Black Confederate Participation

Introduction~by Tim Westphal

As far back as the American Revolution, African Americans have fought in every conflict this country has been engaged in. A number of authors have studied the participation which blacks played for the Union and Confederate governments during the Civil War. Most of these writers have focused on the Union army since it employed a large number of blacks as soldiers during the conflict. “When authors do cover the Confederate side, they usually limit their coverage to the free blacks of New Orleans who formed a regiment of “Native Guards” for the Louisiana militia and the Confederate effort late in the war to employ slaves as soldiers” . Civil War historians have not given these blacks their due recognition, and have left the truth of their involvement for the Confederacy covered in obscurity and confusion.

As many as 90,000 blacks, slave and free, were employed in some capacity by the Confederate army. The majority of these men fall into two categories, as military laborers or body servants. The fact that some Southern blacks might have played an important role for the South is a very controversial issue. Scholars have avoided the difficult task of linking any blacks to the Southern war effort. One of the main reasons they choose not to attempt this is because they are afraid of confronting the great paradox that exists. Why would any slaves or free blacks work towards a Southern victory when this war was seen as one to sustain blacks’ enslavement and degradation? The point of this paper is to seek out exactly what kind of role any blacks, free or slave, served in the South during the war and to examine the reasons why they would support the Southern war cause.

The Louisiana Native Guards demonstrate what free blacks, from Louisiana, thought about the Confederacy. The Louisiana Native Guards was a militia regiment comprised of 1400 black men and officers, “who offered their services to Dixie” in April of 1861. The following year 3000 black men and officers organized themselves into the 1st Native Guard of Louisiana. These pro-Confederate blacks formed for the protection of New Orleans. After parading through the city they were described in the newspaper as “rebel Negroes…well drilled…and uniformed”. Historians argue the Native Guards were a unique circumstance. The difference between Louisiana and the rest of the South was its peculiar tri-racial system. The state of Louisiana was home to a population, which was different than the rest of the country’s. The population consisted of many Spanish and “Creole” families. It was easier for Louisiana to accept these men for military service. For that reason historians like to separate the free “blacks” in that state from the rest of the free blacks in the South. Many other states had blacks volunteer their services, and some states accepted these volunteers. There were slaves in Alabama who were organized as soldiers in the fall of 1861. There were also 60 free blacks in Virginia who formed their own company and marched to Richmond to volunteer their services to help in the war effort. “Several companies of free Negroes offered their services to the Confederacy Government early in the war”. The War Department decided they wouldn’t be needed at this time so they sent them home. 

II. Body Servants and Laborers 

Body servants consisted of slaves or free blacks. They were between the ages of sixteen and sixty. They accompanied both Confederate soldiers and officers into the war. “Body servants in a continuation of the master-slave relationship, tended their wounded soldiers, sometimes escorting their bodies home and occasionally fought in battles”. The number of body servants in the Confederate army was considerable in the early days of the war. The jobs of the body servants varied greatly. An officer’s servant was expected to keep the officer’s quarters clean, to wash the clothes, brush uniforms, polish swords and buckles, and to run errands, such as going to the commissary and getting rations. The servant was supposed to look after his master’s horse, making sure it was well groomed and well fed. It was the duty of one of these servants to have the horse ready in the morning by the time the officer was ready to ride.

Slaves who came from plantations with their owners were the most loyal under difficult incidents. “Negroes who had been treated well before the start of the war were more faithful during the most trying days of the conflict”. In many cases, soldiers and servants had been childhood playmates. The result of this was a genuine affection for each other, which further cemented during the shared hardships brought on by the war. “No other slaves had as good opportunities for desertion and disloyalty as the body servants, but none were more loyal”. 

A personal servant would have been chosen from among the slaves that had been affiliated with the family for a long time. For that reason these slaves often felt a responsibility for the protection of their master when going into the war. The owners of body servants respected the devotion and loyalty displayed by their black servants. “Owners frequently made provisions for their servants freedom, and after the war blacks dressed in ‘Confederate Gray’ were among the most honored veterans in attendance at soldiers reunions”. 

Blacks fought because they were loyal to their masters. From a servant’s perspective their life as a body servant was less burdensome than field slavery. Slavery was an oppressive institution and the war offered them previously denied options. Unlike the plantation in camp the Confederate servants had ample time to hang out with other blacks. Black soldiers (servants) ate the same food as the officers did. These servants were the best-fed soldiers in the Confederate army. They could also play cards and when given the chance they would sneak away with other blacks to some obscure location and play dice. Servants were able to obtain whiskey, either from their master or on one of their foraging missions. “Servants had opportunities to earn money on the side from any number of way”. They were allowed to charge small amounts for washing clothes for men in their company. They made money for running errands and sold what they were able to pick up off the battlefield. Making money was just one reason blacks would sign up to work for the Confederacy. 

Black servants, many who were excellent musicians and good singers, kept the soldiers spirits up in camp. “When life became sad or monotonous for Jeb Stuart’s officers, they frequently built a roaring fire, formed a large circle, and had the servants dance and sing to the music of the banjo”. Soldiers who had come from plantations knew about their slaves musical talents – a fact, which might explain why a few body servants were called on to, be musicians for the units to which their masters belonged.

Blackbody servants fought in battles for the Confederacy. A newspaper correspondent from the New Orleans Daily Crescent, reporting on one of the early battles of the war stated a servant named Levin Graham refused to stay in camp during a fight, “but obtained a musket, fought manfully, and killed four of the Yankees himself”. Furthermore “Captain George Baylor told the story of two body servants who had supplied themselves with equipment left on the field by Federals at the battle of Brandy Station. These two servants joined in the company charges and succeeded in capturing a Yankee and brought him back to camp as a prisoner”.

Robin, a black servant with the Stonewall Brigade, demonstrates black patriotism. According to the newspaper the Richmond Whig, he was imprisoned for a time away from his master and then offered his freedom on the condition he take an oath and swear allegiance to the United States. Robin stated, in the Richmond Whig, “I will never disgrace my family by such an oath”. After the siege of Vicksburg there were servants who were captured along with their masters who could have had their freedom. But instead of their freedom they chose to share in the cruelties of the northern prisons with which they had been serving in the Confederate army. 

Free blacks voluntarily became body servants for wages and whatever other advantages they might negotiate. Self-preservation was the paramount objective for the free blacks who offered their services as servants. Free blacks in the South knew there was a difference between them and the slave population, they saw this as a way to separate themselves even further from the slave class. “Being a body servant enabled individual ‘Afro-Confederate’ males to embellish their Confederate allegiance by publicly integrating themselves with Confederates”. The free blacks stood ready to imitate the white class in its patriotism and loyalty, believing this was a way to attain priviligese previously denied to them and to prove they were superior over the slaves.

Unlike the life of a body servant the experience for black laborers working on Confederate defenses was excessively harsh and physically exhausting. Especially during the winter months, when they were fighting with constant exposure while building batteries or earthworks. “The tedious work of digging, shoveling, and heaving earth, as well as the erection of massive embankments demanded tremendous physical stamina”.

The principal object of the defensive works was to protect Confederate troops from enemy fire and to allow the Confederate soldiers to deliver their own fire with devastating consequences. 

“Union soldiers… sallied up to Rebel breastwork that were often impregnable. They began to complain, finding the Negro with his pick and spade, a greater hindrance to their progress than the Rebel’s cannon balls”.

Therefore to triumphantly repulse Union attacks the army needed satisfactorily constructed entrenchments. 

The blacks’ brawn and skill were key elements of Confederate transportation and fortification. That is why in summer of 1861 “Negro labor, under supervision of state engineers, was immediately committed to the construction of defensive lines”. Whether free or slave the blacks that worked as laborers contributed a supporting effort to the war. In the South during the years between 1861-1865, there was a constant construction of defensive works designed to repulse attacks by Federal armies. “Without the aid of the Negro the South never would have been able to last four years in the war”.

While the overwhelming majority of black laborers were common laborers there were some highly skilled craftsmen. The conventional laborer provided manpower in the foraging of food, and raw materials such as coal, iron and timber. “Black artisans provided their skills in subsequent stages of refinement and processing of commodities into manufactured items in arsenals, armories, iron works, and machine shops”.

James Brewer described the five methods used for obtaining black labor: “slaves were offered by their masters without request for compensation; free Negroes volunteered their services; Negroes, free and slave, were hired by the Engineer Bureau; labor was impressed by commanding officers because of the exigencies of war; and conscription laws were passed by Confederate congress”. The Confederate government had to rely on conscription laws for the last two years of the war because: the blacks, slave and free knew about the changes of the war (that it had become one to free them from bondage); and 2) the owners didn’t want to give up their slaves, due to the hard work that the laborers had to sustain.

III. Loyalty and Patriotism 

Black Confederate loyalty was pervasive and real. American historians failed to recognize this loyalty. “By the summer of 1861 Southern blacks who supported and allied themselves with the Confederacy were looking to volunteer”. Despite the Confederate government’s refusal to admit blacks in the army, six Southern states did so otherwise, mostly consisting of state militias. Eyewitness accounts by officers in the Federal army offer some evidence of African American participation on the battlefields for the South. Records show that New York officers on patrol reported they were attacked near New Market, Virginia, by Confederate cavalry and a group of 700-armed blacks on December 22, 1861. The Northerners killed six of the blacks before retreating; officers later swore out affidavits that they were attacked by blacks and later complained: “If they fight with Negroes, why should we not fight with them too?”

Alfred Bellard, a white soldier of the 5th NJ Infantry, reported in his memoirs the shooting of two black Confederate snipers by member’s of the Berdan’s Sharpshooters in April of 1862.

“One of the Negro Confederates was only wounded, but the other was killed one afternoon after leaving the security of a hollow tree (probably to relieve himself). Two Confederates tried to get to his body but were driven away by the Union gunfire”. 

This wasn’t an isolated case. One of the best marksmen in the Confederacy was an African-American who outfitted himself in a sniper’s roost in an almost perfect hiding spot inside a brick chimney from which he proceeded to shoot Yankees at their nearby camp. Any Union soldier who dared to come into his range was fired at. Several times the Federalize called up to the sniper to desert, but the black Confederate ignored their appeals. This ordeal ended when a regiment was marched off to fire a volley at the chimney, eventually putting a bullet through the sniper’s head.

Serving in a military capacity wasn’t the only way blacks could prove their loyalty to the Confederacy. Black patriotism took many forms, “some were sincerely patriotic, others were alarmed individuals acting on self-preservation and economic interest”. There are other prominent cases of black patriotism among slaves and free men. Many of these people saw their cause as protecting their homes. “Despite the hardships of slavery loyal blacks made financial and material contributions to the Confederacy”. In Alabama some slaves brought 60 dollars worth of watermelons to Montgomery to be donated to the soldiers of that state. A South Carolina slave was impelled to donate all the money here had saved, which ended up being 5 dollars. Some slaves used their talents to raise money for the Confederacy. The Confederate Ethiopian Serenaders were one such group. They were a collection of slave singers “who turned over profits from some of their shows to the Confederate cause”. By doing this, these slaves hoped the restrictions they lived under I the institution of slavery would be loosened. It became a custom for slaves to demonstrate their loyalty by holding balls and concerts to raise money for the aiding of Southern soldiers and their families. 

The 1st Battle of Manassas offered black Confederate the chance to prove their loyalty. An English officer, Arthur Freemantle, describes the story of a slave who had run away to the Federal line just before the battle began. The slave was recaptured a short time after the battle ended. “Two patriotic servants were of the opinion that he should be shot or hanged as a traitor”. He was then turned over to these slaves and met a more severe death than any white man could have given him. These slaves did this out of patriotism and these servants probably also felt threatened by a runaway slave. They knew that a runaway was a threat to their freedom as servants and soldiers. They wanted to show the white soldiers in the army that they weren’t anything like this runaway. They achieved that goal by violently killing him. 

IV. Why were blacks loyal? 

The motivation of black Confederates was to protect their homeland with a faith of what the future could be. By 1860 there were 500,000 free blacks in the United States, the vast majority in the South. Slaves knew freedom was attainable from the sight of free blacks in their communities. They knew some has been freed through manumission, while others purchased their freedom by working side jobs. Blacks Confederates and African Americans had to position themselves in case the South won the ear. They had to prove they were patriots in the anticipation their future would be better. From this risk of their display of unequivocal patriotism they hoped to be rewarded. Most black Confederates were not given an opportunity to serve in the front line as soldiers. But they did what they could as loyal civilians. 

Why would blacks support, and possibly want to fight for, the Confederacy? One is money. The pay rate for the laborers was greater than that of the white soldier’s pay rate. The black laborers were paid 30 dollars a month while the Confederate soldiers made only 11 dollars. By volunteering their service to the South these blacks earned enough money for themselves and their families back home. Blacks, both free and slave, were able to make more money by trading whiskey, food, horses and other possessions they might steal through their foraging missions. There is a story of a servant who was captured by the Yankees, stole two horses, and got back to his Confederate line. When he got back he sold one horse for fifty dollars and kept the other one for himself.

“The quest for freedom also played a great role in black Confederate decisions”. With good service to the master or to the Southern cause, there was the hope of being manumitted after the war. Slaves also knew the army life offered them a chance for adventure and an opportunity to get away from the drudgery of plantation work. Like many of the white men who volunteered and fought in the war because of strong regional pride, the local attachment blacks felt prompted them to come to the aide of the Confederacy. 

Blacks placed their lives in danger for a country and its cause; a cause which many Americans would not expect blacks to support. Slaves and free blacks joined for different reasons. The Louisiana free blacks stated in a letter written to the New Orleans’ Daily Delta:

“The free colored population love their home, their property, their own slaves and recognize no other country than Louisiana, and are ready to shed their blood for her defense. They have no sympathy for Abolitionism; no love for the North, but they have plenty for Louisiana.”

Prosperous free blacks realized that a Union victory would bring about destruction to their economy, the basis of their livelihood, which gave them their special status. “Free blacks knew where their loyalties lay when the war started because they stood to lose the status they enjoyed as free people”. Any well-to-do freeman probably prized his wealth and standing, and deplored anyone who would endanger it. The slaves who felt compelled to volunteer for the South did so because they hoped it would improve their status after the war. They knew if the North won they would probably be freed, but if the South won, they would have to show support during the war if they had hopes of being freed. 

V. The Debate: Black Soldiers 

During the war the Confederacy’s question of making a soldier out of the black, slave and free, received considerable attention. In the beginning of the war many of the Southern states made provisions for placing blacks at the disposal of the state governments. “The Tennessee legislature passed an act in June, 1861, authorizing the governor, at his discretion to receive into the military service of the State all male free persons of color, between the ages of fifteen and fifty, or such numbers as may be necessary who may be capable of actual service”. The governor was also authorized to press free blacks into services if a sufficient number was not met.

Early in the year there began in the Southern armies a discussion of enlisting slaves as soldiers. Lt. General Hardee called their corps and division commanders, of the Western Campaign, to meet at General Johnston’s Headquarters on the night of January 2, 1863. There they were presented with a plan by Major General Pat Cleburne, who was urging the enlistment and arming of the slaves, with freedom as a reward for their service. After President Davis received a copy of this memorandum he replied, “deeming it to be injurious of the public service that such subject should be mooted or even known to entertain by persons possessed of confidence and respect of the people. If it be kept out of the public journal its ill effect will be much lessened”.

Perhaps the most effective argument against putting the slaves in the ranks was that it laid the South open to charges of hypocrisy. It was known that slavery was one of the basic principles of the Confederacy. “The primary justification for slavery had been that it was in the interest of both blacks and whites because of the blacks inferiority and incapability to care for themselves”. To arm the slaves in the Confederacy would be a reversal on its position completely. If the salves were freed by the Confederate Government-and it was agreed that arming the slaves would probably entail freeing them-then another basic principle of the Confederacy was disregarded. One of the main reasons for secession was their firm belief in states rights over that of a central government. If the Confederate government stepped in and freed the slaves for faithful service, instead of individual states, than it would be guilty of breaking their constitutional rights.

By the summer of 1863 the victories had begun to shift to the northern armies. Within one week the Confederacy suffered devastating defeats at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. The momentum of war was being sung into the Unions direction. Hood’s crushing defeat in Tennessee, Sherman’s destructive march through Georgia, and the threatened collapse of the whole military effort left the Confederacy in need of reinforcements. The Southern armies were being depleted. “There were ‘exceptions’, the ‘detailed men’, the numerous state militias and there were the slaves. Before Christmas of 1864 was over, President Davis had come to the opinion that arming the salves was a good idea”.

Meanwhile, William Smith, the Governor of Virginia, took up the subject with his legislators suggesting that Virginia should arm its slaves for its defense by offering freedom as slaves’ reward. ‘With two hundred thousand Negro soldiers already in the Union army, the Governor asked, “can we hesitate, can we doubt, when the question is, whether the enemy shall use our slaves against us or we use them against him (the North); when the question may be between liberty and independence o one hand or our own subjugation and utter ruin on the other?”. 

The majority of those who advocated enlisting the slaves were of the opinion that such a step would mean giving them their freedom. This was met with great opposition. Though this should not have been a deterring factor. Given that “slavery was already an expiring condition in the South; that emancipation was already an accomplished fact if the Federalize succeeded; that the situation was such that a choice had to be made between the loss of independence and the loss of property in slaves; that it was far better for the Southerner to give up the Negro slave than be a slave himself”.

The matter immediately became the foremost topic of discussion in the whole South by the fall of 1864. General Lee was asked for his view and on January 11, 1865 he spoke out clearly for the arming of slaves-which he believed should be accompanied by a gradual and general emancipation.

“It is the enemy’s avowed policy to convert the able-bodied men among them into soldiers, and to emancipate all. His progress will destroy slavery in a manner most pernicious to the welfare of our people… Whatever maybe the effect of our employing Negro troops, it cannot be as mischievous as this… I think, therefore, we must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions…”

“…The best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this auxiliary force would be to accompany the measure with a well digested plan of gradual and general emancipation. As that will be the result of the continuance of this war, and will certainly occur if the enemy succeeds,it seems to be most advisable to adopt at once. Every day’s delay increases the difficulty”. 

Finally, a little more than a month before the war ended, the Confederates began to enlist blacks as soldiers in the army. “Steps were immediately taken toward recruiting and organizing the slaves and free blacks”. It was too late; the South had waited too long to enlist blacks into their army. When the war broke out many blacks, slave and free, wanted to position themselves with the winning side to better position themselves after the war. In the winter of 1864-65 it was evident that the South was going to lose the war. That is why recruiting the blacks was so difficult. If the Confederate Government had acted on the initial enthusiasm displayed by blacks then things probably would have been different in 1865. 

VI. Blacks’ contribution to the Southern War effort 

It is often forgotten that while slavery was among the major causes of the Civil War, its abolition was not the original goal of the North. President Lincoln sated he didn’t want to interfere with slavery in the states where it already existed. Many Federal soldiers felt the same way, proclaiming if the war was one turned into a fight for abolitionism they would stop fighting. Faced with this attitude from the North black Southerners had no reason but to be loyal to their homes. “The slaves had nothing to gain form a Union victory, and free black men might actually stand to lose such rights and property they already had”.

Thus instead of revolts among the blacks, slaves and free, as many Northerners predicted, some became possessed with a war fervor that was stimulated by the white response. “The Negro who boasted of his desire to fight the Yankees the loudest; who showed the greatest anxiety to aid the Confederates, was granted the most freedom and received the approval of his community”.

The readiness with which some blacks responded should only be surprising to those who are unfamiliar with the true feelings of slaves. Their only hope was to someday be free. “One thing that impressed the blacks greatly was the failure of Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, and John Brown, whose e fate was held up to them as the fate of all who tried to free the slaves or free themselves”. Therefore it should not be surprising to see blacks that sprang at the chance to dig trenches and assist in any way possible for the South.

To better comprehend these people we should understand that most people do things for immediate reasons and not abstract ones. Instead of revolts among the blacks, slave and free, as predicted by some, many became possessed of a fervor – originating in fear – which was stimulated by an enthusiasm of the white population. “The gaily decked cities; the flags, bunting and streamers of all colors; the mounted cavalry; the artillery trains with brazen cannons drawn by sturdy steeds; followed by regiments of infantry in brilliant uniforms, with burnished muskets, glittering bayonets and beautiful plumes; all these scenes greatly interested and delighted the Negro, and it was filling the cup of many with ecstasy to the brim, to be allowed to connect themselves, even in the most menial way, with the demonstrations”. Blacks saw first hand what was going on. They knew they had an opportunity to better themselves, which was all many of them really wanted. When the war broke out everybody thought it was going to be over quickly. Slaves and free blacks knew this too, which is why many of them displayed an enthusiasm that was gone by 1863, when the South began to lose the war.


Updated 23 Aug 2007 (Created 23 Aug 2007)

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Black CSA POWs

During the day the platform around the pen is constantly paced by sentinels chiefly of the Invalid Corps, whose duty it is to see that the prisoners are orderly, and particularly, that no one crosses “the dead line.” This is a shallow ditch traced around within the enclosure, about fifteen feet from the fence. The penalty for stepping over this is death and although the sentinels are probably instructed to warn any one who may be violating the rule, the order does not seem to be imperative, and the negroes, when on duty, rarely troubled themselves with this superfluous formality.

Last night the negro regiment which constitutes part of our guard and which had been raiding over in Westmoreland and the adjacent counties returned. Their captives consisted of a hundred head of cattle-principally poor women’s cows-several ploughs, buggies, primeval sulkies, harrows, beds, chairs, etc. and from twenty to thirty decrepit CITIZENS. Every month and sometimes more frequently, they are sent across the river on a plundering tour. These raids, usually made in a country entirely devoid of Confederates soldiers, are not reported by the yankees but are used to keep alive the martial ardor and fidelity of the black troops.

…Sgt. Anthony M. Keiley, POW, Pt. Lookout

Updated 23 Aug 2007 (Created 23 Aug 2007)

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Dick Poplar~Petersburg Proud Southerner

by Patricia Buck
Written for Petersburg’s Newspaper during February in honor of Black History Month

Dick Poplar was born in 1818. Prior to the War Between the States, Dick could be found dressed in a caterer’s white uniform, with green binding and a small green military cloth cap, with two tassels hanging over the right side. He was smartly dressed and took great pride in his work. His place of employment was the stately Bollingbrook Hotel, located on the northeast corner of Bollingbrook and Second Streets, in Petersburg. The Bollingbrook was Virginia’s first hotel built in 1828 and it not only offered lodging, theatre, dramatic entertainments, a gathering place for the upper society and politicians of Petersburg, but it boasted of the best gourmet banquet chef in the South…..Richard “Dick” Poplar.

The war years found Dick Poplar in dress of a different uniform. He joined the Confederate forces in the Sussex Light Dragoons of the 13th VA Cavalry, Co. H. Other important local notables of the 13th VA Cavalry bore names of the famed Ruffin men, such as Sgt. Thomas Smith Ruffin, grandson of SC fame, Edmund Ruffin. It was at the Battle of Gettysburg that Dick was captured and taken prisoner.

Pvt. Poplar was in Pt. Lookout POW Camp, Maryland for twenty months. He was a strong man with strong personal morals and convictions. At any time while a prisoner, he could have said the word, taken the Oath of Allegiance to the Union and been released a free man. Dick called himself a “Jeff Davis Man” and chose instead a life of starvation, lice and rags. He was continually bullied and threaten by the black guards to desert the Confederacy, but he chose to be steadfast to his Southern up- bringings and not turn his back on his people. He was dubbed the Unreconstructed Dark Skinned Reb of confinement.

Dick put his culinary skills to good use even as a prisoner. Outside his dwelling built from cracker-box boards, Chef Poplar set up a little Bartering Table within the compound and made delectable corn pones from whatever scratch he could muster together from fellow southern prisoners and northern sutlers. His cornbread selling for five cents each was used as a meager side business of bartering for some of the things that he desired. Ironically Sgt. Thomas S. Ruffin would also become a POW at Pt. Lookout.

After the war, Dick returned to his former place of employment. The hotel had suffered twelve shell holes from the guns of the yankee invaders. But again, Dick prospered in his profession and his most frequent customers were those who wore the gray uniform with him through four years of arduous service to his beloved native state of Ole Virginny.

Dick didn’t live very long after the war, for it was in 1886 at the age of 70 years, that he died of an effusion on the brain. Mr. James Muirhead who was also in the same regiment as Dick, took him into his home and gave him the best medical attention available just before his death. Dick died at Mr. Muirhead’s home. He was revered by his comrades of Petersburg. His funeral was largely attended by both races.

Updated 23 Aug 2007 (Created 23 Aug 2007)

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A Colored Confederate’s Death

Petersburg Index-Appeal (Local Newspaper)
May 23, 1886
“There died in this city Saturday morning at the residence of Mr. James Muirhead, a Virginian who cast his fortunes with the Confederacy, and endured many months of weary imprisonment rather than desert his friends and comrades in their misfortune. He was an honest, industrious man, highly esteemed by old Confederate friends and comrades. When he was taken sick a short time ago he was given a home and kindly treated by Mr. James Muirhead. His wants were supplied and the best medical attention also provided by a gentleman whom Richard cooked for during the war who was a member of the famous Sussex Light Dragoons, and with whom Richard was imprisoned for nineteen months. When the Sussex Dragoons were formed at the beginning of the war, and when they became Company H, of the Thirteenth Virginia Cavalry, Richard attached himself to the command. The Sussex Dragoons were a wealthy organization, and each member of the company had his own servant along with him. From April 1861, until the retreat after Gettysburg, Richard remained faithfully attached to the regiment. On the retreat, together with many members of the command, he was captured and carried to Fort Delaware, at which place he was confined as prisoner for five months. He was then taken to Point Lookout and kept there fourteen months, making his prison life nineteen months in all. He was a prisoner at the same time with many old comrades. During his confinement he was held in high esteem by both Confederates and the Federal troops who acted as the garrison. He extended many courtesies to the reserves who were captured on June 9, 1864, and carried to Point Lookout. He was often asked to take the oath of allegiance, release from prison being offered as an inducement. He stood firm to his convictions, however, and loyally remained with his friends, sharing their prison life. Richard was exchanged March 1, 1865, and returned to Petersburg, where he spent the remainder of his life. His funeral will take place this (Sunday) afternoon from Union Street Methodist Church at 4 o’clock, and six gentlemen who were Confederate soldiers will act as pall bearers, namely: Capt. E. A. Goodwyn, Capt. J. R. Patterson, Gen. Stith Bolling, Col. E. M. Field, and Mesrs. Jesse Newcomb and R. M. Dobie. The remains will be interred in Blandford cemetery near the plot where are now buried many of the Confederate dead. All acquaintances, both white and colored, especially the old confederate soldiers who knew and esteemed him in the brave days of “auld lang syne” are invited to attend the funeral.”

pall bearers:
Colonel Everard Meade Field, Commander, 12th Virginia Infantry
Captain Edward A. Goodwyn, Company E, 13th Virginia Cavalry
Captain John R. Patterson, Provost Guard, 12th Virginia Infantry
Captain Stith Bolling, Company G, 13th Virginia Cavalry
Private Jesse Miller Newcomb, Company F, 13th Virginia Cavalry
Private Rufus M. Dobie, Company H, 13th Virginia Cavalry

Updated 23 Aug 2007 (Created 23 Aug 2007)

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Confined at Point Lookout, MD.

North Carolina Troops, Volume I: “When Fort Fisher fell to the Union troops in January, 1865, the following blacks are recorded (by Union forces] as being among the captured Confederates:

Charles Dempsey, Private, Company F, 36th NC Regiment (2nd NC Artillery), Negro. Captured at Fort Fisher January 15,1865 and confined at Point Lookout, MD, until paroled and exchanged at Coxes Landing, James River, VA, February 14-15, 1865.

Henry Dempsey, Private, Company F, 36th NC Regiment (2nd NC Artillery), Negro. Captured at Fort Fisher January 15,1865 and confined at Point Lookout, MD, until paroled and exchanged at Coxes Landing, James River, VA, February 14-15, 1865.

J. Doyle, Private, Company E, 40th NC Regiment (3rd NC Artillery), Negro. Captured at Fort Fisher January 15, 1865 and confined at Point Lookout, MD, until paroled and exchanged at Boulware’s Wharf, James River, VA, March 16, 1865.

Daniel Herring, Cook, Company F, 36th NC Regiment (2nd NC Artillery), Negro. Captured at Fort Fisher January 15,1865 and confined at Point Lookout, MD, until released after taking Oath of Allegiance June 19, 1865″

Union forces carefully recorded three of them as soldiers (“Private”) and took them as POWs, then paroled and exchanged them exactly as they did all other Confederates. They made certain to differentiate the cook from the enlisted Black soldiers. Perhaps some of them had been stationed there a very long time.

“The Daily Journal, Evansville, Indiana, November I, 1862: “... Now the news comes to us that seven regiments [7000, ed.] of negroes have been drilled by the rebel authorities to man their fortifications in North and South Carolina…seven regiments of negroes, armed and equipped, had arrived at Wilmington, N.C., to occupy the various rebel fortresses during the sickly season. Is anyone so ignorant as to suppose that the operations of these negroes are to be confirmed to the sickly season? Not a bit of it. They will be used in all seasons…”

Letter of Private Frank Bailey, 34th New York Infantry Regiment to his brother in Middleville, New York: – “West Point, Virginia, 12 May 1862 – I hear that the Rebels sent out a Regt. of ni**ers to fight our men and that they were as naked as when they were born, except the brogues on their feet, and they incited to all sorts of cruelty. It is said that they cut the throats of our wounded and then rob them of every article of any value. The soldiers are death on ni**ers now. If they catch a ni**er in the woods, and there is no officer near, they hang them without any ceremony. Now if this is true that the Southern chivalry as they style themselves put these ni**ers up to such deeds as this, may the curse of good light on them. It is worse than the English were in the Revolution to hire the Indians, but their race is about run when they stoop to such barbarism as that. Yesterday there was two ni**ers hung close by here by our men. One of them had $20.00 government note in his pocket. There is no mistake but the Rebels have black soldiers for I have seen them brought in as prisoners of war. I saw one who had the stripes of an orderly sergeant on his coat. I don’t beliee in taking them prisoner, but kill them where ever they find them, that they may never more curse the land with their hateful presence.”

Frederick Douglass, Douglass’ Monthly, IV (Sept. 1861), pp 516 – “…there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate Army… 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 do to destroy the Federal government… There were such soldiers at Manassas and they are probably there still.”

Perryville: “This Grand Havoc of Battle,” Kenneth W. Noe, The University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY, 2001 (page 270) – “The part of Adams’ Brigade that the 42nd Indiana was facing were the ‘Louisiana Tigers.’ This name was given to Colonel Gibson’s 13th Louisiana Infantry, which included five companies of’ Avegno Zouaves’ who still were wearing their once dashing traditional blue jackets, red caps and red baggy trousers. These five Zouaves companies were made up of Irish, Dutch, Negroes, Spaniards, Mexicans, and Italians.”

From James G. Bates’ letter to his father reprinted in the 1 May 1863 “Winchester [Indiana] Journal” (the 13th IVI “Hoosier Regiment”] was involved in operations around the Suffolk, Virginia area in April-May 1863 ) – “I can assure you [Father], of a certainty, that the rebels have negro soldiers in their army. One of their best sharp shooters, and the boldest of them all here is a negro. He dug himself a rifle pit last night [16 April 1863] just across the river and has been annoying our pickets opposite him very much to-day. You can see him plain enough with the naked ye, occasionally, to make sure that he is a “wooly-head,” and with a spy-glass there is no mistaking him.

“Indianapolis Daily Evening Gazette” 12 March 1863 refers to the 5 March 1863 fight around Thompson’s Station, near Franklin, TN The 85th Indiana Volunteer Infantry reported: “NEGRO REGIMENTS IN THE REBEL ARMY – During the fight the battery in charge of the 85th Indiana [Volunteer Infantry] was attacked by “two
Rebel negro regiments.” Our artillerists double-shotted their guns and cut the black regiments to pieces, and brought their battery safely off. … It has been stated, repeatedly, for two weeks past, that a large number, perhaps one-fourth, of Van Dom’s force were “ negro soldiers” and the statement is fully confirmed by this unfortunate engagement.”

After the action at Missionary Ridge, Commissary Sergeant William F. Ruby forwarded a casualty list written in camp at Ringgold, Georgia about 29 November 1863, to William S. Lingle for publication. Ruby’s letter was partially reprinted in the Lafayette (Missouri) Daily Courier for 8 December 1863: “Ruby says among the rebel dead In the [Missionary] Ridge he saw a number of negroes in the Confederate uniform.”

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol XVI Part I, pg. 805, Lt. Col. Parkhurst’s Report (Ninth Michigan Infantry) on General Forrest’s attack at Murfeesboro, Tenn, July 13,1862: “There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day.”

Federal Official Records Series 1, Volume 15, Part 1, Pages 137-138, report of the Union commander: “Pickets were thrown out that night, and Captain Hennessy, Company E, of the Ninth Connecticut, having been sent out with his company, captured a colored rebel scout, well mounted, who had been sent out to watch our movements.”

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol. XLIX, Part n, pg. 253 – April 6, 1865: “The rebels [Forrest] are recruiting negro troops at Enterprise, Miss., and the negroes are all enrolled in the State.”

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol. XIV, pg. 24, second paragraph, Colonel B. C. Christ, 50th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, official report of May 30, 1862, Pocotaligo, SC., “It is also difficult to state the force of the enemy, but it could not have been less than from 600 to 800. There were six companies of mounted riflemen, besides infantry, among which were a considerable number of colored men.”

From the diary of James Miles, 185th N.Y. V.I., entry dated January 8, 1865 – “Sargt said war is close to being over. Saw several negros fighting for those rebels.”

Miami Weekly News of Miami, Missouri, September 01,1905 – “The following is an account of the Eighth Annual Quantrill’s Raiders’ Reunion at Independence on August 25-26, 1905 : “Among those registered Friday morning were Captain Ben Morrow of Lake City, Lieutenant Lee Miller of Knobnoster, Hi George of Grain Valley, Sylvester Akers of Levasy, William Greer of Lexington, John A. Workman of Wellington, George (Jim) Holand of Kansas City (this the Negro spy Quantrill sent to Lawrence)…”

THE PICTORIAL BOOK OF ANECDOTES AND INCIDENTS OF THE REBELLION (p. 319) by Frazer Kirkland, 1889. A collection of Grand Army of the Republic – “NEGRO RIFLEMAN BROUGHT DOWN AT YORKTOWN – One of the best morning’s work done at Yorktown was that of reducing to a state of perfect inutility in this mundane sphere, a rebel negro rifleman, who, through his skill as a marksman, had done more injury to our men than any dozen of his white compeers, in the attempted labor of trimming off the complement of Union sharpshooters.

Federal Official Records: Series 2, vol 6, Part 1 (Prisoners of War) p. 17-18 – “…before one single negro or mulatto was mustered into the U.S. service you had them organized in arms in Louisiana. You had Indians and half-breed negroes and Indians organized in arms under Albert Pike, in Arkansas. Subsequently negroes were captured on the battlefield at Antietam and delivered as prisoners of war at Aiken’s Landing to the Confederate authorities, and receipted for and counted in exchange.”

Federal Official Records, Vol. XIII, Chapter XXV, pg. 688, September, 1862 -“… We are not likely to use one negro where the rebels have used a thousand. When I left Arkansas they were still enrolling negroes to fortify the rebellion. “

Federal Official Records, Correspondence, Etc., Vol. II, pg. 218, July 11, 1862, Rich D. Yates, Governor of Illinois- “…they [the Confederacy] have, by means of sweeping conscription, gathered in countless hordes, and threaten to overwhelm the armies of the Union, with blood and treason in their hearts. They flaunt the black flag of rebellion in the face of the Government, and threaten to butcher our brave and loyal armies with foreign bayonets. They arm negroes and merciless savages in their behalf.”

Federal Official Records, Vol. XIX, Chapter XXXI, pg. 617 – Record of the Harper’s Ferry Military Commission (U.S.Army) Question. Do you know of any individual of the enemy having been killed or wounded during the siege of Harper’s Ferry?
Answer. I have strong reasons to believe that there was a negro killed, who had wounded 2 or 3 of my men. I know that an officer took deliberate aim at him, and he fell over. He was one of the skirmishers of the enemy [Confederate, ed.], and wounded 3 of my men. I know there must have been some of the enemy killed.
Question. How do you know the negro was killed? Answer. The officer saw him fall.”

Federal Official Records, Vol. XLI, Chapter LIII, pg. 670 – PATTERSON, [November] 24,1864 – “Colonel MAUPIN: I have arrived with my squad on return. Captain McClanahan has gone on the upper road for Pilot Knob; will all arrive there tomorrow. No rebel force below. We have turned up eleven bushwhackers to dry and one rebel negro. No man hurt on our side. The men are generally well.”

Federal Official Records, Series 1, Volume 4, p.569 – Report of Colonel John W. Phelps, First Vermont Infantry: “CAMP BUTLER, Newport News, Va., August 1 I, 186 I – SIR: Scouts from this post represent the enemy as having retired. they came to New Market Bridge on Wednesday, and left the next day. They-the enemy-talked of having 9,000 men. They were recalled by dispatches from Richmond. They had twenty pieces of artillery, among which was the Richmond Howitzer Battery, manned by negroes. . . Their numbers are probably overrated; but with regard to their artillery, and its being manned in part by negroes, I think the report is probably correct.”

Federal Official Records, Series 1, vol 35, Part I (Olustee), Page 442-443, S.C., FLA., AND ON THE GA. COAST. Chapter XLVII – Report of BG Asboth, USA. “...when I proceeded to Milton, Fla., a distance of 9 miles, and after rebuilding the destroyed bridge on the Arcadia Creek, I came upon the enemy, about 100 strong, and consisting of Captain Goldsby’s (Alabama) cavalry company and a new militia infantry company, mounted…Having received early information of the arrival of two army steamers at Bayou Mulatte, the enemy had sent his stores on seven wagons in time toward Pollard, and seemed prepared and decided to accept a fight in the camp at the upper end of the town, but fled, upon our impetuous charge, in all directions. We pursued them closely for 7 miles, and captured 4 privates of Goldsby’s company and 3 colored men, mounted and armed, with 7 horses and 5 mules with equipments, and 20 Austrian rifles.”

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol. XVII, Chapter XXIX, Pg. 635-637 – December 28, 1863 – “…It had to be prosecuted under the fire of the enemy’s sharpshooters, protected as well as the men might be by our skirmishers on the bank, who were ordered to keep up so vigorous a fire that the enemy should not dare to lift their heads above their rifle pits; but the enemy and especially their armed negroes, did dare to rise and fire and did serious execution upon our men… The casualties in the brigade were 11 killed. 40 wounded, and 4 missing; aggregate, 55. – Very respectfully, your obedient servant, D. STUART, Brigadier-General, Commanding”

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol. III, Correspondence, etc., pg 767-768 – “CAMBRIDGE, September 4,1863. His Excellency A. LINCOLN, President of the United States: …excitement here growing out of the recruiting of colored troops, and as some of the recruiting officers are acting rather indiscreetly, I fear, by taking slaves in their recruits, and the slaves of loyal as well as disloyal persons…to enlist slaves as well as free people is creating a great deal of anxiety among the people… we ought to use the colored people, after the rebels commenced to use them against us. “

“The Negro as a Soldier” – Written by Christian A. Fleetwood, Sergeant-Major 4th U.S. Colored Troops, for the Negro Congress at the Cotton States and International Exposition, Atlanta, Ga., November 11 to November 23, 1895 – “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 sixteen 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.'”
Slave Narratives. July, 1937, interview with James Cape, former slave and by his own words Black Confederate combat soldier wounded in action: “One day Marster Bob comes to me and says, ‘Jim, how you like to jine de army? You see, de war had started. I says to him ‘What does I have to?’ And he says, “Tend hosses and ride ’em’ So de first thing I knows, I’s in de army away off east from here [Southeast Texas].’ . . . After I gits in de army, it wan’t so much fun ’cause tendin’ horses and ridin’ wasn’ all I does. No, gar, I has to do shootin’ and git shooted at! … You’s heard of de battle of Independence [Missouri]? Dat’s whar we fights for three days and nights. I’se not tendin horses that time. Dey gives me a rifle and sends me up front fightin’ , when we wasn’ runnin! . . . I gits shot in de shoulder in dat fight… ‘nother time we fights two days and nights…”

Slave Narratives, June 5, 1937 – Alexander B. Johnson, Birmingham, Alabama – “They is all gone, scattered. and old massa and missus have died Then de war came and we all went to fight the Yankees. I was a body servant to the master, and once a bullet took off his hat. We all thought he was shot but he wasn’t, and I was standin’ by his side all the time…I remember Stonewall Jackson. He was a big man with long whiskers, and very brave. We all fought with him until his death. We wasn’t beaten, we was starved out! Sometimes we had perched corn to eat and sometimes we didn’t have a bite of nothin’, because the Union mens come and tuk all de food for theirselves. I can still remember part of my ninety years. I remembers dey fought all de way from Virginia and winded up in Manassah’s Gap…In all de years since de war I cannot forget old massa. He was good and kind He never believed in slavery but his money was tied up in slaves and he didn’t want to lose all he had…I knows I will see him in heaven and even though I have to walk ten miles for a bite of bread I can still be happy to think about the good times we had then. I am a Confederate veteran but my house burned up with de medals and I don’t get a pension.”

Reprinted in the Memphis Daily Avalanche, May 3rd 1861, pg. 3, col. 3 – “Free Colored Men. -A List of thirty-two worthy free negroes of this city, who have offered their services in the work of defense, or in any other capacity required. has been sent in to the Captain of the Woodis Rifles… They express an earnest desire to meet their Yankee enemies, or miserable sable brothers of the North, in a regular hand-to-hand fight. Some of those who have offered to serve in the cause of Southern honor have fought under the old flag…A large number of free negroes of Petersburg have expressed a desire to fight for the South, and we learn that 500 will come down as soon as the word is given… We noticed yesterday several colored men in uniform. They came as musicians with the gallant Georgia troops.”

Memphis Daily Avalanche, April 23rd 1861, pg. 3, col. 2. – “An Enthusiastic Negro. – Jim Moore, a negro barber of Bolivar, Hardiman county, in this State, a slave of Dr. Thomas Moore, subscribed $50 for a military company to fight against Lincoln. He also visited Montgomery to see Jeff Davis inaugurated. With few exceptions such is the feeling of all our slaves, who are loyal to a degree that would astonish the fanatics of the North.”

Letter from a Union soldier, published in the Indianapolis (Indiana) Star, December 23,1861: “Attack On Our Soldiers By Armed Negroes – A body of seven hundred [Confederate] Negro infantry opened fire on our men, wounding two lieutenants and two privates. The wounded men testify positively that they were shot by Negroes, and that not less than seven hundred were present, armed with muskets. This is, indeed a new feature in the war. We have heard of a regiment of [Confederate] Negroes at Manassas, and another at Memphis, and still another at New Orleans, but did not believe it till it came so near home and attacked our men.”

Religious Herald, Richmond, VA, September 10, 1863 (From unedited microfiche of the original article): “To the Confederate army goes the distinction of having the first black to minister to white troops: “A correspondent of the soldier’s friend mentions a Tennessee reg. which has no chaplain; but an old negro, “Uncle Lewis,” preaches two or three times a week at night. He is heard with respectful attention —and for earnestness, zeal and sincerity, can be surpassed by none. Two or three revivals have followed his preaching in the regiment. What will the wise Christian patriots out of the army, who denounce those who wish to see competent negroes allowed to preach, as tainted with anti-slaveryism, say with regard to the true Southern feeling of that regiment, which has fought unflinchingly from Shiloh to Murfreesboro?'”

“Antietam and the Maryland and Virginia Campaigns of 1862 from the Government Records, Union and Confederate, Mostly Unknown and Which Have Now First Disclosed the Truth: Approved by the War Department:” Gaithersburg, MD, Isaac W. Heysinger, Olde Soldier Books, 1987., (Reprint of 1912 edition) – “At 4 o’clock this morning the Rebel army began to move from our town, Jackson’s force taking the advance. The most liberal calculation could not give them more than 64,000 men. Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in the number. These were clad in all kinds of uniforms, not only cast off or captured United States uniforms, but in coats with Southern buttons, State buttons, etc. Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie knives, dirks, etc. They were supplied, in many instances, with knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, etc., and they 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.”

Civil War Curiosities,” Webb Garrison, 1994, Rutledge Hill Press, pg. 107 – “Like some of their counterparts in the North, a few Southern officers made unofficial and irregular use of black soldiers. From start to finish, an estimated four hundred of them served in the Eighteenth Virginia and other units raised in the state.”

Elgin (Illinois) Daily Courier-News, Monday, April 12, 1948 – “Robert (Uncle Bob) Wilson, Negro veteran of the Confederate army who observed his 112th birthday last January 13, died early yesterday morning in the veterans’ hospital at the Elgin State hospital…He enlisted as a private in Company H of the 16th regiment of Virginia Infantry on Oct. 9, 1862 and discharged May 31, 1863. “

Into The Fight – Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg; “John Michael Priest, White Mane Books, 1998, pp 128:, 130-131 “Color Corporal George B. Powell (14th Tennessee) went down during the advance. Boney Smith, a Black man attached to the regiment, took the colors and carried them forward… The colors of the 14th Tennessee got within fifty feet of the east wall before Boney Smith hit the dirt —wounded. Jabbing the flagstaff in the ground, he momentarily urged the regiment forward until the intense pressure forced the men to lie down to save their lives.”

The Sable Arm: Black Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865,” written by D. T. Cornish. pp 16: “The scouts of the 1st Vermont Infantry reported a Richmond howitzer battery manned by Negroes at Newmarket Bridge, Virginia, in August (1861).”

The Chicago Tribune cited by the Leavenworth (Kansas) Daily Conservative, Sept. 13, 1861: “Negroes are employed by the thousands in the rebel armies to fight against the Union…”

The Leavenworth (Kansas) Daily Conservative, Oct. 6, 1861: “It is well known that negroes and Indians serve in the rebel army…”

“Between Two Fires – Black Soldiers in the Civil War, “Joyce Hansen, 1993, Franklin Watts, 42: “This war between the North and the South gave enslaved men and women an opportunity to take advantage of unstable conditions created by the warring whites. This was one way for some black people to initiate their march for their own freedom. Caught between two fires, they to find a way to survive the conflict. And for some, one way to survive was to volunteer to help the Confederates… The promise of freedom for themselves and their families was enough of an incentive to join the Confederate Army, and the Union had said that it was not fighting to end slavery.”
” Negroes in the Confederate Army,”Journal of Negro History, Charles Wesley, Vol. 4, #3, (1919), 244: “The Governor of Tennessee was given permission in June 1861 to accept into the state militia black males between the ages if fifteen and fifty. The men were to receive eight dollars a month, plus clothing and rations.”

The first law of the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true.

…“The Early Dispatch”pg. 3-7, April 2005 {info derived from 37th TX web site}