Did a large number of black troops fight for the Confederacy?
Sunday – 7/24/2011
WASHINGTON – It was a small paragraph of a large textbook, but the controversy sparked by the big error led to a a complete review of the way Virginia reviews its textbooks.
The textbook falsely claimed that African American soldiers fought for the confederacy in large numbers.
Now, with the 150th anniversary of the war in the forefront, the curator of the African American Civil War Museum says the controversy really was the result of bad scholarship.
"The best way to clarify and understand is to use primary sources," says Harry Jones.
He says there is plenty of documentation that more than a quarter million blacks troops fought for the Union during the war. There are letters from many of them and letters from politicians and general praising their bravery and competence.
But Jones, says such documentation does not exist for claims that black troops fought for the south.
"There’s a lot of poor scholarship," he says.
The museum does include a captured letter from Louisiana Gov. Henry Allen. Writing to the Confederate Secretary of War, Allen arguing for use of blacks troops to fight the south. It was rejected by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The Confederate Congress did approve the use of black troops in April of 1865.
"By the time the legislation is passed, Jefferson Davis signs it into law and they begin trying to recruit, United States Colored Troops have captured Richmond."
General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox just a few days later and the Confederacy ceased to exist.
Most Civil War historians say only a few hundred black troops ever served for the South and may never been in any battles.
The book which created the controversy, called "Our Virginia" was being used in Prince William and Fairfax County schools.
It was filled with many other inaccuracies as well, claiming there were 12 Confederate States instead of 11 and that the U.S. entered World War I in 1916 when it was actually 1917.
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