Black Confederates Fact Page

by Scott K. Williams

Black Confederates Why haven’t we heard more about them? National

Park Service historian, Ed Bearrs, stated, "I don’t want to call

it a

conspiracy to ignore the role of Blacks both above and below the

Mason-Dixon line, but it was definitely a tendency that began around

1910" Historian, Erwin L. Jordan, Jr., calls it a "cover-up"


started back in 1865. He writes, "During my research, I came


instances where Black men stated they were soldiers, but you can

plainly see where ‘soldier’ is crossed out and ‘body servant’

inserted, or ‘teamster’ on pension applications." Another 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


possible to hate the system of slavery and love one’s country."


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.

It has been estimated that over 65,000 Southern blacks were in


Confederate ranks. Over 13,000 of these, "saw the elephant"


known as meeting the enemy in combat. These Black Confederates

included both slave and free. The Confederate Congress did not

approve blacks to be officially enlisted as soldiers (except as

musicians), until late in the war. But in the ranks it was a

different story. Many Confederate officers did not obey the mandates

of politicians, they frequently enlisted blacks with the simple

criteria, "Will you fight?" Historian Ervin Jordan, explains


"biracial units" were frequently organized "by local

Confederate and

State militia Commanders in response to immediate threats in the


of Union raids…". Dr. Leonard Haynes, a African-American

professor at

Southern University, stated, "When you eliminate the black

Confederate soldier, you’ve eliminated the history of the South."

As the war came to an end, the Confederacy took progressive measures

to build back up it’s army. The creation of the Confederate States

Colored Troops, copied after the segregated northern colored troops,

came too late to be successful. Had the Confederacy been successful,

it would have created the world’s largest armies (at the time)

consisting of black soldiers,even larger than that of the North.


would have given the future of the Confederacy a vastly different

appearance than what modern day racist or anti-Confederate liberals

conjecture. Not only did Jefferson Davis envision black Confederate

veterans receiving bounty lands for their service, there would have

been no future for slavery after the goal of 300,000 armed black


veterans came home after the war.

1. The "Richmond Howitzers" were partially manned by


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


recorded John Parker, a former slave.

2. At least one Black Confederate was a non-commissioned officer.

James Washington, Co. D 34th Texas Cavalry, "Terrell’s Texas


became it’s 3rd Sergeant. In comparison, The highest ranking Black

Union soldier during the war was a Sergeant Major.

3. Free black musicians, cooks, soldiers and teamsters earned the

same pay as white confederate privates. This was not the case in


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



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


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


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. Frederick Douglas reported, "There are at the present moment


Colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks,

servants and laborers, but real soldiers, having musket on their

shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down any

loyal troops and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal

government and build up that of the…rebels."

6. Black and white militiamen returned heavy fire on Union troops


the Battle of Griswoldsville (near Macon, GA). Approximately 600


and elderly men were killed in this skirmish.

7. In 1864, President Jefferson Davis approved a plan that proposed

the emancipation of slaves, in return for the official recognition


the Confederacy by Britain and France. France showed interest but

Britain refused.

8. The Jackson Battalion included two companies of black soldiers.

They saw combat at Petersburg under Col. Shipp. "My men acted


utmost promptness and goodwill…Allow me to state sir that they

behaved in an extraordinary acceptable manner."

9. Recently the National Park Service, with a recent discovery,

recognized that blacks were asked to help defend the city of

Petersburg, Virginia and were offered their freedom if they did


Regardless of their official classification, black Americans

performed support functions that in today’s army many would be

classified as official military service. The successes of white

Confederate troops in battle, could only have been achieved with


support these loyal black Southerners.

10. Confederate General John B. Gordon (Army of Northern Virginia)

reported that all of his troops were in favor of Colored troops


that it’s adoption would have "greatly encouraged the army".

Gen. Lee

was anxious to receive regiments of black soldiers. The Richmond

Sentinel reported on 24 Mar 1864, "None…will deny that

our servants

are more worthy of respect than the motley hordes which come against

us." "Bad faith [to black Confederates] must be avoided

as an

indelible dishonor."

11. In March 1865, Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary Of


promised freedom for blacks who served from the State of Virginia.

Authority for this was finally received from the State of Virginia

and on April 1st 1865, $100 bounties were offered to black soldiers.

Benjamin exclaimed, "Let us say to every Negro who wants to

go into

the ranks, go and fight, and you are free…Fight for your masters


you shall have your freedom." Confederate Officers were ordered


treat them humanely and protect them from "injustice and oppression".

12. A quota was set for 300,000 black soldiers for the Confederate

States Colored Troops. 83% of Richmond’s male slave population

volunteered for duty. A special ball was held in Richmond to raise

money for uniforms for these men. Before Richmond fell, black

Confederates in gray uniforms drilled in the streets. Due to the


ending, it is believed only companies or squads of these troops


saw any action. Many more black soldiers fought for the North, but

that difference was simply a difference because the North instituted

this progressive policy more sooner than the more conservative South.

Black soldiers from both sides received discrimination from whites

who opposed the concept .

13. Union General U.S. Grant in Feb 1865, ordered the capture of


the Negro men… before the enemy can put them in their ranks."

Frederick Douglas warned Lincoln that unless slaves were guaranteed

freedom (those in Union controlled areas were still slaves) and


bounties, "they would take up arms for the rebels".

14. On April 4, 1865 (Amelia County, VA), a Confederate supply


was exclusively manned and guarded by black Infantry. When attacked

by Federal Cavalry, they stood their ground and fought off the

charge, but on the second charge they were overwhelmed. These

soldiers are believed to be from "Major Turner’s" Confederate


15. A Black Confederate, George _____, when captured by Federals


bribed to desert to the other side. He defiantly spoke, "Sir,


want me to desert, and I ain’t no deserter. Down South, deserters

disgrace their families and I am never going to do that."

16. Former slave, Horace King, accumulated great wealth as a

contractor to the Confederate Navy. He was also an expert engineer

and became known as the "Bridge builder of the Confederacy."

One of

his bridges was burned in a Yankee raid. His home was pillaged by

Union troops, as his wife pleaded for mercy.

17. As of Feb. 1865 1,150 black seamen served in the Confederate

Navy. One of these was among the last Confederates to surrender,

aboard the CSS Shenandoah, six months after the war ended. This

surrender took place in England.

18. Nearly 180,000 Black Southerners, from Virginia alone, provided

logistical support for the Confederate military. Many were highly

skilled workers. These included a wide range of jobs: nurses,

military engineers, teamsters, ordnance department workers, brakemen,

firemen, harness makers, blacksmiths, wagonmakers, boatmen,

mechanics, wheelwrights, ect. In the 1920’S Confederate pensions


finally allowed to some of those workers that were still living.


thousands more served in other Confederate States.

19. During the early 1900’s, many members of the United Confederate

Veterans (UCV) advocated awarding former slaves rural acreage and


home. There was hope that justice could be given those slaves that

were once promised "forty acres and a mule" but never

received any.

In the 1913 Confederate Veteran magazine published by the UCV, it


printed that this plan "If not Democratic, it is [the] Confederate"

thing to do. There was much gratitude toward former slaves, which

"thousands were loyal, to the last degree", now living

with total

poverty of the big cities. Unfortunately, their proposal fell on


ears on Capitol Hill.

20. During the 5oth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in


arrangements were made for a joint reunion of Union and Confederate

veterans. The commission in charge of the event made sure they had

enough accommodations for the black Union veterans, but were

completely surprised when unexpected black Confederates arrived.


white Confederates immediately welcomed their old comrades, gave


one of their tents, and "saw to their every need". Nearly


Confederate reunion including those blacks that served with them,

wearing the gray.

21. The first military monument in the US Capitol that honors an

African-American soldier is the Confederate monument at Arlington

National cemetery. The monument was designed 1914 by Moses Ezekiel,


Jewish Confederate. Who wanted to correctly portray the "racial

makeup" in the Confederate Army. A black Confederate soldier


depicted marching in step with white Confederate soldiers. Also


is one "white soldiergiving his child to a black woman for

protection".- source: Edward Smith, African American professor

at the

American University, Washington DC.

22. Black Confederate heritage is beginning to receive the attention

it deserves. For instance, Terri Williams, a black journalist for


Suffolk "Virginia Pilot" newspaper, writes: "I’ve

had to re-examine

my feelings toward the [Confederate] flag…It started when

I read a

newspaper article about an elderly black man whose ancestor worked

with the Confederate forces. The man spoke with pride about his

family member’s contribution to the cause, was photographed with


[Confederate] flag draped over his lap…that’s why I now have


definite stand on just what the flag symbolizes, because it no longer

is their history, or my history, but our history."


Charles Kelly Barrow, Forgotten Confederates: An Anthology

About Black Southerners (1995). Currently the best book on the


Ervin L. Jordan, Jr. Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil


Virginia (1995). Well researched and very good source of information

on Black Confederates, but has a strong Union bias.

Richard Rollins. Black Southerners in Gray (1994). Also an excellent


Dr. Edward Smith and Nelson Winbush, "Black Southern Heritage".


excellent educational video. Mr. Winbush is a descendent of a Black

Confederate and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

This fact sheet is provided by Scott Williams. It is not an all

inclusive list of Black Confederates, only a small sampling of

accounts. For general historical information on Black Confederates,

contact Dr. Edward Smith, American University, 4400 Massachusetts

Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20016; Dean of American Studies. Dr.


is a black professor dedicated to clarifying the historical role


African Americans.


Copyright 1998, by Scott Williams, All Rights Reserved. Permission

granted to reproduce this fact sheet for educational purposes only.

Must include this statement on all copies.