Friday, July 16, 2010

The Untold Story

by David Ware

As the Sesquicentennial unfolds, we will be indoctrinated with stories of how blacks deserted the South and flocked to the Union army to fight for their freedom. Nothing will be said about the majority millions who stayed behind in loyalty, friendship and patriotic devotion to their southern homeland.

Blacks came to this continent in Virginia at Jamestown in 1619. During the first war of Revolution, some 8,000 blacks served in George Washington’s army. Many made the trip with Washington from Mount Vernon to Boston. Despite the offer of emancipation to any slave who served the cause of Britain, few left the colonies. Blacks also served in the War of 1812.

In 1822, Liberia was created for American free blacks. Fewer than 3000 left for the new country, for by this time they were not Africans, they were Americans.

By 1860, it was clear that slavery was a dying issue. It was possible for those that desired their freedom to achieve it and it was happening. In 1800, for example, the black population of Washington, D. C. was 746 of which 123 were free. In 1860 there were 10,983 of which 9,209 were free.

The Confederate States of America in 1861 contained 500,000 free blacks of which 60,000 were in Virginia alone. There was no mass black migration from the South to the North. By and large, southern slaves and ex-slaves viewed the south as their home.

Slaves and free blacks fought for the first Confederacy in 1776 and in the second Confederacy in 1861 because they were fighting for their home. A federal observer of Stonewall Jackson’s Army on the way to Antietam estimated 3,000 black soldiers mixed in with what he called “the Rebel horde.” One half of the people that worked at Tredegar Iron Works and Chimborazo Hospital were black.

The greatest contribution that black patriots made to the Confederacy, however, was in shoring up and maintaining the home front. The Confederate army had the highest conscription rate of any army ever assembled on the face of the Earth. Upwards of some 90% of eligible white men served the cause, leaving no young men to look after things back home. To my knowledge of all the letters that survived the war not one of them indicated that any soldier had to go home because of concern for the safety and welfare of their farms and families because of any actions by Southern blacks.

The Yankee does not understand the social intimacy between Southern blacks and whites. As a boy, I thought nothing of the fact that the children I played with while their mothers and fathers worked in our fields had to eat in a different place than we did, but were right in the front row at our family funerals and weddings. After getting his PhD from Boston University, Martin Luther King was asked to describe Boston: “Boston is the Birmingham of the north but Birmingham will change for the better, Boston won’t.” Undoubtedly, loyal blacks enabled the Confederate States of America to exist for four years instead of four weeks. To them, true patriotism was the belief that their descendants would benefit from their actions. The deeds of these loyal, noble people should not ever be forgotten or swept into a corner by political correctness.

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