The Search for Black Confederate Soldiers part II

    Okay, I've got some stuff that seems fairly credible to me, from Ervin L. Jordan Jr's Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia. I'll refrain from mentioning anecdotal evidence, and stick to stuff for which Jordan cites documentation, either Confederate Official Records or newspaper articles published either during the war or soon after.

      On page 217, Jordan refers to Union troops coming under fire from 150 armed blacks who were attached to South Carolina infantry. He sources it to Official Records, Series 1, 2:124-30. He cites OR series 1, 2: 185-186 for the presence of black Confederates at the First Battle of Bull Run.  He doesn't say  if this came from a military report or eyewitness statements.

     The May 29, 1866 Daily Richmond Examiner said that two black veterans of the Richmond Howitzers were groundskeepers at the military cemetery(Jordan, pg. 226, note 30).  In 1874, the roll of the Richmond Light Infantry Blues named at least one black veteran. The May 23, 1866 Lexington Gazette Banner published a letter from the widow of a black soldier in the Richmond  Light Infantry Blues(pg. 219). The Feb. 4, 1862 Baltimore Traveler said there were black troops in Richmond--this may have been hearsay.(pg. 219, note 12) The June 8, 1862 Norfolk Union reported that blacks were spying for the Confederacy(pg. 228, note 36).

     So far as I can tell, there is no record of the Confederate government authorizing the raising of black troops before 1865. If there were black troops recruited, the initiative came from individual CSA officers. I apologize for saying that the existence of black Confederates was "well documented"; that was a thoughtless and uninformed statement.


    We went over this issue before, right! Like I do not go over the same subject scores of times. hahaha

    But this issue appears to never go away and so I applaud you for your efforts.

    If the officers of the South could not even empty their chamber pots without the aid of a servant slave, how the hell could they go into battle without some help from a few of their own slaves?

    And I am sure that the aristocrats of the South, duly dressed their servants for proper presentation to their subordinates.

    Like I have noted many times before, Alexander and Caesar and a host of other heroes had their famous horses and dogs and swords, George Washington had his famous horse and his famous Black Slave present during his great battles.

    I know. I know that these Southern Heritage nuts will not shut up about anomalies. hahahah

    anyway, thank you for keeping on, keeping on!

    Thanks for posting. There were no Black Confederates. The bigots will not admit to the lie. Life goes on,

    I begin to doubt  whether there could be any evidence that rm would accept.

    The Baltimore Traveler article was anecdotal not from a reporter. There were no blacks paid as soldiers in the Confederate Army. Evan Jordan's scholarship had been discussed in a two-part article at Civil War Memory, so there was nothing new here.

    This is out of the top of my head, but the issue of payment regarding the building/erection of the Nation's Capitol was discussed in my West Wing Stream. (Not that I have not seen docs on this subject as well as fine blogs)

    The slaves built the White House. Where are the receipts.

    Well there are receipts still extant and the payments were made to the owners of those slaves.

    Just a thought.

    If you are getting to the issue of blacks being paid as Confederate soldiers, there is no evidence that the aforementioned black widow would have received death benefits for a Confederate soldier.

    We're blacks forced into service for the Confederacy? Yes. Were there documented black Confederate soldiers who risked their lives to fight to keep people in slavery? No. 

    Did mulatto soldiers in Louisiana offer their services to the Confederacy? Yes. Were they accepted? No. Did the mulattos run to the Union troops when fighting began? Yes. Did they fight for the Union? No. 

    Are there documented black Union soldiers and officers? Yes. Did they carry arms and battle Confederates? Yes. Were black Union troops massacred by Confederates after the black troops surrendered? Yes.

    Fact vs. fiction.

    The Black Confederate myth will persist just like the argument about global warming. There will be claims of objective historical document and reliable scientific evidence, respectively.

     I actually read the Civil War Memory piece on Jordan some weeks ago. It didn't refute him, so I saw no reason to mention it. The author's point was that Jordan's book didn't support the extravagant claims made by the Sons of the Confederacy. I'm not one of the Sons of the Confederacy; I just want to know if any blacks fought in the Confederate army or alongside it.

     Does rm know that all black Confederate soldiers were forced into service? Is there documentation explaining why every one of them was  there? Jordan cites a letter by Thomas Phelps, a slave soldier who told his mother he was eager to kill Yankees.


    On the next page of Jordan's book is a note from slave Tom ridiculing the idea that a slave would fight for the Confederacy.


    I have no documentation that establishes that slaves willingly fought for the Union. Do we have documentation that Thomas Phelps actually fired a shot at a Yankee? Could he have been slyly trying to gain praise from his master. 

    Again there is no proof the blacks were considered as soldiers, recorded as soldiers, or received benefits as soldiers in the Confederate army

     Does rm know that all black Confederate soldiers were forced into service? Is there documentation explaining why every one of them was  there?

    You state that there were black Confederate soldiers based on anecdotes 

    Here is the true story of slaves at Bull run as told by one of the slaves. Here is documentation of being forced to fight. This information is not that hard to find.

    I don't want you to think that I am angry at you. I am angry at the bigots who pose as historians and tell half-truths. I am angry at people like Jordan who do factoid snippets having no idea of the time and hard work it takes to wear the badge of a historian. There has been a concerted effort to put the idea of Black Confederates in our collective heads.

     I'm glad you're not angry at me, but not all the evidence Jordan cited was anecdotal. There is the stuff in Official Records, the stuff about black veterans in the 1866 newspapers, and the roll of the Richmond Light Infantry Blues. The value of anecdotal evidence is limited, but I don't know if we should dismiss all eyewitness accounts as worthless. I think Jordan did put time and work into his research.

     I don't know that there were black soldiers in the Confederacy, I just think it is possible. Apart from the Louisiana troops who defected to the Union, I doubt there would have been more than several hundred(if there were any at all). If the Nazis could find collaborators in the occupied countries, it is possible that the Confederacy could have found a few blacks who would serve it. I'm just saying.

     Was Richard commending rm, or me, or both of us?

    You have a belief that there may have been black Confederates. I see no proof of black Confederates. During the war, the city of Richmond increased restrictions on slaves and forced them to work on trenches. This is not a likely scenario to arm blacks.

    When you have proof of Black Confederates, I'll take a look. Could there have been a secret army of Confederate women soldiers trained to fight a guerrilla war? Yes. Show me proof that they existed. Could the Confederates have trained Dolphins to attack Union ships. It's possible. Show me proof.

    Armed black slaves would have trained their guns on the slave-owners at the first opportunity. Slaves hated slavery. When Union troops came near plantations, slaves fled. The Union troops were often overwhelmed by escaped slaves. Thousands escaped in Virginia alone.There were no Black Confederates.

    We have human bodies to document black Union troops and slaves escaping the Confederacy. We have nothing similar to support the existence of Black Confederates. 

    Well, I'll just say I think Jordan's evidence is fairly strong and leave it at that.

    From the beginning I have admired how you have handled this issue. 

    Deleted, wrong place

    Double post deleted. [I hope].  

    Thanks some discussions make me revisit issues to make sure that nothing new has occurred. Thanks for the exchange.

    To be clear, I do not/did not mean to imply any criticism of you or your arguments but it was Aaron Carine's approach to the back and forth that struck me and that is to whom my comment was directed .


    I'm curious and wonder if you could indulge me by telling me what you think of Jordan's data about black Confederates firing on Union troops at Bull Run and John Parker's statement that blacks were coerced to fight. I just wonder where my arguments of flawed or incompleteness data from Jordan falls down,

    Thanks in advance.

    Again, this is an important subject.

    And the comments reflect this importance.

    I guess we are stuck on documenting our objections to this Southern Heritage thing.

    Again, the aristocrats of the Southern Cause could do nothing without their slaves. That is how they grew up.

    That other Southern Aristocrats would not contribute their slaves to 'the cause' also makes a lot of sense.

    I applaud you in that you have touched a nerve.

    Good for you.

    This is an interesting subject on a number of issues.

    Again, well done.

    May be you can help with this Richard. I can see where slave -owners would bring their slaves with them. I can see slaves being forced to fire on Union troops. I wouldn't call those slaves Confederate soldiers. The Confederacy didn't recognize slaves or freeman as worthy of being soldiers until the last weeks of the war.

    The single sour being used to justify the existence of black Confederate soldiers has produced flawed data. The data about Bull a Run was incomplete and did not include the information about those who were forced to fight.

    There is tons of data of slaves and freedmen running to Union lines. Why is this idea of willing black Confederate soldiers so hard to kill? 

    Are we talking about some possibly mentally ill people who thought that fighting for the Confederacy was a good idea?

    Here is one comment about Jordan's book

    The most controversial parts of the book are in the second half ("Give Us a Flag") and deal with black Virginians who served the Confederate cause either by taking up arms in its defense or voluntarily supporting the white soldiers who did. As have many other authors (including Confederate apologists who continue to deny that the Civil War and the Confederacy were essentially about slavery and racism), Jordan cites numerous anecdotes about black Virginians fighting with Rebel forces or serving as cooks, teamsters, servants, musicians, laborers, and in other noncombatant roles in the Confederate armies and government. He also supplies a fair amount of anecdotal evidence for a deep split among white Southerners over the propriety of arming slaves. Even as the Confederacy was sliding to destruction in the spring of 1865, many whites were adamantly opposed to the tardy steps taken by the Confederate congress to organize black fighting units. This ongoing opposition from all corners of the Confederacy -- not to mention the overall pattern of racism and subjugation of blacks in Civil War America -- calls into serious question the value of the anecdotal evidence often cited to "prove" widespread African-American support for the Southern cause, because it implies widespread white gratitude for this support. Examining this topic alone would have been a worthwhile book. As other reviewers here state, Jordan could have done a much more thorough job in testing this anecdotal evidence.

    Jordan writes about nonexistent troops. He says two units of Black Confederates fought in Mannassas. Black soldiers never fought for the Confederacy. In 1924, Virginia agreed to pay blacks who had served the Confederacy $25 a year, body these were body servants, etc. When the Confederacy did finally agree to enlisting blacks, the war was over. No black Confederate troops. Took the battlefield. There were no black Confederate soldiers. What am I missing? People still seem to be arguing that they existed.


    I have to mention that the reviewer rm cites concludes that there were indeed some blacks engaged in "military or quasi-military service" for the Confederacy. I don't think any sensible person claims that there was widespread African-American support for the Confederacy(I don't think the Sons of the Confederacy count as sensible); we're talking about whether there were some who were willing to pick up a rifle.

    Willing or coerced? Did people spy for the Confederacy willingly or because they had family at home at risk or they faced personal risk?

    The term "military or quasi-military" does not exclude being forced. The reviewer Anonymous ignores that there is no record of a "military or quasi-military" person of color being captured. The lone exception would be those slaves that were to be mustered into the Confederate Army at the war's end. Now those guys were captured in Richmond before they fired a shot. They offered no resistance to Union troops.

    The problem that you have is to explain how a slave has the free will to fight for cause "X". If you offer freedom for fighting for the Confederacy is that a truly "free" choice or a bribe? Isn't a gun a chance to run? I do not see how slaves made an independent choice to fight for the Confederacy. If the bargain was freedom, that is clearly not a willingly choice but the most rational choice. The fact that they had to fight for freedom indicates they had no independence. Independence came after being forced to decide whether to remain a slave or be a free man.

    Blacks fighting for the Union fled slavery and made a truly independent choice to fight. The first black fighting unit was the 1st South Carolina. That speaks volumes.

    Reviewer Anonymous will have to explain the "free choice" option available to the slave. The most rational conclusion is that there were no black Confederates. There were coerced people.

    It's Aaron; it's calls me anonymous because I'm on someone else's computer, and the damn thing won't let me use my name.

     Maybe all the blacks in the Confederate army, if there were any(I consider that probable, but not certain) were coerced; I don't know, and I don't think rm knows. I don't think rm is being fair in dismissing Jordan as a charlatan. The Amazon reviewer he cited had some criticisms, but he accepted Jordan's basic thesis, and Civil War Memory considers Jordan a serious source, although certainly not beyond question.

    The real question is did a slave faced with a master who wanted bodies for the Confederate Army have any "free" choice. Continued slavery, possibly with an angry master or the promise of freedom were the options. You only went free if you wanted to be cannon fodder. I don't see how you can say that someone did something "willingly" under those circumstances. 

    I see no support for "willing" Confederates. If any fired shots for the Confederacy it was at the point of a gun like Bull Run or it was with the promise of freedom. The slave could not choose freedom and not serving. There was no free will.

    Sorry to pressure you Richard, I shouldn't have.

    I am not pressured. ha

    You got me thinking about a previous blog where I discussed Vessey and the Black Sparticus that Monroe ran down and killed.

    At the turn of the 19th century a chill went through the entire South following the revolution in Haiti.

    There is no frickin way Southern whites would arm their slaves.

    Of this I am assured.

    I reckon if the confederacy had armed one black brigade, Sherman could have stayed home.

    Yep the armed blacks would have killed the Confederates.

    I'll just say that I think Jordan's evidence is fairly strong and leave it at that.

    You cam into the discussion believing that there were many black Confederate soldiers. You leave believing that there were some black Confederate soldiers. I took the for granted that there were black Confederate soldier. After reading more about the Civil War, I found numerous skeptics and people willing to lie about the Confederacy. Multiple sources question if blacks fought willingly for the Confederacy. You found one who indicates that there is a possibility that they may have fought for CSA.

    I found a slave who describes the circumstances at Bull Run. I found actual black Union soldiers .i found slaves who ran to the Union lines. You find one source. I note that the source has provided flawed information. You stand by your source. It should be noted that Ervan Jordan helped singer Lionel Richie "confirm" that an ancestor fought for the Confederacy. This confirmation is disputed.

    You see Jordan is reliable. I see him as questionable. I can point to actual troops who fought for the Union and you have ........... Jordan. I think my argument is stronger. Could there have been pathetic, cowardly, and possibly impaired slaves who willingly fought for the Union? Yes. I just have not seen concrete proof they exist. You point out one guy who said he was going to kill Yankees, but we have no idea if he fought anywhere.

    So again I will state the were no Black Confederates. There were no black Confederates authorized to fight for the Confederacy. Given that there were uniformed Union Colored Troops, there was no equivalent in the Confederacy. Ervan Jordan has no concrete evidence that there were troops recognized by the rebel government of the Confederacy.

    I came from accepting black Confederates to being a skeptic. You still believe in Black Confederate troops

    Blacks were slaves. The Confederacy did not allow slaves to become soldiers until. the end of the war. Those would be soldiers were captured prior to firing a shot.

    We have documentation of the Confederacy forcing slaves to fight. Now it comes down to did blacks willingly fight for the Confederacy. The idea that they would fight to remain slaves given the freedom offered by the Union lines seems unlikely. Did slaves fight for their freedom? If this is the argument being made. It seems that these individuals fought, it seems more likely that they were freedom fighters rather than Confederates. 

    I wasn't there but other than freedom, I see no reason for a slave to fire a gun for the Confederacy. If there were people who did this, they were people fighting under duress. The Confederacy was built on enslavement and the inferiority of black people. If people fought for freedom rather than of their free will, they were being forced to fight. I don't see a situation where a slave would fight to stay a slave unless they were mentally impaired.

    Those who fought for the Union were making a free will decision. The black in the Union were inspired by Abraham Lincoln.They formed recognized units. Those unfortunate souls who fired shots for the Confederacy did so at gunpoint or because it was the only way to gain freedom. In either case, they were not true black Confederates making an independent choice to support to ideas behind the Confederacy. I don't know why this is such a hard concept. There were no black Confederates. There was no admiration for Jefferson Davis.

    Aaron is going to have to document something that verifies that a black slave had the free will and independence to make a decision to become a Confederate. That documentation doesn't exist. Black Confederates with free will are as mythical as unicorns.

    BTW the point isn't that I think that Ervan Jordan is a charlatan. Although out of all the tomes on the Civil War Jordan is the only one you found that that remotely supports your view of black Confederates. He finds lots of them anecdotally. The point is that there is no argument for a slave to freely fight for the Confederacy because the slave wasn't free to act on his own wishes.

    If we are going to hold fast to the fantasy of black Confederates, what is the reason they fought for the Confederacy?

    They loved whites so much they we willing to die for them

    They were fighting for freedom 

    They loved being in bondage.



    Aaron, I don't have time to track down all of Ervan Jordan's nonsense and sloppy research. The integrated Richmond Howitzers are mentioned. Here is information on that unit

    • The “Richmond Howitzers” who saw action at First Manassas in 1861 were an integrated artillery unit and at least two regiments, one free and one slave, fought in the battle.

    An entire slave unit is alleged. There are no facts to support this.

    The only thing that can be documented is that the unit erected a stone to a slave cook for the Howitzers. He was not a soldier. He was not a Black Confederate. You repeatedly gloss over the sloppiness of Jordan's book because it is your only source of support. It is crap history easily debunked.

    Yes, Jordan is a charlatan. His work is worthless. I have tried to have honest debate. It has been frustrating and futile. Continue your belief in black Confederates. I know you have not proven their existence. People seem to find you doing great work on this issue. I see gaping flaws that you ignore. At this point, I really don't give a damn because I know that black Confederates are a myth.

    Rm, this guy Levin wasn't even talking about Jordan, so how does this refute him? Jordan cites the newspaper as naming two black veterans of the Richmond Howitzers. How do you know the newspaper was lying? Levin is attacking another guy who is a charlatan; that has nothing to do with Jordan. If Jordan did omit evidence that the guys at Bull Run were coerced, he should be criticized, but that isn't enough grounds to dismiss him as a fraud.

     If all the blacks who bore arms were conscripted, and we don't know that for sure, it would be technically accurate to call them "Confederate soldiers". I think there MIGHT have been a few score to a few hundred; that wouldn't support any claim that the South's African-Americans liked the Confederacy; which I don't believe. I have some evidence apart from Jordan, but it is anecdotal, so I know you wouldn't accept it.

    The guys at Bull Run were slaves, and Coates' words here are wise

    But it isn't inconceivable that a small number of blacks may have been informally recruited(or conscripted) without any paperwork. I don't say it is so; I say it is possible.

    You argue fiction that you decided was true rather than fact. It is also possible that someone saw Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe eating dinner. I didn't say it happened, I just said it was possible. All I have is some anecdotal evidence from a guy who seems reliable. I also have some anecdotal evidence that the moon landing was faked. I didn't say it was faked, I just said it was possible.

    You believe that blacks fought willingly for the South. One of the great things about the U.S. is that you are free to express your beliefs. You have provided no proof. Anecdotes are not proof. 

    You are amusing. You have a concrete thought process, but your humorous post made my day. 

    There are anecdotal reports of unicorns too, you can investigate them next. 

    Reviewer Aaron notes that reviewer rm was not present during the Civil War. Reviewer rm acknowledges his absence, but notes that being endowed with common sense has questions when shown a statement from a Slavs that said slave is going off to kill Yankees. Reviewer Aaron will have to explain how much free will the slave had to make an independent decision to go off to War. Did he do so without consulting his master? Did his master encourage the slave to fight. The statement by itself raises questions 

    Reviewer rm also questions why we should trust data in Ervan Jordan's book given that it is so filled with questionable and incomplete material. Jordan's sloppy research was noted in a two-part review of Jordan's work in a prior post. Reviewer rm wonders why Jordan's crap book is being presented as a "new" source of information when it clearly is nothing that was not discussed before.

    I'm willing to give rm the last word. I'll just say that I  don't know if Phelps volunteered or was ordered to join. His words to his mother suggested that he wanted to fight, but I don't know what was going on. Whether the free blacks who(probably) joined Confederate forces volunteered or were conscripted is also a matter that will require a lot more information to resolve--if it ever can be resolved.

    I don't care what you are willing to give me. I'll point out that you only have a belief that black slaves and free men fought willingly for the Confederacy. You have no proof. There were no free  black men who probably fought for the Confederacy. You knowingly used a flawed source to make your arguments. Pathetic.

    You have a concrete thought process that does not admit error and clings to fantasy. No different than climate change deniers. Facts can't alter a mind that is locked in fantasy. You relied on a hack.

    The bottom line is there is no point to this 'black confederates' post by Aaron

    Except a daydream of denial of historical reality, that lurks in the recesses of the brains of those who go vainly digging for obscure unverifiable references.

    No number of never to be found iron clad documents of armies of black confederates, no imaginary Confederate graveyard full of blacks, will ever absolve Southern slave owners of their crimes. Those crimes are unalterable history.

    The abominations the slave owners routinely inflicted, the cruel fanatical ideology they believed in with a zealotry unexcelled even for the 19th century are facts that can never be exonerated, excused away or forgotten.

    Hear, hear!


    I can see why someone today would claim to be a black Confederate because there is money and notoriety to be gained. The idea of a slave using free will to decide to fight is an impossibility. A free black man who was given a gun and didn't head for Union lines would have only hesitated because his family was still under the master's control as slaves.

    I'm keeping my resolve to give rm the last word, but I want to inform NCD that I haven't asserted that there were "armies" of black Confederates or a "Confederate graveyard full of blacks".

    You don't have to keep your resolve on my account. I interpret it as inability to defend the charlatan you used as a source. For example, the Richmond Howitzers were not integrated they had a black slave. Slaves at Bull Run fought the Union at gunpoint. Yet you embarrass yourself by containing to claim nonsense like free black men fought willingly for the Confederacy. You come off as an apologist rather than a legitimate "reviewer". 

    Like the black Confederate, the myth of the loyal black slave who would die for 'Massa was created in the south by Lost Cause apologists. You have been bamboozled.

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