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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

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

A closer look at Confederates of Color

Mr. Lassiter:
As you can tell I've been chewing on this topic.

Way, way too long ago when I was an American History graduate student I took a seminar in historical methodology--simply stated--how to do research. Every so often the faculty advisor who ran the seminar would give the group a copy of some historical document. Our assigment: read it and come back the following week with a list of questions we felt needed to be answered in order to accept the document as sufficient proof that something had or had not happened.
I have not done this exercise in nearly forty years, and for sure I don't have a week to spare, but I have put together a list of questions I'd want answered about one of the references you posted re blacks in C.S.A. military service. I had asked if there were any Federal military records to supporet this possibility, and you responded with the following taken from the OR (Official) Records of the War of the rebellion); it is the July l3, l862 report of Lt. Col. Parkhurst of the 9th Michigan Infantry, stationed at Murfreesboro, TN:

"The forces attacking my camp were the First Texas Rangers, Colonel Wheaton, and a battalion of the First georgia Rangers, Colonel Morrow, and a large number of citizens of Rutherford County, many of whom had recentLY taken the oath of allegience to the United States Government. [my caps in the following for emphasis] THERE WERE ALSO QUITE A NUMBER OF NEGROES ATTACHED TO THE TEXAS AND GERRRORGIA TROOPS, WHO WERE ARMED AND EQUIPPED, AND TOOK PART IN THE SEVERAL ENGAGEMENTS WITH MY FORCES DURING THE DAY."

First an observation (really, a caution)---just because a document is found in an "official" source this does not mean it is accurate or trustworthy

And now my questions: and yes I am being a nit-picking pain in the butt. But in my view that's how good history gets done and urban legends are either verified or put down.

On the Federal troops:
Was there such a unit as the 9th Michigan; was it posted at or near Murfreesboro in mid-July of l862; and was Lt Col. Parkhurst one of the unit's senior officers?

Was the camp of the 9th attacked by Confederate forces?

Were the attackers from the First Texas Rangers and the First Georgia Rangers?

Are there surviving reports (in the OR?) from other Federal units that substantiate both thge attack and the identify of the attackers?

Are there any surviving C.S.A. records noting these engagements by the named Texas and Georgia troops?

On the possibility of blacks in Confederate military service:

The Parkhurst reports makes it clear these blacks were armed and equipped. Were they armed and equipped as infantry soldiers (muskets, bayonets, ect)? Were they in uniform--and were these uniforms clearly Confederate?

Parkhurst wrote the blacks took part !"in the several engagements against my forces"--I think it is clear that the Lt. Col considered these blacks to be combat troops. Are there other surviving Federal or Confgederate records to support this?

Parkhurst wrote the blacks were "attached" to the Texas and Georgia forces. What did he mean; could these blacks have been irregulars, locals who only temporarily joined the fighting--or were they enlisted and serving soldiers in the Confederate army? Perhaps the answers can be found in any extant records of the Texas and Georgia units.
And if there are such unit records, it would be most interesting to know, among other things, were these blacks integrated into existing companies of the Texas and Georgia rangers, or were they formed into segregated units under, I presume, the command of white officers?

I hope you will agree to answers to these questions will go a long way to substantiating the presence of blacks as armed soldiers in the Confederate military----at least on one day in mid-June, l862, in specific Texas and georgia units near Murfreesboro, TN.

Moving on to something else you posted:
"99.999% of the time, Confederate service records do not indicate the ethnicity of the individual in that unit. That is why it's easy to assume that all Confederate soldiers were white."

Some may make this assumption--but others know, for instance, that individual Indians served in the C.S.A. forces and that entire Indian regiments were in Confederate service.
Also I have no doubt that records will show that a fair number of JOTB (just off the boat) types enlisted in Confederate service--and I suspect there are records that a few Asians wore gray or butternut during the Civil War. You may well be right about the information on Confederate service records--but this would only apply if those blacks who enlisted did so in integrated units. I'm just guessing here--but if a significant number of blacks did serve the C.S.A. I bet it would have been in racially segregated(and therfore identifiable) units. If I am right here, there (1) might be surviving proof that these units were formed and (2) best of all, extant enlistment and muster rolls. Seems simple enough to me: find proof for such a unit, find a muster roll--and then connect the dots--the fellows on the muster sheets were black Confederates.

Good luck with your search for proof and verification. Keep looking and digging.

Tom Phillips

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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