The South Recruits Freemen

Luke Freet

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In my new book I'm writing The Golden Circle 1: We Gained by Honest Toil, it's set in 1880, after the Confederacy managed to win their independence and are currently trying to establish "The Golden Circle" an overarching plan to bring Mexico, Central America and the Caribbeans into the Confederacy to create a Slave Owning Empire. The point of departure is that in late 1863, they accept Patrick Cleburne's proposal for raising black regiments and offering them freedom.

What happens is that they are able to raise up to 190,000 black men under the promise of post-victory emancipation. This frees up Southern Combat Regiments (aka white units) to join the armies of the Tennessee and Northern Virginia among others and are able to basically win several key victories in 1864, allowing for McClellan not only to be elected, but to defeat McClellan's own 1865 Spring Offensive (as McClellan wanted victory before he would discuss peace with the South). These defeats leads to the creation of the Treaty of Mexico City, with Emperor Maximilian II hosting the talks.

Now, the prologue itself, besides establishing these factors for victory, specifically deals with the Confederate Congress reneging on it's promise. They decide that only 1863 volunteers and 2 in every 14 of the 1864 volunteers are going to be given their freedoms. Everyone else and all the 1865 volunteers are going back into slavery. This leads to rebellions throughout the South of these angry slave soldiers, who were promised one thing, only to have it taken away.

The thing is, while maybe not so dramatically as I have it in my story, I don't think the Confederacy would have ever fully honored any commitments they made to negro soldiers. Negros were the lowest of citizens; I think Native Americans ranked a little higher in Southern regards.

But even in my story, they only helped out freedom of the South by freeing up the thousands of men that were in garrison duty across the South. That's only because the numbers were large enough to allow it. Unless they allowed a lot of African Americans into the ranks, it wouldn't have changed the outcome.
IOff topic, but I'd like to ask how you came to 190,000 men. I am myself working on a paper for a history course regarding the practicality of Cleburne's proposal, and am scouring all over to figure out the possible manpower pool they could have recruited from. If you have sources or statistics on this, I'd love to see them so I can cite it.
I'll keep your book in my "to read" list, definitely. Thank you for the post
 
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History has shown that black men or any race for that matter will not volunteer in significant numbers if they feel that they are oppressed. Definitely one good modern example of that. Why would free black men in any significant number volunteer to fight for the Confederacy?
Leftyhunter
Umm because they were as you say all ready free. Most people of any race care little outside their little world.....as long as I'm being given something, it not a big priority to me whether you are getting something, is the norm.

As the author noted with USCT desertion, blacks werent fighting for any love of the US......they were fighting for individual freedom, just as they had been willing to fight for Britain against the US when the British offered freedom in the war of 1812. If the CSA had offered freedom to slaves, the motivation would be the same as it was for the US or for Great Britain

Just as USCT would join the US despite the fact the US was still holding slaves also. Its odd people tend to forget the US was still holding some 400,000+ slaves.
 
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thomas aagaard

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In 1860 there where only 250,787 free colored people in the south.
That include children, women and old people. So obviously it would not be possible to recruit 190.000 free colored men from this group.

Also as the CSA secretary of war wrote in November 1863.
"Our position with the North and before the world will not allow the employment as armed soldiers of Negroes."

We are not talking about arming slaves. But Free Creoles.

So to get any serious numbers, they would have needed to enlist slaves.

By spring 1865 the csa Congress did pass a law allowing the enlistment of colored men.
But it was under this rule “that nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in the relation which the said slaves shall bear toward their owners,”
The slaves was not giving their freedom in return for this service. Granting freedom was still up to the owner.

So even as the war ended the CSA congress was still not willing to "draft" slaves as soldiers without the consent of the owners.
(as Cleburne's suggestion)
 

leftyhunter

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los angeles ca
Umm because they were as you say all ready free. Most people of any race care little outside their little world.....as long as I'm being given something, it not a big priority to me whether you are getting something, is the norm.

As the author noted with USCT desertion, blacks werent fighting for any love of the US......they were fighting for freedom, just as they had been willing to fight for Britain against the US when the British offered freedom in the war of 1812. If the CSA had offered freedom to slaves, the motivation would be the same as it was for the US or for Great Britain

Just as USCT would join the US despite the fact the US was still holding slaves also. Its odd people tend to forget the US was still holding some 400,000+ slaves.
There were free black men in the South but they were heavily discriminated against. They also could be declared slaves and have limited legal recourse. Highly doubtful said free black men would have sufficient motivation to become motivated military volunteers.
Leftyhunter
 

Carronade

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The 190,000 figure in @Harms88's novel assumes they implement Cleburne's proposal to recruit from the slave population with the promise of freedom.

Aside from the concerns @thomas aagaard cited, there's a limit to how much manpower you can take out of the economy and still support the war effort. Granted some slaves were house servants and such, but most were doing important work on farms, in factories, on railroads, etc. They had already taken most of the able-bodied white men, which often caused hardship for their families and communities, and the war added to the demands on the labor force.
 
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There were free black men in the South but they were heavily discriminated against. They also could be declared slaves and have limited legal recourse. Highly doubtful said free black men would have sufficient motivation to become motivated military volunteers.
Leftyhunter
Its not exactly a secret freemen also heavily discriminated in the north as well. Theres no reason they would take the opportunity for individual freedom any less seriously in the south then they did in the north. The very fact USCT were paid less demonstrates the bias and discrimination in the north as well.

Have you forgotten already the free blacks in states such as California, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio were prohibited against testifying against a white man.........the heavily discriminated against wasnt sectional.........
 
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thomas aagaard

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There were free black men in the South but they were heavily discriminated against. They also could be declared slaves and have limited legal recourse. Highly doubtful said free black men would have sufficient motivation to become motivated military volunteers.
Leftyhunter
But in some states the question of race was more complicated than white or black.
The Creoles in Mobile who wanted to enlist in November 1863 is evidence of this.
We got the 1st Louisiana native guards.

And I also think it is well documented that some free Colored men in Tennessee wanted to serve as soldiers early in the war.
(But had to go as cooks and similar when their state militia regiments was mustered into csa service early in the war.)

So clearly there where free colored men who was willing to serve.

Their motivation I would think is the same as found with colored men later during the great war, why immigrants where willing to serve and why the "danish" minority in northern Germany in 1914 was less likely to dodge the mobilization than the "Germans" where. (even if they could rather easily flee across the border to Denmark).

By showing your willingness to fight and die for your country you hope that it will result in more respect and more rights.
(Or as the "danes" put it in 1914 - First we do our duty to the Kaiser, then we ask for better treatment.)
 

Dead Parrott

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There were free black men in the South but they were heavily discriminated against. They also could be declared slaves and have limited legal recourse. Highly doubtful said free black men would have sufficient motivation to become motivated military volunteers.
Leftyhunter

According to Butler, after taking New Orleans four of the black officers from the CSA militia regiment approached him about enlisting themselves and their troops for the USA. they stated they had formed up to deflect suspicion of their loyalties, and fear for their families and property. This makes sense - free blacks rode a precarious line in the South, and while NO had a unique culture (large number of lighter skinned mulattos, french traditions, land-owning blacks, etc.), this class was VERY careful about what they did or said. Comparing the free blacks in NO with the general slave population is erroneous at best.

Butler was acutely political, and made much hay of his black regiments, knowing that the North was considering the policy at the highest political levels. But in the end the overwhelming proportion of Butler's regiments came from former slaves and contraband men, not those free blacks who, fearing loss from being questioned for their loyalty, formed a CSA milita unit.

One of the great things about studying these developments is dispelling the tendency to see positions as monolithic absolutes. Slavery had many shades (none of them anything but reprehensible), and free blacks and mulattos had differing roles in different areas with local needs and within local cultures. We need to be careful extrapolating what slaves across the CSA would do or not do, given a gun and treated as soldiers, with one side offering unquestioned freedom and the other offering nothing close to it.

If we're honest, the South had a well documented and overwhelming historic fear of revolts, which undermines almost any 'Loyal Slave' narrative on more than an individual personal scale. And once the USA made ending slavery an official rallying cry, arming CSA slaves was most likely at best giving the guns away and at worst military suicide.

Again, we should study these exceptions because they enlighten us about the complexity of the edges - the 'real world' in 19th century America. That doesn't change the overwhelming truth of the majority actions. It just provides us fascinating details.
 

Andersonh1

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According to Butler, after taking New Orleans four of the black officers from the CSA militia regiment approached him about enlisting themselves and their troops for the USA. they stated they had formed up to deflect suspicion of their loyalties, and fear for their families and property.

I think they were tailoring their message for Butler just as they tailored their message for the public before the war. It doesn't make them dishonest either time. They loved and were loyal to their home state, and they wanted to protect what they had. The first time they needed to reassure the rest of the population that they were on their side, and the second time they needed to reassure Butler that they were on his side.

I think it is absolutely worth re-emphasizing that only a small portion of the group that formed the CS Native Guard actually switched sides. It leads me to believe that the commitment that portion that did not switch sides expressed was genuine. They did not jump ship and side with the Union the first chance they got. It was a minority of the group that did so. Jordan Noble suffered property loss as a result of refusing for a time to take the oath of loyalty to the United States, and I suspect he was not the only one to do that.

Here is the letter that was published in the New Orleans Daily Delta, December 12, 1860. It is a defensive response... someone has accused the free black natives of Louisiana of being "not well disposed" towards their home state, so they feel it necessary to defend themselves.

There are certain persons who are disposed to believe and to make others believe - and some will do so from ignorance or mischief - that the free colored population (native) of Louisiana are not well disposed toward her, but this is not so; they love their home, their property, they own slaves, and they are dearly attached to their native land, and they recognize no other country than Louisiana, and care for no other than Louisiana, and they are ready to shed their blood for her defense. They have no sympathy for Abolitionism; no love for the North, but they have plenty for Louisiana; and let the hour come, and they will be worthy sons of Louisiana. They will fight for her in 1861 as they fought in 1814-'15. As you have always done them justice, they will ask you the favor of defending them in this case. If they have made no demonstration yet, it is because they have no right to meddle with politics, but not because they are not well disposed. All they ask is to have a chance, and they will be worthy sons of Louisiana. Please give them a little article from your vigorous pen, and remember in all coming time, they trust in your generous and kind heart.​

A LARGE NUMBER OF THEM.​
 

19thGeorgia

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According to Butler, after taking New Orleans four of the black officers from the CSA militia regiment approached him about enlisting themselves and their troops for the USA. they stated they had formed up to deflect suspicion of their loyalties, and fear for their families and property. This makes sense....
Not really.

There were 2300 free men of color of military age in New Orleans. About half of them joined the Native Guards.
Didn't the other half "fear for their families and property?"

The truth is - no one was threatened or had their property confiscated for not joining the NG.

The propaganda about this group runs in counter directions-

It's either "they were threatened if they did not join" or "they wanted to get rid of them by passing that whites-only militia law."

Neither of which is true.
 

leftyhunter

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Its not exactly a secret freemen also heavily discriminated in the north as well. Theres no reason they would take the opportunity for individual freedom any less seriously in the south then they did in the north. The very fact USCT were paid less demonstrates the bias and discrimination in the north as well.

Have you forgotten already the free blacks in states such as California, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio were prohibited against testifying against a white man.........the heavily discriminated against wasnt sectional.........
As the war progressed the pay differential ended. Most of the USCT volunteers were Southerners who most likely wanted revenge against their former oppressors.
I am just pointing out it is highly unlikely that most free men of color would be eager to fight for those that discriminated against them.
Leftyhunter
 

Dead Parrott

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I think they were tailoring their message for Butler just as they tailored their message for the public before the war. It doesn't make them dishonest either time. They loved and were loyal to their home state, and they wanted to protect what they had. The first time they needed to reassure the rest of the population that they were on their side, and the second time they needed to reassure Butler that they were on his side.

Agreed entirely. As precarious freemen, they were trying to protecting what they had.

I think it is absolutely worth re-emphasizing that only a small portion of the group that formed the CS Native Guard actually switched sides. It leads me to believe that the commitment that portion that did not switch sides expressed was genuine. They did not jump ship and side with the Union the first chance they got. It was a minority of the group that did so. Jordan Noble suffered property loss as a result of refusing for a time to take the oath of loyalty to the United States, and I suspect he was not the only one to do that.

While again I generally agree, I don't think this proves much of anything, other than their desire to protect what they had.
As CSA citizens, they felt they had to prove their loyalty by enlisting (thus protecting themselves and their family and property).
As USA citizens, there was no threat of loss of freedom, or family, or property. Butler was never going to enslave them.

I think the percentage offering to Butler reflects that most did not fear retribution from Butler (as opposed to from the CSA). If there's no threat, they could safely return to civilian life. If 24,000 other black Louisianans can willingly fight for the USA, that's plenty, let 'em.

As a freeman, I want to protect what I have, and increase my opportunity to have more, depending on the Risk\Reward.
Free Southern blacks could save what they had from suspicions of disloyalty by forming a militia unit - higher risk\medium reward.
Free Northern blacks couldn't lose anything - low risk\medium reward. But they could gain (respect, standing, rights) by joining and fighting well - high risk\high reward.
Slaves want freedom - period. US History proves that. Thus slaves would fight for the USA. Medium risk (what do they have to lose?)\super high reward.

Without a Cleburne-type provision for guaranteed freedom, slaves armed for the CSA have far more to gain by running to USA lines than fighting for the CSA - at high risk\little or no reward.

Good discussion.
 

leftyhunter

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los angeles ca
Not really.

There were 2300 free men of color of military age in New Orleans. About half of them joined the Native Guards.
Didn't the other half "fear for their families and property?"

The truth is - no one was threatened or had their property confiscated for not joining the NG.

The propaganda about this group runs in counter directions-

It's either "they were threatened if they did not join" or "they wanted to get rid of them by passing that whites-only militia law."

Neither of which is true.
Yet the LNG never actually fought for the Confederacy and arguably only 15 former LNG fought for the Confederacy post capture of New Orleans.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
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Location
los angeles ca
I think they were tailoring their message for Butler just as they tailored their message for the public before the war. It doesn't make them dishonest either time. They loved and were loyal to their home state, and they wanted to protect what they had. The first time they needed to reassure the rest of the population that they were on their side, and the second time they needed to reassure Butler that they were on his side.

I think it is absolutely worth re-emphasizing that only a small portion of the group that formed the CS Native Guard actually switched sides. It leads me to believe that the commitment that portion that did not switch sides expressed was genuine. They did not jump ship and side with the Union the first chance they got. It was a minority of the group that did so. Jordan Noble suffered property loss as a result of refusing for a time to take the oath of loyalty to the United States, and I suspect he was not the only one to do that.

Here is the letter that was published in the New Orleans Daily Delta, December 12, 1860. It is a defensive response... someone has accused the free black natives of Louisiana of being "not well disposed" towards their home state, so they feel it necessary to defend themselves.

There are certain persons who are disposed to believe and to make others believe - and some will do so from ignorance or mischief - that the free colored population (native) of Louisiana are not well disposed toward her, but this is not so; they love their home, their property, they own slaves, and they are dearly attached to their native land, and they recognize no other country than Louisiana, and care for no other than Louisiana, and they are ready to shed their blood for her defense. They have no sympathy for Abolitionism; no love for the North, but they have plenty for Louisiana; and let the hour come, and they will be worthy sons of Louisiana. They will fight for her in 1861 as they fought in 1814-'15. As you have always done them justice, they will ask you the favor of defending them in this case. If they have made no demonstration yet, it is because they have no right to meddle with politics, but not because they are not well disposed. All they ask is to have a chance, and they will be worthy sons of Louisiana. Please give them a little article from your vigorous pen, and remember in all coming time, they trust in your generous and kind heart.​

A LARGE NUMBER OF THEM.​
If said LNG evacuated New Orleans with their supposed white comrades then you would have a point. However that's not what happened. One hundred former Confederate LNG firing a shot against the Confederacy is more significant then 2,300 men who never fired a shot in anger against the Union.
Leftyhunter
 
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As the war progressed the pay differential ended. Most of the USCT volunteers were Southerners who most likely wanted revenge against their former oppressors.
I am just pointing out it is highly unlikely that most free men of color would be eager to fight for those that discriminated against them.
Leftyhunter
Yet they volunteered to fight for a nation that held slaves.......it because they were looking at individual freedom. it would matter little who offered it.
 
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Dead Parrott

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I think its really important to acknowledge the very, very unique circumstances of NO and its antebellum population of free blacks\mulattos.

Due to their unique history, this class held a very distinct (legally) tier from other blacks in LA.

They saw themselves as different from other blacks, and they were VERY concerned about threats to their established structure.

This class included slaveholders - some shielding extended family members, others just as callously splitting families and overworking slaves harvesting sugar. Lighter skin looked down on darker skin. This class intermarried and kept to their own neighborhoods and trades. Some became rich - but though they interacted with the city's commerce, they never controlled the politics beyond their own circles.

Again we need to be careful not to make monolithic pronouncements, but to this class, Louisiana (and NO in particular) gave them a unique protected status worth fighting for.

Slave owners would fight to defend slavery, and racial supremacists would fight to retain their imagined racial superiority - whether black or white.

Leading up to the war, there were growing attempts to curtail and limit this tier - legislative attempts to stop them from inheriting, certain trades, arrests, etc. - which absolutely DID constitute a threat. This class felt it, in addition to defending their privileged position above the other blacks.

I agree this class fought out of 'loyalty' to their status, tinged with the recent political\police threats to that status and white suspicions against them.

It's also why there was little or no reason to rise against Butler, who (other than an oath to the USA), presented no immediate threat to them - and offered them nothing to gain in return for fighting.

Again, we can't treat the entire free black population of NO as a single mindset - not all agreed with slavery - but there's no question they had a legally established tier that half felt was worth defending. Instead of White Supremacy, call it Creole Supremacy, I guess.

It's more and more interesting the deeper you go.
 
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Perhaps the USCT volunteers thought slavery would soon disappear. They definitely knew they had a chance for revenge so they took it.
Leftyhunter
As well they might have thought if the CSA had suddenly started offering individual freedom as well then.........serving one slaveholding nation wouldn't be much different then another.....just as they had been willing to serve Great Britain against the United States when offered a chance of individual freedom, as GB was also slaveholding in 1812........
 

leftyhunter

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los angeles ca
As well they might have thought if the CSA had suddenly started offering individual freedom as well then.........serving one slaveholding nation wouldn't be much different then another.....just as they had been willing to serve Great Britain against the United States when offered a chance of individual freedom, as GB was also slaveholding in 1812........
I would think that the fact that freed blacks were not treated well in the South would argue against voluntarily going the Confederate Army. Southern blacks weren't familiar with Northern racism but they certainly had a score to settle with Southern whites.
Leftyhunter
 
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