Discussion Did the Confederate states have any Black units

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Robert E Lee 1

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I'm aware of the 54th Massachusetts unit for the Union but did any Black confederate units exist
 

Borderruffian

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recruitment of blacks was illegal in the Confederate States, that changed late in the war and attracted few black volunteers, to little too late. Some blacks may have managed to pass ,even more that went to war as servants took active part in combat.
 

Robert E Lee 1

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recruitment of blacks was illegal in the Confederate States, that changed late in the war and attracted few black volunteers, to little too late. Some blacks may have managed to pass ,even more that went to war as servants took active part in combat.
Alright thanks , I think Robert E Lee got Jefferson Davis to finally legalize that around late 1864 if I remember correctly .
 
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Don Dixon

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Louisiana had a long history of the participation of free men of color in the colonial Spanish and French militia. This continued under U.S. administration in the War of 1812 when the Battalion of Free Men of Color participated in the defense of New Orleans under Andrew Jackson, who was certainly no liberal on matters of race. At the beginning of the Civil War the black militia was revived and a regiment was formed to protect New Orleans and Louisiana from invasion. The companies had black officers, and the regiment was led by a white colonel. The idea did not meet with approval at the Confederate national level, however, and the blacks were not taken into the Confederate national army structure or withdrawn from New Orleans when the city was captured by the Federals.

Purportedly, many of the same men volunteered for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Native Guards regiments in the Federal Army. If no one has done it, and I haven't seen a detailed study, it would be interesting to compare the 1860 census records and the muster rolls of the Louisiana militia unit and the three Federal regiments.

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Don Dixon
 

CLuckJD

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NO! Is the true reply stated by all credible sources. Although rebels did organize one Black unit in March 1865, they never got through training before Lee surrendered less than a month later. According to one of many such reports,

"Arming slaves was essentially setting them free, since they could not realistically be sent back to plantations after they had fought. General Patrick Cleburne suggested enlisting slaves a year before then, but few in Confederate leadership considered the proposal, as slavery was the foundation of Southern society. One politician asked, “What did we go to war for, if not to protect our property?” Another suggested, “If slaves will make good soldiers, our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” Lee weighed in on the issue and asked the Confederate government for help. “We must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves.” Lee asked that slaves be freed if they fought, but the bill Confederate Congress passed on March 13, 1865, did not stipulate freedom for those who served (emphases added) (History.com)"

And even after that desperate last-ditch effort to save a lost cause, Jefferson's Sec. of State and Lee's top general Robert Toombs gave his view on the issue as published below by Augusta Chronicle's June 1865 issue:

1564224052584.png


But it's not true that Black men never served on behalf of their oppressors. The “Official Records of the War of the Rebellion” records for both sides that consumes over 50,000 pages in 50 volumes lists 7 eyewitness accounts of 'Black confederates.' 3 report unarmed Black laborers and 1 is about a few Blacks captured along with rebel POWs. Otherwise, no documents exist whatsoever on Negro confederate units. Nor was a cent paid in pension benefits to one 'Black confederate' veteran.

With that in mind, though, cursory research will find no shortage of fraud and deception about this question exists out there. Below is one vivid example to show how easy it can be now:

1st LA Native Guard, c. 1861 Fraud IMAGE.png

Source: University of Virginia. An altered photo at left is offered by many as "evidence" of Black confederates. But it's been deliberately cropped and mislabeled. The original unedited version at right clearly shows 1,500 free Black comprised the "1st Louisiana Native Guards" in the early CW, but forced to disaband by confed forces in Jan 1862. Some later joined the Union Army. This image depicts a Union USCT unit.

So, the bottom line is resoundingly NO! in reply to this OPer's query. Not only did Black men have self-evident reasons for vehement anti-rebel sentiment but vice-versa held true so far as letting them bear arms for any cause whatsoever. However, white lost cause liars as well as outright conmen in black skin have managed to tell big lies that serve nothing but self-interests. One especially memorable latter type was ex-confed camp slave and cook Steve “Eberhart” Perry, a major attraction at rebel vet reunions and public events. He stood out from a crowd by his gaudy costume getup with tall, feathered stovepipe hat, bright sash with “ROME, GA” embroided just below U.S. and Confederate flagpins on both shoulders. The final touch was live chickens in each arm to commemorate the vital role war camp slaves played in foraging out what little food rebels ate. After every performance when his white audiences laughed at not with him, Perry closed by vowing to "forever remain in my place and be obedient to all the white people." Then, concluded with a prayer for angels to guard the homes of Rome and God's light to shine upon them. PS: He also adapted his ex-"master's" surname for these public spectacles.

Among Perry's most hated contemporaries is NC Museum of History Curator & ex-Dir. of his local NAACP branch Earl Ijames. He was humiliated at one recent lecture when informed audience members pointed out the alteration of a 'Black confederate' vet's purported application for pension benefits. This was just one blatant fakery or fallacy Ijames reportedly uses his position to perpetrate. So, it's no wonder why the 'Colored Confederate' myth refuses to die. With truth enemies like these Uncle Tom traitors, who needs help from even one white lost cause denialist?
 
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thomas aagaard

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I'm aware of the 54th Massachusetts unit for the Union but did any Black confederate units exist
There were something like 180.000 US colored Troops...

Alright thanks , I think Robert E Lee got Jefferson Davis to finally legalize that around late 1864 if I remember correctly .
CSA law did not allow colored men to enlist until the very end of the war. (March 1865)
(exceptions was done for musicians.)

Some of the states that was members of the CSA did have colored men in their state militias early in the war.
But when the unit was turned over to CSA command, they where forced to go home or go as musicians and cooks.

Louisiana had one unit the 1st Native Guard. They where colored men, who paid for everything themselves. But it was recognized state militia unit. It was disbanded in early 1862 because of CSA law.

Over the next 2½ years there where a number of cases where CSA officers asked the war department permission to enlist colored men as soldiers. It was refused every single time.

Here is one of the cases
Black Enslistment Seddon Kirby Smith copy.jpg



That said here and there, colored men did manage to serve and even fight despite it being illegal.
 
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1NCCAV

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CSA law did not allow colored men to enlist until the very end of the war. (March 1865)
(exceptions was done for musicians.).......colored men did manage to serve and even fight despite it being illegal.
True, there were individual black men in Confederate combat units that were sure enough combat soldiers and not cooks, teamsters, or musicians. I believe this happened mostly (exclusively?) in the western theatre.

That is different from Confederate units of black men in combat roles.
 

thomas aagaard

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True, there were individual black men in Confederate combat units that were sure enough combat soldiers and not cooks, teamsters, or musicians. I believe this happened mostly (exclusively?) in the western theatre.

That is different from Confederate units of black men in combat roles.
I do also think it more common out west.

What is clear is that Richmond saw color as black or white and they made the laws with this in mind.
But in some states, especially the former Spanish/french areas there where more than two groups. The Creoles being a good example of this.
 

CLuckJD

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There were something like 180.000 US colored Troops...
But like this same group's name also implied, it's large number comprised all-Negro troops who'd been self-organized, then recognized and duly authorized exclusively by and for Union loyalties as men of war. Not workhorses used by rebel forces.
CSA law did not allow colored men to enlist until the very end ...
True. And by then, it was far too late. None of those very few 100 or so Negroes ever saw one day in live combat, when Lee surrendered and thus rendered them moot anyway.
Some CSA states did have colored men in their state militias early in the war.
There were no such groups I'm aware of except one you make reference to that began as Louisiana's 1st Native Guard. Troops were free light-skinned Creole men of affluent origin whose personal views were sympathetic to rebels' position. But when rebels went against them by law to forbid assistance from Black men, many did likewise and switched sides to become USCT's then new 73d Infantry Regiment.
CSA officers asked permission to enlist colored men as soldiers (but) refused every single time. ...here and there, colored men did serve and even fight (for rebels) despite it being illegal.
100% right on each count, especially the first one about rebel persistence in staunch resistance to giving their 'natural inferiors' any right to bear arms for any cause whatsoever, including a fight against fellow white men like them. This brings two more things to mind, one of which I find a highly ironic twist in this sad tale of rebel woe and sorrow. 1) Colored men fought "here and there" had no genuine loyalty to rebel oppressors on general principles. Insead, their role was mere lackeys thought happy blackeys to go step, fetch or catch hell or tread high water on command they "dare not disobey," per Union Gen. Ben Butler. Although some Black men no doubt felt sincere affection for lifelong "masters" who were often blood kin and thus relative "gentlemen" adult captors, this is quite different from intense passion to fight against wrong. Ditto for rebels who held fast to their past view that black skin marks one as beast of burden from birth for no purpose but service to white men. Below is just one ideal case study from real life:

Rebel Sgt. JW Comer & Loyal Negro Body Servant.png
Comer seated beside loyal body servant Burrell, age 16 at the time​

J.W. Comer had risen to 1st Sgt. rank and served as rebels' Alabama 27th Infantry Regiment H Company Lt. 2nd in command under Capt. B.M. Talbot at Mobile and Pollard thru 1864, when he followed them to Demopolis where they joined TN Army troops. When Comer got bad wounds in the Battle of Atlanta, his young body servant whose name was Burrell, then age 16, came to Comer's rescue on the battlefield. Burrell then rowed Comer 260 miles via bateau down the Chattahoochee River to Columbus, GA. Comer's mother met them there and took her son home, where he fully recuperated. Nonetheless, Comer maintained for the rest of the war that Burrell was a n****, not confederate soldier. Comer Family papers on file at LSU document this incredible tale as 100% true.

2) Jeff Davis' staunch refusal to let Black men enlist as his official agents in war has a highly ironic twist of poetic justice. Among many sources where its irony is brought to bear is one letter from Rebel Army Commander Patrick R. Cleburne dated on January 2, 1864. Gen. Cleburne stated that he could see at least 3 "great causes operating" to destroy rebels: "First, the inferiority of our armies to those of the enemy in point of numbers; second, the poverty of our single source of supply in comparison with his several sources; and third, that slavery, from being one of our chief sources of strength at the commencement of the war, has now become, in a military point of view, one of our chief sources of weakness." This was true because "To prevent raids we are forced to scatter our forces, and not free to move and strike like the enemy; his vulnerable points are carefully selected and fortified depots. Ours are found in every point where there is a slave to set free." (emphases in original source). So, once again, it looks as though arrogance proves to bind men from abject ignorance who grow blind to their own best interests.
 
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DixieRifles

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I recall a "Pawn Stars" episode where someone brought in a pistol owned by a black Confederate officer. The catch? He was a freeman from Louisiana where they had a lot of mixed race people.


Oops. I watched it again. These were Union militia.
 

major bill

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I am only posting this post to put the concept of black militia in context.

There were limited a number of black militia companies in Northern states at the start of the Civil War, but the Federal government would not accept them into Federal service.
 
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CLuckJD

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Even at the end of the War the Confederate Congress could not accept freeing slaves who became soldiers.
Of course not. How could they after refusing to let one slave become first true soldier of his kind anyway? Beside this, rebel pride was too wounded from gross oversight that cost a hard fight lost vs. won by refusal to utilize their best asset used for Union victory instead. So, what else should we expect them to have done in such grim circumstances? By then, slaves who'd become real soldiers had been formidable foes proven worthy of fear and respect - not good cheer to accept with open arms as full citizens.
 
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wbull1

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There were a small number of individual blacks who fought for the Confederacy, although it was technically illegal. No units though. Some of the members of the Lousiana National fought for the Union. Also, even when a black unit was approved toward the end of the war, the men had to have their owners' permission to join.

The unanswered question was if the Confederates gave blacks weapons, who would the weapons be used against?
 

1NCCAV

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There were a small number of individual blacks who fought for the Confederacy, although it was technically illegal.
Holt Collier is the one I am most familiar with and the one I have mentioned a few times before on similar threads. Collier was the exception though, and not the rule.
 
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CLuckJD

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Holt Collier is the one I am most familiar with and mentioned a few times before on similar threads. Collier was the exception though, not the rule.
Yes, he is quite a rare specimen among very few Black man who managed to gain true respect from white men back in his day when it was a social faux pas. By credible reports, Holt's success is due credit to exceptional high prowess on big game hunts where social rank and taboo caste and class issues were temporarily cast aside. This left nothing but intrepidness and skill as twin criteria to win acceptance. Holt Collier played his role so well to gain honor among all men as hunter and trusted guide with no regard to race. But an often neglected fact is that fellow Black men also opted to follow his footsteps in efforts to become accepted. Most failed dismally despite how much their attempts truly excelled by fair standards. Yet, they do explain why so many of them put forth such efforts in the first place. As historian Edmund Drago aptly notes: Underaged white boys in a slave society circumscribed by codes of chivalry and honor, knew Civil War service was their ticket to manhood, freedom and glory they could not reject. So, many white adolescent males ran away from home to escape parental objection to their eager enlistment effort.

Enslaved Black youth had far greater stakes in their zeal for military duty vested by lack of normal outlets like paid work, legal marriage or political activism. Thus, Civil War combat gave a young Black slave unprecedented opportunity to gain freedom and claim to coveted male adulthood. Addressed by white folks all their lives as "boy" despite age, it was quite a rare opportune moment to prove otherwise. One Black SC Sgt. stated “Now we are men—for the first time in our lives,” and "look old masters in de face (who) used to sell and whip us, and we did not dare say one word. Now we ain’t afraid to run the bayonet through them.” (PBS.org). His words fail to convey sad truth that not every fellow comrade had a way to prove manhood but serving as their archenemy's footstool. This was how the 'Black Confederate' myth was born that lives on now.
 

CLuckJD

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The unanswered question was if Confederates gave blacks weapons, who would the weapons be used against?
Quite ironically, many white rebels had no fear that any Black man presumed "too dumb" to use a gun against them or Union troops who may come pay an unwelcome visit. So, I give "Massa Jeff" slight credit for a show of common sense to decry Abe's EP as "most execrable measure in the history of guilty man.” He followed with solemn vow to enslave or execute any Black POW on the spot. His guarantee for summary lethal correction also extended to white commanders who "incite servile insurrection." So, head ex-confed honcho at least knew the true nature of a beast he was up against. If only he hadn't refused to deny it but used it for his own self interests ...
 
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