Did blacks fight in combat for the Confederacy?

One of the more interesting questions related to blacks serving in the American Civil War is this, did blacks (free or slave) serve in combat roles in the Confederate Army? Unquestionably the historical evidence is strong that some blacks – perhaps several thousand – did serve in the Confederate Army in unofficial, non-combat roles as servants, laborers, teamster, musician, cooks, etc. But the official record is very unsupportive that thousands of blacks served as official soldiers in the ranks of the Southern soldiers’ rosters.

http://www.vgsd.org/~kgallagher/BlackSoldier.bmpWhen we use the word official we mean that a black soldier would have been documented through the same paperwork process as a white man would have in terms of enlisting, mustering in or out, and perhaps applying for pension benefits after the war. It is this logistical paperwork process that leaves a trail for historians to study and interpret.

But how strong is the primary historical evidence – letters, diaries, first-hand accounts, military records, etc., – that blacks served in combat roles for the South? It is an important question.

Besides the fact that it is important to preserve accurate history it is also important to “get it right” when it comes to knowing who fought in the Civil War so that these individuals can be properly honored and their place in history duly noted. Some who favor a Southern perspective on the war, particularly defending the proposition that the South did not fight to preserve or defend slavery, have argued that thousands of slaves fought on behalf of the South thereby proving that they were generally supportive of the Southern way of life.

Some people have suggested that as many as 30,000 blacks took on the uniform and actually fought for the South, but does the historical record support that amount? What exactly does the historical record provide us with any kind of confidence to be able to answer this question?

In short, if one sticks solely to the historical record for primary evidence of the black soldier picking up arms and fighting for the South, one can only conclude that the support for such a claim is scanty at best – merely anecdoctal – and entirely unsubstantiated at worst. Instead of the widely claimed and purported number of 30,000 fighting black soldiers for the Confederacy, an honest look at the historical record leads one to the conclusion that as little as under a hundred to as many as several hundred blacks may have actually engaged in combat for the South during the Civil War by actually carrying and discharging a weapon. How to interpret that evidence – or lack thereof – is left to the professional and armchair historians to debate.

It is widely accepted by historians that perhaps as many as 200,000 blacks served in the Union Army. That is a sizable number when one realizes that only 750,000 to 900,000 men even fought for the South during the entire Civil War. According to historian and Professor James I. Robertson, Jr., “Approximately 180,000 blacks served as Federal soldiers. This figure represents 9 percent of the North’s fighting force. One-third of the blacks (68,178) died in the service, with sickness causing thirty times more deaths than battle.” Soldiers Blue and Gray: p. 35.

For the Union side at least, the historical record is fairly definitive and clear: we know that about 9-12% of the Union Army was filled by black troops, depending on if one goes with the figure of 180,000 or 200,000 black Union troops serving. Black Union soldiers participated in at least 41 major battles and roughly 450 smaller actions. 37,000 black Union soldiers died in the Civil War. Though early black troops were not aggressively deployed as bearers of arms, it is the case that by the middle of the war, at least, more and more black Union troops were entrusted to carry arms and to perform in combat action.

CWG has discovered that historians and staff – notably Robert Krick – at Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park have sifted through about 100,000 soldiers’ records to see how many non-whites were represented. Non-whites could be blacks, Native Americans, and mulattoes. They found that only 20-30 non-whites were found out of 100,000 soldiers’ records. That is less than 1/300th of one percent. Taking into account that the following estimate involves more conjecture than a good historian would be comfortable with applying to acceptable methods of reliable historical inquiry, one can still get a fairly solid “finger in the air” estimate that if that same ratio of 1/300th was applied to the figure-range of 750,000 – 900,000 Confederates serving during the war from 1861-1865, then one could only reasonably conclude that, at best, between 250-300 black soldiers may have served in the Confederate Army, and of those an even much smaller percentage would have been entrusted to take up arms.

This might seem surprising but a leading Civil War historian, Professor James McPherson, who won a Pulitzer prize for a Civil War book he wrote, has gone on record to say that of the more than 25,000 soldiers’ letters he has personally read over the years, he has only found evidence that perhaps 6-12 black Confederate soldiers were even mentioned.

The reality is this, looking at the historical record itself when it comes to answering the question – did many black men, free or slave, take up arms for Confederacy – one can only confidently say that perhaps a few, maybe scores, did but anything beyond that is highly conjectural and suspect. The larger the number of fighting black Confederates grows by one who would purport that thousands, even tens of thousands of blacks actually carried arms and faced combat during the Civil War, the more any objective observer would have to wonder what his or her agenda really was.

The best evidence that blacks even served in the butternut uniform as official soldiers is suggested by records related to some blacks serving in a regiment from Louisiana and one perhaps from South Carolina.

Civil War Gazette (CWG) turned to a couple leading Civil War historians to address the question, how many blacks actually took up arms and fought for the South?

CWG asked Professor and Civil War historian-author Steven Woodworth about the number of blacks who fought for the Confederacy:

“It would be hard to prove that absolutely zero blacks fought in the Confederate army, but I think it must have approached that level. I wonder if “non-white” includes American Indians. I suspect it does and further suspect that American Indians would have been much more prevalent than blacks in Confederate ranks. I haven’t kept a count of how many Civil War soldiers’ diaries and letters I’ve read–I guess it has been quite a few–but I’ve never come across a single instance of a black serving in the Confederate army. Whatever may have been the number of blacks serving and actually fighting as soldiers in the Confederate army, it must have been a minuscule percentage–completely insignificant for anyone trying to make the argument that blacks saw the conflict as a war of Yankee aggression, felt it was their war too, and joined up to fight for the Confederacy. That’s just a fairy tale.”

CWG also asked Civil War author and historian Wiley Sword about blacks serving in the Confederate army as soldiers:

“The majority of black Confederates who actually fought were essentially with the army as servants or personal attendants for officers. This was especially true in the initial part of the war (1861-62), I have read occasionally about these slave/servants taking up a rifle and fighting in the ranks with their master. Otherwise, various mulattoes or persons with light complexions may have been directly enrolled in the army. Since it was against C.S.A. policy to enlist blacks in the fighting army (until the very last
in 1865), I doubt if formal records will show the extent of black combat participation. I’m convinced some did fight, but how many is a very subjective guess.”

For further reading on the role of blacks serving in the Confederacy check out:

  • Black Southerners in Gray, Essays on Afro-Americans in the Confederate Armies, edited by Richard Rollins
  • The Journal of Confederate History Series, Vol. XI, published in 1994 by Southern Heritage Press, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
  • “Blacks in Gray”, by Jason H. Silverman. North & South Magazine, Vol 5, Number 3, April 2002: 35-45.
  • “Black Confederates”, by Bruce Levine. North & South Magazine, Vol 10, Number 2, July 2007: 40-47.
  • “United States Color Troops”, by Gregory J.W. Urwin in Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, edited by Heidler and Heidler: 2002-2003.
  • “African-American Soldiers, C.S.A.”, by Frank E. Deserino in Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, edited by Heidler and Heidler: 16-18.
  • “African Americans in the Confederacy”, by Edgar A. Toppin in Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, Volume One. Edited by Current: pages

Additional quotes supporting the position that very few blacks (free or enslaved) fought in combat for the Confedearcy:

While large numbers of black men thus accompanied every Confederate army on the march or in camp, those men would not have been considered soldiers. Only a few black men were ever accepted into Confederate service as soldiers, and none did any significant fighting. – Encyclopedia Virginia – Black Confederates

John Beauchamp Jones, a high-level assistant to the secretary of war, scoffed at rumors that the Confederacy had units made up of slaves. “This is utterly untrue,” he wrote in his diary. “We have no armed slaves to fight for us.” Asked to double-check, Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon confirmed that “No slaves have been employed by the Government except as cooks or nurses in hospitals and for labor.”

Gen. Ewell’s longtime aide-de-camp, Maj. George Campbell Brown, later affirmed, the handful of black soldiers mustered in Richmond in 1865 were “the first and only black troops used on our side.


  1. I was reading the story “Did Blacks Fight in Combat in the Civil War and I can account by the rolls in Summers County West Virginia (Then part of Mercer, Fayette, and Monroe counties that I can personally identify four African Americans that fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy. I regularly speak with a direct descendant of one of these veterans. I have also personally met a Deputy Sheriff at Central SC that has shown me and several other Union and Confederate Re-enactors his Great-Great-Grandfather’s enlistment papers identifying him as a solder. I have also attended a grave stone dedication in Monroe county West Virginia for a Black Confederate Civil War veteran identified as a soldier.
    I have not look much into the numbers of Black Confederate Veterans that fought as soldiers before but for just running across this many by shear accidentally run-ins they must be more that your story and the historians say there are.

  2. “CWG has discovered that historians and staff – notably Robert Krick – at Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park have sifted through about 100,000 soldiers’ records to see how many non-whites were represented. Non-whites could be blacks, Native Americans, and mulattoes. They found that only 20-30 non-whites were found out of 100,000 soldiers’ records. That is less than 1/300th of one percent….estimate that if that same ratio of 1/300th was applied to the figure-range of 750,000 – 900,000 Confederates serving during the war from 1861-1865, then one could only reasonably conclude that, at best, between 250-300 black soldiers may have served in the Confederate Army, and of those an even much smaller percentage would have been entrusted to take up arms.”


    So Krick found 20-30 in 100,000? Maybe so.

    But I found 29 in one regiment (~1,000 men).

    Apparently the ratio is not consistent.

    1. In my family tree, the black women married white men for money and power and had land and ran a bakery and enslaved black people. There’s a book written about the life of one of my relatives. I was totally disappointed in it and got rid of it. Aspasia Cruvellier Mirault. I’m kind of disgusted. Name is still being passed down my family. VII. ! I think one of my relatives was a black confederate fighter. … Did my genealogy. I’m never surprised anymore when I meet “African Americans” who support slavery and met TONS!!!

      1. sorry that this comment is so late, but I was in the hospital. now I believe that there is one thing you did not realize. the blacks of those times were not permitted to read and write. Only a few were
        blessed to learn to do so. going by letters of soldiers can not
        accurately give an account of blacks in southern regiments.

  3. I think it obvious that more research on this matter is required. it seems to me that you are jumping to conclusions quite readily, which leads one to wonder what YOUR motives are for besmirching the memory of these brave men… it is a widely accepted fact that black men fought for, and supported, much of the confederate way of life. I personally do not think it necessary to place such emphasis on numbers, suffice it to say they were there, and they are remembered with honor.

  4. We have a story in my family about my great, great uncle who took up his father/master’s rifle (my great uncle evidently went to war with him as a body-servant) when he died during battle, I believe in TN. Also, I’ve been reading Douglas Southall Freeman’s biography of Lee and in it, toward the end of the war it talks about Lee going to Richmond personally to plead with Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Congress to enroll blacks in the army – he was at that point desperate for troops. And evidently from what’s in the book, they reluctantly gave him the go ahead to conscript and enlist black troops.

  5. I agree with Jeremy. This article appears to be Northern-biased. There are many references to blacks fighting for the Confederacy. Here’s a few your biased article missed:

    1. Dr. Lewis Steiner, Chief Inspector of the United States Sanitary Commission, observed General Stonewall Jackson’s occupation of Frederick, Maryland, in 1862. He wrote:

    Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in this number [of 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. Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie knives, dirks, etc. … and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederate Army (in Barrow, et al., 2001).

    This description of men wearing shell jackets or coats and carrying weapons suggests soldiers. It does not appear indicative of cooks or musicians or body servants. Of course, we cannot know by the description, but it suggests 3,000 armed black Confederate soldiers.

    2. 2. Report of Frederick Douglass

    “There are at the present moment many Colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but real soldiers, having musket on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down any loyal troops and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government and build up that of the rebels” (In Williams “On Black Confederates”).

    Douglass’s report is clear: Black Southerners were fighting “as real soldiers.”

    3. Monuments to Black Confederates – The Moses Ezekiel sculpture in Arlington Cemetery to the Confederate dead – his circular frieze clearly shows one of the Confederate soldiers as a black man in uniform and under arms.

    4. Individual witnesses to black Confederates. See the following link for much more information: http://www.rebelgray.com/blacksincombat.htm

  6. I’m trying to find out information about my great great grandfather’s personal slave, who was also his friend. My ancestor was Samuel John Doyle. He and his personal slave were buddies growing up together. They received their schooling in the same barn together with the rest of the family’s children. I was told that Samuel Doyle released his slaves before the war, each with an education and an acre of land, because he believed that there was no true freedom unless you had an education to understand it and a way to make a living to preserve it. According to my grandmother, who was raised by her grandparents, Samuel and Sarah Louisa Shires Doyle, Sam’s personal slave/then freeman/friend fought with him on the side of the Confederacy. I only wish I’d remembered to ask the name of this man. After my great great grandfather died, several of the freed slaves would come to her during the depression to earn some money or a handout. Even when it was the roughest during the depression, she always had a job and some sort of payment for them, as she felt her family was still responsible to help them out, no matter how hard the times were. I can look and see if I can find the regiment number. Their plantation was in Tennessee, and Sam was known for breeding/raising/training Tennessee Walker Horses. Any information shared would be greatly appreciated, as one of the halls of records was burned down during the war, and so what I’ve gleaned so far is very sparce. Thank you!

  7. Here is a quote from Frederick Douglas “It is now pretty well established, that there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops, and do all that soldiers may to destroy the Federal Government”.

    1. Hey Alfred T,
      Can you conceive of a benevolent master? Do you really think that everyone involved in this business was so mean and cruel that they had no compassion on a group of people they co-existed with from day to day? We all know the horrors Uncle Tom’s Cabin depicted. Have you ever read Cane’s River? Don’t you know in your heart of hearts that by the grace of GOD there had to be some slaves who were loved, treated well and respected for the contributions they made for their masters and themselves? Have you ever heard of Richard Allen? He was born in 1760.
      More than 100yrs before the Emancipation Proclamation.
      Do a little reading, open your heart and your mind.

  8. Black confedate soldiers may be in the ranks, they did not fight as a group
    for love of my people , why would they associate themselves with a
    people that lynch, hungs us from the nearest tree to part of that history.
    You cannot grab something out of thin air and say we have a part to
    defend a way life that enslaved us. Those black soldiers were tricked for that purpose only if the south had won the war, we would be enslaved
    all over again. You cannot be friends with a notion that something good is
    going come out and everything going be just fine. Black would have been
    enslaved all over again with no way out. Foolish way to think that things
    or a way of life would disappear by a war between the whites.

  9. I’ve come across some records listing my great great grandfather as Samuel Jackson Doyle, born 31 July 1837 in Rally Hill Tennessee, and his wife’s name as Sarah Adaline Shires born September 1836 in Rally Hill, Tennessee. Any information about them, their plantation (gifted to them as newlyweds) would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Name: Samuel Jackson Doyle
      RFN: 328
      Change Date: 5 DEC 2006
      Sex: M
      Birth: 31 JUL 1837 in Knoxville, Knox Co, TN
      Change Date: 24 MAR 2006
      Death: 1908 in Nashville, Davidson Co, TN
      Change Date: 24 MAR 2006
      Note: Civil War records show he was a Private 11th Tennessee Cavalry.

      Father: John Stafford Doyle b: 10 AUG 1807 in Columbia, Maury Co, TN
      Mother: Polly Ann Thomas-Banns b: 02 AUG 1811
      Suggested Next Step:
      Search OneWorldTree for:
      Doyle, Samuel Jackson

      Marriage 1 Sarah Adeline Shires

      William Samuel Doyle b: 19 JAN 1865 in Columbia, Maury Co, TN
      Benjamin Franklin Doyle Sr b: 27 OCT 1873 in Columbia, Maury Co, TN

      Let me know if you would like more info. I’ll see what I can find.

  10. Does the “anecdotal” support mentioned include newspaper articles of the time? There are a number of wartime newspaper articles from Northern and Southern papers that mention armed Black men fighting for the South.

  11. Samuel Jackson Doyle was my great-great-great Grandfather. I’d never heard this story about him and his slaves. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I am not a historian, but I have come across articles–no authentic documentation–which claim some blacks did serve in the Confederate Army. An accurate number of black confederates may always elude us, but I think, as others have noted, the issue is not how many, the issue is …What does serve mean? In addition, can we really trust the

    I recently saw a photogragh of an alleged black Confederate, wearing a suit coat plastered with ‘Confederate’ medals. I found this very courious. I’ve read sources which stated that the Condererate government did not award medals, though I don’t know if this was true for all the member states.

    One other puzzle, for me at leat. If I were a white southerner fighting for no other reasons than the right to keep my slaves, or the right to someday acquire slaves, would I be comfortable with armed blacks at my shoulder? Would I even trust blacks to prepare my food, collect water, and treat my wounds? If I were to look into the eyes of my dark comrade, would I see a brother in arms, or a spy?

    I think the trust factor alone forces a downward apprasial of the true number of black confederates.

    1. I would tend to agree with you, IF that were the reason the war was being waged. There is no way in hell I would give ANY slave a weapon if slavery were the reason for our being there. That would be quasi-suicidal.

      1. 1. It’s suicidal in any event so long as there is still slavery. 2. They sure were not fighting to abolish it.

      2. Not to mention a free black of upstanding reputation would have an easier time getting past enlistment then a slave and would be looked upon more favorably as a neighbor or co-worker then as someone elses property.

  13. My family lore stated that my paternal great-grandfather John Collins and his cousin Benjamin Mackey (free persons of color) were confederate soldiers. Several years ago, I was contacted by the Sons of Confederate Soldiers regarding a requesition list that had been found which listed them both as memebers of Company F, 33rd Regiment, North Carolina Troops. This group known as the Dixie Invincibles was formed in Middletown, Hyde County, NC. The list contains all the names in the company, however next to their names was an x. There was one other person on the list with an X, whose name was Boy John, who many believe was a slave. It appears they were never put on the official roster, but did receive items paid for by the troop. I feel they did not apply for pensions, because that may have been removed from the troop early in the conflict. However, their names appear on the memorial which was erected at MIddletown, NC
    In addition it also appears that my great-great uncle Hezekiah King was a member of Private Co. B, 17th NC Reg’t. (2nd Org.) aka Stonewall Rifles. He did apply for a pension, but was denied.
    In conclusion I suspect the number of Blacks fighting for the south were far and few. Although my relatives fought for the confederacy, I’m glad that those family members who fought for the union won…

    1. Benjamin mackey was my great-great-great grandfather he was in Company F 33rd out of hide. I was shocked when I started researching my family history. I don’t know what to think of his participation in the confederacy. But it was just interesting to know.

  14. There is a road at Woods X Roads P.O. in Gloucester, Va named Davenport rd. after a black confederate solder who fought for the confederacy —

  15. We are always confused and perplexed whenever there is true LOVE and respect added to any human equasion. LOVE will always explain away any problems we can’t seem to solve in our minds.
    General Nathan Bedford Forrest took 45 slaves to fight with him. He LOVED them and they LOVED him and fight they did. 44 received their freedom.
    My great uncle still lives on the Georgia Plantation where his family has lived and worked for generations. He has stayed because of LOVE and for no other reason.
    I always knew there were slaves who faught and died beside their masters and I had NO DOUBT THEY DID IT FOR LOVE.

    1. Martha, we are looking for anscestors of the Sanders family that lived in Virginia, North Carolina and other southern states. You very well maybe a distant relative. Sheryl Davis-Dear

    2. Martha, we have been searching for ancestors of the Sanders family who lived in the south primarily Virginia North Carolina South Carolina and other Southern states. You very well could be one of our distant relatives. Sheryl Davis-Dear.

      1. Hello Sheryl,
        I never hear from this site regularly but I was delighted to see what you wrote. My husband’s name is Sanders, we just found his Dad, Robert Sanders in SC as the only child of Paul and Ella Sanders. She was a homemaker and could read. We know she taught little Robert to read.

  16. I found this article, and all of the thoughtful comments very Interesting! I am currently researching my Ancestry, and while I’m light skinned, my maternal grandfather was black, and thus my family identifies as African Nova Scotian. I had great success researching the white members of my family tree, as they were members of the original families who settled NS from Ireland and France. Once getting back 2 generations in the black side, I quickly loose the trail as documentation not always exists. It is evident that my family was once bound by slavery, and I often wonder what stories I may find. I’ve been researching the ways in which blacks came to settle Nova Scotia and the civil war was a major part of it.

  17. Ronald Kennedy’s “The South Was Right” shows an allegedly official Confederate record of medals for valor awarded to slaves and “free men of color” for combat heroism for the Confederacy.
    There is also a famous reporter’s illustration of Confederate prisoners of war being marched away from Gettysburg that clearly includes the image of a black soldier.
    It upsets me that facts get covered up by politically correct “historians” who are after money and awards rather than truth.
    There is no shame in this. These black Southerners were as much heroes of their fight for independence from yankee tyranny as their forefathers were who fought for our independence from English tyranny.
    May these honored dead be remembered for their service and sacrifice!

    1. Right Arnie,
      No shame at all when the truth makes us and keeps us FREE.
      I never had any doubt.
      So when I see the Confederate flag and the Stars and Strips I remember all the blood that was shed so they each could wave.

  18. Sifting through 100,000 records only constitutes 11% of the whole Confederate Army, assuming 900,000 soldiers. Based on the records reviewed, your hypothesis that many blacks did not serve with those 100,000 soldiers could be true, but the other 800,000 or so records that have not been reviewed could very well have numerous letters, diaries, etc referencing many black Confederate soldiers. My point is to base a conclusion for the whole Confederate Army off of 11% of data is not much to stand on.

    I agree 100% with you Arnie.

  19. @alfred teixeira: “Those black soldiers were tricked for that purpose only if the south had won the war, we would be enslaved all over again.” The Northern Army was telling their Black Troops if they win, it was 40 acres and a mule…did the Blacks get that? If I were their I would of fought for country and family, just like everyone at that time did, not for the Union, but FREEDOM from tyranny.

  20. Was there a reason why some “freed” blacks served as servant to Confederate officers during the Civil War under a diferent name. I discovered my great-great-great grandfather was a servant to, tow Confederate Majors.

    On his pension application it had his name as we have known him, however another name is in parantensis.

  21. Kraig, In doing research for Fort Donelson I found an Indiana newspaper that listed some of the Confederate prisoners of war taken when that post surrendered on February 16, 1862. The list included several blacks that went to northern POW camps and these men were in a separate category in the listing which was done by regiment.

    It is also my understanding that in a recent TLSA trip to one of the Tennessee counties to document Civil War items that muster rolls for some black Confederates in one of the Tennessee regiments were brought in to be documented. Dr. Michael Bradley told me about these a couple months ago. He can tell you what regiment this was from.

    Lastly, no one has brought up the free black militia of Louisiana which existed there since the early 19th Century and remained active into the Civil War. At the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815, Gen. Andrew Jackson had Daquin’s and LaCoste’s Battalions, Free Men of Color in his ranks (the British had the 5th West Indies Regiment, all black to face them). These two units were the basis of the Louisiana Native Guards which were in state service in 1861 when Louisiana seceded accepted by Governor Moore but rejected by the Confederate government. In the early summer of 1861, the New Orleans militia, of which the Native Guards were part, took part in the day long parade of some 13,000 troops that has been well documented in the New Orleans newspapers of the time. The Native Guards carried a Confederate flag in the parade. With the fall of New Orleans in April 1862, the local militia disbanded (for the most part) and when Union General Ben Butler called for the formation of the Corps D’Afrique of the Union Army some of the Native Guards members joined that new command (but not all). The Native Guards have been well documented in books as well as an article in the old Civil War magazine Civil War Society (which also covered Hispanics in the Confederate Army).

    In my own newspaper research I also found another Louisiana unit of blacks called The Natchitoches Rangers, a cavalry unit, who were the recipients of a Confederate flag. The article I found was in French (LA had several French language newspapers at the time) and the word for flag is “drapeaux.” The men were described as “hommes de colour,” or men of color. I ran this by the late Art Bergeron, THE expert on Louisiana Confederate units (the unit was not listed in his book on LA units) and he confirmed their existence and service in Louisiana to me. State militia units fought along side of Confederate units there as they did in Georgia and other Southern states.

    Some of the Confederate ironclads defending Charleston, SC had free blacks as part of their crews, among them the CSS Chicora. This can be found in some of the books on the CS Navy as well as the defense of Charleston. If you look in the 1860 Census you will find higher concentrations of free blacks in the coastal cities of the South than anywhere else.

    With regards to using the CSRs for finding blacks in the CS Army, many were not ever enrolled so these records will not turn them up with any level of certainty as to the numbers involved. This will make finding something close to an accurate number nearly impossible. I have been through thousands of these rolls myself over the many years of research and have only seen very few “colored” men properly enrolled into CS regiments, usually cooks or musicians. But keep in mind that in units back then everyone fought when it came time to start shooting; there were no rear area elements of a unit as there are today.

  22. The very thought of there being black Confederate soldiers is an anathema to mainstream yankee historians, scholars, and politicians. For if there were large numbers of blacks who supported the Confederacy, then one of their main premises of their world view could collapse. Thus the unscientific pretzel logic of the writer of this article, and his quoting fellow skeptics to prove his own skepticism. They jump on any anecdotal evidence to support their claims, such as the convoluted mathematical approach to determining black Confederates, or McPhereson’s review of letters, yet they also belittle any anecdotal evidence supporting the existence of black Confederates by dismissing it as “merely anecdotal.” He uses the common yankee trick of distinguishing black Confederate “combat” troops versus support personnel, but does not do that with Union black troops, of which the majority never saw combat either. Why the distinction? Do army support personnel not count? Should a medic, commissary, or transportation soldier not be counted? If you are a yankee trying to make a poor point, apparently so.
    Here are a few of the more interesting “anecdotal” evidences of black Confederates. Both Freemantle and Longstreet report of coming across an armed black rebel soldier during the retreat from Gettysburg. Neither was shocked at an armed black Confederate, but Longstreet was concerned that since the soldier’s musket was half cocked, that it was “un-soldier like.” My favorite is the video clip of the 1917 Vicksburg Veterans Reunion video (link below). At the 1:13 point, a truck comes in view full of black veterans waving flags to the crowd of cheering southerners. As the truck goes by, hit the pause button to see what flag they are all waving: it’s the 2nd National Confederate, the one that would had been at the Siege of Vicksburg. It was a veterans reunion, and here you have old blacks proudly waving rebel flags. Yankess will claim that these men were suffering from Stockholm syndrome or some other silly argument to deflect the obvious, but Yankees are messed up in their quest to make the North/Lincoln heroes and the South/CSA villains. It’s a mental illness. http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675066853_American-Civil-War-veterans_soldiers-march_loaded-onto-trucks_American-flag

  23. Slaves didn’t have the freedom (slaves) to make a decision to fight or be servants in the confederate. Slaves, had no rights.

  24. Since we can’t agree on what the south was fighting for today, I imagine the men at the time were just as confused as to the issues, including the slaves – many of whom were kept in the dark about the fact that there was a war. I’d have gladly “jined up” just to get out of the cotton patch and away from the overseer – regardless of the issues. General Cleburne pushed hard to include black soldiers in the rebel ranks, and Jeff Davis, in refusing, replied that if blacks were good soldier material the major justification for slavery was all wrong.

  25. Leo (Esco Yona,, black Cherokee)

    From child hood I have been given information on black Indians, and black cowboys. and much of what I learned, I have found evidence to substantiate what I was taught. On the question of black soldiers who fought in the Confederate army their isn’t much evidence of letters because most were not taught to read and wright. There would not be much in the way of documents from whites that would have been willing to mention the fact that blacks were killing whites
    even though they were Yankees. During that time that was just unthinkable. I know that there are Native American soldiers who fought, and I know that within those units there were blacks. some of which were mixed, Indian/black, and some who were slaves but the focus is for the most part, on the Native American aspect when printed. The way things were during that time makes it hard to verify roles that blacks had at that time, but the evidence is out there somewhere, and as we keep looking we will find it.
    Here is something for you to think about. Something I learned as
    a child. There was a unit called the 43rd Battalion Virginia Calvary,
    also known as Mosby’s rangers/raiders. In my efforts to find evidence
    for verification from various sources I have not as yet found any
    pictures, or any mentioning of Native Americans and Blacks in His
    unit. I’m sure you are familiar with whats out there on Mosby so I wont go into His History. I was told that the real reason he was called the Grey Ghost, as apposed to the Grey Ghosts . was because
    he and his officers stood out from the darker skinned members of
    his unit which were Indians, and blacks when they went on their nighttime raids. I’m sure the earlier writers concerning Mosby did not
    want to show that He had anything to do with Indians or blacks but
    I’m sure they were there. His style of fighting, and the fact that he
    was not given full status as a Confederate unit at first gives a hint
    as to why he was given to be a partisan unit. and later because of
    his success, he was given Confederate status. I’m getting this info out because I’m hoping that other Black Historians might also seek evidence on this subject. the more researchers the faster that evidence may be found. Don’t dismiss it. No one wanted to believe
    that black slaves would have anything to do with a Confederate fighting unit, but today there is evidence to show that they did.
    The evidence on Mosby is out there and in time it shall be found.

  26. Not only did thousands of black freedmen fight for the Confederacy, they fought alongside their white counterparts, unlike in the Union Army, which had segregated black units commanded solely by white officers.

    Many black freedmen also owned slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves only in those states that were in rebellion, and not only did not free slaves in the border states NOT in rebellion (Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware and Maryland), it also did not free the few remaining slaves in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and even New York.

    It is a fact that 90% of the black slaves in the South were owned by 6% of the Southern (mostly white) population, i.e., the white Southern aristocracy.. That being the case, it is impossible that the American “Civil War” was fought solely on account of defending and/or abolishing slavery. It was fought, as LIncoln himself said, to re-unite and preserve the Union.

    Were it fought, at the time (and it’s ‘at the time’ that really counts) for defense or abolition of slavery, then the Emancipation Proclamation would’ve legally freed ALL the slaves in ALL the states, including West Virginia, which seceded from Virginia in 1862 over the issue of secession from the greater United States.

  27. I think you should have researched the evidence and cited it. Many stories get twisted and some of Amer-Afrikan descendants were Caucasian. My great grandfather is Caucasian . He was a plantation owners son who married a slave. If he fought and i had his papers that wouldn’t mean he was an African/abductee/slave fighting for his oppressors. If your not allowed to vote or read i am not sure soldiers would trust sleeping while a slave held a rifle. They might have served as cooks or servants but they were already slaves so that’s no big deal. You might have a greater chance of escape during a skirmish. Stockholm syndrome should also be considered.

    1. Leo I am affiliated with an African/Spanish Museum, and have done quite a bit of research on the subject of slaves fighting on the side of the South. there is a lot of evidence coming out these days that tell the truth of those who did. the best answer I received on the subject of why the evidence was made to be taboo in white publications was stated by a civil war reenactment confederate officer. He said to me that the one who wins the war gets to write the history books. though the North won the war there was surely a great bit of influence from whites both north and south who did not want any glory going to black slaves. In war time when the fighting starts, it matters not if the fellow standing next to you is black or white. sure there was the possibility of being turned on, or even escape but when the war is going against your side, as it was for the confederacy they used any one who wanted to fight against the Union. there were, I repeat, there were many black saves who were treated decently by their masters that did not wand to be freed. they felt they would lose a good way of life if they were forced to be on their own, and some of these slaves fought with honor and valor against the Union. More and more info is being discovered as time goes by on this subject. there are those of this day and age that refuse to believe in the subject of blacks fighting for the confederacy. Blacks these days are still loosing out on the glory that they deserve after serving in many of the recent wars. How many blacks who served with honor and valor received the medal of honor, or the silver cross. The times, and the evidence of blacks serving in all wars going all the way back to the revolutionary war is getting better but the research is still young in its
      discovery. in the years to come the taboo will go away and more of the facts will become known, and blacks will get the glory we deserve.

  28. it seems that sometimes when the truth doesn’t coincide with the agenda, it gets swept under the rug, how is it that one “historian” can’t find any black troops, and the next one finds hundreds…it is my belief that it is a disservice to all blacks to keep the facts hidden about their ancestors who fought with valor and resolve for what they believed in, no matter if it fits todays world view or not.

  29. The question is a bit rigged. Did black soldiers officially serve IN COMBAT for the Confederacy? Only a handful. But “combatant” and “soldier” are not synonyms. The later is a subset of the former. And it is true that tens of thousands of blacks were formally enrolled as members of countless regiments in support rolls.

    Would you consider the white chaplain, or surgeon, or musician, or ordnance sergeant in a Union regiment not to be a member of that regiment, not to have been a soldier in the Union Army? Because they themselves certainly did, as did their comrades, as did the War Department. So the same standard must be used for formally enrolled blacks in support positions.

    And lest you discount them as soldiers for being “mere” cooks or teamsters or pioneers, try supporting an army without men in those roles.

    Take a non-Confederate example to illustrate the point: PFC Jessica Lynch, the first US POW rescued during Iraqi Freedom. She was a truck driver, not a combatant. Does that make her any less a solder?

    So, Black Confederate combatants? Only anecdotally. But black Confederate soldiers? Unquestionably. The extant service records make that abundantly clear.

  30. As for literacy, most people, white, black, and native American, were illiterate. As in could not read or write. As for the research material and sources, most of the material is sourced from 2002 and newer. The earliest from 1994. These sources are from ” revisionist” historical texts. History has been revised so many times that until you actually go to the tombstones, or hear the history passed down from these families, a paper trail is almost worthless. As in the day of illiteracy, you might as well wipe you rear with it. Lets see some sourced material from families and records unmolested by revisionist. Lets see the truth.

  31. There is fact, and there is passion. fact is, that the Confederate Congress bitterly debated the enlistment of black soldiers in March, 1865. If the Rebel ranks were already stock full of black soldiers, the debate on this matter would reflect this. It doesn’t. That alone is evidence, that the number of colored troops in the CSA was extremely limited.

  32. Good Lord, The anecdotal evidence here is strong…and absolutely useless…I will give you a real example that shows almost no black solders for the Confederacy. The NPS Visitor Center at Appomattox Court House show a list of the blacks that were serving with Lee…there are a total of 78. Their occupations are listed…they are all non-fighting positions(Laborers, Cooks, Musicians, Teamsters). There are 3 names listed as “Marines”. So, to give you the benefit of the doubt, I will say 3 were solders….If There were “thousands”…where are they? The only historians who magically find more are usually pushing a pro confederacy viewpoint trying to steer the history away from Slavery(as in if blacks served by the thousands, then the war wasnt fought about slavery)…BULL to that…

  33. I have read Black Southerners In The Confederate Army, and I have to say what a never ending roller coaster of misleading clap trap, the fundamental understanding of the book:Black Southerners In The Confederate Army, reminds me of the analogy by Plato, one of the fathers and critiques of democracy, it is an analytic interpretation of free thought and reads as follows: The Inhabitants of a cave who has never seen the outside world only knowledge of what takes place in the world and in their world is from the flickering shadows on the cave wall from the heat the fire provides and so all the cave dwellers assumptions, thoughts, impressions and calculations of the world outside is based on the knowledge of what they know of the cave they live in and since they have never been to the outside world and thus dwell in ignorance thinking the shadows of the cave fire is all they have in the world until someone from the outside world enters their cave and teaches them that the outside world is not really like the flickering shadows on a cave wall and is filled with opportunities and new things to see, in the same way Plato’s analogy of unknowing ignorance is applied in the book; Black Southerners In The Confederate Army when black slave refusing to leave his or her master because they do not know any better and being given his or her’s freedom when the union army are coming over the hill and the civil war was lost to their opposition is nothing more than a pointless gesture for the unknowing ignorant slave through no fault of his or her own.dwelt in ignorance. So why black southerners joined and fought in the white confederate army? it is a simple and dumbfounded answer, they were ignorant and knew no better, raised in captivity, denied the knowledge of books and not being able to read would have made the ideal ignorant slave, I find the idea of the black confederate and his immanent transferral from slave to white mined confederate a simple mockery of blindness and further more as I said when I first read the book Black Southerners In The Confederate Army: I could not take any more of this inane mundane nose led compilation of stories and though it was somewhat enlightening I refused to subscribe to this southern teaching, it reminded me of paper I read in which the black emancipated slave becomes a cavalry man by his right of freedom then sent out to murder the the Apache Indians in skirmish battles, I would say don’t believe what you read but the evidence is there for all to read and deduce, soy no vaquero, soy Indio valiante.

  34. Kraig, in your article you inadvertently confused James McPherson’s findings [zero] with Robert K. Krick’s findings [6-12].

    “Confederate records provide no hard evidence that black southerners served as soldiers. Comments by many prominent historians support this observation. Robert Krick, chief historian for the National Park Service at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville and author of ten books on the Confederacy, has gone through Confederate service records for some 200,000 soldiers. In an interview with Tony Horwitz, Krick said he saw evidence of “six, or twelve at the very most’ black Rebels. Joseph Glatthaar concurred. ‘I’ve read through roughly 1,500 manuscript collections,’ he commented, ‘and I haven’t seen one soldier mention [black Confederates]. You’d think, if this was a real issue, I’d have come across it somewhere.’ Nor did James McPherson find any evidence of black soldiers fighting for the Confederacy in the over 25,000 letters he read from northern and southern soldiers alike. ‘I’ve seen no reference of any black person actually fighting,’ McPherson told Horwitz. In the Union letters he read, McPherson adds, ‘I’ve seen maybe four or five references to what they perceived as individual black soldiers’ fighting against them. But McPherson and others explain that southern soldiers were often ‘filthy and sunburned, and that corpses quickly blackened on the battlefield,’ which may have confused Union soldiers about what they actually saw.” [Jason H. Silverman and Susan R. Silverman, “Blacks in Gray: Myth or Reality?” North & South, Vol 5, No. 3, April 2002, p. 42]

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