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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: Black Confederate Soldiers Organized At Richmo

“Until late in the war, Confederate policy limited black participation to labor in mines, fortifications, and other essential war-related fatigue duty. After the reversals of 1863, when Confederate personnel shortages became acute, one Southern general, Patrick Cleburne, tried to resurrect the old policy of offering freedom to slaves in exchange for military service. Although Cleburne's proposal was rejected, by 1865 - with the Confederacy on the verge of collapse - the idea resurfaced. Encouraged by Robert E. Lee's endorsement, the Confederate Congress approved the recruiting of 300,000 slaves and held out the prospect of manumission as an inducement to enlistment. The measure was adopted too late to have any military effect – only a few companies of slaves had been recruited before Lee surrendered at Appomattox - but it undoubtedly reminded black Americans of the traditional linkage between military service and manumission, one of the few legal means of escaping slavery open to their forebears. (35)"

NOTE (35) Foner, Blacks and the Military, pp. 48-50; Nalty, Strength for the Fight, pp. 44-46; Barbara C. Ruby, “General Patrick Cleburne’s Proposal to Arm Southern Slaves,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 30 (Autumn 1971): 193-212.

REFERENCE: Robert J. Jakeman. DIVIDED SKIES: Establishing Segregated Flight Training at Tuskegee, Alabama, 1934-1942. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1992. (Chapter 2 – Black Americans and the Military – page 42)


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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