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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: Confederates of Color
In Response To: Re: Confederates of Color ()

More clarification:

One of the most understood pieces of the "Black Confederate" issue is that of pensions. We tend to think of military pensions as being commensurate with military service. Application for a pension did NOT automatically mean military (ie mustered in, weapon carrying,bona fide soldiers) but could have meant any number of types of attachment to the military-including body servants, teamsters and laundresses. And as an aside-remember at the end of the war, the CSA was dissolved-who do you think paid those pensions-yes, indeed the United States Government.

A very pernicious, and often MIS-quoted document is CSA General Orders No. 20 (OR-Series I, Vol. 32, part 2, p. 683). The order refers to the use of slaves as teamsters, cooks, laundresses, etc. and that part is frequently omitted in quotes used to support the concept of Black Confederates. The part that IS quoted, is also restricted. Section III. refers to the pay of the slaves, and states: III. Slaves may be employed to cook and wash for the enlisted men, at the rate of 4 to each company, RECEIVING THE PAY OF SOLDIERS, WITH RATIONS, (caps mine)and being reported as "laundresses." They are to take the places of men previously detailed as cooks.

When referred to by the supporters of the Black Confederates, only the pay and ration piece is quoted.

Senate Bill 129 is similarly "selectively" quoted. Again, as it clearly delineates duties-(cooks, teamsters, stewards, waiters,etc.)
Ditto the Impressment Act of Feb. 1865 which outlines in detail the duties of slaves and freedmen.

It was not until February, 1865, just weeks before Appomattox that Senate Bill 190 (OR Series IV, Vol. 3, p. 1110) was passed that authorized Negro troops. Until that time, it was illegal to arm free Blacks or slaves. In the book I am working on, I have 35 pages of nothing but quotes that cover all aspects of this subject-including letters from Davis, Lee, Seddons etc. Most are VEHEMENTLY against arming Blacks-until the end of January 1865. In fact, several official documents, including House resolutions are more concerned with recovering deserters and closing loopholes in the law that allowed minor officials, overseers, etc. to be exempt from service. (In Georgia alone, more than 8,000 clerks, minor magistrates, etc. had been exempt)
General Orders No. 14-which outlined the use of BLack troops was not written until March 23, 1865. Using common sense-just how many soldiers do you think could possibly be trained, equipped and fielded in the remaining days of the War?? Where are their muster rolls? Company designates? Remember also that the Confederacy was more than broke, it was deeply in debt-and most suppliers wouldn't even accept Confederate currency or requisitions. They hadn't for months. Gold was the only thing accepted. In an army that was now dressed most often in anything they could find-where would uniforms come from-more to the point, salt peter, nitrates and other necessary elements were desperately short. Usable armament was extremely scarce, as were all supplies.

Most certainly many thousands of Blacks gave their lives in Confederate Service-as teamsters, personal servants, cooks, etc. Equally certain, some would pick up weapons and defend themselves or their masters. But one of the major threads that runs through letters, newspaper articles, governmental legislation is the crystal clear FEAR that arming slaves and freemen would equal those weapons being either turned against the South directly-or by escape to the Union Forces. Since the Confederacy was originally largely served by local militia, and companies/regiments raised, clothed and directed by the wealthy, there would likely have been some isolated instances of trusted Blacks being armed-but Black Confederate companies? regiments?-much less "highly trained squads of cavalry". All I can say is show me-in complete records.

Please look at all these aspects with a very jaundiced eye. Use common sense and look at the documented facts, not fairy tales put out by any side.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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