Black Confederates fighting for the South.

The following is an excerpt from the Customs of Service For Non-Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Men written by Union General August V. Kautz (and take special note of what it says about musicians, this will shortly be important):


IN the fullest sense, any man in the military service who receives pay, whether sworn in or not, is a soldier, because he is subject to military law.  Under this general head, laborers, teamsters, sutlers, chaplains, &c. are soldiers.  In a more limited sense, a private soldier is a man enlisted in the military service to serve in the cavalry, artillery, or infantry.  He is said to be enlisted when he has been examined, his duties of obedience explained to him, and after he has taken the prescribed oath.

“Any free white [*] male person above the age of eighteen, and under thirty-five years of age, being at least five feet three inches high; effective, able-bodied, sober, free from disease, of good character and habits, and with a competent knowledge of the English language, may be enlisted as a soldier” (Reg. 929.)  This regulation makes exceptions in favor of musicians and soldiers who have served one enlistment, although they should be under the prescribed height and age.  A soldier cannot claim a discharge in consequence of any defect in the above requirements, unless, in case of a minor, he can prove that the requirements of the law have not been complied with in his enlistment.

[*] The enlistment of Negroes and Indians is a peculiarity of the volunteer service and has not yet been authorized for the regular service.

Furthermore, despite Denier claims that the Confederate government did not approve of Black Confederate service, it might surprise the reader that the Confederate Congress did in fact officially recognize the service of those African-Americans performing their jobs in Confederate regiments….and passed two laws authorizing equal pay for those services!

The following are military rules approved by the Confederate Congress in regard to Black Confederates.

Chapter XXIX. – AN ACT for the payment of musicians in the Army not regularly enlisted.
The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That whenever colored persons are employed as musicians in any regiment or company, they shall be entitled to the same pay now allowed by law to musicians regularly enlisted: Provided, That no such persons shall be so employed except by the consent of the commanding officer of the brigade to which said regiments or companies may belong.
Approved April 15, 1862.

Chapter LXIV. – A BILL [AN ACT] for the enlistment of cooks in the Army.
The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That hereafter it shall be [the] duty of the captain or commanding officer of his company to enlist four cooks for the use of his company, whose duty it shall be to cook for such company–taking charge of the supplies, utensils and other things furnished therefor, and safely keep  the same, subject to such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the War Department or the colonel of the regiment to which such company may be attached:
[SEC. 2.] Be it further enacted, That the cooks so directed to be enlisted, may be white or black, free or slave persons: Provided, however, That no slave shall be so enlisted, without the written consent of his owner. And such cooks shall be enlisted as such only, and put on the muster-roll and paid at the time and place the company may or shall be paid off, $20 per month to the chief or head cook, and $15 per month for each of the assistant cooks, together with the same allowance for clothing, or the same commutation therefor that may be allowed to the rank and file of the company.
Approved April 21, 1862.

*Source: Public Laws of the Confederate States of America Passed at the First Session of the First Congress 1862 (Pages. 29 & 48).

It would be here that the Denier would jump out of their seat to scream: Musicians are NOT soldiers!

Actually they were according to the official Confederate military policy. In fact here are a couple of rather interesting excerpt from the Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States 1863: 

75. The musicians of the band will, for the time being, be dropped from company muster-rolls, but they will be instructed as soldiers, and liable to serve in the ranks on any occasion. They will be mustered in a separate squad under the chief musician, with the non-commissioned staff, and be included in the aggregate in all regimental returns. 

1400. No person under the age of twenty-one years is to be enlisted without the written consent of his parent, guardian, or master. The recruiting officers must be very particular in ascertaining the true age of the recruit, and will not accept him when there is a doubt of his being of age.

*Source: Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States 1863 (Pages 13 & 178)

There is no doubt that musicians faced bullets and cannon shots, especially the regiment’s drummers who accompanied the regiments into battle. There are literally a hundred accounts of drummers on both sides of the War who were wounded in battle — the most famous account is probably Johnny Clem, the Drummer Boy of Shiloh (and Chickamauga).

Wagon drivers were certainly subject to the dangers of battle, particularly the men delivering ammunition, or driving the teams that carried the artillery to the field. Stretcher-bearers and men who drove the hospital wagons, many of them also Black Confederates, were also subject to stray bullets from the enemy — sometimes deliberate fire by enemy snipers.

How does a Denier respond to this information?

There were many recorded instances of combat service of Black Confederates which can be found in the Federal Official Records, Northern and Southern newspapers, and the letters and diaries of soldiers from both sides. In addition, there are recorded instances of Black Southerners serving as regularly-enlisted combat soldiers before the Union allowed enlistment of African-Americans.

The following passages are from  The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Civil War.

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol XVI Part I, pg. 805, Lt. Col. Parkhurst’s Report (Ninth Michigan Infantry) on General Forrest’s attack at Murfreesboro, Tenn, July 13, 1862:  

“The forces attacking my camp were the First Regiment Texas Rangers [8th Texas Cavalry, Terry’s Texas Rangers, ed.], Colonel Wharton, and a battalion of the First Georgia Rangers, Colonel Morrison, and a large number of citizens of Rutherford County, many of whom had recently taken the oath of allegiance to the United States Government. There were also many 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.”

Union officials and even those in the US Government itself were fully aware of the existence of Black Confederates.

Federal Official Records, Correspondence, Etc., Vol. II, pg. 218 –

“…they [the Confederacy] have, by means of sweeping conscription, gathered in countless hordes, and threaten to overwhelm the armies of the Union, with blood and treason in their hearts. They flaunt the black flag of rebellion in the face of the Government, and threaten to butcher our brave and loyal armies with foreign bayonets. They arm negroes and merciless savages in their behalf.”

– July 11, 1862 – Rich D. Yates, Governor of Illinois to President Abraham Lincoln.

REBEL NEGRO PICKETSSo much has been said about the wickedness of using the negroes on our side in the present war, that we have thought it worthwhile to reproduce on this page a sketch sent us from Fredricksburg by our artist, Mr. Theodore R. Davis, which is a faithful representation of what was seen by one of our officers through his field-glass, while on outpost duty at that place. As the picture shows, it represents two full-blooded negroes, fully armed, and serving as pickets in the rebel army. It has long been known to military men that the insurgents affect no scruples about the employment of their slaves in any capacity in which they may be found useful. Yet there are people here in the North who affect the be horrified at the enrollment of negroes into regiments. Let us hope that the President will not be deterred by and squeamish scruples of the kind from garrisoning the Southern forts which fighting men of any color that can be obtained.

Deniers would argue that both the Steiner report and the account in Harper’s Weekly is just propaganda used to promote the idea for enlisting African-Americans for the United States Colored Troops — which was really not a popular idea in the Northern States in late 1862 and through much of 1863. If the Rebels (sic) were doing it, then why not the national army?

Illustration entitled: Rebel Negro Pickets As Seen Through A Field Glass appeared with the January 10, 1863 Harper’s Weekly article depicting armed Black Confederates performing picket duty.

Yet this would not account for the many official Federal reports that expressly state that Union soldiers encountered armed Black Confederates in battle.

Here the ever desperate Deniers start sweating and begin to flat out deny the official historical records, and they shout: The reports are not accurate! Battle accounts are not real evidence! After that, they tend to refer back to the previous strawman arguments that Black Confederates cannot be “soldiers” because of official government policies — which have just been demonstrated to be failed arguments.

Now if the verified testimony of Union sources is not enough, how about a source from a neutral party?

During the summer of 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle of the British Army traveled with Lee’s Army into Pennsylvania and was present during the Gettysburg Campaign. His observations as an unofficial military observer were published later on and include the following amusing story and personal observation:

I saw a most laughable spectacle this afternoon-viz., a negro dressed in full Yankee uniform, with a rifle at full cock, leading along a barefooted white man, with whom he had evidently changed clothes. General Longstreet stopped the pair, and asked the black man what it meant. He replied, “The two soldiers in charge of this here Yank have got drunk, so for fear he should escape I have took care of him, and brought him through that little town.” The consequential manner of the negro, and the supreme contempt with which he spoke to his prisoner, were most amusing. This little episode of a Southern slave leading a white Yankee soldier through a Northern village, alone and of his own accord, would not have been gratifying to an abolitionist. Nor would the sympathizers both in England and in the North feel encouraged if they could hear the language of detestation and contempt with which the numerous negroes with the Southern armies speak of their liberators.*

* From what I have seen of the Southern negroes, I am of opinion that the Confederates could, if they chose, convert a great number into soldiers; and from the affection which undoubtedly exists as a general rule between the slaves and their masters, I think that they would prove more efficient than black troops under any other circumstances. But I do not imagine that such an experiment will be tried, except as a very last resort, partly on account of the great value of the negroes, and partly because the Southerners consider it improper to introduce such an element on a large scale into civilized warfare. Any person who has seen negro features convulsed with rage, may form a slight estimate of what the result would be of arming a vast number of blacks, rousing their passions, and then allowing them free scope.

*Source: Three Months In The Southern States (April – June 1863) By Col. Fremantle  (Pg. 141-142)

As Sir Arthur pointed out from the story and his personal observation, individual Black Confederates showed considerable loyalty to the units they served with. He also pointed out that the Confederacy could have utilized slaves as regular soldiers on a wider scale (i.e. in whole Black Regiments) and the various reasons why the Confederacy refused to do so….on a large scale — meaning instead of just individuals among whole regiments of regular Confederate units.

However, in spite of “official” government policies against the large-scale use of Confederates of color, there are at least a few notable instances where Black Confederates served as groups in Southern military ranks.

One of the best examples occurred in September 1863, during the Battle of Chickamauga. 

The 4th Tennessee Cavalry had a black servant named Daniel McLemore, servant to the Colonel of the regiment, organize a group of servants into a company of between 40-50 men. They were at first ordered to guard the horses of the soldiers, but sitting out of the fighting long enough, they asked a Captain Joseph P. Briggs, the company’s quartermaster, if they could participate in the fighting.

Briggs recalled that: “After trying to dissuade them from this, I gave in and led them up to the line of battle in which was just preparing to assault Gen. Thomas’s position. Thinking they would be of service in caring for the wounded, I held them close up the line, but when the advance was ordered the negro company became enthused as well as their masters, and filled a portion of the line of advance as well as any company of the regiment. While they had no guidon or muster roll, the burial after the battle of four of their number and the care of seven wounded at the hospital, told the tale of how well they fought.”