Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“. . . and make our slaves fight for Southern slavery”

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on October 24, 2010

In late March 1865 — a little over a week before Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox — the Galveston Daily News ran a long column by an editorialist calling himself “Scipio Africanus,” who argued that the Confederacy’s situation was so dire, so bleak, that there was only one sure way to save it — by invading the North. Again.

Scipio Africanus argues that “the states to be made to suffer first and most severely are Illinois, Indiana and Ohio,” and from there the massed Confederate armies should march east, sweeping across the Upper Midwest, the Great Lakes and into Pennsylvania. There is no doubt in the writer’s mind that, if executed properly, it cannot but be successful: “The Northern people will witness and feel the display of our strength and dread the renewal of  such invasions. They will experience the horrors of war; become disgusted with the strife and yield us what we ask, our independence and peace.” Given the actual state of the Confederate military in the spring of 1865, the detachment from reality present in Scipio’s writing seems not so much disturbing as it is laughable. On that level, Scipio Africanus comes across as a butternut version of “Comical Ali.”

On a more serious note, though, Scipio suggests newly-enlisted slaves should form the backbone of this invading army, which itself would be several times the size of that which Lee took north into Pennsylvania in June 1863. Picking up on the Confederate government’s eleventh-hour efforts to enlist African American slaves, and the discussion about whether such service should bring with it it emancipation — either immediately or upon completion of military service — Scipio argues that such a move “would be rewarding them with poverty, vice and starvation.” Rather, he argues, slaves should be made to fight to preserve their permanent status as slaves, because God wills it:

To make this invasion efficient, 200,000 able-bodied negroes [sic.] ought immediately to be conscripted and drilled as soldiers, and put under the command of veteran officers.

But it is painful to me to hear the doctrine urged that, for such service as they may render they ought hereafter to be emancipated. If it is right to emancipate them for performing military duty, then they ought to be emancipated for making corn. In raising bread by working the soil for us, they fight for our freedom as efficiently as they will do in throwing up earthworks or firing muskets at our foe. The work they now do with the axe and hoe, is as deserving of emancipation as any they can perform with the spade or sword. I am sick of the philanthropy taught in Wayland’s Moral Science, and learned by our people from other Yankee schoolbooks. The Bible should be our moral guide. If it is right for us to hold slaves, we have the same right to make them fight the Yankees for us, as to kill the grass, snakes and wolves on our farms. Abraham, the father of the faithful, the father of the faithful, made 318 of his slaves fight for him; but he did not set them free after the campaign was over. Freedom would be but a poor compensation to our negroes for any service. It would be rewarding them with poverty, vice and starvation. I am willing that the Government should pension and place in asylums all of them who may be maimed and crippled in this war.

The argument of those who contend that, those we enlist should be emancipated after the war, have reference to the opinions of foreign Governments, and the sentiments of the abolitionists everywhere. But we should base our action upon the word of God, and make Him the arbiter of our cause.  England and France are not hostile to us because. we are a negro slave people; for they are, and have been, not only friendly, but often in Alliance with Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Brazil — governments owning millions of African slaves. I base my hopes of success upon this foundation; God recognizes in His word our right to our slaves. He has commanded the Yankees and all others: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s man servant nor his maid servant.” They are permitted to buy “bondmen and bondmaids” of the heathen round about; but if they steal ours, and we find them in their hands, He commands us to put them to death. If we admit that, emancipation is right, we confess that our cause is wrong. We should fight, and make our slaves fight for Southern slavery, knowing that in this contest God is on our side. It is only one of our rights. The Yankees covet all that we possess, and we are not fighting for all. Let us invade them with our slaves, not to conquer or enslave them; not to rob them of an acre; but to get back our own property, to force them to make with us an honorable and permanent peace.

As sure as the sun shines, unless we do, they will continue the war while we have anything in our possession to excite their avarice. They will capture all our cities and desolate all our homes.

If we invade them as I propose, we will secure our independence in one year from the date of the entrance of our grand armies into their land.

Galveston Daily News, March 30, 1865

“Freedom would be but a poor compensation to our negroes [sic.] for any service.” Wow. There’s much underlying context in that assertion, but it does show a prevalent line of thinking in the Confederacy at the time. Just as there were some, like Lee, who argued for emancipation in return for military service, there just as many, and perhaps many more, unwilling to allow African Americans into military service at all under any circumstances, and those like Scipio who advocating forcing slaves into direct combat to preserve their own status as slaves, in perpetuity. When modern-day Confederate apologists argue speculative nonsense that the institution of slavery would have gone away on its own in a short time, they ignore the existence of people like Scipio Africanus, who argued that “God recognizes in His word our right to our slaves,” and continued to rationalize their vehement, Bible-driven opposition to emancipation even as the walls crumbled around them.

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14 Responses

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  1. TheRaven said, on October 24, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    The Bible should be our moral guide. If it is right for us to hold slaves, we have the same right to make them fight the Yankees for us, as to kill the grass, snakes and wolves on our farms.

    (This quote has been brought to you by The Bible, denialism’s favorite how-to guide for the past 1,950 years!)

    • Andy Hall said, on October 24, 2010 at 11:04 pm

      Yup. Scipio’s logic here is faultless:

      If it is right to emancipate them for performing military duty, then they ought to be emancipated for making corn. In raising bread by working the soil for us, they fight for our freedom as efficiently as they will do in throwing up earthworks or firing muskets at our foe. The work they now do with the axe and hoe, is as deserving of emancipation as any they can perform with the spade or sword.

      But then he comes smack up against his (and others’) deeply-held conviction that God sanctions, even encourages, the practice of slaveholding. Such clear and compelling thinking, so easily undone.

      I need to look and see if Scipio published more. He’s an interesting, if somewhat revolting, read.

  2. JHarper2 said, on October 24, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    This:
    If we admit that, emancipation is right, we confess that our cause is wrong.

    Then the Civil War was about slavery! at least according to contemporary Confederates.

    So not only were there not 1000’s of African-American Confederates, but they still hadn’t agreed to enlist any black combatants, and didn’t even want to free those who were, as slaves, perhaps be forced to fight.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 24, 2010 at 11:03 pm

      Black Confederates were so secret, even the Confederates themselves were unaware of them. Behold the power of Yankee, liberal, politically-correct history — it imposes its realitiy retroactively, back into the days of the Civil War itself.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 25, 2010 at 2:06 am

      Then the Civil War was about slavery! at least according to contemporary Confederates.

      Yes. It always was. The argument that it wasn’t began ’round about April 1865, as I recall.

      The Texas Education Board recently required students to “compare and contrast” Lincoln’s first inaugural speech with Jefferson Davis’. I get the direct equivalency argument, but unfortunately Davis’ speech is a rambling garble of lofty (and largely meaningless) rhetoric. Vice President Stephens’ infamous “Cornerstone” Speech, given abut the same time, is much more explicit — and incriminating.

  3. BorderRuffian said, on October 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    No, you sure don’t want to make that contrast.

    Lincoln wants slavery made permanent by constitutional amendment.

    Nooooooo….we can’t have anybody read that. Somebody might get the idea the war wasn’t about slavery.

    And we sure don’t want to look at this part of the “Cornerstone” speech. This also might give us the idea the war wasn’t about slavery-

    “The principles and position of the present administration of the United States the republican party present some puzzling questions. While it is a fixed principle with them never to allow the increase of a foot of slave territory, they seem to be equally determined not to part with an inch “of the accursed soil.” Notwithstanding their clamor against the institution, they seemed to be equally opposed to getting more, or letting go what they have got. They were ready to fight on the accession of Texas, and are equally ready to fight now on her secession. Why is this? How can this strange paradox be accounted for? There seems to be but one rational solution and that is, notwithstanding their professions of humanity, they are disinclined to give up the benefits they derive from slave labor. Their philanthropy yields to their interest. The idea of enforcing the laws, has but one object, and that is a collection of the taxes, raised by slave labor to swell the fund necessary to meet their heavy appropriations. The spoils is what they are after though they come from the labor of the slave.”

  4. BorderRuffian said, on October 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    And what did Lincoln state in his first inaugural that he was ready to go to war over?

    Slavery?…….No.

    Taxes?……..Yes

  5. Matt McKeon said, on October 25, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Scopio Africanus,
    Christ, what an asshole.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 26, 2010 at 12:34 pm

      Matt, there were a lot of people who believed in the Biblical sanction of slavery then, and some who still espouse it today — if not quite as a justification for modern practice, at least as an absolute defense against criticism of the institution as it was practiced in the South:

      The Southern society is radically different from the society impressed upon it by an alien occupier in that it upholds the spiritual equality of all men before God, and the bar of justice, while recognising and rejoicing in the fact that it has neither been the will of God Almighty, nor within the power of human legislation to make any two men mechanically equal.

      Southern society is structured upon the Biblical notion of hierarchy. In short, it recognizes the natural societal order of superiors and subordinates, where Christian charity, (as found in the second Table of the Law), toward our neighbors, produces harmony and stability. Christ is the head of His Church; husbands are the heads of their families; parents are placed over their children; employers rank above their employees; the teacher is superior to his students, etc.

      At the same time, Southern society recognises the Biblical institution of slavery as practised by our Fathers was established by decree of Almighty God and is sanctioned through His Holy Word, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation. There are no verses in God’s Holy Word prohibiting slavery, but many regulating its practise. The institution of slavery has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilisation, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts; that the Biblical form as practiced by our Christian Fathers in both Europe and the New World bore little resemblance to the heathen forms of slavery practised by the pagans of non-Christian lands.

      The Southern people, understand that the existence of this Biblical institution, the same having passed into history and now being deceased notwithstanding, did confer on our Fathers the right to possess those persons held to servitude; that they did so possess and did, under the protection and regulation of the governments of man and of Almighty God, provide such persons with livelihood, sustenance, physical and spiritual comfort within a symbiotic relationship.

      Therefore, in keeping with the commitment of all Patriotic Southerners to the sovereignty of our Creator and His Word, those who truly follow the word of God should not now nor at any time make an apology for the institution of Biblical slavery and should hold our Southern Fathers without guilt in their Christian practise thereof.

  6. Matt McKeon said, on October 26, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Sure, slavery existed in a lot of societies. And the Bible was found to support the stances and property most profitable and comfortable to the Bible reader. But S.A. is proposing a march of conquest unrivalled since Alexander the Great, then concluding the very men who are to achieve it are unfit for freedom.

    Its a Hitler-raving-about-his-secret-wonder-weapons-turning-the-tide crazy.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 26, 2010 at 9:19 pm

      Yes. Completely detached from reality. Comical Ali in butternut.

  7. absurdbeats said, on October 27, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I tried to find out more about this Scipio Africanus, but what with the rather famous pseudonym and all, struck out.

    I did find this piece on the National Park Services Appomattox Court House web site ( http://www.nps.gov/apco/black-soldiers.htm ) which lists a Scipio Africanus as a cook who was paroled upon Lee’s surrender.

    There’s also a Scipio Africanus Jones who shows up in a number of searches (using Bing and Google, and trying various additions—-confederate army, galveston, us civil war): born into slavery, he went on to become a lawyer, activist, and judge.

    Anyway. . . .

    • Andy Hall said, on October 27, 2010 at 1:19 am

      The pseudonym is well-chosen. Scipio was a Roman Consul who, faced with a Carthaginian invasion of Roman territory that he believed he could not defeat directly, took the bold step of invading North Africa and forcing the Carthaginian general, Hannibal Barca, to withdraw from Italy and defend his home territory. Hannibal was defeated at the Battle of Zama, ending the Second Punic War in 202 BC. Scipio was awarded the honorarium “Africanus” in recognition.

      The author of the editorial was proposing very much the same strategy, and given the prominence of classic histories in formal education in those days, many of his/her readers would have caught the reference.


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