Searching for Black Confederates by Kevin Levin

Andersonh1

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An enthusiastic meeting of citizens, held in Mobile, February 19, 1865, declared that the war must be prosecuted 'to victory or death,' and that 100,000 negroes should be placed in the field. - Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama (1905) by Walter Fleming, p.86

The article Al takes issue with cites April 3, 1865 as the date of the story, with the Tri-Weekly Herald publishing it on April 11.

"Mobile papers of the latest dates state that the negroes are enlisting in large numbers and with great enthusiasm in that city."​

Now look at the dates on this series of orders: April 4 and 5. The commanders are actively discussing the use of black soldiers, and were clearly aware of the debate in Richmond, if not the outcome or orders related to the outcome.

Meridian, April 4, 1865. Demopolis, Ala.:
SIR:
By direction of the lieutenant-general commanding, at present, necessarily absent from headquarters, I have the honor to acknowledge through you the receipt of a proposition from certain citizens of Marengo and adjoining counties to furnish negroes for military service. General Taylor tenders to these gentlemen his thanks and his high appreciation of the patriotic motives which have thus promptly induced this offer of assistance. No orders from the proper authorities at Richmond have as yet reached him on the subject of the late legislation with regard to the employment of negroes as soldiers, but this would not prove an obstacle with the commanding general in the acceptance of this proposition could the department furnish the requisite arms, which, unfortunately, is impracticable at the present moment. He would be gratified, however, if the gentlemen who have affixed their names to the application would take steps to ascertain definitely the number of negroes that could be furnished at short notice, together with the names of officers to whom owners would be willing to intrust them. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, E. SURRGET, Assistant Adjutant- General.


April 5, 1865 (From Spanish Fort) 1:30 PM (ORA, Vol. 49, Pt. 2, p. 1204)
General Randall L. Gibson [commanding Spanish Fort] to General Maury: “Have you any negro troops? I would be glad to get some.”

April 5, 1865 (From Spanish Fort) 3:00 PM (ORA, Vol. 49, Pt. 2, p. 1205)
General Randall L. Gibson to General Maury: “If I can’t get howitzers I will take mountain howitzers. I will make good soldiers of all the negroes you send me, provided I have axes and spades. I am economizing all ammunition and secure all the enemy gives. All’s well. Hope to see you tomorrow.” [NOTE – All the men of the garrison were working laboriously around the clock to strengthen the earthworks]

From the after action report by General Randall L. Gibson:
“The guns were ordered to be spiked, and time was allowed for this purpose; the few remaining stores were issued; the sick and wounded were carefully removed; the infirmary corps and several hundred negroes who arrived that evening to be employed in the defense, and, finally, in good order, the whole garrison was withdrawn.”
- there was a proposition from "certain citizens" to arm slaves, given that there is talk of their owners
- the commanding general has not received instructions yet from Richmond (meaning he knew about the debate, but not the final decision, or else that he knew the enlistment law passed, but does not have orders yet) but "that would not prove an obstacle" in accepting black troops
- if the problem is lack of suitable arms, that along with the mention of the Richmond law indicates the intent to arm them for combat
- he wants to know who is available on short notice
- General Gibson would be "glad" to get black troops
- He would make "good soldiers" of them, and put them to work with the others in strengthening the defenses
 
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Tom

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Sad that without the text of Levine's assertion or the page number where it is, we cannot verify that evidence.
From Levine's book, p.126:
"a full month later, the Richmond Whig was still referring to 'the forty or fifty colored soldiers, enlisted under the act of congress. 140'"

Note 140....Richmond Whig, Apr. 29, 1865...

Richmond Whig (under new management), April 29, 1865:
"The Last of the Confederate Negro Enlistment Act.--The forty or fifty colored soldiers, enlisted under the act of Congress, and who evacuated with the army, going towards Amelia, were dropped at the rate of about one for every mile traveled, and when the rendezvous was reached the white captain and the colored corporal alone remained."

Estimates for the companies raised by Turner and Pegram vary a lot - anywhere from 10 to 200.

The Richmond Examiner reported 35 on a visit to their camp on March 25th. Major Turner was quoted as saying he expected to have "80 to 100" in a few weeks.
 
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Al Mackey

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Please share.
Think about the differences between newspapers then and newspapers now, especially during wartime, and the difference in internal politics between the United States and the confederacy.
 

Andersonh1

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Think about the differences between newspapers then and newspapers now, especially during wartime, and the difference in internal politics between the United States and the confederacy.
That's not the type of answer I'm looking for. I take these stories on a case by case basis, not broadly drawn characterizations. Either the facts bear the story out fully or partially, or they don't. That's why my earlier response involved other sources of information about the same time and events, to see if the assertions in the story can be borne out.
 

Al Mackey

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That's not the type of answer I'm looking for. I take these stories on a case by case basis, not broadly drawn characterizations. Either the facts bear the story out fully or partially, or they don't. That's why my earlier response involved other sources of information about the same time and events, to see if the assertions in the story can be borne out.
I know that's not the type of answer you're looking for. Instead of giving you a fish, I'm trying to teach you how to fish. I'm trying to get you to go through the thought process involved in analyzing a source and its evidence.
 

jgoodguy

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From Levine's book, p.126:
"a full month later, the Richmond Whig was still referring to 'the forty or fifty colored soldiers, enlisted under the act of congress. 140'"

Note 140....Richmond Whig, Apr. 29, 1865...

Richmond Whig (under new management), April 29, 1865:
"The Last of the Confederate Negro Enlistment Act.--The forty or fifty colored soldiers, enlisted under the act of Congress, and who evacuated with the army, going towards Amelia, were dropped at the rate of about one for every mile traveled, and when the rendezvous was reached the white captain and the colored corporal alone remained."

Estimates for the companies raised by Turner and Pegram vary a lot - anywhere from 10 to 200.

The Richmond Examiner reported 35 on a visit to their camp on March 25th. Major Turner was quoted as saying he expected to have "80 to 100" in a few weeks.
Watch out for the 200 figure. Companies are an organization, not an enumeration.

I found the following.
link

The Richmond Examiner reported on March 27, 1865, the company of negroes recruiting at the rendezvous for negro troops, corner of Cary and Twenty-first streets, is increasing in numbers daily under the energy displayed by Major Turner. The company now numbers thirty-five members, all uniformed and equipped….About a dozen of the recruits are free negroes, who have enlisted of their own free will and choice. Recruits are coming in by ones and twos every day.
Levine on P 126 says half a dozen. I'd love to see the source because other quotes say a dozen. Also, the dozen are freemen, the total includes slaves and is higher than a dozen.
 
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Andersonh1

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I know that's not the type of answer you're looking for. Instead of giving you a fish, I'm trying to teach you how to fish. I'm trying to get you to go through the thought process involved in analyzing a source and its evidence.
I wonder which of us has spent more time examining wartime newspaper reporting....
 

O' Be Joyful

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Just to make an on-topic post, Levin speaks about and discusses his book:

http://cwmemory.com/2019/10/04/black-confederates-at-the-virginia-museum-of-history-culture/
Thank you for the link to the video @Andersonh1 . I considered it an even handed presentation, and watching someone in "person" is usually far more enlightening than reading cold dry text, where one can sometimes get a false impression.

With that said, I am curios as to your thoughts upon it, as well as those of others.

OBJ
 

Andersonh1

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Levin comes across as a lot more personable "in person" than he does on his blog, though I take issue with some of his assertions. I'm not sure he really has considered all the evidence, or else he's filtered it through his perceptions, as we all do really. I think he was a bit condescending to Mattie Clyburn and H. K. Edgerton, and to some extent the black former slaves who went to Confederate reunions. It seemed like he is absolutely unwilling to take some things at face value. There was one point in the presentation when he was talking about how close some of these men and their slaves became, and he just could not quite cross the line and allow it to be genuine friendship, even under the racial stratification of the day.

I still want to read the book and get more of the fine details and see what his sources are. He's on firmer ground with his wartime conclusions than he is with post-war, I think. He's seen a lot more research and sources than I have, but some things I've seen contradict some of what he's saying.
 

Andersonh1

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Hmm, ;) an admission? :)
Clearly a lot of them had been slaves during the war. I have no problem stating that, it's just reality. But I think Levin is too quick to dismiss genuine bonds from wartime shared experiences and assume that the racism of the day precluded anything like that. I'm not so sure the two are as incompatible as he seems to assume.
 

jgoodguy

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Clearly a lot of them had been slaves during the war. I have no problem stating that, it's just reality. But I think Levin is too quick to dismiss genuine bonds from wartime shared experiences and assume that the racism of the day precluded anything like that. I'm not so sure the two are as incompatible as he seems to assume.
Interesting, but finding evidence will be tricky.
 

jgoodguy

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think he was a bit condescending to Mattie Clyburn and H. K. Edgerton, and to some extent the black former slaves who went to Confederate reunions. It seemed like he is absolutely unwilling to take some things at face value.
I met Egerton and found him to be of the nature of an actor enjoying the attention. I have read accounts of acquaintances talking about slavery with him and it was very demeaning to former slaves and not accurate, but calculated to appeal to Southern whites. How should a former slave all dressed up with a chicken under his arm be taken?
Needs something more than emotion.
 

Kirk's Raider's

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From Levine's book, p.126:
"a full month later, the Richmond Whig was still referring to 'the forty or fifty colored soldiers, enlisted under the act of congress. 140'"

Note 140....Richmond Whig, Apr. 29, 1865...

Richmond Whig (under new management), April 29, 1865:
"The Last of the Confederate Negro Enlistment Act.--The forty or fifty colored soldiers, enlisted under the act of Congress, and who evacuated with the army, going towards Amelia, were dropped at the rate of about one for every mile traveled, and when the rendezvous was reached the white captain and the colored corporal alone remained."

Estimates for the companies raised by Turner and Pegram vary a lot - anywhere from 10 to 200.

The Richmond Examiner reported 35 on a visit to their camp on March 25th. Major Turner was quoted as saying he expected to have "80 to 100" in a few weeks.
So based on the above quote the Confederacy had just has many black soldiers as the Union;).
Less than a week before Lee's surrender at Appomattox the best the Confederacy can do is talk about raising thousands of black Confederate soldiers. At best they have maybe forty armed black Confederate soldiers at Richmond which wasn't really going to change the course of the war.
Doesn't the above quote show how desperate and pathetic the Confederacy was in terms of recruiting black troops?
If the Confederacy was a beacon of racial equality and justice why did they not recruit black troops earlier in the war when it would of done more good?
Certainly by July 5th 1863 it was abundantly clear the Confederacy was in danger of loosing the war.
Kirk's Raider's
 

jgoodguy

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So based on the above quote the Confederacy had just has many black soldiers as the Union;).
Less than a week before Lee's surrender at Appomattox the best the Confederacy can do is talk about raising thousands of black Confederate soldiers. At best they have maybe forty armed black Confederate soldiers at Richmond which wasn't really going to change the course of the war.
Doesn't the above quote show how desperate and pathetic the Confederacy was in terms of recruiting black troops?
If the Confederacy was a beacon of racial equality and justice why did they not recruit black troops earlier in the war when it would of done more good?
Certainly by July 5th 1863 it was abundantly clear the Confederacy was in danger of loosing the war.
Kirk's Raider's
The CSA enthusiasm and fear of arming slaves and ex-slaves rose and fell several times during its existence depending on the successes and failures of its army. The CSA leaders and public simply waited until the existential threat arrived and then was too little and too late. I agree that someone should have noticed long before, but the problem was not noticing, but convincing the CSA public.
 

Kirk's Raider's

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Might want to wait for this assertion before rebutting it.
Isn't the whole point of the Black Confederate myth to show that the Confederacy believed in racial equality so much that black men in huge numbers were willing to fight and die for the Confederacy?
Kirk's Raider's
 
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