T or F? Official Records: No Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command

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ForeverFree

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This is from a Civil War Trust article titled Black Confederates: Truth and Legend:

This is not to say that no black man ever fired a gun for the Confederacy. To be specific, in the “Official Records of the War of the Rebellion,” a collection of military records from both sides which spans more than 50 volumes and more than 50,000 pages, there are a total of seven Union eyewitness reports of black Confederates. Three of these reports mention black men shooting at Union soldiers, one report mentions capturing a handful of armed black men along with some soldiers, and the other three reports mention seeing unarmed black laborers. There is no record of Union soldiers encountering an all-black line of battle or anything close to it.

In those same Official Records, no Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit, although references to black laborers are common.

The non-existence of black combat units is further indicated by the records of debates in the Confederate Congress over the issue of black enlistment. The idea was repeatedly rejected until, on March 13, 1865, the Confederate Congress passed a law to allow black men to serve in combat roles, although with the provision “that nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in the relation which the said slaves shall bear toward their owners,” i.e. that black soldiers would still be slaves.​

Is this true - that no Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit in the Official Records? Has anyone ever encountered such in their reading of the Records? I'm looking for cases where the black men involved are clearly soldiers, NOT servants or cooks. Please give the name of the unit if it appears in the Records.

Just for the sake of discussion, the case of the Louisiana Native Guards or state militia units can be included in this thread. They would not be considered Confederate army units and probably would not have been counted as soldiers as noted in the Civil War Trust article. But they could conceivably operate under a Confederate officer.

But please do not include, for example, a "regiment" of laborers. The Civil War Trust is specifically referring to soldiers, not laborers. We do know that the CSA made heavy use of black labor during the war, that is not at issue.

- Alan
 

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Go see Andersonh1's thread and stop pretending. You all can still hate the Southern Confederacy with some black soldiers fighting for it.
The thread from @Andersonh1 is useful, but different. The thread is about newspaper accounts of black men and their relationship with the Confederacy. I am asking specifically about the Official Records.

But I will mention a couple of things. In his thread, @Andersonh1 noted this article:

The Nashville daily union. (Nashville, Tenn.) 1862-1866, September 17, 1862
the_nashville_daily_union-_nashville_tenn-_1862-1866_septemb-jpg.162897.jpg


It says the "latest intelligence" indicates that Kirby Smith is about to put guns in the hands of slaves. Well, I had seen the following, which I am sure is in the OR, and I will share it. This is from Kirby Smith:

Shreveport Louisiana September 4, 1863

General, the policy of our enemy in arming and organizing negro regiments, is being pushed to formidable proportions. Our plantations are made his recruiting stations, and unless some check can be devised, a strong and powerful force will be formed which will receive large editions as he advances on our territory.

More than 1000 recruits, in some cases organized on the plantation and if forced into the ranks, were made in the recent raid on Monroe (LA).

When we fall back, as little as possible should be left for the enemy. Able bodied male Negroes and transportation should be carried back in advance of our troops. Detail facilities should be given, and our friends and planters instructed, in positions exposed to the enemy, that it is the wish of the Department Commander they remove to safe localities, their able bodied slaves and transportation.

Every sound male Black left for the enemy becomes a soldier who we have afterwards to fight. This is a difficult subject and must be handled cautiously, but I believe it will be wisdom to carry out the above policy to the extent of our abilities. I am General respectfully your obedient servant.

E. Kirby Smith​

Kirby seems to have come to the conclusion that "Every sound male Black left for the enemy becomes a soldier who we have afterwards to fight." His solution: "When we fall back, as little as possible should be left for the enemy. Able bodied male Negroes and transportation should be carried back in advance of our troops." He makes no mention of arming black soldiers for the Confederacy, and I wonder if such is indicated in the OR.

There was also this post in the thread:

I'm still fascinated by this account, which lists names, places and lots of details. And if another article on this incident is true, the government took the report seriously enough to investigate.

Cleveland morning leader. (Cleveland [Ohio]) 1854-1865, March 16, 1863
cleveland_morning_leader-_cleveland_ohio_1854-1865_march_16-jpg.162147.jpg

I made the point that,

You make the comment about names being mentioned; but conspicuously absent are the names of the Confederate officers involved.

The thing I keep asking ask myself is, if this stuff is in the papers, then how come we don't see more records of Confederate officers saying, for example, I commanded this black regiment, and they fought like tigers? There are many accounts of white Union officers talking about their time as an officer of black soldiers.

I recently did some research through the Official Records. I did a search for the word "negro." I found references to runaway slaves, spies, mentions of free blacks being impressed by Confederate forces. I haven't seen mentions of Confederate officers talking about their black troops. Admittedly, I wasn't looking through the entire OR.

If Confederate officers were commanding all of these black soldiers as depicted in some of these accounts, then it must be that they engaged in a conspiracy of silence to keep it out of the records, because Confederate officers don't seem to be talking about it in the OR. That is a major source of my skepticism concerning these accounts.

What we need is for somebody to go through the OR ~ which contains accounts and reports from officers ~ to see what officers in the CSA are saying about black soldiers, specifically, black enlisted soldiers (and I don't mean cooks; I have seen references to camp servants). I don't doubt that we'll find one or two such instances (and I'm sure the reference to NBF's un-enlisted servants will be up in short order) but I wonder if it's more than that. As I look at all the stuff I've read about Black Confederates, I don't recall a lot of material about white officers talking about their black soldiers. Of course, if there were very few Black Confederates, that would explain the paucity of material about their officers.
That was before I noticed the Civil War Trust article about the lack of Confederate officers who say that they commanded black soldiers.

It would not be fair to Anderson to bog down his thread down with stuff about the OR, as it is a different subject. Hence this thread.

The bottom line is, newspaper accounts and the Official Records are two different sources of evidence. I'm perfectly fine with Anderson's work. But the OR provides us another type of evidence. At the end of the day, all of the data points can be plotted and give us a big picture of the issue. I hope you will look at this separate thread in its own light, and for its own separate value.

- Alan
 
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It is probably is a dead horse to a lot of people. I've pointed out that I am a volunteer docent/historical interpreter at the African American Civil War Museum. The Museum gets hundreds of visitors a week. At least once a week, somebody asks me about Black Confederates. I try to give them an educated response, so I probably follow this subject more than others.

My usual answer to these inquires is, the count of BC is greater than zero, but no reliable full accounting of their numbers has been made. But from all the evidence I see, the occurrence of black Confederates ~ men who were enlisted or dedicated combatants ~ was rare, atypical, and exceptional; and their impact on the conduct of the war, or affect on their society, was inconsequential at best. If the Official Records have no examples of Confederate officers mentioning black Confederates under their command, that is evidence I can point to for people who ask the question.

- Alan
I can see your point but why would an officer admit to breaking the law in his official report?! African Americans were not legally enlisted in the Confederate Army & not even in the federal army till 1863.

In general I give little credence to the Black Confederate topic. However you do come across interesting references to armed blacks & to them picking up banners or weapons to join the fight in the heat of the moment. It's not an outstanding example of the Civil War battle norm mind you. I have no delusion of that. As you yourself stated it's not zero but we don't know the numbers. But by what you said, I think you give the public a good explanation of the truth. I'd probably add only that it was against the law, but of course maybe some Rebel's curtail the law. Just my opinion.


The vast majority served as laborers, maybe teamsters or carrying the wounded & burying the dead. Yes tens of thousands contributed in that limited but important function, but not as actual enlisted soldiers...
 
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This is from a Civil War Trust article titled Black Confederates: Truth and Legend:

This is not to say that no black man ever fired a gun for the Confederacy. To be specific, in the “Official Records of the War of the Rebellion,” a collection of military records from both sides which spans more than 50 volumes and more than 50,000 pages, there are a total of seven Union eyewitness reports of black Confederates. Three of these reports mention black men shooting at Union soldiers, one report mentions capturing a handful of armed black men along with some soldiers, and the other three reports mention seeing unarmed black laborers. There is no record of Union soldiers encountering an all-black line of battle or anything close to it.

In those same Official Records, no Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit, although references to black laborers are common.

The non-existence of black combat units is further indicated by the records of debates in the Confederate Congress over the issue of black enlistment. The idea was repeatedly rejected until, on March 13, 1865, the Confederate Congress passed a law to allow black men to serve in combat roles, although with the provision “that nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in the relation which the said slaves shall bear toward their owners,” i.e. that black soldiers would still be slaves.​

Is this true - that no Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit in the Official Records? Has anyone ever encountered such in their reading of the Records? I'm looking for cases where the black men involved are clearly soldiers, NOT servants or cooks. Please give the name of the unit if it appears in the Records.

Just for the sake of discussion, the case of the Louisiana Native Guards or state militia units can be included in this thread. They would not be considered Confederate army units and probably would not have been counted as soldiers as noted in the Civil War Trust article. But they could conceivably operate under a Confederate officer.

But please do not include, for example, a "regiment" of laborers. The Civil War Trust is specifically referring to soldiers, not laborers. We do know that the CSA made heavy use of black labor during the war, that is not at issue.

- Alan
The "Hospital Battalion."

Ewell to Breckinridge, February 25, 1865-
"There are also about 600 men at the different hospitals organized and armed, which I hope to increase to nearly 1,000. The negroes at the hospitals wish to join this force."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar&cc=moawar&idno=waro0096&q1=hospital&q2=battalion&view=image&seq=1261&size=100

They did.

Not all documents were published in the Official Records. Here is one of them-
http://www.civilwarrichmond.com/military-organizations/black-confederates/4089-1865-03-16-national-archives-rg-109-jackson-battalion-moved-from-jackson-hospital-to-the-front-under-the-command-of-col-ship-commanding-the-vmi-corps-reports-on-their-good-conduct

Latrobe to Field, April 1, 1865-
"General Ewell telegraphs that one battalion of troops (the Hospital Battalion), 800 strong, is on its way out now.."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=hospital;q2=battalion;op2=near;op3=near;rgn=full text;amt2=40;amt3=40;idno=waro0097;didno=waro0097;view=image;seq=1376
 

E_just_E

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Latrobe to Field, April 1, 1865-
"General Ewell telegraphs that one battalion of troops (the Hospital Battalion), 800 strong, is on its way out now.."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=hospital;q2=battalion;op2=near;op3=near;rgn=full text;amt2=40;amt3=40;idno=waro0097;didno=waro0097;view=image;seq=1376
Check the date on that :smile:

April Fools.

By then all was possible. Was after the March 23, 1865 day of the General Order No. 14.

Given that Lee surrendered 8 days after that, the Hospital Battalion did not do much fighting, I suspect...
 

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The "Hospital Battalion."

Ewell to Breckinridge, February 25, 1865-
"There are also about 600 men at the different hospitals organized and armed, which I hope to increase to nearly 1,000. The negroes at the hospitals wish to join this force."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar&cc=moawar&idno=waro0096&q1=hospital&q2=battalion&view=image&seq=1261&size=100

They did.

Not all documents were published in the Official Records. Here is one of them-
http://www.civilwarrichmond.com/military-organizations/black-confederates/4089-1865-03-16-national-archives-rg-109-jackson-battalion-moved-from-jackson-hospital-to-the-front-under-the-command-of-col-ship-commanding-the-vmi-corps-reports-on-their-good-conduct

Latrobe to Field, April 1, 1865-
"General Ewell telegraphs that one battalion of troops (the Hospital Battalion), 800 strong, is on its way out now.."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=hospital;q2=battalion;op2=near;op3=near;rgn=full text;amt2=40;amt3=40;idno=waro0097;didno=waro0097;view=image;seq=1376
I believe the existence of the effort to enlist blacks in the Confederate army in 1865 has already been conceded (and, in fact, never challenged). It would seem more meaningful for the issue under discussion to cite documents from 1861-64, as this particular citation merely confirms what no one contests.
 
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In those same Official Records, no Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit,
Is this true - that no Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit in the Official Records?
Pretty simple parameters for a topic, and a means to stay on topic. If you all would kindly stay within those bounds rather than attempt to divert to other threads or complain about dead horses, it would be most appreciated.

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If you qualify the term "Black Enlisted Soldiers", to "Black Combatants", here are two :

Report of Confederate Colonel Thomas Munford on an engagement with the Virginia Unionist Partisan unit “The Loudoun Rangers.” January 25, 1862.War of the Rebellion: Serial 016 Page 0749 Chapter XXIV. CAMPAIGN IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA :

On the 31st the brigade accompanied General Stuart on a scout to Chantilly, picking up 200 or 300 prisoners. A portion of the Twelfth, under Lieutenant-Colonel [R. H.] Burks, captured one company of the Tenth New York Cavalry without firing a gun.
On the evening of September 1, while our troops were engaged on the Ox road, near Germantown, my regiment was ordered to Leesburg to capture Means and his party.
About 11 a. m. the next day I arrived at Leesburg. Learning that Means was in the town, I cut across from the Dranesville pike and entered the town by the Edwards Ferry road. I succeeded in surprising Means’ party, Means himself escaping. He was supported by Major Cole, of Maryland, with about 200 men, on the Point of Rocks road. Without halting in the town I pressed heavily upon him, and soon succeeded in routing his command after a heavy skirmish, and pursued them as far as Waterford, 7 miles. My command amounted to 163 men, about 40 of which number, including Captain Dickinson and Lieutenants [W. R.] Beale and [A. D.] Warwick, did not join in the charge from some cause not yet explained. Had they followed their comrades in this bold charge I do not think a dozen of the whole Yankee command would have escaped being either killed or captured. As it was, we killed 11, wounded 9 too badly to be sent away, besides some 10 or 11 who escaped badly wounded, and sent off 47 prisoners, including 2 captains and 3 lieutenants.
In this charge Lieutenant J. O. Davis, of Company E, was killed while gallantly leading the advance of his company. Lieutenant John O. Lasley, of Company K, had his arm fractured by a rifle-ball, Sergt. Charles Spears, Company C, was killed. Private N. McGhee, Captain Dearing, of Company F, and John Merryman, of Company I, were badly wounded. It is proper to report that Edward, a servant of Private English, Company K, went into the charge, following his master, gun in hand, and shot the notorious Everhart, who was left in Leesburg, badly wounded.
* * * * * * *

I am, Major, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
THOMAS T. MUNFORD,
Colonel Second Virginia Cavalry.

The second is a rather lengthy report authored by Thomas J. Jackson 2 weeks before 1st Bull Run. It can be found here :
War of the Rebellion: Serial 002 Page 0186 OPERATIONS IN MD., PA., VA., AND W. VA. Chapter IX.

An excerpt reads :
"Colonel Stuart reports his capture of an entire company (the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers), with the exception of the Captain. Three, resisting, were killed. He further reports that "one of the enemy was killed by a negro of Captain Carter's and one of Captain Patrick's Company." The following is his list of prisoners: Forty-three privates, Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers; one second lieutenant, one surgeon, one (position not known), but all of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers; one Private First Wisconsin Volunteers; two Privates Second U. S. Cavalry, mounted and equipped; making a total of forty-nine. He reports one wounded and two missing. The enemy, he states, entered Martinsburg at 12 n. to-day".


 
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ForeverFree

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I can see your point but why would an officer admit to breaking the law in his official report?! African Americans were not legally enlisted in the Confederate Army & not even in the federal army till 1863.
I've made the point that, if there were black Confederates (BCs), then the Confederate military was engaged in the biggest coverup in American military history, because there's just about nothing about BCs in the OR.

Well... there was somebody on this forum who theorized that there were thousands of black Confederate soldiers, but Confederate army men refused to report this because it was illegal. Yeah, it sounds bogus. But how do you prove it isn't true - maybe the secret died with them! (I'm just repeating what I heard.)

=> Actually the OR is of great help here. See, for example, post #3. If, as said in an article, that Kirby Smith was enlisting slaves, then why does he seem so concerned about the Union capturing slaves and enlisting them in the US army? Smith's tone and tenor in the OR seem to contradict the idea that he was about to enlist all these slaves.

In another set of Correspondence, a CSA officer asked if an exception could be made to the rule that blacks could not join the army; the officer said there were free blacks in Mobile who would be willing to serve if given a chance. CSA Sec of War James Seddon wrote back that "our position before the North and the world will not allow us t employ negroes as soldiers."

And then there's the famous letter from Howell Cobb, who was a Confederate officer, who famously stated "you cannot make soldiers of slaves, nor slaves of soldiers... You can’t keep white and black troops together, and you can’t trust negroes by themselves... If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong but they won’t make soldiers."

And I'm sure there's more than just those examples.

So, yeah, it seems like a bogus conspiracy theory, but I don't want to just rest on the laurel that it's bogus, when proof can be given to show it's bogus.

- Alan
 
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The "Hospital Battalion."

Ewell to Breckinridge, February 25, 1865-
"There are also about 600 men at the different hospitals organized and armed, which I hope to increase to nearly 1,000. The negroes at the hospitals wish to join this force."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar&cc=moawar&idno=waro0096&q1=hospital&q2=battalion&view=image&seq=1261&size=100

They did.

Not all documents were published in the Official Records. Here is one of them-
http://www.civilwarrichmond.com/military-organizations/black-confederates/4089-1865-03-16-national-archives-rg-109-jackson-battalion-moved-from-jackson-hospital-to-the-front-under-the-command-of-col-ship-commanding-the-vmi-corps-reports-on-their-good-conduct

Latrobe to Field, April 1, 1865-
"General Ewell telegraphs that one battalion of troops (the Hospital Battalion), 800 strong, is on its way out now.."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=hospital;q2=battalion;op2=near;op3=near;rgn=full text;amt2=40;amt3=40;idno=waro0097;didno=waro0097;view=image;seq=1376
The Civil War Trust article does specifically say that the CSA allowed black enlistment in March 1865. I believe that the state of Virginia allowed black enlistment in March or maybe even February of 1865, ahead of the CSA Congress actions.

But those are righteous examples, and I won't move the goal posts. But I was aware that there was black soldier enlistment activity in March 1865, as was the CWT I think, I'm really wondering about what happened before then.

- Alan
 
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ForeverFree

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If we qualify the term "Black Enlisted Soldiers", to "Black Combatants", here are two :

Report of Confederate Colonel Thomas Munford on an engagement with the Virginia Unionist Partisan unit “The Loudoun Rangers.” January 25, 1862.War of the Rebellion: Serial 016 Page 0749 Chapter XXIV. CAMPAIGN IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA :

On the 31st the brigade accompanied General Stuart on a scout to Chantilly, picking up 200 or 300 prisoners. A portion of the Twelfth, under Lieutenant-Colonel [R. H.] Burks, captured one company of the Tenth New York Cavalry without firing a gun.
On the evening of September 1, while our troops were engaged on the Ox road, near Germantown, my regiment was ordered to Leesburg to capture Means and his party.
About 11 a. m. the next day I arrived at Leesburg. Learning that Means was in the town, I cut across from the Dranesville pike and entered the town by the Edwards Ferry road. I succeeded in surprising Means’ party, Means himself escaping. He was supported by Major Cole, of Maryland, with about 200 men, on the Point of Rocks road. Without halting in the town I pressed heavily upon him, and soon succeeded in routing his command after a heavy skirmish, and pursued them as far as Waterford, 7 miles. My command amounted to 163 men, about 40 of which number, including Captain Dickinson and Lieutenants [W. R.] Beale and [A. D.] Warwick, did not join in the charge from some cause not yet explained. Had they followed their comrades in this bold charge I do not think a dozen of the whole Yankee command would have escaped being either killed or captured. As it was, we killed 11, wounded 9 too badly to be sent away, besides some 10 or 11 who escaped badly wounded, and sent off 47 prisoners, including 2 captains and 3 lieutenants.
In this charge Lieutenant J. O. Davis, of Company E, was killed while gallantly leading the advance of his company. Lieutenant John O. Lasley, of Company K, had his arm fractured by a rifle-ball, Sergt. Charles Spears, Company C, was killed. Private N. McGhee, Captain Dearing, of Company F, and John Merryman, of Company I, were badly wounded. It is proper to report that Edward, a servant of Private English, Company K, went into the charge, following his master, gun in hand, and shot the notorious Everhart, who was left in Leesburg, badly wounded.
* * * * * * *

I am, Major, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
THOMAS T. MUNFORD,
Colonel Second Virginia Cavalry.

The second is a rather lengthy report authored by Thomas J. Jackson 2 weeks before 1st Bull Run. It can be found here :
War of the Rebellion: Serial 002 Page 0186 OPERATIONS IN MD., PA., VA., AND W. VA. Chapter IX.

An excerpt reads :
"Colonel Stuart reports his capture of an entire company (the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers), with the exception of the Captain. Three, resisting, were killed. He further reports that "one of the enemy was killed by a negro of Captain Carter's and one of Captain Patrick's Company." The following is his list of prisoners: Forty-three privates, Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers; one second lieutenant, one surgeon, one (position not known), but all of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers; one Private First Wisconsin Volunteers; two Privates Second U. S. Cavalry, mounted and equipped; making a total of forty-nine. He reports one wounded and two missing. The enemy, he states, entered Martinsburg at 12 n. to-day".
Thanks for your contribution.

Sigh. It's not clear to me that these are the kinds of dedicated combatants that the Civil War Trust was undoubtedly talking about when it said In those same Official Records, no Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit.

I myself have said that there were certainly cases of servants who might have picked up a gun and followed their masters into battle. I have given them a name: I call these men ad hoc combatants. I have made the point that, just because a person jumps into a burning building, they are not a fireman. If a cab driver helps deliver a baby in his taxi, he's not an obstetrician. So, I distinguish between ad hoc combatants and dedicated combatants. But if there is evidence that the ad hoc combatant fought again and again and again, I think it's right to say he's a dedicated combatant, and a "soldier" despite his condition.

Meanwhile, slaves are considered under their master's command, not a Confederate officer's command (because slaves serve their master, not the state.) If a master can allow a slave to fight one day, but tell him to stay behind the lines during the next fight, that's not a dedicated combatant. In the above cases, we're not sure if these were unique instances of fighting (I would guess they are).

The CWT says:

This is not to say that no black man ever fired a gun for the Confederacy. To be specific, in the “Official Records of the War of the Rebellion,” a collection of military records from both sides which spans more than 50 volumes and more than 50,000 pages, there are a total of seven Union eyewitness reports of black Confederates. Three of these reports mention black men shooting at Union soldiers, one report mentions capturing a handful of armed black men along with some soldiers, and the other three reports mention seeing unarmed black laborers. There is no record of Union soldiers encountering an all-black line of battle or anything close to it.

In those same Official Records, no Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit, although references to black laborers are common.​

My guess is that the CWT would include your examples in the first paragraph above, not the second one. I'm not going to say it's an invalid example, let's put it on the list, but the CWT would probably disagree. (I don't know if the CWT actually includes your cites in its count of black men firing guns. After this thread has run its course, I hope to contact the CWT and show them the results. Maybe they'll even respond to it... maybe.)
 
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Black Confederates - Civil War Richmond
Black Confederates
Information about African-Americans serving in the Confederate Army in Richmond, VA during the Civil War.

RARE editorial note: Many people have emailed me about this topic, which has become rather heated. I have deliberately avoided taking a position here, and will continue to do so, except to say that the sources on this site I have personally found. Despite many peoples' wishes, I refuse to add sites that are not first-person in nature, or add transcriptions of documents that I have not personally seen. As a concluding note, the sources on this site are the only sources I found during close readings of Richmond newspapers that specifically mention African-American fighting men in Confederate service. On this site are documents pertaining to the enlistment of slaves and free blacks in the Confederate Army.

Written Accounts
  • Preisser, Thomas M. "The Virginia Decision to Use Negro Soldiers in the Civil War, 1864-1865." VMHB 83, pp. 98-11 (Jan. 1975)
1861-06-25, Richmond Dispatch; slave of J. B. Royster is arrested and punished for masquerading as a soldier
1865-02-14, Official Records, Ser. IV, Vol. III, p. 1193; negro workers at Jackson Hospital are volunteering for field service
1865-02-17, Official Records; J. T. L. Preston, Acting Superintendent of VMI, offers the services of the corps in training negro troops and cites the corps' previous experience as drillmasters in 1861 and notes that they drilled 15,000 recruits in 2 month
1865-03-07, Southern Historical Society Papers 52 (1959), pp. 452-457; Confederate Congress: Second Congress, Second Session, Senate, March 7, 1865: The Negro Soldier Question.
1865-03-16, National Archives, RG 109; Jackson Battalion moved from Jackson Hospital to the front, under the command of Col. Ship, commanding the VMI Corps. Reports on their good conduct
1865-03-18, Richmond Sentinel; two negroes who were sentenced to be hanged for burglary are released on the condition that they join T. P. Turner's "black brigade"
1865-03-21, Richmond Sentinel; Winder-Jackson Battalion; including Negroes to parade
1865-03-23, Richmond Dispatch; negroes employed at Winder & Jackson join the army
1865-03-23, Richmond Enquirer; description of the Winder-Jackson Battalion's parade at Capitol square; call for Richmond ladies to produce a flag for this uni
1865-03-23, Richmond Enquirer; details on recruitment of black troops and call for volunteers; rendezvous for negro troops is at Smith's factory, 21st street. T. P. Turner (Libby Prison) is one of the officers
1865-03-23, Richmond Sentinel; description of the Winder-Jackson Battalion's parade at Capitol square
1865-03-30, Richmond Sentinel; a free negro in Maj. Turner's battalion grows tired of the drill and decides to walk off with stolen clothes
1865-04-02, OR, Series IV, Vol. 3, p. 1194; T.P. Turner writes about raising negro troops
1865-04-10, New York Times; incredible dispatches from Richmond describing the early days of Richmond’s occupation, Lincoln’s visit and the visits of other dignitaries.
 
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Eric Calistri

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Official Records, Series IV, Vol. 3, p. 1194

RICHMOND, VA., April 2, 1865

Lieut. S. R. SHINN:

DEAR SHINN: I have delayed writing in order to be able to give you some definite information on the negro question. The Secretary of War day before yesterday directed that the authority asked for be given Colonel Otey, and I telegraphed you to that effect. I have no doubt the orders have reached him by this time. Go to work and work, work, work. If the people of Virginia only knew and appreciated General Lee’s solicitude on this subject they would not longer hold back their slaves. Their wives and daughters and the negroes are the only elements left us to recruit from, and it does seem that our people would rather send the former even to face death and danger than give up the latter.

Major Carrington has been appointed superintendent for the Stat of Virginia and a good one he will make. I shall do something myself with a view to raising a command. I may be so situated as to need your services and to advance your interests. If so, you shall hear from me.*

Let me hear from you at once.
Yours, truly,
TH. P. TURNER.

*some strictly personal matter here omitted.
 

ForeverFree

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I find it interesting that armed Black Confederates were illegal in VA until March ,1865

From
The Virginia Decision to Use Negro Soldiers in the Civil War, 1864-1865
Thomas M. Preisser P111

View attachment 163346
View attachment 163348

Official Records Vol 46 part 3 page 1315

View attachment 163349
Hey, thanks for that. I had mentioned earlier that I thought that VA had allowed for black enlistment perhaps prior to when the CSA authorized it, but I couldn't find a source. I will keep this for my records.

- Alan
 
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ForeverFree

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Stretching combatant a wee bit. The closest thing I can come up with is unprivileged combatants.
In short so called black confederates were breaking the laws of their country, CSA army regulations and the laws of war.
It was illegal for slaves to enlist as soldiers, for sure. But in the examples they were de facto combatants, if only on an ad hoc (ie, not dedicated) basis. And if there were enough of them, they could make a difference. The big picture is, these cases seem to be rare, and so did not make a difference.

These cases are notable in any event, and I have no problem with them being reported. It's something to discuss as we get more examples.

- Alan
 

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It was illegal for slaves to enlist as soldiers, for sure. But in the examples they were de facto combatants, if only on an ad hoc (ie, not dedicated) basis. And if there were enough of them, they could make a difference. The big picture is, these cases seem to be rare, and so did not make a difference.

These cases are notable in any event, and I have no problem with them being reported. It's something to discuss as we get more examples.

- Alan
I agree that the notability indicates the rarity. I like the reports to be made, but consistently in terms is appreciated.

Edited to add.

A related issue is could the servant reload the weapon.
 
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jgoodguy

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Hey, thanks for that. I had mentioned earlier that I thought that VA had allowed for black enlistment perhaps prior to when the CSA authorized it, but I couldn't find a source. I will keep this for my records.

- Alan
There is this following wild card from
The Virginia Decision to Use Negro Soldiers in the Civil War, 1864-1865
Thomas M. Preisser P113

Were they not issued uniforms, were they stolen, was the newspaper incorrect or were they unauthorized. Be interesting to chase the footnotes.

p3.png


p4.png
 
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ForeverFree

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Honest question, no provocation intended: if no black man ever showed up in any Confederate OR, what are these?
(not my find, they were shown to me by an ex-member, @yellowthornoftexas

View attachment 163390 View attachment 163391
Thanks for the example, but I am looking to see references to black Confederates in the Official Records, to verify a claim made by the Civil War Trust that "No Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit in the Official Records." I want to see that there are such references in the OR, and also see what is being said in those references.

Well, I will not pursue this as I have learned here that the question of "Black Confederates" always seems to open a can of worms. I don't intend to do that, but proof seems to be overwhelming to me. Thanks for telling that a small number of Black Confederates is conceded. That explains a lot!
As I have said elsewhere, we need to change the conversation from whether there were any BCs - their number is certainly greater than zero - to, how many were there, and what was their impact on the war and their society?

I have made the point that while the number of BCs is greater than zero, in general, BCs are rare, atypical, and exceptional; and were inconsequential in terms of their impact on the war and on their society. If the OR's have almost no references to BCs from Confederate officers, that would tend to prove this point.

- Alan
 
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ForeverFree

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Obviously "black confederates" (however defined) are rare, but that's one of the things that make them so interesting.

If we're not limited to references in the Official Records, here a couple of more examples, for what they're worth.

The High Bridge battlefield park near Farmville, Virginia has a couple of relevant interpretive markers:

View attachment 163458

View attachment 163459

Then there is the interesting case of Archibald Harmon of Pee Dee, South Carolina. Mr. Harmon is listed in the 1850 South Carolina census as "Mulatto," along with his wife and children. He was a planter and seems to have been well to do. After the War he and his family are classified as "white," although surely his neighbors in Pee Dee couldn't have forgotten their earlier "mulatto" status. In any event, Mr. Harmon served in the Palmetto Battalion, South Carolina Light Artillery, enlisting in 1861 at age 52. I suspect that kind of thing wasn't uncommon in Creole cultures, but that is probably a whole 'nuther thread.
OK, but I am specifically limiting this to the Official Records.

We have many many many other threads about Black Confederates where this can discussed.

An article in the Civil War Trust article titled Black Confederates: Truth and Legend made this claim: In those same Official Records, no Confederate ever references having black soldiers under his command or in his unit, although references to black laborers are common.

I am trying to determine if the claim made by the CWT is true.

- Alan
 
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