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

Andersonh1

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"Our soldiers say that they have seen negroes among the rebels firing at them. We think it a very logical conclusion, that if the rebels can fight them against us we can fight them against the rebels...."

The Cecil Whig. (Elkton, Md.) 1841-current, February 07, 1863
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Andersonh1

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It would be helpful in evaluating this letter, printed in the Daily Republican, to know who Thomas Beardslee was. I did a quick search and didn't turn up anything other than references to this story. There are things that Beardslee claims that are consistent with earlier reports, such as black men working on artillery, but a lot of this seems very unlikely to have been true. A fully company of black soldiers or one with a commission personally signed by Jeff Davis just don't ring true. He may have seen black men drilling, since we know by their own testimony that some were, but a full regiment is unlikely to say the least. When compared to the larger body of evidence, this letter feels like a lot of exaggerations to me, quite honestly. But it appeared in print, and belongs on record here with the rest of the newspaper coverage as a letter to the editor.

Daily national Republican. (Washington, D.C.) 1862-1866, February 10, 1863
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Andersonh1

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I haven't looked at all the actions by the Adjutant-General at this time so I'm not quite sure if this paper is referring to a real event or not, given all the rumors circulating. Regardless, this is another of the "why are the Southern sympathizers complaining about our black troops when the South has been using them all along" type of story.

Cleveland morning leader. (Cleveland [Ohio]) 1854-1865, February 12, 1863
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Branded on the forehead? Some of these papers will print anything to work up some outrage against the "rebels". For the purposes of this thread, the relevant portion is the first sentence: "...Jeff. Davis does not scruple to compel negroes to fight in the rebel ranks...."

Daily national Republican. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1862-1866, February 12, 1863
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Andersonh1

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I searched for Captain J. T. Drew and the one I ran across several entries for was a Captain in Company G, Second Vermont. He appears in the Official Records: https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/116/0769 taking about being paroled, with the letter being written from Columbia, SC in January 1862. That fits in with what is written and witnessed here, and explains how a Vermont officer would have been well behind Confederate lines and seen what he describes in this passage.

Drew notes the large amount of slaves aiding the Confederate army and the many and varied roles they play, and is all in favor of the "policy that strips these rebels of such a strong arm as their slaves" and brings them over into support of the Union instead.



The Caledonian. (St. Johnsbury, Vt.) 1837-1867, February 13, 1863
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Andersonh1

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This Union soldier is anxiously awaiting black regiments to begin fighting with the Union army. He's willing to fight alongside anyone that will help end the war sooner. A discussion of black soldiers brings out this statement:

"Why cannot negroes fight? They have always fought gallantly.... The rebels have and will arm them, and let us play the same game."

Cleveland morning leader. (Cleveland [Ohio]) 1854-1865, February 14, 1863
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Andersonh1

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This list is consistent with others that we've seen.

"The rebels have made free use of their negroes in building fortifications, in aiding their white soldiers in every conceivable way, in guarding Union prisoners and on picket duty. They have used them against our lines as sharp-shooters and as drilled men and in every way that they negro could be used..."

Daily intelligencer. (Wheeling, Va. [W. Va.]) 1859-1865, February 14, 1863
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Virginia passes a bill allowing slaves to be impressed "for use of the army."

The daily Green Mountain freeman. (Montpelier, Vt.) 1861-1865, February 17, 1863
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Andersonh1

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Quartermaster Montgomery Meigs of the Union Army mentioned the various ways in which the black men of the South affected the war. Much of this particular excerpt deals with how they have interacted with and helped the Union army, but Meigs does give some time to how they help the South, and he notes they can do the same for the Union. Meigs confirms the use of some black men as pickets for the Confederates, as we've seen reported several times and will again.

"The labor of the colored man supports the rebel soldier, enables him to leave his plantation to meet our armies, builds his fortifications, cooks his food, and sometimes aids him on picket by rare skill with the rifle."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_C._Meigs

The Nashville daily union. (Nashville, Tenn.) 1862-1866, February 20, 1863
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Andersonh1

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In calling out those who object to the recent addition of black soldiers to the Union army, "Negroes in the Rebel Army" cites Lewis Steiner's report and quotes part of it as evidence of how fundamental black support was to the Confederate army. This is another in a long line of "the South did it first" stories that we've seen so often in the newspapers.

"Negroes provide and equip the Confederate armies, and evidence is constantly coming out that they, in fact, furnish its material."

Then there's the passage from Steiner's report which should be very familiar to anyone who has looked into this topic.

"The most liberal calculations could not give them more than sixty-four thousand men. Over three thousand negroes must be included in this number. These were clad in all kinds of uniforms, not only in cast-off or captured United States uniforms, but in coats with Southern buttons, State buttons, &c. These were shabby, but not shabbier or seedier than those worn by white men in the rebel ranks. - Most of the negroes had arms, rifles, sabres, bowie knives, dirks, &c., and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederacy army. They were seen riding on horses and mules, driving wagons, riding on caissons, in ambulances, with the staff of Generals, and promiscuously mixed up with the rebel horde. The fact was patent, and rather interesting, when considered in connection with the horror the rebels express at the suggestion of black soldiers being employed for the national defense."

The daily Gate City. (Keokuk, Iowa) 1855-1916, February 21, 1863
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Andersonh1

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Another wartime story referring to "negro soldiers" discusses the confederate Congress "pressing into the military service... negroes, capable of bearing arms." To all of those in the North against arming black Union soldiers, this newspaper makes a lot of this Southern war measure. "In point of fact, the rebels have been using the negroes all along. The slaves have been forced to sustain the rebellion - to build fortifications and to shoot Union soldiers."

Belmont chronicle. (St. Clairsville, Ohio) 1855-1973, February 26, 1863
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Andersonh1

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The Confederate army is authorized to impress slaves if needed.

Smyrna times. [volume] (Smyrna, Del.) 1854-1987, February 26, 1863
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Another way in which black men contributed to the war effort was to help obstruct river navigation.

The daily Evansville journal. (Evansville, Ind.) 1862-1863, February 26, 1863
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Andersonh1

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The answer to the question asked by the headline is "yes, there were enlisted black men." See this thread for almost 900 examples. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/co...vice-records-of-black-and-mulatto-men.142783/

The writer asks the question, and gives his opinion that "the rebels have no sort of scruples as to employing negroes in carrying out the murderous purpose of the rebellion". As evidence, the article presents a wanted ad for a deserter from Co. A, 29th Georgia, drummer and free black man John Rose.

27 Feb 1863, Page 2 - The Fremont Weekly Journal
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Andersonh1

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On both the federal and state levels, the Confederates were directly employing black labor. It's interesting how the Muscatine Journal characterizes this as the Confederate government impressing "negroes capable of bearing arms" when armed combat was not the goal of the Confederates at this point. It's because the newspaper wants to take a jab at those in the North who have been complaining about black Union soldiers, so they play up the military possibilities of the "negro soldiers" in the South.

Muscatine weekly journal. (Muscatine, Iowa) February 27, 1863
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South Carolina complies with the actions of the Confederate government.

The Camden confederate. (Camden, S.C.) 1861-1865, February 27, 1863
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Andersonh1

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I think this is a reference to General Thomas Stevenson of the 24th Massachusetts, who commanded at several places on the North and South Carolina coasts. This article says that he was against black troops, still a recent trend in the Union army, and Stevenson said "he had no evidence yet that the Confederates used negro troops against us", and even if they had it was no reason for the North to do the same. So put General Stevenson down as not in favor of the USCT.

The New York herald. (New York [N.Y.]) 1840-1920, February 27, 1863
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Andersonh1

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The writer here takes the opportunity of the conscription act (which I still need to find and read) to take a jab at the sexual proclivities of the "rebel law makers". An accusation of miscegenation would no doubt have been considered quite insulting during this time.

Ashtabula weekly telegraph. (Ashtabula, Ohio) 1853-1873, February 28, 1863
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A discussion of black soldiers includes this comment that if the "rebels" only trusted the black population more, they would already have armed them, but even so "they employ them as far as they dare trust them."

Chicago daily tribune. [volume] (Chicago, Ill.) 1860-1864, March 04, 1863
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Andersonh1

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So we've just hit March 1863, and the General Assembly passed a law at the end of February to provide "negro labor" for "coastal defence", and the Governor calls for citizens to put aside private interest and send their slaves to work. The law seems to have divided the State into districts, with slave owners within a given district directed by the law to send half their male slaves to work "road duty" for one month, and they had to bring their own shovels.

The Lancaster ledger. (Lancaster, S.C.) 1852-1905, March 04, 1863
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Andersonh1

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We get a reprinted story on March 6, once again entitled "Negro Soldiers". In part this refers to slaves being forced to build fortifications "and to shoot Union soldiers."

Delaware gazette. (Delaware, Ohio) 1855-1886, March 06, 1863
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Lewis Steiner and his eyewitness account of armed black men mixed in with the Confederate army in Frederick, Maryland gets another mention in the newspapers. I haven't found many papers that report this, but there are at least three that did.

The Council Bluffs nonpareil. [volume] (Council Bluffs [Iowa]) 1857-1867, March 07, 1863
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Andersonh1

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"Black Rebel Regiments in the Fight" shouts the headline, a news item apparently thought noteworthy enough to be placed beside the news that there had been a battle, and that the Union troops had to retreat.

"During the fight the battery in charge of the 86th Indiana was attacked by two rebel negro regiments. Our artillerists double shotted their guns and cut the black rebels to pieces, and brought their battery safely off."

It's very unlikely that there were two thousand black rebel troops, and the fact remains that we don't know who these men were or how many there actually were. This is a classic case of being on the outside looking in, or seeing events from across the lines without knowing details.

The story goes from the report to rumor ("it has been reported... perhaps one fourth of Van Dorn's force were negro soldiers..."), says the slaves were forced to fight, and then tries to whip up some outrage among the readers over the use of black troops by the South ("does it not make your blood boil", "will you stand it?" Will you brook the outrage?"). Ultimately the whole screed turns pretty racist, as the writer thinks it would be the worst thing ever if the country fell because of black slaves fighting in the war. "Let not history record.... you were such degenerate dastards as to allow negro slaves to be the instruments of your country's eternal downfall..."

The Nashville daily union. (Nashville, Tenn.) 1862-1866, March 07, 1863
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Andersonh1

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A short summary of the battle at Franklin begins circulating in the newspapers. I've only posted two examples here, but there were more. Note the last sentence, "the report about Confederate negro regiments proves to be untrue."

Alexandria gazette. (Alexandria, D.C.) 1834-1974, March 09, 1863 - posted
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Green-Mountain freeman. (Montpelier, Vt.) 1844-1884, March 10, 1863
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And yet, that report also continued to appear in various newspapers. The Chicago Tribune notes the "Black Rebel Regiments in the Fight".

Chicago daily tribune. [volume] (Chicago, Ill.) 1860-1864, March 12, 1863
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Andersonh1

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The Daily Evansville Journal editorializes against copperheads who complain about black Union soldiers but have nothing to say about "rebel negro soldiers". They use the recent account of the "two regiments" in the battle at Nashville as the basis for this particular editorial. The copperheads who hold this attitude are "treasonous" according to the Evansville Journal.

The daily Evansville journal March 12, 1863
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The 32nd Illinois draft resolutions "expressive of the feelings of the men composing the regiment", and among those feelings is an approval of "arming slaves to meet slaves in battle".

"The rebels have employed slaves first in making their fortifications, and more recently under arms."

Chicago daily tribune. [volume] (Chicago, Ill.) 1860-1864, March 13, 1863
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