BLACK PEOPLE SERVED IN THE CONFEDERATE ARMY
Like "prolife feminist," the phrase "black Confederate" seems like an oxymoron. But the record shows that many slaves and free blacks were a part of the South's military during the US Civil War.
None other than abolitionist Frederick Douglas, a former slave and one of the most prominent African Americans in history, declared:
There are at present moment [autumn 1861], many colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants, and laborers, but as real soldiers, having musket on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government and build up that of the traitors and rebels.
In Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia, Professor Ervin L. Jordan, Jr., writes:
Numerous black Virginians served with Confederate forces as soldiers, sailors, teamsters, spies, and hospital personnel.... I know of black Confederate sharp-shooters who saw combat during the 1862 Seven Days Campaign and [of] the existence of black companies [which] organized and drilled in Richmond in March-April 1865. Integrated companies of black and white hospital workers fought against the Union army in the Petersburg trenches during March 1865. There were several recruitment campaigns and charity balls held in Virginia on behalf of black soldiers and special camps of instruction were established to train them.
The book Black Confederates contains loads of primary documents testifying to the role of African Americans: letters, military documents, tributes, obituaries, contemporaneous newspaper articles, and more. In an 1862 letter to his uncle, a soldier at Camp Brown in Knoxville, Tennessee, wrote that his company had recently gunned down six Union soldiers and that Jack Thomas a colored person that belongs to our company killed one of them.
An 1861 article in the Montgomery Advertiser says:
We are informed that Mr. G.C. Hale, of Autauga County, yesterday tendered to Governor Moore the services of a company of negroes, to assist in driving back the horde of abolition sycophants who are now talking so flippantly of reducing to a conquered province the Confederate States of the South.
The obituary of black South Carolinian Henry Brown states that he had never been a slave and had served in three wars: the Mexican, the Spanish-American, and the Civil (on the side of the South). He was given a 21-gun salute at his funeral.
In 1890, black Union veteran Joseph T. Wilson wrote in his book, The Black Phalanx: A History of the Negro Soldiers of the United States, that New Orleans was home to two Native Guard regiments, which comprised 3,000 "colored men." Referring to these regiments in an 1898 book, Union Captain Dan Matson said: "Here is a strange fact. We find that the Confederates themselves first armed and mustered the Negro as a solider in the late war."
Most blacks in the Confederate Army, though, were in supporting roles such as cook, musician, nurse, and the catch-all "servant." However, a lot of them ended up fighting on the battlefield, even though the South didn't officially induct black soldiers until late in the conflict. And all of them whether inducted or not, whether solider or some other position were eligible for military pensions from several Southern states (including Tennessee and Mississippi), an records show that many of them signed up for these benefits.
Barrow, Charles Kelly, J.H. Segars, and R.B. Rosenburg. Black
Confederates. Pelican Publishing Company, 2001. Segars, J.H., and Charles Kelly Barrow.
Black Southerners In Confederate Armies: A Collection of Historical Accounts. Southern Lion