching contemporary accounts and see what made the newspapers. Thanks to the Library of Congress, there are huge amounts of old papers online, with a pretty good search engine, so it's not hard to find what the papers of the day said. The point of this is not to necessarily prove or disprove anything, it's to explore what the news of the day said about the concept. So far, in a very short time, I've found rumors, eyewitness accounts, editorials and random references. There is a range of opinion about the topic, just as there is today. I plan to update this thread regularly as I find stories of interest.

    So, to begin, here are a couple of examples of the type of things I've found in brief searches, confining the dates to the actual war years themselves, 1861-1865. There are many more, and I'll add them to this thread as time goes by. I hope everyone finds them as interesting as I have.

    From the "Hancock Jeffersonian", March 17, 1865, a commentary on the bill passed by the Confederate Congress to bring black men into the Confederate Army:
    [​IMG]

    From the New York Herald, January 23, 1862, a story from a contraband about a conscripted "negro regiment" under Albert Sydney Johnston:
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Sergeant Major

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    New York Herald, May 4 1862, a single mention of a "rebel negro rifleman".
    [​IMG]
     
  5. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Some of these are certainly more evidence-based than others. The March 1865 article, for example, discusses the actual legislation passed in Richmond at the very end of the war to enlist African-American troops in the CS Army. Others, like the "Rebel Negro Regiment" under Johnston in early 1862, are quite a bit more fanciful and/or garbled in the telling. One of the things that is interesting about this subject is trying to trace these stories back through newspapers that reported them, because sometimes it's possible to see how they are changed or embellished as they are repeated from paper to paper over time. Should be an interesting project.
     
  6. CMWinkler

    CMWinkler Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Newspapers then were just as accurate in their reporting as their modern incarnations. Having seen words attributed to me, as opposed to what I actually said, all newspaper accounts should be taken with a grain or two of salt.
     
  7. Tennessee_Mountainman

    Tennessee_Mountainman Private

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    Here's a good start:

     
  8. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Sergeant Major

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    I agree. Sometimes you get an opinion column, sometimes a story about a military report, and sometimes a "he said to him and he said this" type of story, that's passed through several people before reaching the newspaper. There's a wide variety of approaches to this topic. Sometimes, interestingly, columns or stories are printed in multiple newspapers, so they're sharing stories (a proto AP type service?) rather than sending their own reporters out. I imagine some of these small local papers would depend on shared news to get anything national in their paper. It's all been very interesting.
     
  9. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    I'll throw this one into the pot, as well. I've never been able to make heads or tails out of it, it's just sort of floating out there.

    [​IMG]

    Galveston Weekly News, April 29, 1862:

    Arming the Negroes.

    A letter from Navasota says:

    Almost every company passing through this place has more or less negroes [sic.] in it armed and in the ranks. I find public sentiment unmistakably in favor of drafting 100,000 negroes into the army if the war continues over this summer. Combined with the white men in this climate and under proper regulations, they may be made an efficient body in this war of self-defence. If we do not have peace by the 1st of June, a call will be made to arm a portion of of the blacks to be drafted chiefly from the large plantations. The British armed them on many occasions, and it was the [ad?] that gave the British such superiority over the French in the last war.
     
  10. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Sergeant Major

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    Here's one more for today, from the Cass County Republican, March 19. 1863. It discusses the need for the Union to enlist black men because the Confederacy has already been using their slaves to support their war effort.
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Tennessee_Mountainman

    Tennessee_Mountainman Private

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    Very interesting. Are there any other accounts supporting this?
     
  12. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    None that I know of. That's why I say, it's just sort of floating out there without any corroboration or context. There's not any hard information in it that can be traced by name, unit, date, etc.
     
  13. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard Sergeant Major

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    It was a state militia, not a CSA regiment and it was disbanded exactly because CSA law did not allow it.


    the March 19. 1863. article start out with a misunderstanding or a lie, undermining the rest of the text.
    A good example of why we need to be critical of newspapers during this period.



    But please keep posting the articles, it do all add to our understanding on the debate, both north and south.
     
  14. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Sergeant Major

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    There was a slave impressment act in March of 1863, though I think it passed later than the date of the article. Regardless, slaves could be put to work in military service, but in a support role. Either the author of the article misunderstood, as you say, or he just assumed they were conscripting black soldiers. Perhaps it was known that the bill was coming. Either way, the writer of the article uses it as an argument that the North should have done the same long before, so characterizing the impressment as "arming slaves for the South" serves his purpose to try and persuade his audience, and to attack Southern sympathizers while he's at it. There's an overt mix of reporting and opinion in an article like this.

    Will do. And that's the point, to understand what they were saying at the time, and understand how they viewed this issue.
     
  15. kepi

    kepi First Sergeant

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    Could it be slaves just carrying arms for their masters? In any event, if they were actually fighting troops, the "call to arm a portion of of the blacks to be drafted chiefly from the large plantations" seems to indicate there are no black confederates in the ranks at the time of publication. It's an interesting snippet.
     
  16. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    That's a strong possibility, as with the Steiner account in Frederick, Maryland in 1862. But there's no way to confirm that one way or another. Steiner referred to the men he saw as (IIRC) "all mixed up with the rebel horde,"* and it would be impossible for a casual observer to make fine distinctions about who in the marching formation had what role.

    * "promiscuously mixed up with all the rebel horde" is Steiner's exact phrasing.
     
  17. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard Sergeant Major

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    Or he knew this and deliberately tried to mislead the readers... we will never know.
     
  18. Allie

    Allie Captain

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    Here's a thread which includes an article I stumbled across some time ago. These free blacks mostly came from the Pocahontas community in Virginia, which was known as a haven for free blacks; they formed a "company" under a white "officer" and volunteered. As far as I was able to determine, they were not accepted as soldiers and ended up being hired out to work on the fortifications near Petersburg.

    http://civilwartalk.com/threads/free-negroes-to-the-rescue.110297/
     
  19. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Sergeant Major

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    That company is discussed in Ervin Jordan's book "Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia". That's definitely an interesting incident.
     
  20. east tennessee roots

    east tennessee roots 1st Lieutenant

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    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    Colonel William S. McLemore

    [​IMG]

    Captain Joseph.B. Briggs
    Probably the only white Confederate officer to lead Black Confederates in a charge. He was born November 20, 1842 near Franklin, Tennessee. Entered Confederate service as a Private early in the war in Colonel Starnes 4th Tennessee Cavalry, Forrest’s Brigade. Captain and Quartermaster 4th Tennessee Cavalry, Dibbrell’s Brigade July 1, 1863. With Forrest till 1864, with Wheeler until the surrender, May 10, 1865.

    Daniel Mclemore in the census, 1870-1880


    Name Daniel Mclemore
    Event Type Census
    Event Year 1870
    Event Place Tennessee, United States
    Gender Male
    Age 38
    Race Black
    Race (Original) B
    Birth Year (Estimated) 1831-1832
    Birthplace Tennessee
    Page Number 14
    Daniel Mclemore M 38 Tennessee
    Anna Mclemore F 28 Tennessee
    William Mclemore M 12 Tennessee
    Maggie Mclemore F 4 Tennessee
    John Mclemore M 2 Tennessee
    Elvira Mclemore F 0 Tennessee
    ....................................................................

    ...................................................................................................................................
    Daniel Mclemore
    United States Census, 1880
    Name Daniel Mclemore
    Event Type Census
    Event Date 1880
    Event Place District 9, Williamson, Tennessee, United States
    Gender Male
    Age 51
    Marital Status Married
    Race Black
    Race (Original) B
    Occupation Farm Laborer
    Relationship to Head of Household Self
    Relationship to Head of Household (Original) Self
    Birth Year (Estimated) 1829
    Birthplace Tennessee, United States
    Father's Birthplace Tennessee, United States
    Mother's Birthplace Tennessee, United States
    Daniel Mclemore Self M 51 Tennessee, United States
    Ann Mclemore Wife F 37 Tennessee, United States
    Maggie Mclemore Daughter F 14 Tennessee, United States
    Johnie Mclemore Son M 12 Tennessee, United States
    Eliza Mclemore Daughter F 10 Tennessee, United States
    Mary Lou Mclemore Daughter F 7 Tennessee, United States
    Robert Mclemore Son M 5 Tennessee, United States
    Albert
     
  21. east tennessee roots

    east tennessee roots 1st Lieutenant

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