Reading Searching for Black Confederates Levin, Kevin M

jgoodguy

Webmaster
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
4,678
Reaction score
2,581
I am strictly a lay historian. This will be a basic reading. Hopefully, I will be joined by more expert commentators.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth has been in the works for a very long time. It is very good to have this for a reference. In the forum world, we have been arguing about Black Confederates for a very long time. The main reasons are the lack of a rigorous definition of changing goals of the advocates and a lack of information. Some seem to think that the Black Confederates must be rifle-toting African Americans in Confederate Gray, others hold that any African American that somehow contributed to the Confederate Cause was a Black Confederate.

Let us dive in starting with the Introduction. We start with Edmund Ruffin and his historical fiction
Anticipations of the future, to serve as lessons for the present time. (link) Ruffin wrote this to smooth the way for secession. In this what-if of 1860 Ruffin describes the enslaved population as a valuable aid to construct fortifications and 'other labors', releasing the white population to got fight the Yankees.

Ruffin wrote of loyal slaves and did not anticipate any opposition to slavery by the enslaved. Ruffin did not write about slaves as soldiers, only as docile dedicate servants in menial support roles. In the last months of the war, Ruffin supported the enlistment of African Americans but did not believe that slaves or free blacks could be good soldiers. Enthusiasm for enlisting African American wax and waned in inverse relationship to CSA fortunes. When things were bad, then enthusiasm was high, when things were good, the status quo of no black soldiers was preferred.

Over the past few decades, claims to the existence of anywhere between 500 and 100,000 black Confederate soldiers, fighting in racially integrated units, have become increasingly common. Proponents assert that entire companies and regiments served under Robert E. Lee’s command as well as in other theaters of war. One can find hundreds of websites telling stories of these men coming to the aid of their white comrades on the battlefield and standing firm on the firing line. Taken together, this picture of the Confederacy would be completely foreign to Ruffin and his Confederate comrades.
Levin, Kevin M.. Searching for Black Confederates (Civil War America) (p. 5). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition.​

Searching for Black Confederates will focus on the idea of a military rifleman Black Confederate as opposed to the vaguer served the confederacy. The motive for the 'myth' is to appear to be politically correct.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) was the first organization to promote stories of black Confederate soldiers, beginning in the late 1970s. Evidence shows that the group meant to counter the growing acceptance that slavery was the cause of the Civil War; that emancipation was central to what the war accomplished; and that former slaves and free blacks were instrumental in bringing about the Confederacy’s demise. They hoped to demonstrate that if free and enslaved black men fought in Confederate ranks, the war could not have been fought to abolish slavery. Stories of armed black men marching and fighting would make it easier for the descendants of Confederate soldiers and those who celebrate Confederate heritage to embrace their Lost Cause unapologetically without running the risk of being viewed as racially insensitive or worse.
Levin, Kevin M.. Searching for Black Confederates (Civil War America) (p. 6). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition.​
 

jgoodguy

Webmaster
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
4,678
Reaction score
2,581
@Al Mackey posted an example of this search for Black Confederates in the late 1970s

GENERAL HEADQUARTERS
SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS
Jackson, Mississippi
Report of the Adjutant-in-Chief


From the Report of the Adjutant-in-Chief, Feb. 28, 1977:
1. THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF SAYS:
Commander-in-Chief Dean Boggs has requested that the following information be published.
To counteract the drive of NAACP to ban the display of the Confederate Flag, the playing of Dixie, etc. and to counteract such propaganda movies as “Roots,” I have persuaded Compatriot Francis W. Springer, a historian and talented Virginia writers to write a book on the contribution of Negroes in the south to the Confederate war effort.
He is going to research all sources available but feels sure the sources available to him will not tell the whole story by any means. Thus, I call your attention to the following request from Compatriot Springer for assistance from all Compatriots.

COMPATRIOTS! GET ON THIS PROJECT RIGHT AWAY. SEARCH YOUR FAMILY PAPERS FOR LETTERS AND DIARIES OF 1861-18 65; WRACK YOUR MEMORY FOR STORIES HANDED DOWN BY THE “OLD FOLKS”; VISIT YOUR LOCAL MUSEUMS AND LIBRARIES FOR RECORDS OF SERVICES PERFORMED BY SOUTHERN NEGROES, SLAVE OR FREE, FOR THE CONFEDERACY
Suddenly, after more than 100 years, it seems to have become “good politics” to assert that the flags, uniforms, and songs of the Confederacy are repugnant to negroes. This is childish nonsense. Politics often ignores the truth, and the truth is that the majority of Southern Negroes, slave and free, sided the Confederate war effort tremendously. Some were under arms and in combat.

From the Report of the Adjutant-in-Chief, April 30, 1977.
1. THE COMMANDER- IN-CHIEF SAYS:
Commander-in-chief Dean Boggs has requested that the following information be published:
CONTRIBUTIONS OF SOUTHERN NEGROES TO THE CONFEDERATE WAR EFFORT
"All Compatriots are reminded of the announcement in the last issue of the General Headquarters News Bulletin that Compatriot Francis W. Springer, a talented writer and historian, has been persuaded by the Commander-in-chief to write a book on the above subject.
This is to counteract the efforts of the NAACP to portray the Confederate Flag and the playing of "Dixie", as offensive to blacks, and the propaganda line of such movies as "Roots," By their work on the farms, by accompanying their masters to War, and in many other ways, Southern Negroes made a valuable contribution to the Confederate war effort. After they were freed, many of them would not leave their former masters.
It is believed that the record will show that the majority of Southern Negroes made a greater contribution to the Confederacy, than the minority did for the Union.

Compatriot Springer is going to research all sources available to him but he is sure the sources available to him will not tell the whole story. He needs your help!
Please forward to him all items on this subject in your family history and records, and please research your local library and any other sources available to you. Mail all such items to: Mr. Francis W. Springer, Schuyler, VA 22969.

http://asagordon.byethost10.com/XNEOCONFEDS/bsingray.htm?i=1

Some evidence needs to be interpreted to be understood. I'd add Dr. Dr. Steiner's to the below. The lack of documentary evidence is the best way to rebut these claims, but difficule never the less.

One of the most important ways in which the SCV and the United Daughters of the Confederacy have defended the integrity of the black Confederate narrative in recent years is the appropriation of what they believe to be evidence of black Confederates offered by prominent African Americans in the past. There is no better example than the frequency of references on websites and in other publications to the famed black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who early in the war published reports in his own newspaper of armed black men in Confederate ranks. What is often overlooked is that Douglass took these steps as a means to convince the Lincoln administration to accept black men as soldiers in the Union army. Decades after the war, some black leaders such as Booker T. Washington also assuaged concerns about black uplift by reminding the white community of the loyalty of slaves to the Confederate war effort and their former masters. In the hands of neo-Confederates, this evidence confirms their own self-serving conclusions, but the results are no less damaging for countless others who are unable to interpret the evidence within a broader historical context.
Levin, Kevin M.. Searching for Black Confederates (Civil War America) (p. 14). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition.
Progress can only be made when myths are set aside. I have seen this in religious debates, only when unevidence rethorical positions are replaced can the conversation advance.

The ongoing debate about Confederate monuments at a time of increased racial tension points to the need for an honest national conversation about the history and legacy of slavery. That conversation can happen only if we put aside the myths and self-serving narratives of loyal slaves and brave black Confederate soldiers that have long played a role in maintaining the color line in American life. Understanding how these myths evolved and were perpetuated over time is the first step in that process.
Levin, Kevin M.. Searching for Black Confederates (Civil War America) (p. 15). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition.​
 

jgoodguy

Webmaster
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
4,678
Reaction score
2,581
From Levin's blog. http://cwmemory.com/2019/08/22/how-to-discuss-searching-for-black-confederates/

Most people can’t get beyond the narrow question of whether slaves and free blacks fought as soldiers in the Confederate army. This is the wrong question to ask. I begin by exploring how enslaved labor was utilized by the Confederacy. It assumes that real Confederates understood the need for black labor and by the tail end of the war the possibility that they may need to be recruited into the army as soldiers.​

Most of the BC threads I have been a part of fall into this category. What is a soldier? can go on forever. Then there is the problem of lack of evidence. How can we tell if the subject of a CSR was a soldier? I agree we need to start at the beginning and go forward. We do know that only white men were recruited as soldiers for the CSA army, nonwhites that somehow made it through the screening of recruits or were in militia united federalized into CSA service were later dismissed or reassigned.

From there I explore how real former Confederates and others remembered the presence of slaves and free blacks during the war. I bring to bear a great deal of evidence from newspapers, veterans reunions, monument dedications, etc. Again, we need to begin by taking seriously how the very people who experienced the war and engaged with former slaves after the war framed this issue. Only on the rarest of occasions did I find references to slaves as soldiers. You don’t build an interpretation on such accounts.
Yes, let the people of the time and places speak.
 

jgoodguy

Webmaster
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
4,678
Reaction score
2,581
Here we start Chapter One The Camp Slaves War.

Sergeant A.M. Chandler of the 44th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Co. F., and Silas Chandler, family slave, with Bowie knives, revolvers, pepper-box, shotgun, and canteen photo sometime used as evidence of military Black Confederates.




After the war myths about faithful servants grew up to be replaced in the 20th century about slaves fighting for an independent CSA because the South did not fight for slavery.

The true story of Andrew and Silas has been all but lost in our popular memory of the Civil War. After the war, the relationships between Confederate officers and their slaves were transformed into stories of loyal or faithful slaves that functioned as one of the central pillars of the Lost Cause narrative. The image of the camp slave alongside his benevolent master emboldened white Southerners through the years of Reconstruction and beyond. Confederates may have been thoroughly defeated on the battlefield, but they held tightly to the conviction that their slaves remained steadfast to the end and to the cause for which so many white men gave their lives. In more recent years, the narrative of the faithful slave has been transformed once again into countless Internet stories that wrongly claim thousands of loyal black Confederate soldiers fought willingly alongside their masters and for an independent Confederate nation. Such stories have moved us further away from understanding the relationship of Andrew and Silas as master and slave as well as the central place that the preservation of slavery occupied in the Confederate war effort.
Levin, Kevin M.. Searching for Black Confederates (Civil War America) (p. 18). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition.
IMHO this chapter has 2 themes, the relationship between master and slave is complicated and war complicates it a lot more. That war complicates slavery has been known since the days of Sparta. However, the ideology of Southern slavery somehow led to the anticipation that this time would be different. In peacetime, masters could have absolute control over their slaves. In wartime, however, control is not certain. Slaves can run away in the confusion of battle or use the threat of running away to get more privileges. In camp, there is competition for a slave's labor or masters must pool slaves for duties such as cooking. Skilled slaves such as barbers can make extra money.

In the final years of slavery, the relationship between master and camp slave was tested to meet the demands and exigencies of war. Masters clearly articulated daily responsibilities and expectations to their servants and considered even the smallest behaviors as a reflection of their continued obedience, but extended stays in camp offered slaves numerous opportunities to earn extra money and interact with other slaves. Slave owners did their best to accommodate their servants and at the same time maintain their absolute authority, but this became more and more difficult as the war progressed. Long marches and the confusion that accompanied major battles and their immediate aftermath offered camp slaves frequent chances to run away, which they did. Photographs of master and slave reveal glimmers of Confederate optimism early on and the bonds that held them together. They also point to the long unraveling of slavery that took place within the army as well as on the home front in the face of invading Union armies between 1861 and 1865.
Levin, Kevin M.. Searching for Black Confederates (Civil War America) (p. 19). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition.
Horror of horrors, slave owners who went to war to prevent the Yankee government from interfering with slavery suddenly found their own government interfering with slavery. To meet the demands of war, the Confederate Governments took control of slaves, undermining the sovereignty of slaveholders leading to complaints that property rights were being interfered with.

The inclusion of camp slaves in the army constituted a small part of a broader attempt to mobilize as much of the enslaved population as possible in a war against an enemy whose material and human resources appeared to be limitless. In 1861 slave owners, caught up in strong feelings of nationalism, volunteered their slaves to work for the Confederate war effort. That proved to be only a temporary solution. Once military operations commenced, Confederate officers in the field routinely issued orders to take every able-bodied slave within the boundaries of their command and sometimes even beyond it. 5 Beginning in March 1863 the government took steps to mobilize tens of thousands of free and enslaved blacks to work on various public and private military-related sites, such as the construction of earthworks and the maintenance of railroads and other roads. Enslaved people worked at the Griswold Pistol Factory in Georgia and Richmond’s Tredegar Iron Works, producing arms and ammunition, as well as the lead mines and saltpeter caves managed by the War Department’s Niter and Mining Bureau. It was not uncommon for impressed slaves to return home sick or not at all. Following the outbreak of a smallpox epidemic in Richmond, slave owners demanded the return of their impressed slaves working at a hospital. These steps to mobilize the enslaved population undermined the sovereignty of slaveholders and led to increased complaints that their property rights were being violated.
Levin, Kevin M.. Searching for Black Confederates (Civil War America) (pp. 19-20). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition.​
 

jgoodguy

Webmaster
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
4,678
Reaction score
2,581
Moving along to look at the complexity of the slave-master relationship.

A master might have absolute control over his slave, but there were practical limits. A master might kill a slave for any reason, but in doing so he loses investment, time, perhaps companionship, convenience, and other tangibles and intangibles. There were areas where the relationship can be negotiated.
This negotiation is sometimes confused with consent.

One of the ironies of Confederate Camp Servants was the spectacle of privates having men report to them and command men even thought those men might be slaves. The slaves were intended to provide at least some of the luxuries of home and to 'watch' over the young master. It is this relationship that will give rise to the stories of the faithful camp servant which later will gestate into the myth of the Black Confederate soldier.

In contrast with this large-scale mobilization of black bodies through government impressment, camp slaves occupied a unique place in a slave society at war. The most obvious difference between free blacks hired to perform a specific task within the army and those impressed by the government was that camp slaves answered directly to their masters. The relationship between the two was defined outside of the Confederate military hierarchy. Many camp slaves had already demonstrated their worth through the possession of a specific skill— as was the case for Silas Chandler— or through behavior that was understood as demonstrating unquestioning fidelity and trust. The families of both Andrew and Silas shared the fears that attended their departure and, even if they did not acknowledge it to one another, understood that the safe return of one depended on the other. Similarly, after learning of his decision to join the Hampton Legion, Harry Ford’s mother insisted that he bring a servant with him into the army. Harry admitted that “a private with a servant seems an anomaly,” but he agreed to do so if it helped to ease his mother’s anxiety. The post of honor went to a trusted slave by the name of Kent. 8 It is likely that Harry’s mother implored Kent to both obey and watch over her young son before they departed.
Levin, Kevin M.. Searching for Black Confederates (Civil War America) (pp. 20-21). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition.​

 

jgoodguy

Webmaster
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
4,678
Reaction score
2,581
As an aside -- early mentions of black confederates. They are still 20th century.

1965: Negro History Bulletin, Vol.29, No.2: "Two Va. Negro Civil War Soldiers: One Union, One Confederate" by Carl Cahill
https://www.jstor.org/stable/24766617
1967: Louisiana History (journal): "Negro Troops in Blue and Gray" by Mary F. Berry
https://www.jstor.org/stable/4230950
1969: The Confederate Negro: Virginia's Craftsmen and Military Laborers, 1861–1865 by James H. Brewer
N/A

1970: Crisis magazine (NAACP), Vol.77, No.6: "Negro Soldiers in the Confederate Army" by John A. Minion
The Crisis
The Crisis, founded by W.E.B. Du Bois as the official publication of the NAACP, is a journal of civil rights, history, politics, and culture and seeks to educate and challenge its readers about issues that continue to plague African Americans and other communities of color. For nearly 100 years...
books.google.com
1979: Blacks in Blue and Gray by H.C. Blackerby
N/A

1979: Smithsonian (magazine), Vol.9, No.12: "The unlikely story of blacks who were loyal to Dixie" by J.K. Obatala
N/A

1981: Negro History Bulletin, Vol.44, No.2: "Negro Contributions to the Confederacy" by Kathleen Cresto
https://www.jstor.org/stable/44176974
1982:
p0.jpg


1985:

p0.jpg
 
Top