How did Enslaved Southerners view the War split from "Why the interest on Black Confederates"

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ForeverFree

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It always seems to lead back to one big bad question. Why would any Blacks fight for or support the South? The answer is that the relationship of blacks and whites in the South was more complex and even more tolerant than modernists admit sometimes. We don't intend to reinterpret history but we intend to explore it with eyes wide open.
I am curious @8thFlorida, and I ask this of others as well: what do you believe was the general view of enslaved southerners to the war? The noted scholar W.E.B. DuBois called the black experience during the war a "general strike." The Pulitzer Prize winning historian Steven Hahn has called it the greatest slave rebellion in history, albeit, not one where every rebel took up a weapon. Most historians seem to feel that enslaved people - who were 96% of the CSA's black population - saw the war (or more precisely, the presence of the Union) as an opportunity to gain freedom, not as an opportunity to "fight for the South." This is a generalization - we would not expect that 3.5 million enslaved people would act as a monolith - but this is the consensus among modern scholars, I think it's fair to say.

Do you agree?

This is a letter from Major General Patrick Cleburne. In January 1864, he proposed granting freedom to slaves who enlisted in the Confederate army. These are some excerpts from his proposal:

Moved by the exigency in which our country is now placed we take the liberty of laying before you, unofficially, our views on the present state of affairs. The subject is so grave, and our views so new, we feel it a duty both to you and the cause that before going further we should submit them for your judgment and receive your suggestions in regard to them.

...We (Confederates) can see three great causes operating to destroy us: 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; third, the fact 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.

The enemy already opposes us at every point with superior numbers, and is endeavoring to make the preponderance irresistible. President Davis, in his recent message, says the enemy "has recently ordered a large conscription and made a subsequent call for volunteers, to be followed, if ineffectual by a still further draft." In addition, the President of the United States announces that "he has already in training an army of 100,000 negroes as good as any troops," and every fresh raid he makes and new slice of territory he wrests from us will add to this force.

...In touching the third cause, the fact that slavery has become a military weakness, we may rouse prejudice and passion, but the time has come when it would be madness not to look at our danger from every point of view, and to probe it to the bottom. Apart from the assistance that home and foreign prejudice against slavery has given to the North, slavery is a source of great strength to the enemy in a purely military point of view, by supplying him with an army from our granaries; but it is our most vulnerable point, a continued embarrassment, and in some respects an insidious weakness.

Wherever slavery is once seriously disturbed, whether by the actual presence or the approach of the enemy, or even by a cavalry raid, the whites can no longer with safety to their property openly sympathize with our cause. The fear of their slaves is continually haunting them, and from silence and apprehension many of these soon learn to wish the war stopped on any terms. The next stage is to take the oath to save property, and they become dead to us, if not open enemies. To prevent raids we are forced to scatter our forces, and are 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.

All along the lines slavery is comparatively valueless to us for labor, but of great and increasing worth to the enemy for information. It is an omnipresent spy system, pointing out our valuable men to the enemy, revealing our positions, purposes, and resources, and yet acting so safely and secretly that there is no means to guard against it. Even in the heart of our country, where our hold upon this secret espionage is firmest, it waits but the opening fire of the enemy's battle line to wake it, like a torpid serpent, into venomous activity.

...we propose... that we immediately commence training a large reserve of the most courageous of our slaves, and further that we guarantee freedom within a reasonable time to every slave in the South who shall remain true to the Confederacy in this war.​

Cleburne says that at January 1864 "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." @8thFlorida, do you think Cleburne was correct? And what do you make of him requesting that slaves be used as Confederate soldiers - do you think that in his travels, by January 1864, he was simply unlucky to not have encountered any of the tens of thousands of slaves who are claimed to have been fighting for the Confederacy?

- Alan
 
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