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
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
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
State militia Commanders in response to immediate threats in the
of Union raids…". Dr. Leonard Haynes, a African-American
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
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
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
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".
was anxious to receive regiments of black soldiers. The Richmond
Sentinel reported on 24 Mar 1864, "None…will deny that
are more worthy of respect than the motley hordes which come against
us." "Bad faith [to black Confederates] must be avoided
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
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."
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
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
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
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, et.al. 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
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.