Brass Napoleon Award Black Southerners and the Confederate Cause--What the newspapers said: 1861-1865

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#1
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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.
 
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#2
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:
2d7bhb5.jpg


From the New York Herald, January 23, 1862, a story from a contraband about a conscripted "negro regiment" under Albert Sydney Johnston:
2urw94m.jpg
 

AndyHall

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#4
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.
 
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#7
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.
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.
 

AndyHall

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#8
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.

armingthenegroes.jpg


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.
 
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#9
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.
m90th2.jpg
 
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#10
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.

armingthenegroes.jpg


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

thomas aagaard

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#12
Here's a good start:
1st_Louisiana_Native_Guard_(CSA)
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.
 
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#13
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.
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.

But please keep posting the articles, it do all add to our understanding on the debate, both north and south.
Will do. And that's the point, to understand what they were saying at the time, and understand how they viewed this issue.
 

kepi

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#14
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.

armingthenegroes.jpg


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.
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.
 

AndyHall

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#15
Could it be slaves just carrying arms for their masters?
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.
 
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#17
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/
 
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#18
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/
That company is discussed in Ervin Jordan's book "Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia". That's definitely an interesting incident.
 
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#19
In September 1863, during the battle of Chickamauga, the 4th Tennessee Cavalry had a black servant named Daniel McLemore, servant to the Colonel of the regiment, organize a group of servants into a company of between 40-50 men. They were at first ordered to guard the horses of the soldiers, but sitting out of the fighting long enough, they asked a Captain Briggs if they could participate in the fighting.

Cpt Briggs recalled that "After trying to dissuade them from this, I gave in and led them up to the line of battle in which was just preparing to assualt Gen. Thomas's position. Thinking they would be of service in caring for the wounded, I held them close up the line, but when the advance was ordered the negro company became enthused as well as their masters, and filled a portion of the line of advance as well as any company of the regiment. While they had no guidon or muster roll, the burial after the battle of four of their number and the care of seven wounded at the hospital, told the tale of how well they fought."

-Cpt Briggs, 4th TN Cavalry


mclemore.gif


Colonel William S. McLemore


xjbbriggs_v_1473190203.jpg.pagespeed.ic.gWqH71caCo.jpg


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
 
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#20
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:
2d7bhb5.jpg


From the New York Herald, January 23, 1862, a story from a contraband about a conscripted "negro regiment" under Albert Sydney Johnston:
2urw94m.jpg
[/QUOTE
 



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