Free Blacks in the South and the CSA

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294
#1
I am working on an Alt history story involving the enactment of Cleburne's proposal to arm slaves, and one of the central characters in my story is supposed to be a freeman from Atlanta or Mobile (or somewhere from the Deep South).
As I came up with the character (Scipio Johnson is his name, will refer to him as such), I realize I knew quite little about a) what it was like being a freeman in the south in the middle of the Civil War, and b) if there was even a sizable number of them at all that far in the Deep South, so late in the war.
The way I have him so far is that he's a minor shop-keep in one of the cities who joins the C.S.C.T. in order to be seen as an equal in society...only to discover after the war, even with his status as a hero of The Cause (becoming the only confirmed black Confederate officer in the war, being promoted to Lieutenant by his regiment's colonel for his apparent intuition, and then being brevet promoted to Captain after valorous action capturing an enemy battle flag), he is still looked down upon by the White Strata.
So, my questions are:
What was life like as a free man in the deep south during the Civil War?
Was there a sizable population of freemen in the deep south, specifically in Alabama and Georgia?
Is this man's story plausible?
(Note: I posted this in the Secession & Politics forum for I didn't know where else i should have put this thread)
 

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BlueandGrayl

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#2
As far as free blacks go there was a relatively prosperous community that existed in the South's largest city during the antebellum era: New Orleans, Louisiana and especially those of Creole descent (Gens de couleur libres, the French term to describe these people) whether descended from black women and white fathers or refugees from the Haitian Revolution held a high status in society working as clerks, teachers, and skilled workers, they were also property owners owning a total of $2 million and some even owned slaves just like their white counterparts.

Bilbiography/Sources:
Free People of Color in Louisiana, Louisiana State University.
1855: Free people of color flourished in antebellum New Orleans, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune


So perhaps Scipio Johnson would be better off as a black Creole from New Orleans, Louisiana in your story.
 

AshleyMel

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#3
Good luck with your story!
Barbara Hambly wrote a series of novels about a free black man, Benjamin January, in New Orlerns in the 1830's beginning with A Free Man of Color.
Saving Savannah
by Jacqueline Jones has some good information of the free population in and around Savannah, GA
 

matthew mckeon

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#4
If you want numbers, the census for 1860 is broken down by race and condition of servitude. Not many free people of color in Alabama or Georgia, as I recall, but I'm willing to be corrected.
 

Eric Calistri

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#5
I am working on an Alt history story involving the enactment of Cleburne's proposal to arm slaves, and one of the central characters in my story is supposed to be a freeman from Atlanta or Mobile (or somewhere from the Deep South).
As I came up with the character (Scipio Johnson is his name, will refer to him as such), I realize I knew quite little about a) what it was like being a freeman in the south in the middle of the Civil War, and b) if there was even a sizable number of them at all that far in the Deep South, so late in the war.
The way I have him so far is that he's a minor shop-keep in one of the cities who joins the C.S.C.T. in order to be seen as an equal in society...only to discover after the war, even with his status as a hero of The Cause (becoming the only confirmed black Confederate officer in the war, being promoted to Lieutenant by his regiment's colonel for his apparent intuition, and then being brevet promoted to Captain after valorous action capturing an enemy battle flag), he is still looked down upon by the White Strata.
So, my questions are:
What was life like as a free man in the deep south during the Civil War?
Was there a sizable population of freemen in the deep south, specifically in Alabama and Georgia?
Is this man's story plausible?
(Note: I posted this in the Secession & Politics forum for I didn't know where else i should have put this thread)
Very few free blacks in AL and GA. Using the 1860 Census AL had 2690 Free Blacks vs 435,080 slaves. GA is pretty similar, 3500 Free Blacks and 462,198 slaves. As stated above LA had a more substantial Free Black population 18,647 against 331,726 slaves. So in GA and AL free blacks were somewhat less than 1%, in LA closer to 5%.

While I have read many accounts from slaves in this time frame, I have not come across any by free blacks.

You might be interested in the 1852 Slave Code for Alabama, which also included regulation that apply specifically to those 2690 "Free Negroes."
 
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#6
I am working on an Alt history story involving the enactment of Cleburne's proposal to arm slaves, and one of the central characters in my story is supposed to be a freeman from Atlanta or Mobile (or somewhere from the Deep South).
As I came up with the character (Scipio Johnson is his name, will refer to him as such), I realize I knew quite little about a) what it was like being a freeman in the south in the middle of the Civil War, and b) if there was even a sizable number of them at all that far in the Deep South, so late in the war.
The way I have him so far is that he's a minor shop-keep in one of the cities who joins the C.S.C.T. in order to be seen as an equal in society...only to discover after the war, even with his status as a hero of The Cause (becoming the only confirmed black Confederate officer in the war, being promoted to Lieutenant by his regiment's colonel for his apparent intuition, and then being brevet promoted to Captain after valorous action capturing an enemy battle flag), he is still looked down upon by the White Strata.
So, my questions are:
What was life like as a free man in the deep south during the Civil War?
Was there a sizable population of freemen in the deep south, specifically in Alabama and Georgia?
Is this man's story plausible?
(Note: I posted this in the Secession & Politics forum for I didn't know where else i should have put this thread)
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/wh...-the-csa-military.138201/page-10#post-1809435

Maybe some ideas from this man's service and life after the war ?
 

lelliott19

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#9
I am working on an Alt history story involving the enactment of Cleburne's proposal to arm slaves, and one of the central characters in my story is supposed to be a freeman from Atlanta or Mobile (or somewhere from the Deep South).
Good luck with your project. Perhaps the records of some of these men might be of interest?

Charles Inerarity, of Mobile (Co A Mobile City Troops; 15th CS Cav) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-22#post-1799105

Francis Inerarity, of Mobile (Co A Mobile City Troops; 15th CS Cav) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-23#post-1799313

Peter Durett, of Mobile (Bugler, CoB/Murphy's Battn AL Cav; CoG/ 15th CS Cavalry) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-23#post-1800531

Nicholas Cook, enlisted Baldwin County AL which is the next county to Mobile (Co F/21stAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-23#post-1799967

Adolph Serra, of Mobile (Wm Cottrills Co AL Mtd Vols) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-23#post-1800559

Francis Henry, enlisted at Mobile, AL (CoF/43rdAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-25#post-1814221

William Battiste/Baptiste, enlisted at Mobile, AL (Co H/43rdAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-25#post-1814287

John Lynch, enlisted at New Orleans, LA (Musician, 22ndAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-46#post-1852157

Alfred Nicholas, enlisted at Mobile, AL (Co I/12thAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-47#post-1855168

Henry A. Daniels, enlisted at Athens AL (Musician, 22nd AL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-49#post-1859710

Jonas Daniel/Daniell (Co C/22ndAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-49#post-1859740

Willis Pope, enlisted at Mobile AL (CoE/36thAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-49#post-1860600

Charles Ryder (Fire Company No 1 Mobile, AL; 1st Alabama Artillery; and transferred to CS Navy) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-50#post-1861868

Gregory Laurendine (Creole Guards AL Militia; Bugler/Murphy's Battn AL Cav) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-3#post-1749832

James Young (Co K/29th AL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-5#post-1751409 and https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-19#post-1780755
 
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19thGeorgia

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#12
Was there a sizable population of freemen in the deep south, specifically in Alabama and Georgia?
Most free blacks of the South were in VA and NC.
Is this man's story plausible?
Unlikely he would attain the rank of lieutenant or captain. Sergeant would be the highest rank (same policy the US had for the USCT).
 

BlueandGrayl

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#13
Good luck with your project. Perhaps the records of some of these men might be of interest?

Charles Inerarity, of Mobile (Co A Mobile City Troops; 15th CS Cav) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-22#post-1799105

Francis Inerarity, of Mobile (Co A Mobile City Troops; 15th CS Cav) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-23#post-1799313

Peter Durett, of Mobile (Bugler, CoB/Murphy's Battn AL Cav; CoG/ 15th CS Cavalry) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-23#post-1800531

Nicholas Cook, enlisted Baldwin County AL which is the next county to Mobile (Co F/21stAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-23#post-1799967

Adolph Serra, of Mobile (Wm Cottrills Co AL Mtd Vols) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-23#post-1800559

Francis Henry, enlisted at Mobile, AL (CoF/43rdAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-25#post-1814221

William Battiste/Baptiste, enlisted at Mobile, AL (Co H/43rdAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-25#post-1814287

John Lynch, enlisted at New Orleans, LA (Musician, 22ndAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-46#post-1852157

Alfred Nicholas, enlisted at Mobile, AL (Co I/12thAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-47#post-1855168

Henry A. Daniels, enlisted at Athens AL (Musician, 22nd AL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-49#post-1859710

Jonas Daniel/Daniell (Co C/22ndAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-49#post-1859740

Willis Pope, enlisted at Mobile AL (CoE/36thAL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-49#post-1860600

Charles Ryder (Fire Company No 1 Mobile, AL; 1st Alabama Artillery; and transferred to CS Navy) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-50#post-1861868

Gregory Laurendine (Creole Guards AL Militia; Bugler/Murphy's Battn AL Cav) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-3#post-1749832

James Young (Co K/29th AL) https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-5#post-1751409 and https://civilwartalk.com/threads/black-confederate-count.142783/page-19#post-1780755

Most free blacks of the South were in VA and NC.
Unlikely he would attain the rank of lieutenant or captain. Sergeant would be the highest rank (same policy the US had for the USCT).
Officially they were not active armed combatants nor they did ever fight against white and black Union troops but they would have had Patrick Cleburne's proposal been adapted. Most likely the Confederate States Colored Troops or some Confederate equivalent to the United States Colored Troops would have been comprised of Creoles, Mulattoes, black slaves still under Confederate control, and free blacks that have not enlisted in the Union Army.

Louisiana especially in New Orleans had a sizable free black community hat was mostly French Creole in addition to American-born black.
 

thomas aagaard

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#14
What BlueandGrayl suggest is likely the least ahistorical option.

Having a Creole who is a shopkeeper/owner in say, New Orleans or Mobile as the main character will be less unrealistic than a black slave.

And it is well documented that there in both cities where Creole's who tried to get permission to serve... And that it was the CSA central government that said no.

But there was really no way the CSA government would have said yes to Clebrunes proposal at that point in the war.
Even by spring 1865 there was huge opposition to the decision to enlist slaves...

Another option that I find a bit more plausible would be a alt history CSA government that had more respect for states rights and allowed the states to manage their regiments as they saw fit. Including who could and could not serve in the ranks.
So the 1st Louisiana Native Guard is not disbanded in april 1862, but actually equipped and armed by the state and mustered into CSA service. to make up troops numbers.

And then you could take inspiration from how black infantry platoons actually did end up integrated into white infantry battalion in the spring of 1945 in Europe. (read this master thesis about it https://apps.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ADA623621)

This would allow the main character to experience respect from white soldiers during the war... but after the war it is back to discrimination.
 

BlueandGrayl

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#16
What BlueandGrayl suggest is likely the least ahistorical option.

Having a Creole who is a shopkeeper/owner in say, New Orleans or Mobile as the main character will be less unrealistic than a black slave.

And it is well documented that there in both cities where Creole's who tried to get permission to serve... And that it was the CSA central government that said no.

But there was really no way the CSA government would have said yes to Clebrunes proposal at that point in the war.
Even by spring 1865 there was huge opposition to the decision to enlist slaves...

Another option that I find a bit more plausible would be a alt history CSA government that had more respect for states rights and allowed the states to manage their regiments as they saw fit. Including who could and could not serve in the ranks.
So the 1st Louisiana Native Guard is not disbanded in april 1862, but actually equipped and armed by the state and mustered into CSA service. to make up troops numbers.

And then you could take inspiration from how black infantry platoons actually did end up integrated into white infantry battalion in the spring of 1945 in Europe. (read this master thesis about it https://apps.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ADA623621)

This would allow the main character to experience respect from white soldiers during the war... but after the war it is back to discrimination.
So as far as well approving the Cleburne proposal I think that if it had not been found out by William H.T. Walker and if one of the 12 Confederate commanders who approved of the proposal such as Thomas C. Hindman decided to leak the proposal to the public and thus cause a debate among newspapers in the Confederacy over whether they should form Negro/Black regiments in the Confederate Army and if (and is a big if) Jefferson Davis and his cabinet approve of Cleburne's plan (albeit narrowly) then it would happen.

Like you pointed out thomas aagard, having a colored Creole soldier in a C.S.C.T. or some equivalent of it fight alongside white soldiers is more realisitc and likely to occur.
 

19thGeorgia

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#17
But there was really no way the CSA government would have said yes to Clebrunes proposal at that point in the war.
Even by spring 1865 there was huge opposition to the decision to enlist slaves...
If there was huge opposition it would not have passed. The votes in the CS Congress indicate a near 50/50 split.

Another option that I find a bit more plausible would be a alt history CSA government that had more respect for states rights and allowed the states to manage their regiments as they saw fit. Including who could and could not serve in the ranks. So the 1st Louisiana Native Guard is not disbanded in april 1862, but actually equipped and armed by the state and mustered into CSA service. to make up troops numbers.
That's much closer to actual than alt.
 

thomas aagaard

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#18
That's much closer to actual than alt.
No it is not.
It was CSA laws that resulted in Black men in Tennesse militias being send home or "demoted" to cooks and servants early in the war.
It was CSA laws that resulted in the 1st native guards being disband...
It was again the central government (the secretary of war) that said no to the Creoles from Mobile who wanted to serve in November 1863.
And it was again the central government that decided on the use of black men as soldiers in spring of 1865.. when it was too late...

The war department (following CSA laws) decided on who to serve and who could not... this was not something that was up to the states.
The issue of using colored men as soldiers or not was entirely in the hands of the central government.
 

BlueandGrayl

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#19
So far as the enlistment of black Confederate troops into Confederate Army goes (especially if it ends well) it's going to effect Jim Crow/segregation in both North and South, while I expect the system to still exist in TTL given that black men in blue and gray fought one another perhaps segregation becames slightly less harsh than it was in OTL.
 

19thGeorgia

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#20
It was CSA laws that resulted in Black men in Tennesse militias being send home or "demoted" to cooks and servants early in the war.
Black men in Tennessee state units were transferred to CS service.
It was CSA laws that resulted in the 1st native guards being disband...
The military situation in New Orleans caused the disbandment of the NG. CS laws had nothing to do with it.
 



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