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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive


I have received several emails and calls recently from people trying to research their Black ancestor who was a member of the army of the CSA. With this brief message I hope to clarify that issue.

First, there were indeed thousands of Blacks in the service of the Confederate army-You notice I said, "in the service of." They were not soldiers. They were teamsters, laborers, cooks, personal servants, ammunition makers, etc. It was illegal under the laws of the Confederate States to have Black troops. The bare bones chronology is this:

The first act of the Confederate Congress that addressed the use of Black men in the military was passed on February 17, 1864. It's purpose was "to increase the efficiency of the Army by the employment of free Negroes and slaves in certain capacities." Those capacities were: "work upon the fortifications, or in Government works for the production or preparation of material of war, or in military hospitals." [Official Records]

November, 1864: President Davis' message opposed the arming of slaves in general, and denied the propriety or necessity of arming the slaves when there were so "many white men out of the ranks."
November, 1864. In the Senate, Mr. Henry of Tennessee proposed the resolution: Resolved, that it is sound policy on the part of the Confederate States, to impress or hire, with the consent of their owners, as many negro slaves as the public necessity may require for any number of years, or during the war, to be employed in all positions in the army EXCEPT AS SOLDIERS IN THE FIELD (emphasis mine)This resolution passed.
November, 1864. In the House of Representatives, Mr. Chambers of Mississippi expressed "confidence in the ability of our citizen soldiery to defend our homes and establish our independence without the assistance of negro soldiers. Mr. Swan (Tennessee)felt there was no current or likely emergency that would require negro soldiers, and Mr. Foote (Tennessee)reiterated Jefferson Davis. After an hour-long filibuster by Chambers, the House retired into "private session." End result-no resolution. [Confederate Records]

General Order # 14, authorizing African American companies was passed by the Confederate Congress on March 23rd, 1865, after much denunciation by the rebel Senators-especially Hunter of Virginia and Wigfall of Texas. There was so much anger over the passage that several states threatened to withdraw from the confederacy. [Official Records]

This was only two weeks before the surrender. There was no time. So, once again I repeat. There were no Black soldiers in the Confederate Army.

I have seen many of the articles that supposedly "prove" the reverse. Check the sources. Are they military records-enlistment, muster-anything?? These are the laws in effect, you can and should check them yourselves. I guess this is partly my usual rant of not believing something just because it's in print-and if it bears unwieldy titles like Confederate Afro-Yankees-that in itself should be a clue.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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