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Actually, black Confederate soldiers served with distinction throughout Civil War

Monday, March 10, 2014
CHRISTINE BARR

I appreciated Tony Kendall’s column last week, but wondered if perhaps there was, in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, a “rest of the story.”

I also remembered a fine column appearing in this paper some years ago by William Barr, which discussed the pension records of black Confederate soldiers in Tennessee, and am surprised Mr. Kendall did not.

Then again, being married to the author means that I was perhaps more attentive to it!

Samuel Johnson said there are two kinds of knowledge — that which we know and that which we know how to find.

I would add that we are also wise if we know when to find someone who knows something in which we are interested. I am fortunate to have many historians in my life, both professional and amateur.

Rather than revisit Bill’s column, I was able to get a new perspective.

John Mark King is a Kentuckian and member of the Southern Nationalist Party, which he says “welcome(s) the participation and leadership of black men and women of the South — in the struggle for liberty and just governance.”

And now, for the rest of my column, I give you Mr. King’s remarks:

By JOHN MARK KING

Mr. Tony Kendall writes an interesting column that begins with an encounter with a member of the SCV, which leads him on a journey of research and re-evaluation regarding the actual contribution of black men who served in the Confederate Army.

There are a few areas Mr. Kendall mentions that give me concern, however. He states during his research:

“And all the information I gleaned from several peer-approved websites and the work of renowned civil war historians like Shelby Foote, James McPherson and William C. Davis, the consensus answer is very few blacks were officially Confederate soldiers.”

Academia (from the study of history to the sciences) is pretty much controlled by establishments wedded to a particular world view that espouses humanism (and yet claims to be “religion free”) and the need and desire for large government.

I am always suspicious when I see the term “peer-reviewed.” Whose peers?

For instance, the “venerable” James McPherson has been cited numerous times as passing off war-time federal propaganda as “history” I think this question also adequately demonstrates how these types (the McPhersons of the world, not necessarily Mr. Kendall himself) fool us into believing things that are not entirely accurate by obfuscation of the facts.

Sure, I will agree with the broad general statement that “few blacks were officially Confederate soldiers.” Few whites were, too.

Most Confederate soldiers were composed of state units, militia units, and state records often times reveal different results than Confederate. Also, we must recall how sketchy Confederate records are in the first place.

But did black men only serve “towards the end” of the war? I think there is ample evidence to the contrary:

Dr. Lewis Steiner, chief inspector, U.S. Sanitary Commission, reported on a Confederate advance early in the war. He wrote:

“Wednesday, Sept. 10 — At four o’clock this morning, the Rebel army began to move from our town, Jackson’s force taking the advance.

“The movement continued until eight o’clock p.m., occupying 16 hours. The most liberal calculations could not give them more than 64,000 men.

“Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in this number. These were clad in all kinds of uniforms, not only in cast-off or captured U.S. 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 Rebel ranks.

“Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabres, bowie-knives, dirks, etc. They were supplied, in many instances, with knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, etc., and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederacy Army.

“They were seen riding on horses and mules, driving wagons, riding on caissons, in ambulances, with the staff of generals, and promiscuously mixed up with all the Rebel horde.”

(Report of Lewis H. Steiner, New York: Anson D. F. Randolph, 1862, pp. 10-11.)

Now there are always some in academia who like to challenge Steiner’s eyewitness testimony by suggesting that people in the Confederate government like Howell Cobb or Barnwell Rhett (who were vociferously against blacks serving in the Confederate armies) didn’t know about these black soldiers in Confederate Gray.

The truth is there’s a lot that went on in the Confederate armies that these two jokers didn’t know about.

I am willing to bet that they didn’t know about the nearly 50 black men that rode in Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry, either. And keep in mind that cavalry are elite forces, much like our special forces today.

Of the black men who rode with Forrest, Gen. Forrest bragged, “[T]these boys stayed with me … better Confederates did not live.”

And whereas it might have went unknown to jokers like Cobb and Rhett, New York newspaper man Horace Greeley knew about them:

“For more than two years, Negroes have been extensively employed in belligerent operations by the Confederacy. They have been embodied and drilled as Rebel soldiers and had paraded with white troops at a time when this would not have been tolerated in the armies of the Union.”

Greeley was not alone among influential men of the North who knew about black men serving in Confederate ranks and file.

Frederick Douglass sure knew about them, too, and complained bitterly in his efforts to lobby the U.S. Army to even accept black men into their ranks:

“It is now pretty well established that there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops, and do all that soldiers may ….”

(Douglass’ Monthly, September 1861, online copy available at http://radicaljournal.com/essays/fighting_rebels.html.)

And contrary to these “peer-reviewed” reports, black soldiers served in the Confederate armies from the beginning and also (surprisingly to many) in most cases as fully integrated units.

In 1895, Christian A. Fleetwood, a black man who had served in the Union army as a sergeant-major (4th U.S. Colored Troops) reported:

“It seems a little singular that in the tremendous struggle between the states in 1861-1865, the South should have been the first to take steps toward the enlistment of Negroes.

“Yet such is the fact. Two weeks after the fall of Fort Sumter, the Charleston Mercury records the passing through Augusta of several companies of the 3rd and 4th Georgia Regt. and of 16 well-drilled companies and one Negro company from Nashville, Tenn.

“The Memphis Avalanche and The Memphis Appeal of May 9, 10, and 11, 1861, give notice of the appointment by the “Committee of Safety” of a committee of three persons “to organize a volunteer company composed of our patriotic freemen of color of the City of Memphis, for the service of our common defense.”

A telegram from New Orleans, dated Nov. 23, 1861, notes the review by Gov. Moore of over 28,000 troops, and that one regiment comprised “1,400 colored men.”

The New Orleans Picayune, referring to a review held Feb. 9, 1862, says: “We must also pay a deserved compliment to the companies of free colored men, all very well drilled and comfortably equipped.”

(Christian A. Fleetwood, The Negro as a Soldier, Washington, D.C.: Howard University Print, 1895, pp. 5-6.) [Michael T. Griffith “Black Confederates, Political Correctness, and a Virginia Textbook” copyright 2011 retrieved: http://www.mtgriffith.com/web.../blackconfederates.html.]

So the testimony of all these people — from both sides of the conflict — stands in stark contrast to our current knowledge of the war (and again, most of that is due to the parroting of war-time Union propaganda as “history”).

Now, what about this seeming discrepancy with the fact that so few records are found at the Confederate (or national level)?

Again, I submit that many of the black men who served did so, and received their pensions from state governments, and also there were just a lot of men period who served in the ranks — both black and white — who were also irregulars (undocumented soldiers), so the trick word here then is “officially.”

Now in closing, I would like to summarize, and relate one last bit of fact: Form the very beginning of the War for Southern Independence, the Confederate armies had black soldiers (both free and slave).

Furthermore, there is ample evidence that many Confederate armies were fully integrated units.

This stands in striking contrast to the statistics for the Union army (who according to the post-war myths the “Union Army and Father Abraham were so valiantly trying to free” — don’t even get me started on all the myths surrounding Lincoln).

The Union Army would not even allow blacks to serve until 1863 — fully two years into the war, and that the U.S. Army remained segregated until 1948 — three years after the end of World War II.

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