Did Black Southerners Support the Confederacy?


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Battalion

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SOUTH CAROLINA

The Work Goes Bravely On.--We learn that 150 able-bodied free colored men, of Charleston, yesterday offered their services gratuitously to the Governor, to hasten forward the important work of throwing up redoubts wherever needed along our coast.
 
Charleston Mercury, January 3, 1861

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We learn that a large number of free colored men of Columbia have offered their services, through the Mayor, to the Governor of the State. They say that to South Carolina do they owe allegiance, and to her do they look for protection, and they are willing to serve her in any capacity they may be assigned. -Columbia South Carolinian, January 13

Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, GA), January 19, 1861

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To the Editors of the Charleston Courier:

Honored Sirs:--At a meeting of the free colored men of this city, held by consent of his Honor the Mayor, we were appointed a Committee to wait upon the free colored people and solicit subscriptions for the sick and wounded soldiers of the State now in Virginia.

The Committee, in pursuance of their mission, collected four hundred dollars, and would mention that they received the liberal donation of fifty dollars from the Brown Fellowship Society of this city, through their President, for the same purpose; making a total of four hundred and fifty dollars.

We would respectfully ask you to receive the said enclosed amount, and appropriate it in such a manner as will best subserve our wishes.

We are confident that if this were the busy season of the year the amount reported would have been much larger. Though their proffered services had been somewhat beneficial to the State, many not only subscribed to the various lists previously in circulation, but freely gave us their means.

Attached to the land of our birth, and feeling indebted to our beloved State and City for whatever of protection, patronage and happiness we enjoy, we esteem it a great privilege to evince our sympathy for our brave and sacrificing defenders.

We cannot, honored sirs, convey to you a better idea of the sentiment of our people than the following resolutions, adopted by them unanimously at the meeting above mentioned:


1. Resolved, That we witness with feelings of emulation the gifts that are now being laid upon the altar of the cause of the sick and wounded soldiers of this State now in Virginia.

2. Resolved, That a Committee of six be appointed to receive contributions for this purpose, and to use their discretion in transmitting the same.

With great respect, we remain Your obedient servants,

Samuel Weston, Chairman,
Robert Howard,
J. M. F. Dereef,
Anthony Weston,
Jacob Weston,
J. U. Dereef, } Committee.

We acknowledge receipt of the sum of $450...and shall give their liberal donation a proper application.

It is just to state that many of these contributors have also rendered service and labor, and are willing to do and give all they can in behalf of the State and City and their defenders.

Charleston Courier, September 3, 1861

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The Soldier’s Relief Association of Grahamville, South Carolina…are most pleased to record a donation of $19.28 from the servants of the village, the result of a Supper gotten up by them "for the benefit of our young masters in Virginia." Such instances of loyalty deserve all worthy mention, and these servants have the hearty thanks of the Association.

Charleston Courier, November 26, 1861

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Gunboat Fund-
…The men of the Palmetto State, too, caught the generous infection and emulated the women in the liberality of their donations in money and in kind—planters largely contributing their cotton, and tendering live oak timber and lumber, and the free colored man and the slave figuring in the list of donors. Yes, male and female, bond and free, young and old, rich and poor, all came up to the help of our metropolis against the mighty foe; and the result is a gunboat fund exceeding the large sum of $80,000; and "the cry is still they come."

Charleston Mercury, October 17, 1862

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Charleston Fire Department, Chief Engineer’s Office, Charleston, November 20, 1862.

Hon. C. Macbeth, Mayor:
Dear Sir:--In accordance with your order to me, under date of 15th October, to organize the free colored persons between the ages of 18 and 45 to man the City Engines, I have the honor to report that I have accomplished the same, and take much pleasure in informing you that they have come forward in the most willing manner, and that they have expressed themselves pleased at being called on in the present emergency to do any duty the authorities may feel disposed to put them at. They have enrolled 217 young men, and 43 over the age of 45. The 217 have been apportioned to Engines Nos. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, and are now in service. Should you desire their names, I shall be pleased to furnish them to you at any time.

With great respect, Your obedient servant, M. H. Nathan, Chief of the Fire Department.

Charleston Courier, November 28, 1862
 

diane

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*sigh* My Catawba ancestors were Confederates and served in the ANV. But...their reservation was in South Carolina. What would you do? Announce your treaties were with the United States and that you're neutral? Worked real well for Kentucky! Not that they didn't try being neutral in 'the white man's war about the black man' but it just wasn't possible. Sometimes ya gotta pick yer poison.
 

James B White

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solicit subscriptions for the sick and wounded soldiers of the State now in Virginia.

The Committee, in pursuance of their mission, collected four hundred dollars, and would mention that they received the liberal donation of fifty dollars from the Brown Fellowship Society of this city,
I was curious what that group was. I thought it would be named after someone with the last name of Brown, but no. An interesting example of the complexities of race, it was made up of those who were, literally, "brown"--not light enough to be accepted as white, but socially above slaves and dark-skinned blacks. There are several summaries in the first few Google hits, but this one is typical:

http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/brown-fellowship-society-1790-1945

Founded in 1790, the Brown Fellowship Society is the oldest all-male Funeral Society in Charleston, South Carolina. It also provides a major historical example of how racism affected the African American community itself, in that lighter skinned African Americans in the Society considered themselves superior to darker skinned African Americans. Although still considered inferior by the white population...

Although the [St. Phillips Episcopal] church was interracial, the attached cemetery was restricted to whites. The Fellowship Society aimed to establish their own cemetery for “brown” African American individuals, believing it would foster a sense of social unity among them...

Determined not to upset the white community, the Society did nothing to help slaves (indeed, some lighter-skinned members were slave-owners themselves) and were careful about whom they admitted to their ranks...

Typically only free lighter skinned African Americans were allowed to join, but sometimes darker-skinned individuals who had naturally straight hair were permitted as well. All who joined were considered prosperous and a few were wealthy. Most held relatively affluent jobs such as shoemakers and tailors, but were still subject to prejudice from the white community.

Darker-skinned black men, led by Thomas Smalls, formed their own group, The Society for Free Blacks of Dark Complexion, in 1843, and purchased their own burial land...
 

ForeverFree

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The thread title implies that African Americans were monolithic in their interests. But were they monolithic in their nature?

A point that has been made many times on this forum is that free blacks and enslaved blacks were very different in their status, interests, and motivations. As I mentioned elsewhere, there were 3,521,110 enslaved blacks in the Confederate states, versus 132,740 free blacks. Their motivations and behaviors should be looked at separately.

There is no question that a number of free blacks offered their services to the Confederacy. At the start of the war, free blacks in New Orleans did so; later in the war, in 1863 free blacks in Mobile, AL did the same. Of note is that, in the cases of New Orleans and Mobile, these were so-called black Creoles, whose mixed race heritage and status from their roots in the French/Spanish colonial era made them see themselves not as "black," but as something else altogether. These different contemporary era notions of what it means to be "black" need to be acknowledged and discussed. I will add that a good friend of mine who's been to the Gulf (US Gulf states) has made the comment that even until today, there is some conflict between people of African descent and those who see themselves as being of Creole descent.

- Alan
 

ForeverFree

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At the outset of the war, African Americans had cause to be wary of supporting or allying with the Union side in the war. After all, Lincoln and the Union Congress professed no desire to end slavery where it stood. At one point is was US policy to return human chattel to Confederate enslavers. But over the course of the war, Union policy changed, and certainly, the view of slaves toward the Union changed.

There were several important events, but two were seminal:
• In May 1861, Union officer Benjamin Butler gave asylum at Fort Monroe to a trio of black southerners seeking escape from their enslavers. Within months, word of this spread, and thousands of blacks would have refuge at the Fort. Congressional authorization of the practice of giving freedom to so-called "contrabands of war," and the application of the contraband policy throughout Union occupied territory in the Confederacy, told slaves that their interests were best served by alliance with the Union.

• The second seminal event was the passage of the Second Confiscation and Militia Acts of 1862 and the Emancipation Proclamation, which was based on those acts. These proclaimed blacks in most of the Confederacy to be free, and said that blacks could enlist in the Union army. Of course, no slaveowner in VA or FL or MS freed their slaves as a result of the Proclamation, and why would they: Abraham Lincoln was not their president, the US congress was not their Congress. The message for slaves was clear: it would take a military victory over the Confederacy to ensure emancipation, and blacks were given a chance to be part of the military. Thousands of blacks supported the Union as soldiers, laborers, even spies, before the war was done.


It might be said, then, that at least some black (slave) "support" for the Confederacy, such as it seemed to be, was "conditional." That is, it was predicated on the idea that the Union was no better than the Confederacy in its treatment of the enslaved. But once it became clear that the Union supported an Emancipation Cause, African Americans could (and often did) engage in actions that helped themselves, to the benefit of the Union, and to the detriment of the Confederacy.

- Alan
 

ForeverFree

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As mentioned earlier, there were 132,740 free blacks in the Confederate states. Almost half of them lived in one state, Virginia. Some 58,000 free blacks lived there. In his book Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia by Ervin L. Jordan, Jr, the author discusses many cases where blacks supported the Confederacy, and why they would have done so. Free blacks are prominent in these stories.

One frustrating aspect of the book, though, is that the author doesn't give a good idea of how many blacks supported the Confederacy, although he characterizes such blacks as "a minority within a minority" and further says "Afro-Confederates were riddles. Whites never formally recognized them as spokesmen for blacks. To Southern racial conservatives they were two-faced; Northerners categorized them as oddities and dupes; most blacks disavowed and feared them as foolhardy traitors and scorned these "skilletheads." (Although it may be that the available evidence doesn't allow for anything beyond these kinds of generalizations.)

Here is an interesting passage from the book which speaks to the division between blacks who did and did not support the Confederacy:

But some Afro-Virginians paid a price for their loyalty to the South. A free black pastor in Hampton named Bailey, permitted to purchase his family's freedom and two houses, supported the Confederacy in order to protect them. His fellow blacks considered it a sign of divine justice when his houses were destroyed by fire after Confederates burned the town in the summer of 1861.
Another black Baptist minister, grateful to whites for allowing him to purchase his beautiful daughter and save her from the sexual advances of lecherous slave owners, was so appreciative that he publicly offered the services of himself and his sons to Virginia. Outraged, other blacks rebuked him for this act. At first he tried to defend his actions with the excuse that he had done what he thought best for Afro-Virginians. Then, as irate parishioners turned away, he became alarmed, for there are few things a preacher fears more than not having a congregation. He attempted to restore himself in their good graces with more excuses and finally apologized, but they continued to shun him.

Of note, again, is that the instances above involve free blacks.

- Alan
 

tmh10

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People of that time tended to take sides that promoted their own interest. I can see some free blacks in the south willing to support the Status Quo.
 
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BillO

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I understand that a lot of modern liberals and folks who grew up in places that don't have very many blacks living there have a hard time understanding what I'm about to say but seriously black folks are just the same as white folks. Really, it's true.
Every white person in the south didn't support the war and every white person in the north didn't either. IMO blacks didn't support the war on both sides as well. Personal interests and geography would have had a greater pull than the ultimate impact on their race would have.
 

leftyhunter

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I understand that a lot of modern liberals and folks who grew up in places that don't have very many blacks living there have a hard time understanding what I'm about to say but seriously black folks are just the same as white folks. Really, it's true.
Every white person in the south didn't support the war and every white person in the north didn't either. IMO blacks didn't support the war on both sides as well. Personal interests and geography would have had a greater pull than the ultimate impact on their race would have.
Your quite right in the sense that not all white Southeners supported the war aims of the CSA. We know this to be true because over 100k joined the Union Army and many fled to the west or just deserted and melted into the countryside. By the same token many Northeners deserted or fled to the west and also melted into the countryside.

On the other hand tens of thousands of black men joined the USCT and many thousands fled with just the cloths on their back to reach Union lines. I don't recall thousands of poor Southern whites doing the same. It seems race was a big deal in the CW.
Leftyhunter
 

wilber6150

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I understand that a lot of modern liberals and folks who grew up in places that don't have very many blacks living there have a hard time understanding what I'm about to say but seriously black folks are just the same as white folks. Really, it's true.
Every white person in the south didn't support the war and every white person in the north didn't either. IMO blacks didn't support the war on both sides as well. Personal interests and geography would have had a greater pull than the ultimate impact on their race would have.
Certainly at the beginning of the war there were some blacks who wanted to show support for the land they lived in, but it was soon after this that they reailized what the two sides stood for and you see most of this support dissappear..

So where was all the support for the Confederacy from free blacks at the end of the war, where were the offers from black units to join the CSA in 65? :O o:
 

gem

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The thread title implies that African Americans were monolithic in their interests. But were they monolithic in their nature?

A point that has been made many times on this forum is that free blacks and enslaved blacks were very different in their status, interests, and motivations. As I mentioned elsewhere, there were 3,521,110 enslaved blacks in the Confederate states, versus 132,740 free blacks. Their motivations and behaviors should be looked at separately.

There is no question that a number of free blacks offered their services to the Confederacy. At the start of the war, free blacks in New Orleans did so; later in the war, in 1863 free blacks in Mobile, AL did the same. Of note is that, in the cases of New Orleans and Mobile, these were so-called black Creoles, whose mixed race heritage and status from their roots in the French/Spanish colonial era made them see themselves not as "black," but as something else altogether. These different contemporary era notions of what it means to be "black" need to be acknowledged and discussed. I will add that a good friend of mine who's been to the Gulf (US Gulf states) has made the comment that even until today, there is some conflict between people of African descent and those who see themselves as being of Creole descent.

- Alan
its also important to remember that some free blacks in the south had family who were slaves.

Thus because they had enslaved family members it affected their actions.

A good example of someone like that would be Dangerfield Newby.
 

James B White

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Your quite right in the sense that not all white Southeners supported the war aims of the CSA. We know this to be true because over 100k joined the Union Army and many fled to the west or just deserted and melted into the countryside. By the same token many Northeners deserted or fled to the west and also melted into the countryside.

On the other hand tens of thousands of black men joined the USCT and many thousands fled with just the cloths on their back to reach Union lines. I don't recall thousands of poor Southern whites doing the same. It seems race was a big deal in the CW.
Leftyhunter
I think the point, though, is that people don't always put loyalty to their race ahead of all other considerations. If they did, we should expect no whites to have worked on the underground railroad and no blacks to have supported the Confederacy.
 

leftyhunter

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I disagree with the notion that say assisting blacks to gain their freedom via the underground railway by a white person means that said white person is disloyal to ones race. If a white person thinks that slavery is wrong then helping a slave to reach freedom in Canada is just helping a slave to escape not trying to destroy the whole white race.

On the other hand if a black man is bearing arms for the CSA cause and is captured by the USCT he a. is in a world of (this is a family forum) a very not so nice place. b. he may very well be considered a race traitor and his last moments on earth may not be ideal.
Leftyhunter
 

James B White

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On the other hand if a black man is bearing arms for the CSA cause and is captured by the USCT he a. is in a world of (this is a family forum) a very not so nice place. b. he may very well be considered a race traitor and his last moments on earth may not be ideal.
That's my point. It was a mirror image. That's pretty much exactly what life would be like if a white abolitionist was caught by white men in the south.

Here's a random example, from the February 17, 1863 Boston Traveler newspaper, reported by Gowing Wilson Plummer who had come from Orange, Texas.

"During the month of June, 1861, Jim Worshem, Ben Saxton, Charles Saxton and Joe Jordan, all having been for years notorious thieves and murderers, were engaged by a chivalric party of secessionists, to murder a Mr. McKees, a native of Canada, on account of his anti-slavery views.... With fearful imprecations upon their lips, [they] swore, if they caught the d--d Abolitionist, they would hang him to the first tree."

"[After catching him and failing to have him convicted on a trumped-up charge of horse stealing] the mob seized him as he left the court room, and conveyed him to an old barn, half a mile distant, where, after taunting him with all manner of insults about his views on slavery, they stripped him and administered a coat of tar and feathers. Procuring a rail they rode him into the town of Orange...

"Getting tired of their sport, they took him to an old shanty, and securing an old decrepit negro, they made McKees shake hands with him, and then, amid the jeers of the crowd, told him to take "a drink with his old uncle," and compelled him to "drink old Abe Lincoln's health."

"[They finally let him go, but others of the same gang] heaped all sorts of indignities upon him in the street, hired boys to pelt him with rotten eggs and call him a '****** lover.' Being hourly in fear of his life, he resolved upon another attempt to escape from his intended murderers, and he started on foot for the mountains, hoping to reach Mexico. When six miles from Orange the excited band overtook and completely surrounded him...

"Jim Worshem grabbed him by the throat, and accused him of being a d--d miserable Abolitionist while Joe Jordan applied the lash to his back, and whipped him till his strength was exhausted...[They] then seized the defenceless man, and placing the rope around his neck, carried him across the road to a large tree, where they hung him. The news was soon circulated through Orange, that one d--d ******-stealing Abolitionist was taken care of."
 

leftyhunter

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That's my point. It was a mirror image. That's pretty much exactly what life would be like if a white abolitionist was caught by white men in the south.

Here's a random example, from the February 17, 1863 Boston Traveler newspaper, reported by Gowing Wilson Plummer who had come from Orange, Texas.

"During the month of June, 1861, Jim Worshem, Ben Saxton, Charles Saxton and Joe Jordan, all having been for years notorious thieves and murderers, were engaged by a chivalric party of secessionists, to murder a Mr. McKees, a native of Canada, on account of his anti-slavery views.... With fearful imprecations upon their lips, [they] swore, if they caught the d--d Abolitionist, they would hang him to the first tree."

"[After catching him and failing to have him convicted on a trumped-up charge of horse stealing] the mob seized him as he left the court room, and conveyed him to an old barn, half a mile distant, where, after taunting him with all manner of insults about his views on slavery, they stripped him and administered a coat of tar and feathers. Procuring a rail they rode him into the town of Orange...

"Getting tired of their sport, they took him to an old shanty, and securing an old decrepit negro, they made McKees shake hands with him, and then, amid the jeers of the crowd, told him to take "a drink with his old uncle," and compelled him to "drink old Abe Lincoln's health."

"[They finally let him go, but others of the same gang] heaped all sorts of indignities upon him in the street, hired boys to pelt him with rotten eggs and call him a '****** lover.' Being hourly in fear of his life, he resolved upon another attempt to escape from his intended murderers, and he started on foot for the mountains, hoping to reach Mexico. When six miles from Orange the excited band overtook and completely surrounded him...

"Jim Worshem grabbed him by the throat, and accused him of being a d--d miserable Abolitionist while Joe Jordan applied the lash to his back, and whipped him till his strength was exhausted...[They] then seized the defenceless man, and placing the rope around his neck, carried him across the road to a large tree, where they hung him. The news was soon circulated through Orange, that one d--d ******-stealing Abolitionist was taken care of."
Good point well taken. While most Northern whites may not see assisting slaves to utilize the underground railroad to escape to Canada to be disloyal to the white race those who supported slavery might feel differently.

I don't know if a USCT unit ever captured a black man bearing arms for the CSA. Perhaps they might not end his days on earth. The History channel had a documentary about Camp Douglas where a black man was captured wearing a CSA uniform and had taken arms against the Union. This did not amuse the guards and his stay at Camp Douglas was very short. On the other hand he did not have to suffer from the ravages of cold and diseases caused by the terrible filth and poor diet of Camp Douglas.
Leftyhunter
 

Battalion

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ALABAMA and FLORIDA

Loyalty of a Slave--Mr. M.B. Kyser communicates to the Cahaba (Ala.) Gazette, the fact that while he was taking up a subscription to aid in uniforming the Richmond Greys, of Dallas County, John, a slave belonging to Mr. A.W. Coleman, promptly gave ten dollars.

Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, GA), January 31, 1861

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The Poor African, and the Confederate Loan.
Albert, a slave, the property of Gen. S.G. Hardaway....found his master, obtained his consent, and the books of the Loan subscription show three hundred dollars of coupon bonds subcribed for and paid "by Sam'l G. Hardaway, trustee for his slave Albert," and with the money of Albert.
Alfred, the slave of Col. W. Crawford Bibb, being told of Albert's subcription, drew out one hundred dollars which he had on deposit, and subscribed for coupon bonds to that amount.
We give the facts--Greeley may make the comments.--Montgomery Mail.

Macon Telegraph, April 20, 1861

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The Pensacola Observer, of June 29th, contains the following....
….
A Refreshing Item.—We have been informed by our worthy Mayor that the free colored people of our city have come forward this morning, voluntarily taking the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States, and have organized a military company, numbering thirty-six men, who offer their services to the authorities for the protection of our city.

Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, GA), July 4, 1861

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The colored firemen of Montgomery, Ala., recently gave a ball for the benefit of the volunteers from that city, the proceeds of which amounted to one hundred and fifty dollars.

Charleston Mercury, October 29, 1861

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...Editors: I have the pleasure of acknowledging the receipt of $---.75 [-illegible], for the benefit of our sick Soldiers, from the Managers of the "Creole Fair."

I have been made the receptacle of many valuable contributions from town and country for similar purposes and there is not one which has gratified me more than this.

The colored Creole population of Mobile have always been noted for their honesty, their love of law and order, their charity, and their fidelity to the honor and interests of the city, and it is particularly gratifying to see this crowning proof at a time like this.

This noble act of charity may surprise those hovering on the coast, who would delight to see our town in ashes; but to us, it is in accordance with the reputation they have always maintained.

J. C. Nott, Medical Director.

Mobile Register, February 6, 1862

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Headquarters 9th Brigade A. M., Mobile, February 12, 1862.

The Creole Guards…is accepted as a Volunteer Company in pursuance of Special Order No. 13, and will constitute Company A of the Creole Volunteers….

By command of Thomas J. Butler, Brigadier-General commanding 9th Brigade A. M.

Mobile Register, February 14, 1862

"A. M." - Alabama Militia

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Creole Guards--Attention!

You will meet at your Armory, this evening, 27th inst., at 7 1/2 o'clock, for Drill and Duty. It is expected that every member will be present.

Mobile Register, March 27, 1862

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Creole Guards Attention!

Attend a Meeting of your Company...at the house of Creole Fire Company No. 1. Punctual attendance of every member is requested.

P. S.--All Creoles in the city are invited to attend at that time and place....

Mobile Register, December 17, 1862
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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All these news reports were published for a reason, to reassure the Southern populace that they were in the right. A similar stance caused many setbacks and defeats for the South to be reported as victories, to the extent that, outside of tough economic times, the appearance of Federal forces sometimes came as an utter surprise.

I do not accept propaganda as proof of anything.
 

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