Amos Rucker---A Soldier Remembered
By: Calvin E. Johnson, Jr., Author of
When America stood for God, Family and Country.
1064 West Mill Drive
Kennesaw, Georgia 30152
Phone: 770 428 0978
Remember the American soldiers who defend our great nation.
A article recently appeared in a Charlotte, North Carolina newspaper about
Wary Clyburn, a Black Confederate, who will be remembered on August 26, 2007
during a reunion of his descendants in Monroe, North Carolina. August 10th
will also mark the 102nd anniversary of the death of a Black Confederate,
Amos Rucker, of Atlanta, Ga.
Black Confederates, why haven't we heard more about them?
"I don't want to call it a conspiracy to ignore the role of the Blacks, both
above and below the Mason-Dixon Line, but it was definitely a tendency that
began around 1910"---Ed Bearrs, National Park Service Historian
Is American history still taught in our schools?
Today, the news focus is on Michael Vick's troubles and Barry Bond's home
runs. In 1905, newspapers led with the opening of Woolworth's stores, the
Atlanta, Ga. Terminal Railroad Station dedication with the US Army Band
playing "Dixie."..... And on August 10th, Atlanta grieved the loss of a
The movie "Glory" enlightened people of the role played by African-Americans
serving in the Union Army during the War Between the States, 1861-1865.
And books like, "Forgotten Confederates---An Anthology about Black
Southerners" by Charles Kelly Barrow, J.H. Segars and R.B. Roseburg, further
enlightened us to the role played by African-Americans who served the
Confederacy. (webmaster note: It has been republished in 2004, as
"Black Confederates". The book lists many black Confederate soldiers
and support personnel, with solid proof.)
Frederick Douglas, abolitionist and former slave, reported, "There are at
present moment many colored men in the Confederate Army doing their duty not
only as cooks, but also as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders
and bullets in their pockets."
Who was Amos Rucker?
Amos Rucker, born in Elbert County, Georgia, was a servant of Alexander
"Sandy" Rucker and both joined the 33rd Georgia Regiment of the Confederate
Army. Amos got his first taste of battle when a fellow soldier was killed
by a Union bullet. Rucker quickly took the dead soldier's rifle and fired
back at the enemy.
After the War Between the States, Amos Rucker came back to Atlanta where he
met and married Martha and the couple was blessed with many children and
In Atlanta, Amos joined the W.H.T. Walker Camp of the United Confederate
Veterans. It was made up of Southern Veterans whose purpose was to remember
those who served in the war and help those in need. The meetings were held
at 102 Forsyth Street in Atlanta where Amos was responsible for calling the
roll of members.
Amos and Martha felt that the members of Walker Camp were like their own
family. It is written that Amos would say, "My folks gave me everything I
want." These UCV men helped Amos and his wife buy a house on the west side
of Atlanta and John M. Slaton also helped prepare a will for Rucker.
Slaton, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Gordon Camp, would, as
governor of Georgia, commute the death sentence of Leo Frank.
Amos Rucker's last words to members of his UCV Camp were, "Give my love to
His funeral services were conducted by preacher and former Confederate
General Clement A. Evans. Rucker was buried with his Confederate gray
uniform and wrapped in his beloved Confederate Battle Flag. Today, some
members of the Martin Luther King family are buried near Amos and Martha at
The Reverend T.P. Cleveland led the prayer and when Captain William T.
Harrison read the poem, "When Rucker Called The Roll" there was not a dry
eye among the crowd of many Black and White mourners.
The grave of Amos and Martha Rucker was without a marker for many years
until 2006, when the Sons of Confederate Veterans remarked it.
Did you know that the first military monument, near our nation's Capitol, to
honor an African-American soldier is the Confederate Monument at Arlington
"When you eliminate the Black Confederate soldier, you've eliminated the
history of the South."---quote by the late Dr. Leonard Haynes, Professor, Southern
University, or some say it was General Lee in 1864. Good quote,
whoever said it.
Lest We Forget!!!
Frederick Douglas wrote: “There are at the present moment, many
colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants,
and laborers, but 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 and build up that of the
traitors and rebels. “
Letter to the Editor in Midland, TX by
I called Principal
Winget's office yesterday and sent the following Email to him of which he
acknowledged receipt to help him prepare for this meeting:
...I am aware of the hearing that has been instigated regarding
certain of the symbols, names and traditions associated with your school. I
wish to offer my aid in preparing you to discuss this matter based on
historical fact to counter Ms. Templeton's emotions.
As a Civil War historian and Texas Confederate reenactor I am well
aware that Ms. Templeton's "offense" is the result of lack of knowledge of
history and the resultant failure to understand the topic about which she is
so highly motivated. Like many people on both sides of the issue she is
operating from a position of emotion, belief and assumption rather than a
solid grounding in historical fact.
Ms. Templeton specifically suffers from a lack of education or
understanding of the nature of the Confederate States of America and the
Confederate Army, especially the Confederate Army of Texas. She demands
that her misconceptions become the rule by which others must conduct their
The Union Army was strictly segregated and remained so until 1950.
During the Civil War all non-whites were compelled to serve in "United
States Colored Troop" regiments - this included Blacks, mulattos, Hispanics,
Indians and anyone who was simply not "white enough." Often recruiting of
Black Southerners for these regiments involved hunting them down, capturing
them and even torturing them to get them to "volunteer" as documented in the
Federal Official Records.
The Union Army had used Irish immigrants as "cannon fodder" to absorb
the highest casualties in battle so Northern sentiments would not turn
against the war being waged for economic domination of the agrarian South
which provided 70% of the Federal budget. When the supply of "Micks" ran
low they turned to the USCT to die in droves:
"...As usual with the enemy, they posted their negro regiments on
their left and in front, where they were slain by hundreds, and upon
retiring left their dead and wounded negroes uncared for, carrying off only
the whites, which accounts for the fact that upon the first part of the
battle-field nearly all the dead found were negroes." - Federal Official
Records, Vol. XXXV, Chapter XLVII, pg. 341 - Report of Lieutenant M. B.
Grant, C. S. Engineers, Savannah, April 27, 1864 - Battle of Ocean
U.S. Grant issued "General Orders No. 11" in December, 1862, which
expelled "all Jews, as a class" from his area of operations. It so
disaffected his men that Jewish Union officers resigned en masse.
The Confederate Army included in its unsegregated combat ranks: 13,000
Indians, including Cherokee Chief and Confederate Brigadier General Stand
Watie; 6200 Hispanics, 19% of them officers, nine of them Colonels and Texas
Col. Santos Benavides who was so successful his area of Texas was known as
"The Texas Benavides Confederacy;" 3500 Jews, including among the first and
last Confederate officers to fall in battle and the Confederate Secretary of
State, a Jewish lawyer from New Orleans; Filipinos from Lousiana whose
ancestors were brought there by Spanish colonists before there was any
African slave trade; tens of thousands of immigrants from all over the
world; two Amerasian sons of Chang and Eng, the original "Siamese Twins,"
who served with Virginia cavalry and were both wounded in battle; and an as
yet undetermined but significant number of Black Confederate combat
soldiers, some of them regularly enlisted, who saw combat from the first
battles of the war to the last as documented in the Federal Official
Records, European newspapers, Northern and Southern newspapers and the
letters and diaries of Union and Confederate soldiers.
"Almost fifty years before the (Civil) War, the South was already
enlisting and utilizing Black manpower, including Black commissioned
officers, for the defense of their respective states. Therefore, the fact
that Free and slave Black Southerners served and fought for their states in
the Confederacy cannot be considered an unusual instance, rather
continuation of an established practice with verifiable historical
precedence." - "The African-American Soldier: From Crispus Attucks to Colin
Powell" by Lt. Col [Ret.] Michael Lee Lanning
In March, 1861, President Buchanan and President-Elelct Lincoln
supported and lobbied for the passage of the "Corwin Amendment," a proposed
13th Amendment to the Constitution.
"Article Thirteen: No amendment shall be made to the Constitution
which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere,
within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of
persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State." - Submitted to
the Senate by Corwin and supported by President-Elect Lincoln as the
proposed 13th Amendment to the Constitution as voted on by that body on
February 28th, 1861. The Senate voted 39 to 5 to approve this section
passed by the House 133-65 on March 2, 1861. Two State legislatures ratified
it: Ohio on May 13, 1861; and followed by Maryland on January 10, 1862.
Illinois bungled its ratification by holding a convention.
In December, 1862, only two months before Lincoln issued the
"Emancipation Proclamation" (which freed not a single slave) in his State of
the Union Address Lincoln offered the Confederacy a plan of gradual
compensated emancipation with slavery not ending completely until 1900.
In comparison, your school's namesake had made his position clear some
"There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not
acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil.
It is idle to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it is a greater evil
to the white than to the colored race." - Col. Robert E. Lee, United States
Army, December 27, 1856
Offered the opportunity to come back into the Union successful in
preserving slavery before a single shot was fired the Confederacy maintained
its independence. Offered another chance to have 37 years to wean itself
from slavery the Confederacy again maintained its independence.
The South did not secede nor did it fight to maintain slavery. The
real issues were taxation, Federal revenues and national economics:
"The South has furnished near three-fourths of the entire exports of
the country. Last year she furnished seventy-two percent of the whole...we
have a tariff that protects our manufacturers from thirty to fifty persent,
and enables us to consume large quantities of Southern cotton, and to
compete in our whole home market with the skilled labor of Europe. This
operates to compel the South to pay an indirect bounty to our skilled labor,
of millions annually." - Daily Chicago Times, December 10, 1860
"They (the South) know that it is their import trade that draws from
the people's pockets sixty or seventy millions of dollars per annum, in the
shape of duties, to be expended mainly in the North, and in the protection
and encouragement of Northern interest.... These are the reasons why these
people do not wish the South to secede from the Union. They (the North) are
enraged at the prospect of being despoiled of the rich feast upon which they
have so long fed and fattened, and which they were just getting ready to
enjoy with still greater gout and gusto. They are as mad as hornets because
the prize slips them just as they are ready to grasp it." ~ New Orleans
Daily Crescent, January 21, 1861
"...the Union must obtain full victory as essential to preserve the
economy of the country. Concessions to the South would lead to a new nation
founded on slavery expansion which would destroy the U.S. Economy." -
Pamphlet No 14. "The Preservation of the Union A National Economic
Necessity," The Loyal Publication Society, printed in New York, May 1863, by
Wm. C. Bryant & Co. Printers.
"What were the causes of the Southern independence movement in 1860?
. . Northern commercial and manufacturing interests had forced through
Congress taxes that oppressed Southern planters and made Northern
manufacturers rich . . . the South paid about three-quarters of all federal
taxes, most of which were spent in the North." - Charles Adams, "For Good
and Evil. The impact of taxes on the course of civilization," 1993, Madison
Books, Lanham, USA, pp. 325-327
Does Ms. Templeton think THESE Confederate soldiers would be
"offended" by the Confederate links of your school?
Andrew and Silas Chandler (Free Black), both regularly enlisted in the
44th Mississippi Infantry Silas saved Andrew's life at the Battle of
Mulatto Confederate Soldier Daniel Jenkins and his wife. Jenkins was
with the Confederate 9th Kentucky Infantry and was killed at Shiloh on
South Carolina Confederate Indian soldier
Private Marlboro, a free black Confederate
More specifically, would these Texas Confederate cavalry troopers be
"offended" by your school's remaining Southern traditions or by Ms.
Templeton's failure to know about them?
Ms. Templeton needs to significantly further her education before she
discusses "being offended."
Perhaps Irish-born Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne
predicted it best in his January, 1864, letter which proposed the mass
emancipation and enlistment of Black Southerners into the Confederate Army:
"Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation
before it is too late...It means the history of this heroic struggle will be
written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern
schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the
war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard
our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for
derision...The conqueror's policy is to divide the conquered into factions
and stir up animosity among 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
Your Obedient Servant,
Colonel Michael Kelley, CSA
Commanding, 37th Texas Cavalry (Terrell's)
"We are a band of brothers!"
". . . . political correctness has replaced witch trials and communist
hearings as the preferred way to torment our fellow countrymen." "Ghost
Riders," Sharyn McCrumb, 2004, Signet, pp. 9
"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 Daily Avalanche, July 6, 1875
Black Confederate Participation
by Tim Westphal
"...And after the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, ...reported among the
rebel prisoners were seven blacks in Confederate uniforms fully armed as
- New York Herald, July 11, 1863. 
As far back as the American Revolution, African Americans have fought in
every conflict this country has been engaged in. A number of authors have
studied the participation which blacks played for the Union and Confederate
governments during the Civil War. Most of these writers have focused on the
Union army since it employed a large number of blacks as soldiers during
conflict. "When authors do cover the Confederate side, they usually limit
their coverage to the free blacks of New Orleans who formed a regiment of
"Native Guards" for the Louisiana militia and the Confederate effort late
the war to employ slaves as soldiers" . Civil War historians have not
given these blacks their due recognition, and have left the truth of their
involvement for the Confederacy covered in obscurity and confusion.
As many as 90,000 blacks, slave and free, were employed in some capacity by
the Confederate army. The majority of these men fall into two categories,
military laborers or body servants. The fact that some Southern blacks
have played an important role for the South is a very controversial issue.
Scholars have avoided the difficult task of linking any blacks to the
Southern war effort. One of the main reasons they choose not to attempt
is because they are afraid of confronting the great paradox that exists.
would any slaves or free blacks work towards a Southern victory when this
war was seen as one to sustain blacks' enslavement and degradation? The
point of this paper is to seek out exactly what kind of role any blacks,
free or slave, served in the South during the war and to examine the
why they would support the Southern war cause.
The Louisiana Native Guards demonstrate what free blacks, from Louisiana,
thought about the Confederacy. The Louisiana Native Guards was a militia
regiment comprised of 1400 black men and officers, "who offered their
services to Dixie" in April of 1861 . The following year 3000 black men
and officers organized themselves into the 1st Native Guard of Louisiana.
These pro-Confederate blacks formed for the protection of New Orleans.
parading through the city they were described in the newspaper as "rebel
Negroes...well drilled...and uniformed" . Historians argue the Native
Guards were a unique circumstance. The difference between Louisiana and the
rest of the South was its peculiar tri-racial system. The state of
was home to a population, which was different than the rest of the
country's. The population consisted of many Spanish and "Creole" families.
It was easier for Louisiana to accept these men for military service. For
that reason historians like to separate the free "blacks" in that state
the rest of the free blacks in the South. Many other states had blacks
volunteer their services, and some states accepted these volunteers. There
were slaves in Alabama who were organized as soldiers in the fall of 1861.
There were also 60 free blacks in Virginia who formed their own company and
marched to Richmond to volunteer their services to help in the war effort.
"Several companies of free Negroes offered their services to the
Government early in the war" . The War Department decided they wouldn't
be needed at this time so they sent them home.
II. Body Servants and Laborers
Body servants consisted of slaves or free blacks. They were between the
of sixteen and sixty. They accompanied both Confederate soldiers and
officers into the war. "Body servants in a continuation of the master-slave
relationship, tended their wounded soldiers, sometimes escorting their
bodies home and occasionally fought in battles" . The number of body
servants in the Confederate army was considerable in the early days of the
war. The jobs of the body servants varied greatly. An officer's servant was
expected to keep the officer's quarters clean, to wash the clothes, brush
uniforms, polish swords and buckles, and to run errands, such as going to
the commissary and getting rations. The servant was supposed to look after
his master's horse, making sure it was well groomed and well fed. It was
duty of one of these servants to have the horse ready in the morning by the
time the officer was ready to ride.
Slaves who came from plantations with their owners were the most loyal
difficult incidents. "Negroes who had been treated well before the start of
the war were more faithful during the most trying days of the conflict"
In many cases, soldiers and servants had been childhood playmates. The
result of this was a genuine affection for each other, which further
cemented during the shared hardships brought on by the war. "No other
had as good opportunities for desertion and disloyalty as the body
but none were more loyal" .
A personal servant would have been chosen from among the slaves that had
been affiliated with the family for a long time. For that reason these
slaves often felt a responsibility for the protection of their master when
going into the war. The owners of body servants respected the devotion and
loyalty displayed by their black servants. "Owners frequently made
provisions for their servants freedom, and after the war blacks dressed in
'Confederate Gray' were among the most honored veterans in attendance at
soldiers reunions" .
Blacks fought because they were loyal to their masters. From a servant's
perspective their life as a body servant was less burdensome than field
slavery. Slavery was an oppressive institution and the war offered them
previously denied options. Unlike the plantation in camp the Confederate
servants had ample time to hang out with other blacks. Black soldiers
(servants) ate the same food as the officers did. These servants were the
best-fed soldiers in the Confederate army. They could also play cards and
when given the chance they would sneak away with other blacks to some
obscure location and play dice. Servants were able to obtain whiskey,
from their master or on one of their foraging missions. "Servants had
opportunities to earn money on the side from any number of way" . They
were allowed to charge small amounts for washing clothes for men in their
company. They made money for running errands and sold what they were able
pick up off the battlefield. Making money was just one reason blacks would
sign up to work for the Confederacy.
Black servants, many who were excellent musicians and good singers, kept
soldiers spirits up in camp. "When life became sad or monotonous for Jeb
Stuart's officers, they frequently built a roaring fire, formed a large
circle, and had the servants dance and sing to the music of the banjo"
Soldiers who had come from plantations knew about their slaves musical
talents - a fact, which might explain why a few body servants were called
to, be musicians for the units to which their masters belonged.
Blackbody servants fought in battles for the Confederacy. A newspaper
correspondent from the New Orleans Daily Crescent, reporting on one of the
early battles of the war stated a servant named Levin Graham refused to
in camp during a fight, "but obtained a musket, fought manfully, and killed
four of the Yankees himself" . Furthermore "Captain George Baylor told
the story of two body servants who had supplied themselves with equipment
left on the field by Federals at the battle of Brandy Station. These two
servants joined in the company charges and succeeded in capturing a Yankee
and brought him back to camp as a prisoner" .
Robin, a black servant with the Stonewall Brigade, demonstrates black
patriotism. According to the newspaper the Richmond Whig, he was imprisoned
for a time away from his master and then offered his freedom on the
condition he take an oath and swear allegiance to the United States. Robin
stated, in the Richmond Whig, "I will never disgrace my family by such an
oath" . After the siege of Vicksburg there were servants who were
captured along with their masters who could have had their freedom. But
instead of their freedom they chose to share in the cruelties of the
northern prisons with which they had been serving in the Confederate army.
Free blacks voluntarily became body servants for wages and whatever other
advantages they might negotiate. Self-preservation was the paramount
objective for the free blacks who offered their services as servants. Free
blacks in the South knew there was a difference between them and the slave
population, they saw this as a way to separate themselves even further from
the slave class. "Being a body servant enabled individual
males to embellish their Confederate allegiance by publicly integrating
themselves with Confederates" . The free blacks stood ready to imitate
the white class in its patriotism and loyalty, believing this was a way to
attain priviligese previously denied to them and to prove they were
over the slaves.
Unlike the life of a body servant the experience for black laborers working
on Confederate defenses was excessively harsh and physically exhausting.
Especially during the winter months, when they were fighting with constant
exposure while building batteries or earthworks. "The tedious work of
digging, shoveling, and heaving earth, as well as the erection of massive
embankments demanded tremendous physical stamina" .
The principal object of the defensive works was to protect Confederate
troops from enemy fire and to allow the Confederate soldiers to deliver
their own fire with devastating consequences.
"Union soldiers... sallied up to Rebel breastwork that were often
impregnable. They began to complain, finding the Negro with his pick and
spade, a greater hindrance to their progress than the Rebel's cannon balls"
Therefore to triumphantly repulse Union attacks the army needed
satisfactorily constructed entrenchments.
The blacks' brawn and skill were key elements of Confederate transportation
and fortification. That is why in summer of 1861 "Negro labor, under
supervision of state engineers, was immediately committed to the
construction of defensive lines" . Whether free or slave the blacks
worked as laborers contributed a supporting effort to the war. In the South
during the years between 1861-1865, there was a constant construction of
defensive works designed to repulse attacks by Federal armies. "Without the
aid of the Negro the South never would have been able to last four years in
the war" .
While the overwhelming majority of black laborers were common laborers
were some highly skilled craftsmen. The conventional laborer provided
manpower in the foraging of food, and raw materials such as coal, iron and
timber. "Black artisans provided their skills in subsequent stages of
refinement and processing of commodities into manufactured items in
arsenals, armories, iron works, and machine shops" .
James Brewer described the five methods used for obtaining black labor:
"slaves were offered by their masters without request for compensation;
Negroes volunteered their services; Negroes, free and slave, were hired by
the Engineer Bureau; labor was impressed by commanding officers because of
the exigencies of war; and conscription laws were passed by Confederate
congress" . The Confederate government had to rely on conscription laws
for the last two years of the war because: the blacks, slave and free knew
about the changes of the war (that it had become one to free them from
bondage); and 2) the owners didn't want to give up their slaves, due to the
hard work that the laborers had to sustain.
III. Loyalty and Patriotism
Black Confederate loyalty was pervasive and real. American historians
to recognize this loyalty. "By the summer of 1861 Southern blacks who
supported and allied themselves with the Confederacy were looking to
volunteer" . Despite the Confederate government's refusal to admit
blacks in the army, six Southern states did so otherwise, mostly consisting
of state militias. Eyewitness accounts by officers in the Federal army
some evidence of African American participation on the battlefields for the
South. Records show that New York officers on patrol reported they were
attacked near New Market, Virginia, by Confederate cavalry and a group of
700-armed blacks on December 22, 1861. The Northerners killed six of the
blacks before retreating; officers later swore out affidavits that they
attacked by blacks and later complained: "If they fight with Negroes, why
should we not fight with them too?" 
Alfred Bellard, a white soldier of the 5th NJ Infantry, reported in his
memoirs the shooting of two black Confederate snipers by member's of the
Berdan's Sharpshooters in April of 1862.
"One of the Negro Confederates was only wounded, but the other was killed
one afternoon after leaving the security of a hollow tree (probably to
relieve himself). Two Confederates tried to get to his body but were driven
away by the Union gunfire" .
This wasn't an isolated case. One of the best marksmen in the Confederacy
was an African-American who outfitted himself in a sniper's roost in an
almost perfect hiding spot inside a brick chimney from which he proceeded
shoot Yankees at their nearby camp. Any Union soldier who dared to come
his range was fired at. Several times the Federalize called up to the
to desert, but the black Confederate ignored their appeals. This ordeal
ended when a regiment was marched off to fire a volley at the chimney,
eventually putting a bullet through the sniper's head.
Serving in a military capacity wasn't the only way blacks could prove their
loyalty to the Confederacy. Black patriotism took many forms, "some were
sincerely patriotic, others were alarmed individuals acting on
self-preservation and economic interest" . There are other prominent
cases of black patriotism among slaves and free men. Many of these people
saw their cause as protecting their homes. "Despite the hardships of
loyal blacks made financial and material contributions to the Confederacy"
. In Alabama some slaves brought 60 dollars worth of watermelons to
Montgomery to be donated to the soldiers of that state. A South Carolina
slave was impelled to donate all the money here had saved, which ended up
being 5 dollars. Some slaves used their talents to raise money for the
Confederacy. The Confederate Ethiopian Serenaders were one such group. They
were a collection of slave singers "who turned over profits from some of
their shows to the Confederate cause" . By doing this, these slaves
hoped the restrictions they lived under I the institution of slavery would
be loosened. It became a custom for slaves to demonstrate their loyalty by
holding balls and concerts to raise money for the aiding of Southern
soldiers and their families.
The 1st Battle of Manassas offered black Confederate the chance to prove
their loyalty. An English officer, Arthur Freemantle, describes the story
a slave who had run away to the Federal line just before the battle began.
The slave was recaptured a short time after the battle ended. "Two
servants were of the opinion that he should be shot or hanged as a traitor"
. He was then turned over to these slaves and met a more severe death
than any white man could have given him. These slaves did this out of
patriotism and these servants probably also felt threatened by a runaway
slave. They knew that a runaway was a threat to their freedom as servants
and soldiers. They wanted to show the white soldiers in the army that they
weren't anything like this runaway. They achieved that goal by violently
IV. Why were blacks loyal?
The motivation of black Confederates was to protect their homeland with a
faith of what the future could be. By 1860 there were 500,000 free blacks
the United States, the vast majority in the South. Slaves knew freedom was
attainable from the sight of free blacks in their communities. They knew
some has been freed through manumission, while others purchased their
freedom by working side jobs. Blacks Confederates and African Americans had
to position themselves in case the South won the ear. They had to prove
were patriots in the anticipation their future would be better. From this
risk of their display of unequivocal patriotism they hoped to be rewarded.
Most black Confederates were not given an opportunity to serve in the front
line as soldiers. But they did what they could as loyal civilians.
Why would blacks support, and possibly want to fight for, the Confederacy?
One is money. The pay rate for the laborers was greater than that of the
white soldier's pay rate. The black laborers were paid 30 dollars a month
while the Confederate soldiers made only 11 dollars. By volunteering their
service to the South these blacks earned enough money for themselves and
their families back home. Blacks, both free and slave, were able to make
more money by trading whiskey, food, horses and other possessions they
steal through their foraging missions. There is a story of a servant who
captured by the Yankees, stole two horses, and got back to his Confederate
line. When he got back he sold one horse for fifty dollars and kept the
other one for himself.
"The quest for freedom also played a great role in black Confederate
decisions" . With good service to the master or to the Southern cause,
there was the hope of being manumitted after the war. Slaves also knew the
army life offered them a chance for adventure and an opportunity to get
from the drudgery of plantation work. Like many of the white men who
volunteered and fought in the war because of strong regional pride, the
local attachment blacks felt prompted them to come to the aide of the
Blacks placed their lives in danger for a country and its cause; a cause
which many Americans would not expect blacks to support. Slaves and free
blacks joined for different reasons. The Louisiana free blacks stated in a
letter written to the New Orleans' Daily Delta:
"The free colored population love their home, their property, their own
slaves and recognize no other country than Louisiana, and are ready to shed
their blood for her defense. They have no sympathy for Abolitionism; no
for the North, but they have plenty for Louisiana."
Prosperous free blacks realized that a Union victory would bring about
destruction to their economy, the basis of their livelihood, which gave
their special status. "Free blacks knew where their loyalties lay when the
war started because they stood to lose the status they enjoyed as free
people" . Any well-to-do freeman probably prized his wealth and
standing, and deplored anyone who would endanger it. The slaves who felt
compelled to volunteer for the South did so because they hoped it would
improve their status after the war. They knew if the North won they would
probably be freed, but if the South won, they would have to show support
during the war if they had hopes of being freed.
V. The Debate: Black Soldiers
During the war the Confederacy's question of making a soldier out of the
black, slave and free, received considerable attention. In the beginning of
the war many of the Southern states made provisions for placing blacks at
the disposal of the state governments. "The Tennessee legislature passed an
act in June, 1861, authorizing the governor, at his discretion to receive
into the military service of the State all male free persons of color,
between the ages of fifteen and fifty, or such numbers as may be necessary
who may be capable of actual service" . The governor was also
to press free blacks into services if a sufficient number was not met.
Early in the year there began in the Southern armies a discussion of
enlisting slaves as soldiers. Lt. General Hardee called their corps and
division commanders, of the Western Campaign, to meet at General Johnston's
Headquarters on the night of January 2, 1863. There they were presented
a plan by Major General Pat Cleburne, who was urging the enlistment and
arming of the slaves, with freedom as a reward for their service. After
President Davis received a copy of this memorandum he replied, "deeming it
to be injurious of the public service that such subject should be mooted or
even known to entertain by persons possessed of confidence and respect of
the people. If it be kept out of the public journal its ill effect will be
much lessened" .
Perhaps the most effective argument against putting the slaves in the ranks
was that it laid the South open to charges of hypocrisy. It was known that
slavery was one of the basic principles of the Confederacy. "The primary
justification for slavery had been that it was in the interest of both
blacks and whites because of the blacks inferiority and incapability to
for themselves" . To arm the slaves in the Confederacy would be a
reversal on its position completely. If the salves were freed by the
Confederate Government-and it was agreed that arming the slaves would
probably entail freeing them-then another basic principle of the
was disregarded. One of the main reasons for secession was their firm
in states rights over that of a central government. If the Confederate
government stepped in and freed the slaves for faithful service, instead of
individual states, than it would be guilty of breaking their constitutional
By the summer of 1863 the victories had begun to shift to the northern
armies. Within one week the Confederacy suffered devastating defeats at
Vicksburg and Gettysburg. The momentum of war was being sung into the
direction. Hood's crushing defeat in Tennessee, Sherman's destructive march
through Georgia, and the threatened collapse of the whole military effort
left the Confederacy in need of reinforcements. The Southern armies were
being depleted. "There were 'exceptions', the 'detailed men', the numerous
state militias and there were the slaves. Before Christmas of 1864 was
President Davis had come to the opinion that arming the salves was a good
Meanwhile, William Smith, the Governor of Virginia, took up the subject
his legislators suggesting that Virginia should arm its slaves for its
defense by offering freedom as slaves' reward. 'With two hundred thousand
Negro soldiers already in the Union army, the Governor asked, "can we
hesitate, can we doubt, when the question is, whether the enemy shall use
our slaves against us or we use them against him (the North); when the
question may be between liberty and independence o one hand or our own
subjugation and utter ruin on the other?" .
The majority of those who advocated enlisting the slaves were of the
that such a step would mean giving them their freedom. This was met with
great opposition. Though this should not have been a deterring factor.
that "slavery was already an expiring condition in the South; that
emancipation was already an accomplished fact if the Federalize succeeded;
that the situation was such that a choice had to be made between the loss
independence and the loss of property in slaves; that it was far better for
the Southerner to give up the Negro slave than be a slave himself" .
The matter immediately became the foremost topic of discussion in the whole
South by the fall of 1864. General Lee was asked for his view and on
11, 1865 he spoke out clearly for the arming of slaves-which he believed
should be accompanied by a gradual and general emancipation.
"It is the enemy's avowed policy to convert the able-bodied men among them
into soldiers, and to emancipate all. His progress will destroy slavery in
manner most pernicious to the welfare of our people... Whatever maybe the
effect of our employing Negro troops, it cannot be as mischievous as
I think, therefore, we must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by
our enemies and the slaves used against us, or use them ourselves at the
risk of the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions..."
"...The best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this
force would be to accompany the measure with a well digested plan of
and general emancipation. As that will be the result of the continuance of
this war, and will certainly occur if the enemy succeeds,it seems to be
advisable to adopt at once. Every day's delay increases the difficulty"
Finally, a little more than a month before the war ended, the Confederates
began to enlist blacks as soldiers in the army. "Steps were immediately
taken toward recruiting and organizing the slaves and free blacks" . It
was too late; the South had waited too long to enlist blacks into their
army. When the war broke out many blacks, slave and free, wanted to
themselves with the winning side to better position themselves after the
war. In the winter of 1864-65 it was evident that the South was going to
lose the war. That is why recruiting the blacks was so difficult. If the
Confederate Government had acted on the initial enthusiasm displayed by
blacks then things probably would have been different in 1865.
VI. Blacks' contribution to the Southern War effort
It is often forgotten that while slavery was among the major causes of the
Civil War, its abolition was not the original goal of the North. President
Lincoln sated he didn't want to interfere with slavery in the states where
it already existed. Many Federal soldiers felt the same way, proclaiming if
the war was one turned into a fight for abolitionism they would stop
fighting. Faced with this attitude from the North black Southerners had no
reason but to be loyal to their homes. "The slaves had nothing to gain form
a Union victory, and free black men might actually stand to lose such
and property they already had" .
Thus instead of revolts among the blacks, slaves and free, as many
Northerners predicted, some became possessed with a war fervor that was
stimulated by the white response. "The Negro who boasted of his desire to
fight the Yankees the loudest; who showed the greatest anxiety to aid the
Confederates, was granted the most freedom and received the approval of his
The readiness with which some blacks responded should only be surprising to
those who are unfamiliar with the true feelings of slaves. Their only hope
was to someday be free. "One thing that impressed the blacks greatly was
failure of Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, and John Brown, whose e fate was held
up to them as the fate of all who tried to free the slaves or free
themselves" . Therefore it should not be surprising to see blacks that
sprang at the chance to dig trenches and assist in any way possible for the
To better comprehend these people we should understand that most people do
things for immediate reasons and not abstract ones. Instead of revolts
the blacks, slave and free, as predicted by some, many became possessed of
fervor - originating in fear - which was stimulated by an enthusiasm of the
white population. "The gaily decked cities; the flags, bunting and
of all colors; the mounted cavalry; the artillery trains with brazen
drawn by sturdy steeds; followed by regiments of infantry in brilliant
uniforms, with burnished muskets, glittering bayonets and beautiful plumes;
all these scenes greatly interested and delighted the Negro, and it was
filling the cup of many with ecstasy to the brim, to be allowed to connect
themselves, even in the most menial way, with the demonstrations" .
Blacks saw first hand what was going on. They knew they had an opportunity
to better themselves, which was all many of them really wanted. When the
broke out everybody thought it was going to be over quickly. Slaves and
blacks knew this too, which is why many of them displayed an enthusiasm
was gone by 1863, when the South began to lose the war.
1. New York Herald, July 11, 1863.
2. Bell Wiley, Southern Negroes, p. 247.
3. Ervin Jordan, Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees, p. 218.
4. New Orleans Daily Delta, from Walter Williams article.
5. Wiley, p. 148.
6. Jordan, p. 185.
7. Wiley, p. 66.
8. Wiley, p. 64.
9. Wiley, p. 144.
10. Wiley, p. 137.
11. Wiley, p. 138.
12. New Orleans Daily Crescent, from Jordan's Black Confederates.
13. Wiley, p. 139.
14. Richmond Whig, from Jordan's Black Confederates.
15. Jordan, p. 186.
16. James Brewer, the Confederate Negro, p. 135.
17. Joseph Wilson, The Black Phalanx, p. 103.
18. Brewer, p. 132.
19. Wilson, p. 460.
20. Brewer, p. 165.
21. Brewer, p. 140.
22. Jordan, p. 222.
23. Jordan, p. 217.
24. Alfred Bellard, Gone for a Soldier, p. 56
25. Jordan, p. 235.
26. J.K. Obatala, "The unlikely story of blacks who were loyal to Dixie",
27. Obatala, p. 96.
28. Jordan, p. 236.
29. Obatala, p. 100.
30. Author Bergeron, Free men of color in grey, p. 254.
31. Wiley, p. 147.
32. Robert Henry, The story of the Confederacy, p. 380.
33. Wilson, p. 485.
34. Henry, p. 382.
35. Henry, p. 388.
36. Wiley, p. 153.
37. Henry, p. 440.
38. Wilson, p. 487.
39. Bergeron, p. 249.
40. Wilson, p. 483.
41. Wilson, p. 484.
42. Wilson, p. 484-85.
Bellard, Alfred, Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoirs of Private
Bellard. Boston, 1975.
Bergeron, Arthur. "Free Men of Color in Grey". Civil War History. 32, 1986:
Brewer, James. Confederate Negro: Virginia's Craftsmen and Military
Laborers. Duke, 1969.
Henry, Robert. The Story of the Confederacy. New York, 1911.
Jordan, Ervin L. Blacks Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War
University of Virginia, 1995.
Obatala, J.K. "The Unlikely Story of Blacks Who Were Loyal to Dixie".
Smithsonian, March 1979: 94-101.
Wiley, Bell. Southern Negroes; 1861-1865. Yale, 1938.
Wilson, Joseph T. The Black Phalanx: A History of the Negro Soldiers of the
United States. Springfield, Massachusetts, 1887.