Was there an exodus of free Black people from the South on the eve of the Civil War.

ForeverFree

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In terms of non-slave States, I do not think that on the whole they would have welcomed blacks coming to them as they were generally not wanted and were prohibited from joining the Union army (see [2] below].
It is certainly true that northern whites generally did not want free or freed blacks entering their region. Such racial prejudice did not prevent the evolution of the USA policy toward emancipation and black enlistment.

[2] The thousands of enslaved people who used the war to seek and gain freedom was not an option at the beginning of the war. It was unlawful for black people to join the Union army at that time. The opportunity for black people to join the Union army did not arrive until 1863 when the war was about half over and even then the Union did not want them mixing with their other soldiers so they were segregated through the creation of the USCT to which you refer.
Just as a point of information, thousands of enslaved people gained freedom before the final Emancipation Proclamation (EP) and black enlistment, viz:

1861
May 24: Fugitive slaves at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, are received and put to work by Union general Benjamin F. Butler, who declares them “contraband of war”​
August 6: First Confiscation Act nullifies owners' claims to fugitive slaves who had been employed in the Confederate war effort​
1862
April 16 :The USA abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia, with compensation to loyal owners, and appropriates money for the voluntary removal (“colonization”) of former slaves to Haiti, Liberia, or other countries​
July 17: Second Confiscation Act frees the slaves of persons engaged in or assisting the rebellion and provides for the seizure and sale of other property owned by disloyal citizens; it also forbids army and navy personnel to decide on the validity of any fugitive slave's claim to freedom or to surrender any fugitive to any claimant, and authorizes the president to employ “persons of African descent” in any capacity to suppress the rebellion​
July 17 Militia Act provides for the employment of “persons of African descent” in “any military or naval service for which they may be found competent,” granting freedom to slaves so employed (and to their families if they belong to disloyal owners)​
August 22: In New Orleans, General Benjamin F. Butler incorporates into Union forces several “Native Guard” units composed of free-black soldiers; soon thereafter he begins recruiting both free-black and ex-slave men for additional regiments​
August 25: After having withheld its permission for months, the War Department authorizes recruitment of black soldiers in the South Carolina Sea Islands​

As noted, fugitive slaves ran to Union lines as early as May 1861, and many did gain refuge. Thousands were freed based on the above measures before the EP. Note, for example, that in August of 1862 a group of concerned citizens in Liberty County, GA wrote the following to Confederate military officials: "Independent of the forcible seizure of slaves by the enemy whenever it lies in his power, and to which we now make no allusion... we may set down as a low estimate the number of slaves absconded and enticed off from our sea-board at 20,000, and their value at from $12,000,000 to $15,000,000..."

The 20,000 enslaved people who "absconded" (that is, ran away and gained freedom) through August 1862 consisted only of persons on the Confederate sea-board. Other enslaved people gained freedom further inland.

These slave escapes helped to evolve USA policy toward emancipation and black enlistment. Some 178,000 black men joined the army starting basically in 1863. The majority of the black enlistees were people of color from the Confederate states, mostly former enslaved people, but certainly including free blacks. Racial animus did not prevent the USA policy of emancipation and black enlistment. The evolution in USA policy continued after the war with the 14th and 15th Amendments.

- Alan
 

ForeverFree

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I do not think there was much danger of 'travelling though a war zone' as for many months after Sumter actual warfare was sporadic and localised. Free blacks would have held dear their papers that declared them as such and would have encountered little opposition in 'heading north' if they had so desired. The lack of migration seems to say they decided to 'stay at home'.
Virginia seceded on May 23, 1861, I think. On that date, and for several months thereafter, I don't know if anybody was yet fearful of, or had clairvoyance about, a devastating civil war, with so much of it in Virginia. The common expectation of both sides was that the war would be over quickly. So, there was no urgency for people to migrate early in the war (assuming there would ever be an urgency to migrate). And by the time there was an urgency to get away from war, that was probably the time when it was unsafe to be traversing through the state to head north.

But we are on the same page about most free blacks deciding to stay in place. I don't see an imperative for them to leave their homes. I read a book a while back on war refugees in the state of North Carolina (Driven from Home: North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis by David Silkenat). It seems to me (and this was not a point that the author was trying to make) that the main impetus for people to refugee themselves was the proximity of the Union military. Absent the disruption of a nearby military presence (or imminent fear thereof), people tended to stay where they were. Being on the road during wartime offered much uncertainty, and even more so, I think, if one was a person of color.
I don't 'have the notion that black migration, or lack thereof" says anything 'about blacks having positive or negative feelings about the North or the South. Obviously, those who were slaves had no predisposition to have good feelings towards their enslavers - whether they were from the north or the south. I suspect that people in general at that time were more likely to consider themselves as living in their particular State before they thought of themselves as living in the United States.
OK.

Most people at the time would rarely venture outside their own county let alone their State (except those in border towns).
Earlier, I mentioned that some 68% of all free blacks in 1860 lived in just a handful of states along the East Coast. But while 68% of free blacks lived in the area from NY to NC, only 35.5% of all free whites lived in the same area. (If my math is right.)

African Americans living west of the 13 Original States were relatively scarce, especially in the Old SouthWest. To illustrate this point, consider that:
• OH and IN (two states in the Old Northwest), combined, had 48,101 free blacks in 1860.
• The Old Southwest ~ AL, AR, FL, KY, LA, MO, MS, TN, and TX ~ combined had only 45,077 free blacks. Louisiana had 18,647 free blacks, many of whom were inherited from the Louisiana Purchase.
• IL, MI and WI, combined, had almost as many free blacks as AL, AR, FL, GA, MS, TN, and TX combined.

The races, if I can use that term, were not equally venturesome. Free whites were much more migratory than free blacks. It might be that this hesitancy to migrate, due to concerns about being mobile in a society with so much prejudice, carries over to war. That is, I'm suggesting that not only was there a desire to stay home, but also, a concern about traveling in general that gave pause to free blacks who might otherwise want to move around... concerns which intensified during wartime.

(The book Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship Before the Civil War, by Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, has this introduction: "Americans have long regarded the freedom of travel a central tenet of citizenship. Yet, in the United States, freedom of movement has historically been a right reserved for whites." I have not read the book, but it seems to highlight the precarious nature of traveling while black throughout USA history.)

They were as content as they could be in their own home towns.
Question: How do you know they were as content as they could be?

Forgive me for being picky. But many 19th century whites in the US said that enslaved people were content. It was a thing. And I guess that the slaves were as content as they could be, for whatever that was worth. To me, the question should be, would they (African Americans, whenther free or enslaved) have been more contented if they had the same rights, privileges, and opportunities as free whites? That question leads to quite a different discussion.

- Alan
 
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RobertP

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I don't 'have the notion that black migration, or lack thereof" says anything 'about blacks having positive or negative feelings about the North or the South. Obviously, those who were slaves had no predisposition to have good feelings towards their enslavers - whether they were from the north or the south. I suspect that people in general at that time were more likely to consider themselves as living in their particular State before they thought of themselves as living in the United States.

I suspect the free black people were subject to discrimination in all States of the Union and the Confederacy. I suspect that they felt most comfortable amongst the people they grew up with and encountered on a daily basis than someone from another State. I also think "it says something about the families and communities they formed and in which they lived, and their wanting to remain with their families and communities". Most people at the time would rarely venture outside their own county let alone their State (except those in border towns). They were as content as they could be in their own home towns.

I do not think there was much danger of 'travelling though a war zone' as for many months after Sumter actual warfare was sporadic and localised. Free blacks would have held dear their papers that declared them as such and would have encountered little opposition in 'heading north' if they had so desired. The lack of migration seems to say they decided to 'stay at home'.
Bingo
 

RobertP

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Why, certainly!

Let us then deal with all the problems of the era that come with the 19th century idea of a slave "voting with one's feet."

Slave patrols.
Slave catchers.
The need for written passes.
Fugitive Slave Laws.
The difficulty of leaving one's family and loved ones behind or to endanger them on a dangerous journey.,

And like I have said before, "the presumption they were comfortable where they were" is just that, a presumption, right?
Wrong thread.
 

Quaama

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Question: How do you know they were as content as they could be?

Forgive me for being picky. But many 19th century whites in the US said that enslaved people were content. It was a thing. And I guess that the slaves were as content as they could be, for whatever that was worth. To me, the question should be, would they (African Americans, whenther free or enslaved) have been more contented if they had the same rights, privileges, and opportunities as free whites? That question leads to quite a different discussion.

- Alan

They (free blacks in the Confederacy) didn't migrate in any significant numbers. If they were discontent then this was their opportunity to start anew.

Slaves (north or south) are a different story.
Obviously, African Americans at the time would have been more content if they had the same opportunities as free whites. I do think that applied in the north and the south as I said in Post #20, "I suspect the free black people were subject to discrimination in all States of the Union and the Confederacy".
 

ForeverFree

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They (free blacks in the Confederacy) didn't migrate in any significant numbers. If they were discontent then this was their opportunity to start anew.

Slaves (north or south) are a different story.
Obviously, African Americans at the time would have been more content if they had the same opportunities as free whites. I do think that applied in the north and the south as I said in Post #20, "I suspect the free black people were subject to discrimination in all States of the Union and the Confederacy".
I'm not sure I am understanding what you're saying. I will summarize what I'm saying and let it go at that.

Question: Would black discontent necessarily lead to black migration? Nothing could be more wrong, or perhaps even, irrelevant. It could simultaneously be true that free blacks were discontent where they were, AND, as you suggest, be fearful of moving to some other part of the USA where racial prejudice was as debilitating as it was in their home communities. In that case, there was no reason to migrate, despite suffering unsatisfactory social, economic, and political conditions.

The question for African Americans families was, what options do we we realistically have to succeed in a country with overwhelming racial prejudice? I don't think southern free blacks saw the North as a racial utopia. I know for sure that demographics indicate that free blacks, in the North and South, were much less migratory than free whites. I think we are both saying that in such an environment, staying in your home community was a safe, reasonable choice to make, even if that home community denied people of of color of rights, privileges, and opportunities. There are other factors that must be considered as well, such as concerns that people had about traveling while black. There was a lot of things to consider.

(Free blacks could move to Liberia or Canada, but these places were generally unattractive despite fewer issues with racial prejudice.)

In terms of how this intersected with wartime: when the war began nobody knew it was going to be a bloodbath. Right before the war one southerner suggested that any war would be brief, and that all the blood from the war would fit in a cup. (Yeah, he was wrong.) Except for the most prescient, or the luckiest guessers, neither free blacks nor free whites thought the onset of war was good reason to get out of dodge. The smart, safe thing was to stay home. Once Virginia became the war zone it did become, I don't see why a free black person would want to take the chance to traverse through a war zone. (Again, 2 out of 3 free blacks in the Confederacy resided in VA and NC. So that's a very perilous trip up north that they'd be taking.)

I think some and maybe many of these are points that you and I agree on.

- Alan
 
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Quaama

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Simply saying that free blacks must of thought they would be no more content in a northern State and chose to stay where they were.

My previous post was mainly intended to answer your question to me "How do you know they were as content as they could be?". So, essentially they were as content as they could be in their southern home and there was little chance of greater contentment in a northern home - conditions would have been no better and may have been worse as they would no longer have contact and support with those they had lived with all their lives.

All this applies to the beginning of the war so no real 'war zone' issues so it seems we generally agree on things as summed up in your statement "The smart, safe thing was to stay home".
 

ForeverFree

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All this applies to the beginning of the war so no real 'war zone' issues so it seems we generally agree on things as summed up in your statement "The smart, safe thing was to stay home".

Just on the point of war zones: The OP says
Now if it we're me, and I was a free person of color, I wouldn't want to stick around for the inevitable carnage that was coming. Was there a mass movement of free people from the South to the North? If they stayed, why?
The point I'm making is, when the war began, nobody was thinking that there would be inevitable carnage. So, there was no urgency for people to migrate early in the war (assuming there would ever be an urgency to migrate) on that basis. If one wonders why people stayed at that moment, it was because they didn't see a need to move.

By the time it was clear there that was a state of carnage, if you will, it was probably unsafe to be traversing through the state to head north especially if you were a free person of color. Let's say that by that time, the North attained some kind of compelling attractiveness which made free blacks want to move there; they still might not want to migrate simply for safety concerns related to moving through areas where soldiers from either side were afoot.

- Alan
 

Quaama

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I agree that virtually "nobody was thinking that there would be inevitable carnage" but we are considering people who were in States leaving the Union. If they stayed they were accepting of a secession from the Union and in becoming part of the Confederacy. If that was so offensive to them then they should have departed for a Union State. That they didn't tells me that they were as content as they could be (given known discrimination across all States) and had no great objection to leaving the Union and joining their countrymen in the Confederacy. Silence [or failure to vote with your feet] is acquiescence.

This, and my other comments in this thread, relates to the early months of the war as later time periods seem to be outside the scope of the OP and become a different matter as the political climate and war situation changed.
 

Stone in the wall

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If what you say is true, then why were border states so adamantly in favor of fugitive slave legislation, such as the Act of 1850? In fact, whites in the border states in particular were very afraid of runaways seeking freedom in free states. Those whites not only used police state tactics to prevent escape from bondage, but they also sought laws like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to make it easier for freed blacks to be captured and re-commodifed and degraded in a slave state.

Also of note is that in KY, MD, MO and WV thousands of enslaved people used the war and the conditions it caused to seek and gain freedom. In Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Delaware and West Virginia a total of 41,915 men were in the USCT (US Colored Troops). Enslaved persons who joined the US army gained their freedom upon enlistment. In this case voting with their feet meant joining the Union army. Congress passed measures that freed the families of those men late in the war.

View attachment 385940

This is USA Sgt Christian Fleetwood. He was a free black man from Baltimore. He won the Medal of Honor for his actions in the war. Free blacks like Fleetwood fought to end slavery and gain full citizenship rights. Again, voting with his feet meant joining the Union army. We cannot overstress what a huge leap of faith it was for free blacks to join the USA army, given nationwide racial prejudice.

I close by noting that KY, MD, and WV were considered part of the South (below the Mason-Dixon Line and the Ohio River) and are still considered part of the South today by the US Census Bureau.



I don't know how many free blacks were enlisted in the CSA army. Here are numbers for the USCT. Note the number enlisted from states that were in the Confederacy:

COUNT OF US COLORED TROOPS BY STATE

Union Free States, Territories & DC: 37,818
Union Slave States: 41,915
Confederate States: 93,346
State or Territory Unknown: 5,896
GRAND TOTAL – USCT 178,975

We know that many free blacks from Louisiana joined the USA army, but I don't have a number for that. Again, these enlistments are an indication of how men "voted with their feet."

- Alan
Accourding
If what you say is true, then why were border states so adamantly in favor of fugitive slave legislation, such as the Act of 1850? In fact, whites in the border states in particular were very afraid of runaways seeking freedom in free states. Those whites not only used police state tactics to prevent escape from bondage, but they also sought laws like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to make it easier for freed blacks to be captured and re-commodifed and degraded in a slave state.

Also of note is that in KY, MD, MO and WV thousands of enslaved people used the war and the conditions it caused to seek and gain freedom. In Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Delaware and West Virginia a total of 41,915 men were in the USCT (US Colored Troops). Enslaved persons who joined the US army gained their freedom upon enlistment. In this case voting with their feet meant joining the Union army. Congress passed measures that freed the families of those men late in the war.

View attachment 385940

This is USA Sgt Christian Fleetwood. He was a free black man from Baltimore. He won the Medal of Honor for his actions in the war. Free blacks like Fleetwood fought to end slavery and gain full citizenship rights. Again, voting with his feet meant joining the Union army. We cannot overstress what a huge leap of faith it was for free blacks to join the USA army, given nationwide racial prejudice.

I close by noting that KY, MD, and WV were considered part of the South (below the Mason-Dixon Line and the Ohio River) and are still considered part of the South today by the US Census Bureau.



I don't know how many free blacks were enlisted in the CSA army. Here are numbers for the USCT. Note the number enlisted from states that were in the Confederacy:

COUNT OF US COLORED TROOPS BY STATE

Union Free States, Territories & DC: 37,818
Union Slave States: 41,915
Confederate States: 93,346
State or Territory Unknown: 5,896
GRAND TOTAL – USCT 178,975

We know that many free blacks from Louisiana joined the USA army, but I don't have a number for that. Again, these enlistments are an indication of how men "voted with their feet."

- Alan
According to Virgel Lewis only 212 USCT came from West Virginia.
 

ForeverFree

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Accourding

According to Virgel Lewis only 212 USCT came from West Virginia.

My numbers are cited from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, Volume 1, The Black Military Experience: Series II, p 12. At p12, there is a US Government report detailing the USCT count by state.

I am not familiar with the Virgel Lewis source, but I would appreciate any info you can provide about it.

I would add that, the state numbers reflect the state of enlistment. We know, for example, that many African Americans from OH, NY, and PA enlisted in Massachusetts. So if we wanted to know the exact number of people from PA were in the USCT, it would not be enough to look at the numbers from the report I mention.

- Alan
 
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Stone in the wall

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My numbers are cited from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, Volume 1, The Black Military Experience: Series II, p 12. At p12, there is a US Government report detailing the USCT count by state.

I am not familiar with the Virgil Lewis source, but I would appreciate any info you can provide about it.

I would add that, the state numbers reflect the state of enlistment. We know, for example, that many people from OH, NY, and PA enlisted in Massachusetts. So if we wanted to know how the exact number of people from PA were in the USCT, it would not be enough to look at the numbers from the report I mention.

- Alan
Alan, 212 was from Marshall Education the Carter Woodson Project : 35 were farmers, 35 laborers, 7 servants, 1 barber, the others failed to list a profession. They credited Virgil Lewis with that number.
From Wikipedia (not the best source) USCT 41,915 :
Del 954
Kentucky 23,703
Maryland 8,718
Missouri 8,344
WV 196
Also states "Most of the troops credited to WV, how ever were not from that state. So we will probably never know how many really were native to that or any other state.
 

Stone in the wall

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My numbers are cited from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, Volume 1, The Black Military Experience: Series II, p 12. At p12, there is a US Government report detailing the USCT count by state.

I am not familiar with the Virgel Lewis source, but I would appreciate any info you can provide about it.

I would add that, the state numbers reflect the state of enlistment. We know, for example, that many people from OH, NY, and PA enlisted in Massachusetts. So if we wanted to know the exact number of people from PA were in the USCT, it would not be enough to look at the numbers from the report I mention.

- Alan
Seems I forgot something. Virgil A Lewis 1848-1912 wrote about 20 books mostly about West Virginia History.
 

ForeverFree

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I agree that virtually "nobody was thinking that there would be inevitable carnage" but we are considering people who were in States leaving the Union. If they stayed they were accepting of a secession from the Union and in becoming part of the Confederacy. If that was so offensive to them then they should have departed for a Union State. That they didn't tells me that they were as content as they could be (given known discrimination across all States) and had no great objection to leaving the Union and joining their countrymen in the Confederacy. Silence [or failure to vote with your feet] is acquiescence.

This, and my other comments in this thread, relates to the early months of the war as later time periods seem to be outside the scope of the OP and become a different matter as the political climate and war situation changed.

OK, so this is the OP:
Now if it we're me, and I was a free person of color, I wouldn't want to stick around for the inevitable carnage that was coming. Was there a mass movement of free people from the South to the North? If they stayed, why?
I was responding to the OP, which is specifically premised on the idea that people of color were fearful of the "inevitable carnage that was coming," not the idea of whether they were content with or accepting of secession. So we're talking apples and oranges.

But regarding this different subject of free people's "content" with or "acquiescence" to secession: I just don't know how much free people of color would have cared about that at the start of the war. I understand the abstraction that doing nothing is a choice, and that there are real consequences to what we do or don't do. But what is it that free black southerners actually believed they were doing, and what is the best way to characterize/interpret their behavior?

There is a phrase from the Buddhist tradition, "Before enlightenment, cut wood and carry water. After enlightenment, cut wood and carry water." Life goes on, even after enlightenment. What does free black life mean in a time of secession?

So, if I'm a free black southerner at the start of the war, I would ask, "what exactly does secession mean, and and how does it change my life?" The common expectation of both sides was that a secession war would be over quickly. First Bull Run changes those perceptions, I believe. But in the early months, life after secession was the same as life before secession for the majority of people, as the states are revving up the war machine.

There was nothing to "acquiesce" to; life simply went on. Of unique importance to free blacks was that they were in the precarious position of non-citizens. They could not engage in the discussions that consumed white politicians, for example. Southerners whites weren't listening to them, the views of free blacks didn't matter, and any criticism of whites was potentially life-threatening. (Professing and performing loyalty were vital even in the first few months of the war because slaves were already escaping to Union lines in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.) And I don't know that free southern blacks perceived that free northern whites were any more likely to listen to them or care about them.

There were certainly exceptions, but I don't think the vast majority of free black southerners conceived intellectually that secession was treachery, or cared about it, or thought that the war was sure to end slavey or improve the condition of African Americans. Probably, most saw secession as a fight between white people.

On the one hand you say that by staying where they were, free blacks voted with their feet. But you also say, and I agree, that they saw themselves as people of their communities. They did not see themselves as people of a United States who were embroiled in national controversies over which they had no input. What did pro-secessionism or anti-secessionism mean to them, at that point? I think that at the worst, they were worried that this was going to be a white-man's war where negroes were going to killed in the crossfire. (Certainly in the North, whites did call it a white man's war, and refused black enlistment early on - something that free black southerners might have heard about.)

In the early months it seems to me that free black southerners simply stayed in their homes and communities, continuing the lives they were living, and there was no political statement, such as pro-secessionism, to it at all, explicit or implied. They recognized the practical and life-saving necessity of showing loyalty to their states and the Confederacy, went about their business, and hoped things would blow over.

And then the war came.

- Alan
 
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uaskme

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Post War even the Radical Republicans rejected southern blacks moving North. Every obstacle where put in Blacks way to keep them in the South. North didn’t want he Free Blacks they had.

Yankees recognized they were more Racist than Southerners and thought that Blacks should stay where they were most familiar. North treated all minorities horribly. 1% Black population should tell us something.

By 64 MA was paying poor immigrants 1k in bounties. Yankees had to entice recruits monetarily because doing it for the Cause, whatever that was, didn’t fill the ranks. So, it is understandable why MA went to SC and chased blacks thru the piney woods and forced them into blue suits. It cost them far less than 1K.
 

DanSBHawk

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By 64 MA was paying poor immigrants 1k in bounties. Yankees had to entice recruits monetarily because doing it for the Cause, whatever that was, didn’t fill the ranks. So, it is understandable why MA went to SC and chased blacks thru the piney woods and forced them into blue suits. It cost them far less than 1K.
Thousands of new immigrants to the country turned out to be more loyal patriotic Americans than the disloyal native-born secessionists.
 

DaveBrt

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OK, so this is the OP:

I was responding to the OP, which is specifically premised on the idea that people of color were fearful of the "inevitable carnage that was coming," not the idea of whether they were content with or accepting of secession. So we're talking apples and oranges.

But regarding this different subject of free people's "content" with or "acquiescence" to secession: I just don't know how much free people of color would have cared about that at the start of the war. I understand the abstraction that doing nothing is a choice, and that there are real consequences to what we do or don't do. But what is it that free black southerners actually believed they were doing, and what is the best way to characterize/interpret their behavior?

There is a phrase from the Buddhist tradition, "Before enlightenment, cut wood and carry water. After enlightenment, cut wood and carry water." Life goes on, even after a enlightenment. What does free black life mean in a time of secession?

So if I'm a free black southerner at the start of the war, I would ask, "what exactly does secession mean, and and how does it change my life?" The common expectation of both sides was that a secession war would be over quickly. First Bull Run changes those perceptions, I believe. But in the early months, life after secession was the same as life before secession for the majority of people, as the states are revving up the war machine.

There was nothing to "acquiesce" to; life simply went on. Of unique importance to free blacks was that they were in the precarious position of non-citizens. They could not engage in the discussions that consumed white politicians, for example. Southerners whites weren't listening to them, the views of free blacks didn't matter, and any criticism of whites was potentially life-threatening. (Professing and performing loyalty were vital even in the first few months of the war because slaves were already escaping to Union lines in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.) And I don't know that free southern blacks perceived that free northern whites were any more likely to listen to them or care about them.

There were certainly exceptions, but I don't think the vast majority of free black southerners conceived intellectually that secession was treachery, or cared about it, or thought that the war was sure to end slavey or improve the condition of African Americans. Probably, most saw secession as a fight between white people.

On the one hand you say that by staying where they were, free blacks voted with their feet. But you also say, and I agree, that they saw themselves as people of their communities. They did not see themselves as people of a United States who were embroiled in national controversies over which they had no input. What did pro-secessionism or anti-secessionism mean to them, at that point? I think that at the worst, they were worried that this was going to be a white-man's war where negroes were going to killed in the crossfire. (Certainly in the North, whites did call it a white man's war, and refused black enlistment early on - something that free black southerners might have heard about.)

In the early months it seems to me that free black southerners simply stayed in their homes and communities, continuing the lives they were living, and there was no political statement, such as pro-secessionism, to it at all, explicit or implied. They recognized the practical and life-saving necessity of showing loyalty to their states and the Confederacy, went about their business, and hoped things would blow over.

And then the war came.

- Alan
I agree completely -- and after the war came, it did not mean carnage to them. In early 1863, the Engineer officer in charge of creating the Richmond area fortificatins felt it necessary to write the rules for junior engineers on how to handle their free blacks being swept up by the impressment authorities. He said the problem was that he was being drowned in a sea of requests for exemptions for the free blacks by the government shops employing them or the government contractors employing them on government contracts. So, clearly the free blacks were filling the paid labor positions that the war economy needed to have filled -- many positions that had initially been filled by whites. The free blacks were, in fact, benefiting from the war demands, at least until the very end of the war, with its hunger and destruction.
 
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