People know little about them, but in 1861, noted black abolitionist Frederick Douglass said;
Black soldiers’ contributions to Union armies are already well known, popularized in Hollywood films such as “Glory”, but suggesting that Southern blacks fought and died for a government that condoned and supported slavery is politically incorrect nowadays.
The South was the only home most of the slaves and Freemen knew and some sixty thousand of them were willing to risk their lives to protect their way of life against the unknown dangers of defeat by the Union Forces. Black historian, Roland Young, says he is not surprised that blacks fought. He explains that “some, if not most, Black southerners would support their country” and that by doing so they were “demonstrating it’s possible to hate the system of slavery and love one’s country.” Some would ask, “Why would they serve; why would they fight?” They served and fought for the same reasons as their white counterparts. They felt that the South was their home, too. Whether slave or free, each had a stake in the society and each had a home they felt endeared to. For example, many Charleston negroes actually cheered at the possibility that they would be able to shoot Yankees shortly after the outbreak of War. This is the very same reaction that most African Americans showed during the American Revolution, where they fought for the colonies, even though the British offered them freedom if they fought for them.
1. The “Richmond Howitzers” were partially manned by black militiamen. They saw action at 1st Manassas (or 1st Battle of Bull Run) where they operated battery no. 2. In addition two black “regiments”, one free and one slave, participated in the battle on behalf of the South. “Many colored people were killed in the action”, recorded John Parker, a former slave.
2. At least one Black Confederate was a non-commissioned officer. James Washington, Co. D 35th Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army, became it’s 3rd Sergeant. Higher ranking black commissioned officers served in militia units, but this was on the State militia level (Louisiana) and not in the regular C.S. Army.
3. Free black musicians, cooks, soldiers and teamsters earned the same pay as white confederate privates. This was not the case in the Union army where blacks did not receive equal pay. At the Confederate Buffalo Forge in Rockbridge County, Virginia, skilled black workers “earned on average three times the wages of white Confederate soldiers and more than most Confederate army officers ($350- $600 a year).
4. Dr. Lewis Steiner, Chief Inspector of the United States Sanitary Commission while observing Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s occupation of Frederick, Maryland, in 1862: “Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in this number [Confederate troops]. These were clad in all kinds of uniforms, not only in cast-off or captured United States uniforms, but in coats with Southern buttons, State buttons, etc. These were shabby, but not shabbier or seedier than those worn by white men in the rebel ranks. Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie-knives, dirks, etc…..and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederate Army.”
5. Black and white militiamen returned heavy fire on Union troops at the Battle of Griswoldsville (near Macon, GA). Approximately 600 boys and elderly men were killed in this skirmish.
6. In 1864, President Jefferson Davis approved a plan that proposed the emancipation of slaves, in return for the official recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and France. France showed interest but Britain refused.
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