Another confederate lie
We killed our former masters with glee
The Houston Chronicle
August 29, 1999, Sunday 4 STAR EDITION
History gives lie to myth of black Confederate soldiers
TRUMAN R. CLARK*
A racist fabrication has sprung up in the last decade: that the Confederacy had "thousands" of African- American slaves "fighting" in its armies during the Civil War.
Unfortunately, even some African-American men today have gotten conned into Putting on Confederate uniforms to play "re-enactors" in an army that fought to ensure that their ancestors would remain slaves.
There are two underlying points of this claim: first, to say that slavery wasn't so bad, because after all, the slaves themselves fought to preserve the slave South; and second, that the Confederacy wasn't really fighting for slavery. Both these notions may make some of our contemporaries feel good, but neither is historically accurate.
When one speaks of "soldiers" and "fighting" in a war, one is not talking about slaves who were taken from their masters and forced to work on military roads and other military construction projects; nor is one talking about slaves who were taken along by their masters to continue the duties of a personal valet that they performed back on the plantation. Of course, there were thousands of African-Americans forced into these situations, but they were hardly "soldiers fighting."
Another logical point against this wacky modern idea of a racially integrated Confederate army has to do with the prisoner of war issue during the Civil War. Through 1862, there was an effective exchange system of POWs between the two sides. This entirely broke down in 1863, however, because the Confederacy refused to see black Union soldiers as soldiers - they would not be exchanged, but instead were made slaves (or, as in the 1864 Fort Pillow incident, simply murdered after their surrender). At that, the United States refused to exchange any Southern POWs and the prisoner of war camps on both sides grew immensely in numbers and misery the rest of the war.
The war was virtually over by then, and when black Union soldiers rode into Richmond on April 3, they found two companies of black men beginning to train as potential soldiers. (When those black men had marched down the street in Confederate uniforms, local whites had pelted them with mud.) None got into the war, and Lee surrendered on April 9.
Yes, thousands of African-American men did fight in the Civil War - about 179,000. About 37,000 of them died in uniform. But they were all in the Army (or Navy) of the United States of America. The Confederate veterans who were still alive in the generations after the war all knew that and said so.
The slave South rested upon a master-race ideology, as many generations of white Southerners stated it and lived it, from the 1600s until 1865. There is an uncomfortable parallel in our century with the master- race ideology of Nazi Germany. First, millions of the men who bravely fought and died for the Third Reich were not Nazis, but they weren't exactly fighting for the human rights of Jews or gypsies. And second, yes, as was pointed out in the movie Schindler's List, many thousands of Jews did slave labor in military production factories in Nazi Germany - but that certainly didn't make them "thousands of Jewish soldiers fighting for Germany.
We can believe in the "black soldiers fighting" in the Confederate armies just as soon as historians discover the "thousands" of Jews in the SS and Gestapo.
Sure, many black people fought in the Civil War....for the Union. When Confederate General Pat Cleburne suggested using black troops, he never got another promotion.
posted by Steve @ 1:22:00 PM