Discussion March 1865: Richmond Civilian Reaction to Black Confederate Soldiers

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
When, in March of 1865, the Confederate Congress passed the law allowing for the enlistment of black soldiers, two companies were raised from the staff of local hospitals and eventually had a small parade down the streets of Richmond. As is well-known, these soldiers never saw action.

I recall being at one of the Virginia Tech Civil War Symposiums in the late 1990s and one of the speakers (either James "Bud" Robertson or William C. Davis) describing this event in response to a question by a participant who had asked about black Confederates. In his answer, the speaker had said that the soldiers were pelted with rotten vegetables by a crowd of Richmond civilians as they marched past. It would have been very out of character for either Robertson or Davis to make such a claim without reliable primary source documentation.

Does anyone have the details on this particular event and what the reaction of white Richmond civilians was?
 

Luke Freet

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Location
Palm Coast, Florida
When, in March of 1865, the Confederate Congress passed the law allowing for the enlistment of black soldiers, two companies were raised from the staff of local hospitals and eventually had a small parade down the streets of Richmond. As is well-known, these soldiers never saw action.

I recall being at one of the Virginia Tech Civil War Symposiums in the late 1990s and one of the speakers (either James "Bud" Robertson or William C. Davis) describing this event in response to a question by a participant who had asked about black Confederates. In his answer, the speaker had said that the soldiers were pelted with rotten vegetables by a crowd of Richmond civilians as they marched past. It would have been very out of character for either Robertson or Davis to make such a claim without reliable primary source documentation.

Does anyone have the details on this particular event and what the reaction of white Richmond civilians was?
I need to reread Bruce Levine's work on this to give you an answer. At work, so can't check right now.
Do recall him saying that the concept of race was a palpable thing in society, even if it wasn't the Social Darwinist variety yet. And that soldiers had to prove to doubting comrades their whiteness and manhood by extension. Southerners didn't want to see blacks as soldiers because it would mean they would have "manhood". This is why Cleburne's Proposal fell on such deaf ears, that he said a black soldier could be just as brave as a white man. It put their whole theory of their world in danger.
 

jcaesar

Private
Joined
Aug 28, 2020
Does anyone have the details on this particular event and what the reaction of white Richmond civilians was?
He may have been referring to reports that mud was thrown by kids in Richmond at some black troops.

General Ewell also wrote that some black soldiers were treated as still slaves presumably by their superior officers and whipped.

mud.png


Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier's Life by Donald Pfanz. p424
 

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
The newspapers don't mention any pelting of the soldiers by the crowd. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, but it seems like an odd detail to omit if it happened.

The Daily Dispatch (Richmond VA) March 22, 1865
PARADE ON THE SQUARE. - At half past 4 o'clock this afternoon, Major Chambliss's (Winder and Jackson Hospitals) battalion will parade on Capitol Square. Included in the battalion is a company of negroes, commanded by Captain Grimes, who will also be present and go through the military evolutions. This is the first company of negro troops which have been raised in Virginia, and was organized about a month ago by Dr. Chambliss from the employees of the hospitals. The men were on the lines during the recent raid.​


The Daily Dispatch (Richmond VA) March 23, 1865
PARADE. - Yesterday afternoon the Camps Winder and Jackson battalion paraded on the Capitol Square. In the battalion were two companies of negroes (not uniformed), which were made up from the negroes employed about the hospitals. They are not, we believe, in the Confederate military service. In marked contrast to the appearance of these negroes was that of a squad of Major Turner's colored troops, neatly uniformed, and showing a good soldierly carriage. These regulars had gone up to look at their colored brethren. Volunteering would be much encouraged by the parade of Major Turner's men, which will, we hope, soon take place.​


The Western Democrat, March 28, 1865
Richmond, March 22. - Several thousand persons assembled on Capitol Square, this afternoon, to witness the parade of a battalion of troops from Camp Jackson and Camp Winder, including two companies of negroes. The battalion marched through the principal streets, headed by a brass band, producing quite a sensation, chiefly among the boys and negroes. the popular interest in the affair was lessened by the failure to uniform and equip the negro soldiers. They were armed with muskets and went through the manual of arms as well as could be expected, for the short time they have been drilled. Several regiments are in course of formation in different parts of the State.​


Edgefield Advertiser (Edgefield, SC) March 29, 1865
Negro Soldiers in "Ole Virginny.​
RICHMOND, March 22.​
Several thousand persons assembled in the Capitol Square this afternoon to witness the parade of a battalion of troops from Camps Jackson and Winder, including two companies of negroes.​
The battalion marched through the principal streets headed by a brass band; and produced quite a sensation chiefly among the negro population. The interest of the occasion was lessened by a failure to uniform and equip the negro soldiers.​

They were armed with muskets, and went through the manual as well as could be expected, for the short time they had been drilled. Several regiments of negroes are in the course of formation in different parts of Virginia.​

An order from the Adjutant General relative to recruiting colored troops in the Confederate States says an officer will be assigned in each State charged with the enrollment and disposition of all recruits. No slave will be accepted as a recruit unless with the owner's consent by written instrument, conferring as far as he may the rights of freedmen.​

Appointment of officers of companies will be made by the President.​



Chicago Tribune, March 29, 1865
[From the Richmond Sentinel, march 23]​
QUITE A SENSATION - FIRST PARADE OF NEGRO TROOPS IN RICHMOND​
The announcement in the morning papers that two companies of negro troops would parade in the afternoon, attracted a great multitude of ladies, military men, civilians, boys, children, nurses, negroes and others, to the square, between four and five o'clock yesterday, to witness the novel spectacle. The streets in the vicinity were also crowded with darkies.​
At half past four o'clock the battalion, composed of three companies of white convalescents, from the hospital camps Winder and Jackson, and two companies of negro employees who volunteered for military service, marched down Main street, under the command of Major Chambliss. A brass band preceded the battalion, playing "Dixie" and other popular airs. The sidewalks were lined with spectators. Turning up Governor street, the column marched to the square. As they entered the square there was a rush from all quarters towards the gates and avenues leading thereto, everybody seeming intent upon satisfying the promptings of curiosity at the earliest possible moment. The boys, who regarded the whole affair as sort of frolic, cheered and yelled very furiously, and altogether the scene presented was quite remarkable and almost ludicrous. The column filed to the right, halted, and faced towards the Capitol, the windows of which were filled with ladies. After the troops were rested they were reviewed by several officers, and then put through the manual of arms.​
The crowd was so great that very few persons witnessed the drill, but those who did generally concurred in the opinion that Sambo can be taught to handle a gun as well as a hoe. The parade lasted but a short time. In about half an hour the order was given to "right face," and the battalion marched out of the western gate of the square and returned to their quarters. The boys gave them a parting cheer.​
This turnout was rather premature. The negroes were clad in heterogeneous garb, instead of the uniform which invests the position of a soldier with its chief attraction. Still, the people wanted to see a specimen of the Corps d'Afrique, and they were gratified. At the next parade the negroes should be uniformed and well drilled.​
[From the Richmond Enquirer, March 23]​
The appearance of the battalion of colored troops on the square yesterday afternoon attracted thousands of our citizens to the spot, all eager to catch a glimpse of the sable soldiers. The bearing of the negro elicited universal commendation. While on the square they went through the manual of arms in a manner which would have done credit to veteran soldiers, while evolutions of line were executed with promptness and precision. As a recognition of their promptness in forming the first battalion of colored troops in the Confederacy, it is suggested to the ladies of Richmond the propriety of presenting the battaltion with an appropriate banner.​
 

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
When, in March of 1865, the Confederate Congress passed the law allowing for the enlistment of black soldiers, two companies were raised from the staff of local hospitals and eventually had a small parade down the streets of Richmond. As is well-known, these soldiers never saw action.

This is also debatable. There is a report that they repelled a cavalry charge while guarding wagons on the way to Appamattox, and some of them were on the front lines in Richmond and Petersburg, as attested by their commanding officer.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/th...-raised-march-april-1865.154756/#post-1988572
 
Top