Did Sherman ever change his negative opinion on colored troops after the war?

General JJ

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Jan 24, 2019
Sherman did not hold a high opinion on colored soldiers, refusing to use them in his armies. But in his post-war career, is it known if he ever changed his mind?
 

jackt62

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New York City
I don't know whether he ever changed his opinion about Black soldiers, but as General of the Army in the post war years, he certainly had to accept and acknowledge their use, particularly given the role that the famous "Buffalo" soldiers played in the frontier wars.
 

John Hartwell

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I'm not sure about after the war... but he basically summed up what he thought of black soldiers in this one quote: "Yes, a negro might be as good as a white man to stop a bullet but a sand bag is better.”
However he meant it, it's really only a commentary on sand bags! They're better than white soldiers, too, when it comes to stopping bullets.
 

Mike Serpa

Major
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
Perhaps something more than sandbags! This is from Facebook.

...I have had the question put to me often: ‘Is not a negro as good as a white man to stop a bullet!’ Yes, and a sand-bag is better; but can a negro do our skirmishing and picket duty! Can they improvise roads, bridges, sorties, flank movements, &c., like the white man! I say no. Soldiers must and do many things without orders from their own sense, as in sentinels. Negroes are not equal to this. I have gone steadily, firmly, and confidently along, and I could not have done it with black troops, but with my old troops I have never felt a waver of doubt, and that very confidence begets success.



This site below says the source is Sherman to Halleck September 4, 1864 (OR Volume 38(5):79 1-794):

I have had the question put to me
often; "Is not a negro as good as a white
man to stop a bullet?" Yes, and a san-bag is
better; but can a negro do our skirmishing
and picket duty? Can they improvise roads,
bridges, sorties, flank movements, &c, like
the white man? I say Numbers Soldiers must
and do many things without orders from
their own sense, as in sentinels. Negroes are
not equal to this. I have gone steadily, firmly
and confidently along, and I could not have
done it with black troops, but with my old
troops I have never felt a waver of doubt,
and that very confidence begets success.

It reads 'I say no' as 'I say Numbers.' (Page 100) That just doesn't make sense.

 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Sherman did not hold a high opinion on colored soldiers, refusing to use them in his armies. But in his post-war career, is it known if he ever changed his mind?
I shall offer you a book to read instead rendering my own thoughts on this[ RISING in Flames ,Sherman's march and the fight for a new nation]author J.D. Dickey. A interesting point he makes is,as the army moves into the deep South and the heart of slavery ,how the men's attitude changes as they see slavery first time .This will have a effect upon all involved in this operation from Sherman's staff to the private in line, If you do not read the book ,read the EPIOGUE ,It might answer your enquiry ,
 

SWMODave

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Forum Host
Thread Medic
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Location
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Does anyone have the remarks he made in reference to the 1871 article (excerpted below)?

1606308260231.png


New York Tribune May 16, 1871

Is it possible these remarks give a clue to the O.P's question?
 

Carronade

Captain
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Location
Pennsylvania
"If General Sherman comes with the olive branch instead of the sword the South will gladly meet him on half-way ground."

That's a lot like something Sherman said during the war. I don't have the quote, but it was something like when this war is over, I will be the Southerners' best friend.
 

Joshism

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Location
Jupiter, FL
Sherman: "can a negro do our skirmishing
and picket duty? Can they improvise roads,
bridges, sorties, flank movements, &c, like
the white man? I say No. Soldiers must
and do many things without orders from
their own sense, as in sentinels. Negroes are
not equal to this. I have gone steadily, firmly
and confidently along, and I could not have
done it with black troops, but with my old
troops I have never felt a waver of doubt,
and that very confidence begets success."

Interesting the explanation that Sherman gives. He doesn't criticize them as bad fighters, undisciplined, or even lazy (the common racial accusation of the age).

When you consider Sherman is probably thinking of USCT in terms of recently freed slaves rather than Northern free blacks there is some basis for this bias beyond race.

Northerners were mostly moderately educated. Many had worked in trades or business. "Yankee ingenuity" had basis in reality. In rural areas most had experience with firearms, and some non-rural residents still had some hunting and target shooting.

If you were just out of slavery in the ACW you probably had no formal education, were illiterate, had never touched a firearm, had initiative beaten out of you.

In other words there is a real concern with slaves-turned-soldiers: not that they are black, but that they had spent their lives as slaves. To be clear, both descriptions above are generalizations, and are a matter of probability not certainty

Keep in mind too that basic training in the ACW was limited to learning how to march and, if you were lucky, how to go through the manual of arms. Everyone on both sides was undertrained.

Sherman's policy of not using USCT was also a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because he refused to use them he never saw what they were actually capable of thus had no reason to change his views.
 
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Location
mo
Interesting the explanation that Sherman gives. He doesn't criticize them as bad fighters, undisciplined, or even lazy (the common racial accusation of the age).

When you consider Sherman is probably thinking of USCT in terms of recently freed slaves rather than Northern free blacks there is some basis for this bias beyond race.

Northerners were mostly moderately educated. Many had worked in trades or business. "Yankee ingenuity" had basis in reality. In rural areas most had experience with firearms, and some non-rural residents still had some hunting and target shooting.

If you were just out of slavery in the ACW you probably had no formal education, were illiterate, had never touched a firearm, had initiative beaten out of you.

In other words there is a real concern with slaves-turned-soldiers: not that they are black, but that they had spent their lives as slaves. To be clear, both descriptions above are generalizations, and are a matter of probability not certainty

Keep in mind too that basic training in the ACW was limited to learning how to march and, if you were lucky, how to go through the manual of arms. Everyone on both sides was undertrained.

Sherman's policy of not using USCT was also a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because he refused to use them he never saw what they were actually capable of thus had no reason to change his views.
You would be correct in if one considered uneducated a liability, Sherman had a valid point, as would those who had such concerns postwar of elevating them to positions of power and responsibility, that's an aspect that often seems ignored and glossed over. There would be an actual basis for such bias as you say, yet that's largely not mentioned at all.........
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Interesting the explanation that Sherman gives. He doesn't criticize them as bad fighters, undisciplined, or even lazy (the common racial accusation of the age).

When you consider Sherman is probably thinking of USCT in terms of recently freed slaves rather than Northern free blacks there is some basis for this bias beyond race.

Northerners were mostly moderately educated. Many had worked in trades or business. "Yankee ingenuity" had basis in reality. In rural areas most had experience with firearms, and some non-rural residents still had some hunting and target shooting.

If you were just out of slavery in the ACW you probably had no formal education, were illiterate, had never touched a firearm, had initiative beaten out of you.

In other words there is a real concern with slaves-turned-soldiers: not that they are black, but that they had spent their lives as slaves. To be clear, both descriptions above are generalizations, and are a matter of probability not certainty

Keep in mind too that basic training in the ACW was limited to learning how to march and, if you were lucky, how to go through the manual of arms. Everyone on both sides was undertrained.

Sherman's policy of not using USCT was also a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because he refused to use them he never saw what they were actually capable of thus had no reason to change his views.
What he meant was that combat was dangerous. Exposing untrained men to combat conditions to prove a political point was militarily stupid. Also, conditions for black soldiers in the west were different than conditions in the east. The eastern USCT included many more free black men from Maryland, Pennsylvania and even Canada. In the west, the USCT were almost all freedmen and they were conscience of their danger if they were captured.
It was logical to use the freedmen in logistical roles and as pioneers and to keep them away from the front.
 
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danny

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Feb 20, 2005
Location
Hattiesburg
You would be correct in if one considered uneducated a liability, Sherman had a valid point, as would those who had such concerns postwar of elevating them to positions of power and responsibility, that's an aspect that often seems ignored and glossed over. There would be an actual basis for such bias as you say, yet that's largely not mentioned at all.........
Too easy just to blame it all on Southerners/Confederates
 

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