Frederick Douglass Worried After the Civil War that the Role of Black Soldiers Would be Forgotten in Favor of Confederate "Heroes"

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Couldn’t both the Lost Cause mythology -and- northern racism be to blame?
Kudos for trying to pour oil on troubled waters--but racism is "fear of others" taken to an unhealthy extreme. IMO the contributions of USCT haven't been overlooked.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Another thread about black Confederates? Wow. I think it is evident that there were black Confederates, which I believe is undisputable. The only disputed thing is the role they played in the military. I have a hard time believing that blacks were armed, slave or free. Who in their right mind from the Confederacy decided to arm blacks? I think the evidence to neutralize this assertion is very scanty.
 
Kudos for trying to pour oil on troubled waters--but racism is "fear of others" taken to an unhealthy extreme. IMO the contributions of USCT haven't been overlooked.

I'd have to disagree. The USCT have relatively remained ignored by authors until the movie Glory came out. Here are two screenshots of a Google Ngram search of the word USCT. Notice the flat line until the later part of the 20th Century. If you go to Google's Ngram and enter USCT in the search box, you'll get the identical graphs. If you click on any portion of the blue colored graph line on the bottom, it will open up a complete list of books for that year that mention the United States Colored Troops.

Screenshot Ngram ViewerUSCT 1866-2019.jpg


Screenshot Ngram ViewerUSCT 1965-2019.jpg
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I'd have to disagree. The USCT have relatively remained ignored by authors until the movie Glory came out.
And I hold to my statement. Review the previous postings on monuments--the Boston (54th Mass.) monument went up in the late 1800's. If you do a search on World Cat for "united states colored troops," you'll come up with 5040 hits--which is not to say that there are over 5k books on USCT but that such works are available in 5k+ libraries. Do a search on newspapers using the same term and you'll find that there were 9770 articles in historic newspapers.

I used the full term.
 
And I hold to my statement. Review the previous postings on monuments--the Boston (54th Mass.) monument went up in the late 1800's. If you do a search on World Cat for "united states colored troops," you'll come up with 5040 hits--which is not to say that there are over 5k books on USCT but that such works are available in 5k+ libraries. Do a search on newspapers using the same term and you'll find that there were 9770 articles in historic newspapers.

I used the full term.

Yes, but if you enter USCT in the Ngram, every hit for a given year you open are books that mention "United States Colored Troops." Most 19th and early 20th Century books that mention the USCTs are books that are referencing the congressional records, the O.R.s and local histories mentioning local soldiers and the units they were with. There is a reason why the Ngram is basically flat when trying to find books written about the USCT's from the end of the Civil War until the later part of the 20th century and I contend that the lack of interest by Northern and Southern authors for what ever reason be it racism or something else, were the reasons why. Once Hollywood released the movie Glory, the Ngram shoots up like a rocket with books that mention the USCTs.

edited to add - one fault of Google's Ngram is that you can only search for a single word. Hence, the reason I used USCT.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Yes, but if you enter USCT in the Ngram, every hit for a given year you open are books that mention "United States Colored Troops." Most 19th and early 20th Century books that mention the USCTs are books that are referencing the congressional records, the O.R.s and local histories mentioning local soldiers and the units they were with. There is a reason why the Ngram is basically flat when trying to find books written about the USCT's from the end of the Civil War until the later part of the 20th century and I contend that the lack of interest by Northern and Southern authors for what ever reason be it racism or something else, were the reasons why. Once Hollywood released the movie Glory, the Ngram shoots up like a rocket with books that mention the USCTs.

edited to add - one fault of Google's Ngram is that you can only search for a single word. Hence, the reason I used USCT.
The OP was about Mr. Douglass' fear that black soldiers would be forgotten--not that they would be forgotten until 1989. My statement stands and Mr. Douglass need not have been so worried.
 
The OP was about Mr. Douglass' fear that black soldiers would be forgotten--not that they would be forgotten until 1989. My statement stands and Mr. Douglass need not have been so worried.
Forgotten? After the 1880s they were hardly remembered in any of the thousands of books being written about the Civil War.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Categorically, the USCT regiments are terribly difficult to research. Local men from here in Rutherford County TN were recruited into the 13th USCTI. After the war, the area around what would become Stones River NB became the Cemetery Community. Churches founded at that time are still active & occupy the original location. 20 years ago, group of local men formed the 13th USCTI reenactor regiment.

The founders included the former head of the TN State Historical Commission. These were Professional people living in a university town with access to libraries, archives & historians willing to help with research. It proved a very frustrating exercise.

The well documented effort of influential historians from Vanderbilt & the University of the South at the turn of the 20th Century to write self-liberated people out of the narrative was one obstacle that they ran into. In TN schools, CW history was taught from Lost Cause counter factual pamphlets produced by the UDC.., “Your Friend the Klan” was one my mother always remembered because her mother despised Kluxers. Needless to say, the heroic battle record of the 13th USCTI was not a part of the UDC’s CW narrative. White people doing everything they could to erase the record is one thing, what happened in the black community is quite another.

The simple reason given for the dearth of oral history about USCT ancestors is that black families were too busy coping with reconstruction & Jim Crow to get nostalgic about slave times & CW history. I have sat with local folks who were researching their USCT ancestry & we all looked like a collection of bobble heads. Everybody sits there shaking their heads.

To a certain degree, the worm has turned. There is a USCT statue in the National Cemetery in Nashville. The Cemetery Community & the 111th USCTI’s participation in the creation of Stones River National Cemetery is the subject of weekly programs. Local decedents participate in those programs, something unheard of previously. In Franklin TN, over the vociferous objections of local UDC & SCV chapters, a statue honoring the participation of local blacks in their liberation will be erected. Bit by bit, the historic record is being filled in.

Of course, there are still people who never pass up a chance to dismiss the USCT’s as inferior soldiers. I mean no disrespect, but deliberately or not, the reference to the 1st South Carolina in this thread is an example worth noting. Anybody unfamiliar with that unit would assume that it is a valid example of the inferiority of USCT regiments. Nothing could be further from the truth

A knowledge person is aware that the 1st South Carolina predated the creation of the USCT. It was a Sea Island self-liberated slave militia. As such, the membership was remarkably fluid. The officer’s depiction of the 1st’s operations is, if anything, generous. It is, of course, no commentary of any kind about units like the 13th. Eventually, some of the 1st Carolina veterans formed up with USCT regiments.

Like all CW topics, new evidence about USCT topics comes out of attics now & again. Despite archivists that deliberately scrubbed the record & the vexed issue of largely illiterate participants, the true narrative of the USCT in the CW is an ongoing process.
 
Last edited:

Cycom

Private
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
Kudos for trying to pour oil on troubled waters--but racism is "fear of others" taken to an unhealthy extreme. IMO the contributions of USCT haven't been overlooked.
Please don’t assume, because my question was just that, a simple question. I have no motives, other that gleaning knowledge and trying to find the truth. Having read both sides, I simply asked whether both arguments had a role to play: the Lost Cause mythology and the racism prevalent in the pre and post war North.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Please don’t assume, because my question was just that, a simple question. I have no motives, other that gleaning knowledge and trying to find the truth. Having read both sides, I simply asked whether both arguments had a role to play: the Lost Cause mythology and the racism prevalent in the pre and post war North.

Yeah, the Lost Cause exaggerates everything and the Yankees down play everything. Take these threads with a grain of salt. There is no doubt that Black Confederates existed, but how many were combat troops? The Lost Causers want you to believe that there were plenty of black Confederates and the Yankees want you to believe that there wasn't enough to even give credence to.

My take is this: there's was no doubt that there were black Confederates who were part of the Confederate war effort, free or slave participated. However, I'm little skeptical about black combat troops/infantry, just for the express reason that what Confederate leader would have had the guts to arm blacks in a slave driven society? According to that reasoning, blacks were fighting to keep other blacks enslaved. LOL. The one professor who I knew well used to claim that free blacks in the south actually owned slaves. Perhaps they were combat troops? Maybe, but there is no proof. I doubt it with all my being that the Confederates armed slaves. No way...
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Along these lines, because of my Dad’s work, we lived in Iowa, South Dakota & Illinois. I vividly recall celebrating German, Polish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Meskwaki & Lakota traditions. I have no recollection of a single reference to the Civil War. If relations in Nashville had not sent me a packet of materials, I would not have been aware of the centennial at all.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Please don’t assume, because my question was just that, a simple question. I have no motives, other that gleaning knowledge and trying to find the truth. Having read both sides, I simply asked whether both arguments had a role to play: the Lost Cause mythology and the racism prevalent in the pre and post war North.
Excuse me for thinking well of you 😂

Yes, there was prejudice. Northerners--especially the New Englanders that I study--were not accustomed to black people in large number and were uneasy. A worry that I found repeated was that negros from the south had been conditioned to fear white men. However, let me quote from two letters written back to Rhode Island .

In September of 1863, Lt. Charles Brayton wrote: "The prejudice against Negro troops is fast wearing away and will vanish entirely in a few months".

Having witnessed the bravery of the 57th Mass. charge, Lt. Brayton wrote: ""Southern negroes are not worth equipping. They are entirely different from the Northern negro. Give me a supreme command of a Regiment of Northern negroes and I will made as good a fighting Regiment as has left R.I."
 
The one professor who I knew well used to claim that free blacks in the south actually owned slaves.

Your professor was correct. Historian and author Kenneth Stampp, puts the number of "free Negroes or persons of mixed ancestry" who owned slaves at around 3,600. Some Black slaveowners used slaves and their labor for many of the same economic and social reasons as those of their White counterparts but many of these Black owned slaves were actually family members who were purchased as a way of protecting them from the actual rigors of slavery. Also, some Black slaveowners purchased a slave for the sole purpose of marriage:

"Not all southern slaves were Negroes, and not all southern masters were whites. In 1830, more than thirty-six hundred free Negroes or persons of mixed ancestry owned slaves. The great majority of these colored slaveowners had merely purchased husbands, wives, or children and were unable to emancipate them under existing state laws. A few were substantial planters, such as the Negr0 in King George County, Virginia, who owned seventy-one slaves; another in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, who owned seventy-five; and two others in Colleton District, South Carolina, who owned eighty-four apiece. Though southern whites overwhelmingly disapproved, only in Delaware and Arkansas did the courts refuse to sanction the ownership of slaves by 'free persons of color.' The Arkansas Supreme Court held that slavery had its foundation 'in an inferiority of race' and the bondage of one Negro to another lacked 'this solid foundation to rest upon'."
The Peculiar Institution, Kenneth M. Stampp, pp. 194-195.
 

Cycom

Private
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
Excuse me for thinking well of you 😂

Yes, there was prejudice. Northerners--especially the New Englanders that I study--were not accustomed to black people in large number and were uneasy. A worry that I found repeated was that negros from the south had been conditioned to fear white men. However, let me quote from two letters written back to Rhode Island .

In September of 1863, Lt. Charles Brayton wrote: "The prejudice against Negro troops is fast wearing away and will vanish entirely in a few months".

Having witnessed the bravery of the 57th Mass. charge, Lt. Brayton wrote: ""Southern negroes are not worth equipping. They are entirely different from the Northern negro. Give me a supreme command of a Regiment of Northern negroes and I will made as good a fighting Regiment as has left R.I."
Did I misrepresent what I quoted? I ask this unsarcastically, because what I responded to read like I was trying to stoke some kind of division. Apologies if I was wrong.

The examples from this RI officer are interesting, but were they the norm up there during this time. It seems unusual that deep seated prejudices would disappear so quickly.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Yeah, the Lost Cause exaggerates everything and the Yankees down play everything. Take these threads with a grain of salt. There is no doubt that Black Confederates existed, but how many were combat troops? The Lost Causers want you to believe that there were plenty of black Confederates and the Yankees want you to believe that there wasn't enough to even give credence to.

My take is this: there's was no doubt that there were black Confederates who were part of the Confederate war effort, free or slave participated. However, I'm little skeptical about black combat troops/infantry, just for the express reason that what Confederate leader would have had the guts to arm blacks in a slave driven society? According to that reasoning, blacks were fighting to keep other blacks enslaved. LOL. The one professor who I knew well used to claim that free blacks in the south actually owned slaves. Perhaps they were combat troops? Maybe, but there is no proof. I doubt it with all my being that the Confederates armed slaves. No way...
Black folks did own slaves. Here in Rutherford County TN the property that is now Longhunter State Park belonged to a black family that owned about 20 slaves. They were rare, but there are many records of TN blacks who owned slaves.

It was illegal to arm slaves. As you rightly said, based on the historic record, the claim that thousands of slaves were armed & volunteered to fight for the CSA is indeed laughable.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Black folks did own slaves. Here in Rutherford County TN the property that is now Longhunter State Park belonged to a black family that owned about 20 slaves. They were rare, but there are many records of TN blacks who owned slaves.

It was illegal to arm slaves. As you rightly said, based on the historic record, the claim that thousands of slaves were armed & volunteered to fight for the CSA is indeed laughable.

Here's my opinion: if the north could have armed slaves because slaves were the south's center of gravity then the north's problems would have been solved rather quickly. Again, what Confederate general in his right mind would have armed slaves so they could fight to keep themselves enslaved? Now, that's laughable. I'm quite sure the Confederates were not going to fight a two front war on their own turf: fighting the Yankees who had them surrounded and were closing in and fighting slaves who were right in their face. Yep, laughable. I live in Wilson County, so no reason why we can't go a county away to check out that LongHunter State Park this summer. Thanks for posting.
Your professor was correct. Historian and author Kenneth Stampp, puts the number of "free Negroes or persons of mixed ancestry" who owned slaves at around 3,600. Some Black slaveowners used slaves and their labor for many of the same economic and social reasons as those of their White counterparts but many of these Black owned slaves were actually family members who were purchased as a way of protecting them from the actual rigors of slavery. Also, some Black slaveowners purchased a slave for the sole purpose of marriage:

"Not all southern slaves were Negroes, and not all southern masters were whites. In 1830, more than thirty-six hundred free Negroes or persons of mixed ancestry owned slaves. The great majority of these colored slaveowners had merely purchased husbands, wives, or children and were unable to emancipate them under existing state laws. A few were substantial planters, such as the Negr0 in King George County, Virginia, who owned seventy-one slaves; another in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, who owned seventy-five; and two others in Colleton District, South Carolina, who owned eighty-four apiece. Though southern whites overwhelmingly disapproved, only in Delaware and Arkansas did the courts refuse to sanction the ownership of slaves by 'free persons of color.' The Arkansas Supreme Court held that slavery had its foundation 'in an inferiority of race' and the bondage of one Negro to another lacked 'this solid foundation to rest upon'."
The Peculiar Institution, Kenneth M. Stampp, pp. 194-195.

Yep, plenty of evidence that black slave owners existed. Thanks for posting. I think it's time for me to move on because it's quite evident that blacks were part of the war the Confederate war effort but were not in infantry. I'm not going to argue about how numbers. that's such a bore. Thanks for posting.
 
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