Evidence Of Black Confederates

From: colonel@37thtexas.org
To: jdsmith4@email.uncc.edu


…your recent Editorial in the Raleigh News Observer ("Armed, Confederate and black? Not likely.") does, indeed, fall under the heading of an opinion as it is composed of your personal opinion, the discredited ideas of James McPherson, and dismissal of significant evidence of Black Confederate combat participation as "anecdotal."

The first question one must ask is exactly how many anecdotes compose a fact? If we raise the burden of proof high enough virtually anything in history can be dismissed as "anecdotal."

As a matter of fact for many years the service of United States Colored Troops in the War for Southern Independence was considered by "distinguished" historians as "anecdotal" and virtually no one knew that the 9th and 10th Colored Infantry shouldered the burden of charging up San Juan Hill in 1898. Even the service of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War Two little more than a half century ago required a "revelation."

Is it any wonder that with study of Black and other minority Confederates only a few years along that we have not yet developed all the possible evidentiary resources? Certainly, I doubt that you and Mr. McPherson are burning the midnight oil in your research on this topic as both of you have already reached your conclusions well before the facts are known.

Citing the germane portion of a reference does not disprove the reference. To state such would mean that one could not cite the Federal Official Records without citing an entire chapter or perhaps such a citation could be dismissed unless the entire volume was cited. An article from a newspaper could only be quoted in its entirety and even then could be disputed for not offering the entire publication.

You quoted James McPherson on the topic of Black Confederates. This is the same James McPherson who has publicly dismissed all sightings of Black Confederate combat troops as simply "white Confederates with dirty faces." Hardly scholarly or scientific on his part and it certainly makes your citation of him as a source a bit wobbly.

You stated that "a tiny minority of Louisiana free blacks who volunteered for Confederate fighting units (they were not allowed to fight and later in fact switched allegiance to join the Union Army)" as though that was a statement of fact, but it is not supported by historical record. If you will refer to the publication of the diary of the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Louisiana Native Guard ("Thank God My Regiment An African One") http://www.nps.gov/guis/extended/MIS/MHistory/NatvGrd.htm which was stationed on Ship Island, Mississippi, you will find that the author’s valid research indicated that of 36 Black and mulatto officers and 976 Black and mulatto enlisted men comprising the CS Native Guard only approximately 10 officers and 100 enlisted men can be documented to have "switched allegiance."

Hardly overwhelming evidence that their real allegiance was not to Louisiana and thereby the Confederacy. Their tradition of service stemmed from the Battalion of Free Men of Color who, with their four Black officers (the first Black military officers in America) served in the War of 1812.

The contention that they were not accepted for service can be disproven by the following:

"The Negro in the Civil War," Benjamin Quarles, (1953) 1989, Da Capo Press, pp 116-117 – "Butler

[Gen. Butler of New Orleans, ed.] thereupon sent for twenty of the colored officers who had been enrolled under the Confederate flag as recently as the preceding April [1861]. The ensuing discussion was frank and to the point. Butler asked the free Negroes if they would like to be organized as part of the United States Army. There was a unanimous chorus of "yes." Butler has reconstructed his conversation with their spokesman, ‘a Negro nearly as dark,’ said he, ‘as the ace of spades.’: ‘General,’ he asked, ‘shall we be officers as we were before?’"

"The Sable Arm: Black Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865", D.T. Cornish. pp.65 -66 – "Butler was careful to make clear in his order of August 22 that it applied only to a ‘military organization, known as the ‘Native Guards’ (colored)’, which had been ‘duly and legally enrolled as a part of the militia’ of Louisiana in the spring of 1861…’"

The contemporaneous statement of participants in historical events bears much more weight than your opinion or the opinion of those who, to support their own agenda, choose to offer their opinions as "facts" in an attempt to offset the testimony of those persons who lived the events. In this case your statement that the Guard was not under the Confederate flag was refuted more than half a century ago before it became an "issue" with anyone for any reason. The Louisiana State Militia, including the "Cazadores Espanoles" (Spanish Legion) was accepted en masse.

There have been those in the past who have also stated as "fact" that the Native Guard did not have uniforms or weapons and therefore never really existed, but this can be easily disproven using the words of Gen. Benjamin Butler who organized the 1st Louisiana Native Guard USA:

"Like Men of War" by Noah Andre Trudeau Little,Brown and Company 1998 pp. 24 – "’The officers of that company,’ Butler later related to the Secretary of War, ‘called upon…the question of the continuance of their organization and to learn what disposition they would be required to make of their arms…"

The mass grave at Confederate Mound in Indianapolis, Indiana http://www.37thtexas.org/html/Memoriam4.html which holds the remains of more than 1200 Confederates from what was one of the most humane Union POW camps has a surprise for you and others who "know" about Black Confederates.

There are 26 Black Southerners, four Hispanics, and one Cherokee at rest with their white Confederate comrades-in-arms. Although the Blacks were listed universally as "Negro Servants" through the convention of Northern mindset, you will find those which cannot be explained as "servants:"

Christian, J. (Negro), Co. D, Morgan’s 2nd Cavalry, d. 11/22/63
Vance, J.W. (Negro), CSA Mail Carrier, d. 3/14/64

Littleton, Solomon (Negro), 3rd Inf., d. /3/62

Mayo, Henry (Negro), Co. G 36th Inf., d. 3/23/62

Frazier, George (Capt) (Negro), CSA, d. 1863*

Considering that the other Black Southerners listed were not listed in relation to any Confederate unit or with a specific occupation such as "Mail Carrier" it is unlikely these men so uniquely listed were personal servants, cooks, or the like. As for George Frazier* it is likely we will never know how or why he became listed with the rank "Captain" following his name as none of the other Black Southerners buried there had any rank specified as if it might have been their master’s rank.

The real question for you and others to consider is why if all the Black Southerners prisoner at Camp Morton had to do was go to the Camp Commander’s office, take a brief oath and walk away free men in all definition why those men chose to stay even unto death.

North Carolina Troops, Volume I: –

"When Fort Fisher fell to the Union troops in January, 1865, the following blacks are recorded [by Union forces] as being among the captured Confederates:

Charles Dempsey, Private, Company F, 36th NC Regiment (2nd NC Artillery), Negro. Captured at Fort Fisher January 15, 1865 and confined at Point Lookout, MD, until paroled and exchanged at Coxes Landing, James River, VA, February 14-15, 1865.

Henry Dempsey, Private, Company F, 36th NC Regiment (2nd NC Artillery), Negro. Captured at Fort Fisher January 15, 1865 and confined at Point Lookout, MD, until paroled and exchanged at Coxes Landing, James River, VA, February 14-15, 1865.

J. Doyle, Private, Company E, 40th NC Regiment (3rd NC Artillery), Negro. Captured at Fort Fisher January 15, 1865 and confined at Point Lookout, MD, until paroled and exchanged at Boulware’s Wharf, James River, VA, March 16, 1865.

Daniel Herring, Cook, Company F, 36th NC Regiment (2nd NC Artillery), Negro. Captured at Fort Fisher January 15, 1865 and confined at Point Lookout, MD, until released after taking Oath of Allegiance June 19, 1865"

Why did the Black Confederate soldiers (as noted by their Union captors) at Ft. Fisher, NC, stay to be taken prisoner and why did Union forces parole and exchange most of them just as they did white, Hispanic, Indian, and other Confederate soldiers? Why did they not simply "run away" and switch sides rather than remain Confederate soldiers?

Perhaps some of them had been stationed there a very long time:

The Daily Journal, Evansville, Indiana, November 1, 1862 : "…seven regiments of negroes, armed and equipped, had arrived at Wilmington, N.C., to occupy the various rebel fortresses during the sickly season. Is any one so ignorant as to suppose that the operations of these negroes are to be confirmed to the sickly season? Not a bit of it. They will be used in all seasons; and, if the experiment of arming the 7,000 mentioned as arriving at Wilmington proves successful, we may anticipate a general arming of the entire male portion of the slave population."

Let us look at even more of what you term "anecdotal" evidence and then you can explain how many "anecdotes" constitute a fact. You will no doubt note that these proper references to Black Confederate combat soldiers date from all periods of the War:

Letter of Private Frank Bailey, 34th New York Infantry Regiment to his brother in Middleville, New York: – "West Point, Virginia, 12 May 1862

I hear that the Rebels sent out a Regt. of niggers to fight our men and that they were as naked as when they were born, except the brogues on their feet, and they incited to all sorts of cruelty. It is said that they cut the throats of our wounded and then rob them of every article of any value. The soldiers are death on niggers now. If they catch a nigger in the woods, and there is no officer near, they hang them without any ceremony. Now if this is true that the Southern chivalry as they style themselves put these niggers up to such deeds as this, may the curse of good light on them. It is worse than the English were in the Revolution to hire the Indians, but their race is about run when the stoop to such barbarism as that. Yesterday there was two niggers hung close by here by our men. One of them had $20.00 government note in his pocket. There is no mistake but the Rebels have black soldiers for I have seen them brought in as prisoners of war. I saw one who had the stripes of an orderly sergeant on his coat. I don’t beleive in taking them prisoner, but kill them where ever they find them, that they may never more curse the land with their hateful presence."

Frederick Douglass, Douglass’ Monthly, IV (Sept. 1861), pp 516 – "…there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate Army…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 do to destroy the Federal government…There were such soldiers at Manassas and they are probably there still."

"Negroes in the Confederate Army," Journal of Negro History, Charles Wesle, Vol. 4, #3, (1919), 244-245 – "Seventy free blacks enlisted in the Confederate Army in Lynchburg, Virginia. Sixteen companies of free men of color marched through Augusta, Georgia on their way to fight in Virginia."

"Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle," Kenneth W. Noe, The University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY, 2001. (page 270) – "The part of Adams’ Brigade that the 42nd Indiana was facing were the ‘Louisiana Tigers.’ This name was given to Colonel Gibson’s 13th Louisiana Infantry, which included five companies of ‘Avegno Zouaves’ who still were wearing their once dashing traditional blue jackets, red caps and red baggy trousers. These five Zouaves companies were made up of Irish, Dutch, Negroes, Spaniards, Mexicans, and Italians."

From James G. Bates’ letter to his father reprinted in the 1 May 1863 "Winchester [Indiana] Journal" (the 13th IVI ["Hoosier Regiment"] was involved in operations around the Suffolk, Virginia area in April-May 1863 ) – "I can assure you [Father], of a certainty, that the rebels have negro soldiers in their army. One of their best sharp shooters, and the boldest of them all here is a negro. He dug himself a rifle pit last night [16 April 1863] just across the river and has been annoying our pickets opposite him very much to-day. You can see him plain enough with the naked eye, occasionally, to make sure that he is a "wooly-head," and with a spy-glass there is no mistaking him."

"Indianapolis Daily Evening Gazette" 12 March 1863 refers to the 5 March 1863 fight around Thompson’s Station, near Franklin, TN The 85th Indiana Volunteer Infantry reported: "NEGRO REGIMENTS IN THE REBEL ARMY

During the fight the battery in charge of the 85th Indiana [Volunteer Infantry] was attacked by [*in italics*] two rebel negro regiments. [*end italics*] Our artillerists double-shotted their guns and cut the black regiments to pieces, and brought their battery safely off. . . . It has been stated, repeatedly, for two weeks past, that a large number, perhaps one-fourth, of Van Dorn’s force were [*in italics*] negro soldiers [*end italics*], and the statement is fully confirmed by this unfortunate engagement. The Southern rebels have forced their miserable negroes to take up arms, to destroy this Government, and enslave us and our children."

After the action at Missionary Ridge, Commissary Sergeant William F. Ruby forwarded a casualty list written in camp at Ringgold, Georgia about 29 November 1863, to William S. Lingle for publication. Ruby’s letter was partially reprinted in the Lafayette Daily Courier for 8 December 1863: "Ruby says among the rebel dead on the [Missionary] Ridge he saw a number of negroes in the Confederate uniform."

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: "There were also quite a number of 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."

Federal Official Records Series 1, Volume 15, Part 1, Pages 137-138, report of the Union commander: "Pickets were thrown out that night, and Captain Hennessy, Company E, of the Ninth Connecticut, having been sent out with his company, captured a colored rebel scout, well mounted, who had been sent out to watch our movements."

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol. XLIX, Part II, pg. 253 – April 6, 1865: "The rebels [Forrest] are recruiting negro troops at Enterprise, Miss., and the negroes are all enrolled in the State."

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol. XIV, pg. 24, second paragraph, Colonel B. C. Christ, 50th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, official report of May 30, 1862 regarding Confederate forces opposing him at Pocotaligo, SC., "It is also difficult to state the force of the enemy, but it could not have been less than from 600 to 800. There were six companies of mounted riflemen, besides infantry, among which were a considerable number of colored men." —

From the diary of James Miles, 185th N.Y.V.I., entry dated January 8, 1865 – "Sargt said war is close to being over. saw several negros fighting for those rebels."

Miami Weekly News of Miami, Missouri, September 01, 1905 – "The following is an account of the Eighth Annual [Quantrill’s Raiders] Reunion at Independence on August 25-26,1905 : "Among those registered Friday morning were Captain Ben Morrow of Lake City, Lieutenant Lee Miller of Knobnoster, Hi George of Grain Valley, Sylvester Akers of Levasy, William Greer of Lexington, John A. Workman of Wellington, George (Jim) Holand of Kansas City (this the Negro spy Quantrill sent to Lawrence)…"

THE PICTORIAL BOOK OF ANECDOTES AND INCIDENTS OF THE REBELLION (p. 319) by Frazer Kirkland, 1889. A collection of Grand Army of the Republic –


One of the best morning’s work done at Yorktown was that of reducing to a state of perfect inutility in this mundane sphere, a rebel negro rifleman, who, through his skill as a marksman, had done more injury to our men than any dozen of his white compeers, in the attempted labor of trimming off the complement of Union sharpshooters. The latter had known him a long time, had kept an eye on him, and lain in wait to pick him off. His habit was to perch himself in a big tree, and, keeping himself hid behind the body, annoy the Union men by firing upon them. He climbed the tree as usual one morning, but in advance of the others coming out, and, smuggling himself into his position, was anticipating his usual day of quietude. The Union men might have killed him as he came out, but purposely avoided shooting, so as not to alarm the others. His tree was about twenty rods from one of the Union pits. When our men fired on the advancing rebel pickets, he of course saw the fix he was in–that he was indeed and decidedly up a tree.

‘I say, big nigger,’ called out one of the Union soldiers, ‘you better come down from there.’

‘What for?’ returned the big nigger.

"I want you as prisoner,"

‘Not as this chile knows of,’ replied the concealed Ethiop.

‘Just as you say,’ replied our sharpshooter.

In about an hour the nigger poked his head out. Our man was on the lookout for him; he had his rifle on the bead-line ready–pulled the trigger–whiz-z went the bullet, down came the nigger. He was shot through the head."

If you do not care to believe the writings of white Union soldiers or white newspapers then I invite you to consider the following July, 1937, Slave Narratives interview with James Cape, former slave and by his own words Black Confederate combat soldier wounded in action:


There is certainly more which exists that I have not cited here and there will be more discovered in the future, but what I have provided suffices to prove that while you and Mr. McPherson may hold dear to your hearts the opinion that there were no Black Confederate combat soldiers or perhaps your "rare occurrence when a slave may have picked up a weapon for self-defense" the Union Army and the Federal government obviously knew without a doubt that there were Black Confederate combat soldiers facing them in the field. By James Cape’s statement he knew it, too.

I have left a message for the Editorial Editor of the Raleigh News Observer asking that he contact me about submitting an op-ed in response to your piece. I ask that in the sense of fairness as as a fellow historian you endorse this request with the Editor and let the readers consider both positions and reach their own considered conclusions.

Of course, if for some reason you do not want the readers to have the same opportunity I have offered you to review the historical record one would have to question why you would want to keep them from being able to consider the facts as history has recorded them.

Through painstaking research and thorough, uncommented documentation we celebrate the courage, sacrifice, and heritage of ALL Southerners who had to make agonizing personal choices under impossible circumstances.

"The first law of the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice." – Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

We simply ask that all act upon the facts of history. We invite your questions.

Your Obedient Servant,

Colonel Michael Kelley, CSA
Commanding, 37th Texas Cavalry (Terrell’s)
"We are a band of brothers!"

"I came here as a friend…let us stand together. Although we differ in color, we should not differ in sentiment." – LT Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA, Memphis, Tennessee – July, 1875