AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive
Negroes as Confederate Soldiers
Since this is a subject that comes up repeatedly, and is very confusing to a lot of folks, here's a brief chrono. of what REALLY happened. Unless otherwise noted, all entries are from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. Thanks.
A Brief Chronology of the use of Slaves by the Confederacy
Dec. 20, 1862: North Carolina authorizes employment of slave labor for erecting “fortifications and other works.”
Feb. 6, 1864: General Orders No. 20. Employment of slaves as teamsters, cooks and laundresses, relieving soldiers who had been performing those duties to return to their companies.
Feb. 17, 1864: Confederate Congress passes act for “employing colored men for military purposes, to increase the efficiency of the Army by the employment of free Negroes and slaves in certain capacities.” They were to receive rations, clothing and compensation of $11 per month. The duties were limited to “non-combat” designations.
Nov. 7th 1864: President Davis message to Senate and House reiterated the February act for the “employment of slaves for service with the army as teamsters, or cooks or in the way of work upon fortifications, or in the Government workshops, or in hospitals, and other similar impressments. It imposed upon the Government the liability to pay for the value of such as might be lost to the owners from casualties resulting from their employment. He further stated: “I must dissent from those who advise a general levy and arming of the slaves for duty as soldiers…to employ as a soldier the Negro who has merely been trained to labor and as a laborer the white man accustomed from his youth to the use of firearms, would scarcely be deemed wise, this is the question now before us.
Nov 8th, 1864: The African is an inferior race whose normal condition is slavery per the Charleston Mercury.
Nov 10th 1864: House resolution: “expresses confidence in the ability of our citizen soldiery to defend our homes and establish our independence without the assistance of Negro soldiers.”
The Richmond Enquirer had an editorial advocating the use of slaves as soldiers as an experiment.
Nov. 14th, 1864: House discussion: “the proposition to arm the slaves will powerfully assist in destroying the South. Mr. Davis opposes in general the arming of the Negro slaves. He says he cannot see the propriety or necessity of arming the slaves when there are so many white men out of the ranks.
Nov 16, 1864: Virginia House of Delegates supports recruitment of Negro enlistments.
Jan. 25th, 1865: Letter of Jefferson Davis to Miss. Governor Clark. “There is no necessity for an actual enrollment of male slaves as described; all that is required being that the quota for teamsters, laborers, &c. with the Army should be furnished.
Feb. 16, 1865 General Longstreet asks opinion of other Generals on subject of possible enlistment of Negroes as soldiers.
Feb 28th, 1865: The Confederate Senate still refuses to arm the slaves. The bill authorizing their use was defeated.
Feb 28th, 1865: Confederate Legislature passes Impressment act for use of Negroes on fortifications, etc. NON-COMBATANT use!!
March 6th, 1865: Virginia House and Senate pass bill to put Negroes into the army.
March 23rd, 1865: General Order 14 is passed by Congress, authorizing African American Companies. (less than three weeks prior to the surrender at Appomatox.
March 28th-Apr. 1st, 1865: Letters to authorize companies of Negro troops in Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida letter is dated Apr. 28th.
April 1, 1865: Davis writes to Lee to complain of lack of progress in raising Negro troops.