Black Southerners and the Confederate Cause: The Post-War Newspapers

Andersonh1

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Many of you are aware that I've been collecting and posting wartime newspaper accounts that dealt with black southerners and how they responded to the Confederate war effort. In that thread, I started out by restricting myself to strictly wartime accounts, but at a certain point that seemed too limiting and I started digging through post-war newspapers. With a lot more years to cover, obviously, than the four years of the war, this is a research project that has not gone nearly as far as the wartime news. But having started some time ago posting stories chronologically in that thread, it's going to be a long time before we get back around to these, so perhaps it's time to give them their own thread.

I'm going to follow the same approach here that I do in the wartime stories thread and post in chronological order. I will also note that when it comes to "black Confederate" I do not restrict myself to just stories about armed soldiers. Any form of support, military or civilian, slave or free, willing or unwilling, falls under the scope of this thread, so long as the newspapers covered it. The idea is to understand not only what people did, but how it was viewed after the fact. Sometimes decades after the fact, given the dates on some of these stories. I don't doubt that I'll find a lot more information as I continue to search, but there is so much interesting material that I've already found that I wanted to start sharing it.

Like the other thread, let's keep commentary to a minimum, but any supporting information that can add to our understanding of a story is welcome.

So let's start with 1866, and a discussion of the role the slaves played in "the rebellion" and how culpable they are, versus the poor whites who were also "forced" to fight when they were conscripted by the Confederate government. The slaves are referred to at one point as "quasi-rebels" and there is a lot that could be unpacked from this editorial about opinions in the year after the war ended.

The New York herald. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]) 1840-1920, March 01, 1866
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More discussion about "white rebel vs black rebel" treatment, with the author of this piece complaining that black rebels he knows of were allowed to vote.

The Pulaski citizen. (Pulaski, Tenn.) 1866-current, March 16, 1866
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Andersonh1

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Partial reprint and rewrite of the The Pulaski citizen March 16, 1866 story. Makes me wish they had named names as to who the "rebel negroes" were.

New Orleans daily crescent. ([New Orleans, La.]) 1851-1866, March 24, 1866
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We saw a little of this during the war, and we'll see more of it in future: black men who were not armed infantry referred to as soldiers. In this case, Judah was a musician in the CS army who "fell in the service" and his widow wants him remembered, which the Dispatch does, and they are full of praise for the colored soldier who will not be forgotten by his companions in arms. It's a brief but heartfelt eulogy.

The daily dispatch. (Richmond [Va.]) 1850-1884, May 11, 1866
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Andersonh1

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"Pathetic" in the mid 19th century meant "evoking tenderness, pity, sympathy, or sorrow,” or “exciting or stirring emotion or passion." In other words, they're calling this letter emotionally moving.

The Charleston daily news. (Charleston, S.C.) 1865-1873, May 19, 1866
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The weekly Caucasian. (Lexington, Lafayette County, Mo.) 1866-1875, May 30, 1866
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Andersonh1

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Two former slaves who were attached to the CS army had some property stolen by some former Union soldiers and are forced to pursue them, take it back, and take the men to court. The former slaves took a constable with them to make the arrest. It's a good story about former slaves enjoying their new-found freedom, while giving the newspaper a chance to paint some former Union soldiers in a bad light. And we see praise for these men for having "remained firm and steadfast to the end", something we'll see a lot of in years to come.

New Orleans daily crescent. ([New Orleans, La.]) 1851-1866, June 08, 1866
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Benjamin Butler gave a public speech where he discussed black soldiers during the war, and though he is quite correct in naming the "colored soldiers" of Confederate Louisiana as the first of the war, he only seems to be aware of the February 1962 orders of the Governor, and not aware of the fact that these men were actually first organized in April 1861. Butler claims that he used Moore's exact orders for organizing these men as a military unit, only changing "Confederate States" to "United States". So here we have a Union general, in the year following the end of the war, crediting the Confederates with raising the first black soldiers of the war.

Rutland weekly herald., November 08, 1866
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Andersonh1

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A complaint about black US troops being mustered out leads to a short discussion the attempt at the end of the war to recruit black soldiers for the CS army, and of how black Confederate troops would have been treated if they had helped the South win its independence. I drew a connection between this discussion and similar ones made by the papers when the citizens of New Orleans were complaining about black Union troops in their city, with the newspapers reminding them that they were happy to have and praised the black Southern soldiers when that unit existed. In both cases we're seeing an accusation of hypocrisy towards Southerners with regard to black soldiers.

The tri-weekly standard. [volume] (Raleigh, N.C.) 1866-1868, November 08, 1866
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Andersonh1

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The writer of this story asserts that the black population of the South were ready during the war to fight the Yankees, and when refused stayed and protected the families of the fighting men, and that most of the black men in the Union army were forced to be there.

New Orleans Times, February 28, 1867
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Andersonh1

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This article makes some interesting assertions that I have not seen anywhere else. This Indiana paper quotes a "Sentinel on the Border" story complaining that a "rebel negro", who fought beside his master (so he's a former slave) for the independence of the South, with the Sentinel unhappy that the black man is the only one who can vote. The Evansville Journal is all in favor of disallowing all "disloyal" men from voting, regardless of color. Black rebels are "a rare bird" according to this editorial.

Here's the interesting sentence. "The negro who helped to butcher colored United States soldiers at Fort Pillow will be disfranchised as plainly as General Forrest is." I'm not familiar with all the details of the battle at Fort Pillow, but I had never heard that a black man fought on the Confederate side. But this Indiana paper seems aware of such a report.

The Evansville journal. (Evansville, Ind.) 1866-1870, March 05, 1867
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Andersonh1

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The phrase "revenging thunderbolts" and the reference to a black man fighting at Fort Pillow sounded like a very specific reference, so I went searching. By looking for "avenging" thunderbolts, I turned up twelve different stories in February and March 1867 all referring to this incident. The point of the articles is more to point out the unfairness of the disenfranchisement in Tennessee than it is to promote the incident itself, but regardless, it adds evidence to my impression that what these black men did during the war was often known at the time, even if it's not remembered today.

I don't think it's necessary to post them all, but it's worth looking at some of the variants. The earliest I've found is the one below, which takes jabs at the Parson Brownlow constitution, as the paper calls it, and laughs at the "joke" that while rebels are not allowed to vote under that constitution, the "bitterest rebel of all", the former servant of an officer in the CS army, who fought at Fort Pillow, is still able to vote. The article also takes an unfair jab at black Union soldiers, who "gallantly surrendered".

The national Republican. [volume] (Washington City [D.C.]) 1866-1870, February 21, 1867
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The Daily Phoenix takes the opportunity this story provides to point out flaws in the system in Tennessee, and that there are likely "hundreds of similar anomalies". Other black rebel voters? I wish these editorials would just state plainly what they mean. Doubtless the readers in 1867 understood the implications.

The daily phoenix. [volume] (Columbia, S.C.) 1865-1878, February 23, 1867
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The Chicago Tribune draws its own conclusions from the story. Among other things, the paper bets that he was under "compulsion" to be a rebel, that he votes Brownlow now. It's not just the southerners of the day who made assumptions about what these men thought and what motivated them, as we can see from this example.

Chicago tribune. [volume] (Chicago, Ill.) 1864-1872, February 27, 1867
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Andersonh1

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Let's look at a few more of these before moving forward. This newspaper refers to the situation as "a pungent satire on American republicanism".

Memphis daily appeal. [volume] (Memphis, Tenn.) 1847-1886, February 28, 1867
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This paper refers sarcastically to the situation as "evidence of the justice and wisdom of the new order of things, under the Radical rule in Tennessee"

Clarksville weekly chronicle. [volume] (Clarksville, Tenn.) 1865-1867, March 22, 1867
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I'm not familiar with all the details of the battle at Fort Pillow, but I had never heard that a black man fought on the Confederate side.

In his pension application, Wright Whitlow stated, "I was with my master, J.P Whitlow until after the Battle of Fort Pillow. I witnessed the Battle of Fort Pillow, and at one time during the battle, I held the horse of General Forrest while he mounted it after having another shot out from under him".
 

Andersonh1

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Moving forward in 1867, two years after Lee's surrender we see a discussion about the part that black men played in supporting the CS army, and an assertion that if armed, these men would have fought for the South. But they're "unfit" to vote. There's a real mixed message here, praise on one hand but denial of capability on the other.

Memphis daily appeal. (Memphis, Tenn.) 1847-1886, April 10, 1867
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Some black men in Nashville sided with the Democrats and "rebels", but they seem to have been very much outnumbered by the "Radicals", as this article names them.

Brownlow's Knoxville Whig. [volume] (Knoxville, Tenn.) 1866-1869, April 24, 1867
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Andersonh1

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A long speech gives us a short snippet of information. The speaker asserts "I never knew but one or two rebel negroes." This is a case where just posting the clip didn't work, I felt like the context was needed. We'll see over and over again after the war that people understood that there were "rebel negroes", but at the same time they assert that the number was small.

The tri-weekly standard. [volume] (Raleigh, N.C.) 1866-1868, April 30, 1867
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I found multiple versions of this same story in various papers, where a black man registering to vote is questioned to be sure he didn't support the Confederates during the late war. He appears to have preferred cooking for the CS than building breastworks for the US. In any case, the most relevant bit of information that can be gleaned here is that it was recognized that some among the black population had supported the Confederates, and they wanted to weed them out of the voting process. It was not just assumed that all black men sided with the Union.

The Louisiana Democrat. [volume] (Alexandria, La.) 1845-1918, May 08, 1867
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Andersonh1

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The escort of federal prisoners that we saw so many articles about in 1861 is referenced here, six years later, as is Jordan Noble, now an "ancient negro" who was "Captain of a company of colored Confederates."

Clearfield Republican. [volume] (Clearfield, Pa.) 1851-1937, June 13, 1867
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The subject of this article, "Forbes" is likely William Forbes who voted for the Virginia ordinance of secession. He "put a soldier in the army under the Confederate Negro Soldier Bill...", a bill passed a little more than two years and a few months earlier.

Alexandria gazette. [volume] (Alexandria, D.C.) 1834-1974, July 20, 1867
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This is a fascinating story where Peter Gibson, a black barber, had a gun pointed at him by some black Union soldiers for being a "rebel negro". September 1867 was in the early days of Reconstruction, and black soldiers were not held in high regard at all by white southerners, so any reason to criticize them was often seized upon, but it's rare that you see a story where it's a "rebel negro" being threatened by black soldiers.

The daily dispatch. (Richmond [Va.]) 1850-1884, September 02, 1867
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Andersonh1

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Benjamin Butler gave a number of speeches after the war was over. Here is a short account of one of them in which the black regiments he raised in New Orleans are mentioned, and he notes the presence of the Confederate regiments in New Orleans when he arrived. And we'll see him address this topic again down the road in other speeches and in other articles.

Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, January 02, 1868
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Andersonh1

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Here we have another version of the story by Benjamin Butler about how me used the orders enlisting the free black men of Louisiana to enlist them into the service of the United States, making only a minor alteration to the wording of the orders.

The New York herald. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]) 1840-1920, September 12, 1868
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Andersonh1

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In an election during Reconstruction, with black rights at stake, how one of the candidates treated Southern blacks during the war is presented as a point in his favor.

New Orleans Republican. [volume] (New Orleans, La) 1867-1878, December 16, 1868


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I wish we had a name here.

The Wheeling daily register. [volume] (Wheeling, W. Va.) 1864-1878, August 22, 1870
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19thGeorgia

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This is a fascinating story where Peter Gibson, a black barber, had a gun pointed at him by some black Union soldiers for being a "rebel negro". September 1867 was in the early days of Reconstruction, and black soldiers were not held in high regard at all by white southerners, so any reason to criticize them was often seized upon, but it's rare that you see a story where it's a "rebel negro" being threatened by black soldiers.

The daily dispatch. (Richmond [Va.]) 1850-1884, September 02, 1867
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Gibson had worked at the Medical Purveyor's Office in Wytheville during the war. Selected items from the Citizens File-

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"Collecting arms...left by the enemy during the late raid"

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Andersonh1

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Good information, 19th Georgia, thanks. It's good evidence that one did not have to march in the ranks and shoot at Union soldiers to be a "rebel negro".

This 1871 story notes a letter detailing Lee's support for the enlistment of black soldiers into the Confederate army.

The Highland weekly news. [volume] (Hillsborough [Hillsboro], Highland County, Ohio) 1853-1886, April 20, 1871
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Andersonh1

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There's a big jump to 1877. I doubt these immediate post-war years are as devoid of stories as they seem to be at the moment. It's a question of knowing what to look for and what terms to search out, and I haven't quite got it yet. In any case, this is just another post-war post-mortem looking back at the debate over arming slaves for the CS army. The subject had not been forgotten, even with all that was going on during Reconstruction.

The daily dispatch. [volume] (Richmond [Va.]) 1850-1884, November 29, 1877
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Andersonh1

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"... an invitation to the colored men who were connected with Confederate service to join in the procession." White and black both participated in this 1878 decoration day at the cemetery.

Public ledger. [volume] (Memphis, Tenn.) 1865-1893, June 03, 1878
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Even during the racial strife of reconstruction, the Georgia Historical Society was not burying this history, which for them occurred only 13 years earlier.

The Bolivar bulletin. [volume] (Bolivar, Hardeman County, Tenn.) 1865-1888, June 13, 1878
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