How do we explain the continued endurance of the idea of black Confederates?

Here’s a video interview with Kevin Levin talking with Katie Brackett Fiaka of Civil War Monitor about the black confederate myth. Kevin’s conducted intensive research on this particular myth and is in the process of writing a book on it.

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9 comments

  1. Pat Young · · Reply

    A very crisp interview.

  2. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Here’s another good piece on the same topic by Kevin Levin, this one from “The Daily Beast.” http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/08/the-myth-of-the-black-confederate-soldier.html

  3. Watched the video. It made sense. Then I read some “proof of black Confederates” on another site. So I asked,Now that we’re hearing about the “black Confederates”, I wonder when we learn about all the black students that were attending Ol Miss, in 1962 when James Meredith enrolled?
    I was in my early teens, but I remember a picture in the paper of the white segregationists. One held up a big sign, “STUDENTS, DON’T LET [N-WORD]S ON OUR CAMPUS”. But I must be mistaken, because white Southerners like black people, and even fought with them during the War Between the States. “

    1. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

      Is that not part of the problem? The reality of the past does not fit in with the reality of the present. Yet, our neo-confederate historians neatly solve that problem by creating a past that fits in with their beliefs of today. Logic has no place in their reasoning, only a desired outcome that supports their belief structure. Facts that conflict with those beliefs are rejected and replaced by deliberately constructed lies to prop up the belief structure. In the end, their belief structure is based upon a foundation of lies and easily exposed as the fantasies of some very self-deluded individuals.

  4. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    And of course, pde21, the opposite must also be true, i.e. that black people in the 1860s must also have liked white Southerners and liked them a lot. After all, thousands fought for a country whose cornerstone was based on the inferiority of slaves. Who knew?

  5. Was curious if anyone could comment on a piece I was given that there were in fact black confederates I will only quote what is relevant (again these are not my words I just want them clarified):

    “Black freeman that supported the Confederacy”
    (Out of context, so explanation:this is referring to the lousiana guard saying it was black freemen supporting the confederacy, it is noteworthy that the person who wrote this admits they were never given any actual orders or never fought for the CSA, but his point is that they existed)

    moving on:

    “But there were also the Baton Rouge Guards under Capt. Henry Favrot, portions of the Pointe Coupee Light Infantry under Capt. Ferdinand Claiborne, and the Augustin Guards and Monet’s Guards of Natchitoches under Dr. Jean Burdin. While these were not all-black units, there were black Confederate soldiers in other units, even if in small numbers. That was due largely to Generals Cleburne and Lee that disagreed with Confederare President Jefferson Davis’ racist agenda. So they went to Congress instead. On January 11, 1865 General Robert E. Lee wrote the Confederate Congress urging them to arm and enlist black slaves in exchange for their freedom.

    On March 13, the Confederate Congress passed legislation to raise and enlist companies of black soldiers. The legislation was then promulgated into military policy by Davis in General Order No. 14 on March 23, 1865. It didn’t raise that many and it didn’t help too much, but there were still black Confederates.

    Even the Union had reports of it. After an August 1861 battle near Hampton, Virginia, Union army Colonel John W. Phelps, of the 1st Vermont Infantry reported on the Confederate forces he faced there. Colonel Phelps’ report reflects his scouts as reporting that among the Confederate artillery there was the Richmond Howitzer Battery that was manned by negroes.

    One account of an unidentified African American fighting for the Confederacy, from two Southern 1862 newspapers,[49] tells of “a huge negro” fighting under the command of Confederate Major General John C. Breckinridge against the 14th Maine Infantry Regiment in a battle near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 5, 1862. The man was described as being “armed and equipped with knapsack, musket, and uniform”, and helping to lead the attack.

    In July of 1862 Lieutenant Colonel John G. Parkhurst of the 9th Michigan Infantry reported on African Americans serving with the Confederate First Regiment Texas Rangers and the First Georgia Rangers. His report states “There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day.”

    Dr. Lewis Steiner, Chief Inspector of the United States Sanitary Commission while observing Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s occupation of Frederick, Maryland, in 1862: “Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in this number [Confederate troops]. These were clad in all kinds of uniforms, not only in cast-off or captured United States uniforms, but in coats with Southern buttons, State buttons, etc. These were shabby, but not shabbier or seedier than those worn by white men in the rebel ranks. Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie-knives, dirks, etc…..and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederate Army.”

    There are more reports I can give if you question them, though. Also, hundreds of Cherokee were enlisted and approved by the Cherokee Nation, which helped create the 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles Battalion. Stand Watie was a Colonel in the Confederate Army and in charge of his own Cherokee Battalion. There were also Creek and Chocktaw platoons that supported the Southern Cause and enlisted in the Confederate Army, making up the First Regiment of Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles.”

    end quote.

    As you can see this is an attempt to dispel the racism aspect. What I find is that many who claim the notion that blacks served and fought freely in the confederacy often claim it from very specific reports/letters/diaries/journals etc. More often than not they are not willing to share the information and claim its from decades of going through them (and I guess are privy to special knowledge that historians can’t get their hands on) but this is one of the few that did actually share information.

    But this for me begs the question, why was it so hotly debated so late in the war whether or not to enlist African Americans if according to above, they were already in it. It just doesn’t add up unless they were there illegitimately. As Brooks Simpson states:

    “From a light-hearted point of view, if there were all these black Confederate soldiers, given that we don’t see them show up [in historical records] as prisoners or killed or wounded, they must have been the best troops the Confederacy ever had, because they were never killed, wounded or captured. So an entire army of black Confederates would have been invincible. If black Confederates were already there, one is at a loss to understand why white Southerners debated so ferociously over the introduction of blacks in the Confederate army late in the war. Certainly, there were blacks who accompanied the Confederate armies — servants of officers, wagon drivers, cooks, teamsters and the like. But they weren’t there, by and large, of their own volition.” Professor Brooks Simpson

    If the above reports are not falsified what is with the lack of killed/wounded/captured black soldiers? What is with the obvious refusal to enlist black soldiers throughout the war? It just doesn’t seem consistent.

    With this “black confederacy myth” going viral and getting out of hand even to the point where blacks are supporting the CSA regime, the inconsistency is really causing me concern.

    1. You’re really asking for an entire blog post, which I’m not really motivated to do right now. I’ll address a few items here. First, the Louisiana Native Guards were not confederate soldiers. They were militia who were protecting the city of New Orleans and were never accepted into confederate service. When the confederates left, they stayed, and many of them later fought for the Union.

      Confederate regulations forbade the enlistment of any black men into the army until very late in the war, so anyone who enlisted had to be claiming they were white. According to the “one drop rule” at the time, southerners would consider any man who had any African-American ancestry to be black, no matter how white he looked. If someone is claiming to be white, how can we really call him a black confederate soldier? There were some mulattoes who enlisted in the confederate army, particularly from Louisiana. When found out, they were transferred to menial duties or discharged outright. It seems problematic to consider the son of a slave owner who identifies with his father and self-identifies as a white person to be a black confederate.

      As to Steiner, he saw slaves, not soldiers. The confederate army traveled with thousands of slaves. Camp slaves were essential to the operation of the army. A slave by definition is forced to perform tasks. They are not soldiers.

      1. Thanks Al,
        Perhaps one day we might get a blog post on this, looking forward if so.
        yeah I knew I was asking alot, and that there would be a chance it would be addressed in its entirety. This whole controversy is such a hot topic right now and its being used to dispel the white supremacy/racism aspect of the confederacy’s motives. They clearly have an agenda to depict a scene of whites and blacks fighting side by side with a common cause. You’ll have to excuse my eagerness to get some…how can I put this…more expert insight. Thanks, even what you did address is still helpful.

        1. Kevin Levin is writing a book on the black confederate myth, so when that comes out you’ll probably get many of your questions answered.

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