Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Frederick Douglass’ Black Confederate

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 20, 2015

FredA few weeks ago Harvard historian John Stauffer published an essay in The Root entitled, “Yes, There Were Black Confederates. Here’s Why.” Stauffer’s essay was largely an expansion of a talk he gave in 2011, which itself reflected little more research than Googling around the web for well-worn anecdotes. Stauffer’s Root piece was mostly panned by historians who have closely studied the “black Confederate” theme, particularly by my blogging colleagues Kevin Levin and Brooks Simpson. Both continued that discussion through follow-up posts. I wrote about it as well, pointing out that Stauffer identified one of Frederick Douglass’ sources in 1861 as an African American man who claimed to have seen “one regiment [at Manassas] of 700 black men from Georgia, 1000 [men] from South Carolina, and about 1000 [men with him from] Virginia, destined for Manassas when he ran away.” Unfortunately Stauffer appears not to have followed up on the source of that quote, which actually appeared in the Boston Daily Journal and Evening Transcript newspapers in February 1862, roughly six months after Douglass wrote about them in his newsletter.

Douglass was making the rounds as a speaker that winter, and the man Stauffer cited as Douglass’ source had appeared with him at an Emancipation League at the Tremont Temple on February 5, 1862. That address must have given Douglass great satisfaction, as just fourteen months previously Douglass and other abolitionists had been forcibly ejected from that same venue on orders of Boston’s mayor.

But, as so often happens with historical research, nailing down the answer to one question raises several others. In this case, who was the “fugitive black man from a rebel corps”[1] who gave the account of thousands of African American troops, organized into whole regiments, at Manassas? My colleague Dan Weinfeld, author of The Jackson County War: Reconstruction and Resistance in Post-Civil War Florida, decided to take on that question. He began by tracking down other accounts of Douglass’ speeches from this period as reproduced in Douglass’ Monthly newsletter. Sure enough, the March 1862 issue included not only the text of Douglass’ addresses, but also summaries of the remainder of the program. On February 12, one week after his speech in Boston, Douglass presented his program at Cooper Union (emphasis added):

At 8 o’clock, the [body] of the hall was nearly filled with an intelligent and respectable looking audience – The exercises commenced with a patriotic song by the Hutchinsons, which was received with great applause. The Rev. H. H. Garnett opened the meeting stating that the black man, a fugitive from Virginia, who was announced to speak would not appear, as a communication had been received yesterday from the South intimating that, for prudential reasons, it would not be proper for that person to appear, as his presence might affect the interests and safety of others in the South, both white persons and colored. He also stated that another fugitive slave, who was at the battle of Bull Run, proposed when the meeting was announced to be present, but for a similar reason he was absent; he had unwillingly fought on the side of Rebellion, but now he was, fortunately where he could raise his voice on the side of Union and universal liberty. The question which now seemed to be prominent in the nation was simply whether the services of black men shall be received in this war, and a speedy victory be accomplished. If the day should ever come when the flag of our country shall be the symbol of universal liberty, the black man should be able to look up to that glorious flag, and say that it was his flag, and his country’s flag; and if the services of the black men were wanted it would be found that they would rush into the ranks, and in a very short time sweep all the rebel party from the face of the country.[2]

Although the man who “had unwillingly fought on the side of Rebellion” is not identified, evidence strongly suggests it was John Parker, the escaped slave who had served a Confederate artillery battery at Manassas. Just a few pages after the passage above, the Douglass Monthly reprints Parker’s “A Contraband’s Story” that had appeared earlier in the Reading [Pennsylvania] Journal. As Kate Masur noted in a New York Times Disunion essay in 2011, Parker had arrived in New York at the end of January 1862, where he was interviewed again about the Battle of Bull Run and Confederate losses there.[3]


Rochester NY Union & Advertiser 1862 Cropped
Notice in the Rochester, New York Union & Advertiser, February 12, 1862, announcing Douglass’ speech that night at Cooper Union, promising an appearance by “a rebel negro, in his regimentals, a deserter from Dixie.”[4]


Additional material published at the time strongly indicates that the man announced to appear with Douglass was, in fact, John Parker. He was speaking in the same area at the same time as Douglass. For example, on February 19, one week after the Cooper Union event, Parker was the featured speaker at a Presbyterian church across the Hudson River in Newark, New Jersey. “Parker was hired by his master to the rebels at the breaking out of the rebellion,” according to the Newark Daily Advertiser, and “has worked at Winchester, Richmond, and Manassas, and is in possession of facts and incidents which the public are invited to listen to.”[5]

Parker told his story to many people, including giving an extended interview to the New York Evening Post. Parker’s account of Manassas is vivid but badly muddled; when asked how many black persons there were “in the [Confederate] army there, he asserts that there were “one whole regiment of free colored persons, and two regiments slaves among the white regiments, one company to each.” A few paragraphs later, though, he claims that the number of black Confederate regiments at Manassas had since increased to “twelve regiments of negroes in the vicinity of Bull Run and Manassas Junction” (emphasis original). These twelve regiments, Parker again states, “are distributed one company in a regiment,” a claim that makes no sense at all.[6] A normal infantry regiment of the time consisted of ten companies of about a thousand men in aggregate; Parker’s description is profoundly unclear in terms of organization and numbers of men.

The rest of Parker’s account of First Manassas equally questionable. In his New York Evening Post interview he claimed to be “sartin” (certain) that there were 3,600 Confederate dead, and 4,000 Federals. His estimates were off by an order of magnitude; the actual numbers were around 387 and 460, respectively. He gave the number of Confederate wounded as about 5,400, which is several times the actual number.

Of course, Parker was not a trained soldier, and none of the press accounts during his speaking engagement explicitly characterize him as such. Throughout his interview with the Evening Post, Parker made it clear that while he served a Confederate gun in action, neither his sympathies nor those of his fellows lay with the Confederate cause. In his earlier interview with the Reading Journal, reproduced in the Douglass Monthly in March, Parker asserted that “we would have run over to their side but our officers would have shot us if we had made the attempt.” He claimed that “our masters tried all they could to make us fight. They promised to give us our freedom and money besides, but none of us believed them, we only fought because we had to.” To the New York Evening Post, he claimed that a slave from Alabama had been assigned by his master to serve as a sharpshooter, and in that capacity killed three Federal pickets. When he himself was killed soon after, it “was a source of general congratulation among the negroes [sic.], as they do not intend to shoot the white soldiers.”[7]


Loading Cannon
An illustration from Harper’s Weekly, May 10, 1862, showing Confederate slaves being forced to serve a cannon at gunpoint. John Parker claimed he and other slaves were put in a similar position at the Battle of First Manassas, saying that “we would have run over to [the Federals’] side but our officers would have shot us if we had made the attempt.”


Parker said that he and the other slaves manning the guns adjusted the elevating screws to fire over the heads of Union troops during the battle at Manassas. Recounting a prayer of thanksgiving given after the Confederate victory, one full of “southern braggadocio and bombast,” Parker said that “the colored people did not believe him, nor that the Lord was on that side.” Parker predicted that many slaves would continue to serve the Confederate cause, for fear that “the Lord was on the side of the South, and that they had got to be slaves always.” As for himself, Parker said, he would turn his artillery piece on Confederate forces and “could do it with pleasure,” though he dreaded the prospect of ever being in another battle again.[8]

Was Parker exaggerating his experiences for an audience that was eager to believe the worst about the Confederates? It’s certainly possible. Did Douglass, who appeared with Parker on stage and published his story in the Douglass Monthly, have doubts about the man’s account? We cannot know. But whether he was telling exaggerated stories about First Manassas or not, the best evidence of Parker’s feeling toward the Confederacy lay in the fact that he began his speaking tour soon after learning that his wife and two youngest children – a son, eight, and a daughter, six — had successfully escaped to Union lines and were now on free soil, where they were safe from any retaliation that might occur as a result of his speaking. Two older sons, seventeen and fourteen, remained in the South, the elder as an officer’s servant and the younger, sold off to another owner six months before the war. (Parker gives his owner’s name as “Colonel Thomas Griggs,” who was likely William T. Griggs [1828-83], who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Virginia Militia but served during the war as an enlisted soldier in the Fifteenth Virginia Cavalry.) At the time of his interview Parker had been informed that his wife and two younger children had arrived in New York but had not been able to link up with them; when they were reunited, he said, he hoped they would all continue on to Canada because he was still “not quite sure of his safety here.”[9]

As Glenn Brasher points out in his 2012 volume, The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom, Parker’s speaking tour and that of another former slave, William Davis, gave a boost to both the cause of emancipation and for the enlistment of black soldiers in the U.S. military. (Davis also spoke at Cooper Union, on January 15, 1862, four weeks before Douglass. But Davis had come from Fortress Monroe, and did not claim to have present at First Manassas, or to have served the Confederates in any military capacity.) Thousands of people had heard Parker, Davis, or Douglass speak on the subject, and many thousands more read about it in the New York and Boston area papers. “Allegations that Southerners were coercing African Americans into combat continued to be a regular feature in the speeches and editorials of emancipationsists,” Brasher writes. “In pushing for both emancipation and the recruitment of black troops, the abolitionist newspaper Principia maintained that the Confederates ‘have been fighting in close companionship with negroes, from the beginning!’ Southern blacks, the paper claimed, ‘are regularly drilled for the service. And the proportion of negro soldiers in increasing.’”[10]

Douglass himself went on to promote Parker’s story in print, in the March 1862 issue of his newsletter, a few weeks after having made the lecture circuit in New York and Boston. Parker’s arrival in New York was fortuitous for Douglass and other abolitionists, and who pointed to Parker’s account as evidence of claims they had been making for months. Parker’s claims of vast numbers of black troops in Confederate ranks isn’t corroborated by contemporary sources, but whether they reflected a misunderstanding on his part, or an intentional exaggeration for an appreciative northern audience, matters little. The widespread belief in their existence in the first months of 1862 helped drive the national narrative that began with the appearance of the first “contrabands” at Fortress Monroe in 1861, the First Confiscation Act in August of that same year, and through the preliminary announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, that opened the door to enlistment of African American men in the Union army the following year. By August of 1863, Douglass would be making his case for equal pay for black soldiers to Secretary of War Stanton and to President Lincoln in person, within the walls of the White House itself.

Many thanks to Dan Weinfeld, who did the hard work of tracking down the source material for this post.


[1] Boston Evening Transcript, February 6, 1862, 1.
[2] Douglass Monthly, March 1862, 623.
[3] Kate Masur, “Slavery and Freedom at Bull Run,” New York Times Disunion blog, July 27, 2011.
[4] Rochester, New York Union & Advertiser, February 12, 1862, 1.
[5] Newark Daily Advertiser, February 19, 1862, 2.
[6] New York Evening Post, January 24, 1862, 2.
[7] Douglass Monthly, March 1862, 625; New York Evening Post, January 24, 1862, 2.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Glenn David Brasher, The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2012), 78.; New York Times, January 16, 1862; Brasher, 78.

29 Responses

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  1. Glenn B said, on February 21, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Excellent. As you guys know, this is how I think we should be dealing with these claims of so-called “Black Confederates,” demonstrating that they were largely exaggerated accounts meant as propaganda in support of emancipation. Which is the main reason why the claims dried up after Jan, 1863.

    (And many thanks for giving my book a shout-out!)

  2. Glenn B said, on February 21, 2015 at 9:49 am

    And to everyone reading this: let’s all do our part to make sure this work gets linked and passed along as much as possible. We’ve got a lot of damage control to do to counteract the high visibility of that Stauffer piece.

    • Andy Hall said, on February 21, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Stauffer’s essay acknowledges that Parker’s service at First Manassas was coerced, and that Parker escaped to Union lines at the first good opportunity. Nonetheless, by including him as evidence that “yes, there were black Confederates,” Stauffer is doing something that’s very misleading to readers not immersed in this subject. Parker certainly doesn’t seem to have thought of himself as a Confederate in any way, shape or form. Stauffer’s essay is less problematic in the specific details of what he says than in the overall impression it leaves the casual, non-Civil-War-focused reader, by stamping a big ol’ Harvard Crimson endorsement on a false and misguided narrative.

      In short, Stauffer could have published the same essay, with only a few changes, under the title “No, There Were No Black Confederates, Here’s Why.”

      • Chris said, on June 30, 2015 at 1:25 pm

        You guys can say what you like, but check the Patrick County Va. Roster full of mulatto Confectioners. Being from the region I didn’t have to dig, but one look at the names and I knew. These families were free long before the Civil War, so they had nothing to gain by fighting with the Union except the loss of their status above the slave. Why would they voluntarily do that when they thought themselves better? I had a debate with a guy on another site like this, and I pulled George Donathan out of the bunch…

        DONATHAN, George. Company H, 51st Virginia Infantry

        Name:George Donathan,
        Age in 1860:17
        Birth Year:abt 1843
        Birthplace:North Carolina
        Home in 1860:Siloam, Surry, North Carolina
        Race:Mulatto (counted as a person of color- the whole family is-free or would be enumerated on the slave schedule)
        Post Office:Siloam
        Value of real estate:View image
        Household Members:
        Name Age
        Nancy Donathan 70 (George’s Grandmother)
        Larkin Donathan 52
        Sarah Donathan 47 (? as Lavina was in “poor house” institution)
        Bill Donathan 45 (may be his uncle as, lived nearby Uncles’ wife was Mary)
        Jas Donathan 40
        Betsy Donathan 12
        Frank Donathan 10
        Francis Donathan 6
        Theophilus Donathan 16
        Pop Donathan 14
        George Donathan 17

    • Chris said, on June 30, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      DISON, John. Company B, 2nd North Carolina Cavalry………

      I think that you would probably need a VERY good grasp on the history of my region to get a TRUE picture of who the Black Confed. were. I gave one example below, but here is another that I have not checked yet. I’m willing to bet anything that he will come back to the mixed race Dison/Dyson family. Have you took note of all the Goins who fought for the South. Proven descendants of Black and European Free Colored People. One of my other ancestors Solomon Sawyer was pressed, but he deserted in Kansas. From Patrick County alone, a little research will turn up DOZENS more of these mulatto soldiers.

      Click to access civilwarconfederatesoldiers.pdf

      • OhioGuy said, on July 1, 2015 at 12:59 am

        Dozens versus 180,000+ in the various USCT regiments. Not too impressive. And, I wonder if these might have been the Mulingeon soldiers. This has been documented by one scholar, whose name escapes me at the moment. Because of their unusual racial mixture they were not considered “eligible” for slavery as were mulatoes and quadroons. I believe this scholar confirmed the existence of two CSA companies, not even a full regiment, made up of these Melungeon men from Eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.

      • Andy Hall said, on July 1, 2015 at 10:01 am

        You’re right, that I don’t have an in-depth knowledge of your region’s history, that’s critical to understanding complex questions. But you seem to be be (inadvertently) making the case that your geographic area is something of an outlier to the rest of the Confederacy regarding men of color is CS military service. That may be the case, but it doesn’t make the Confederacy as a whole look any “better” in that regard. It’s like pointing to the Louisiana Native Guards as “black Confederates” — the more you actually know about their history, the more it underlines the Confederacy’s reluctance to have non-white soldiers.

      • citygray said, on July 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

        No, I only focused on the region of the country where I have intimate knowledge of the families and their history. Most of the people that I focus on are my relatives, and I’m African American predominantly. Some of my family went on to pass as White or Indian, while others drifted towards Afram community. As for them being Melungeon, they are in a sense, but that depends on if you mean Newman’s Ridge or tri-racial isolates in general. DNA has peeled back the layers of the onion, and we now know that families like the Goins were not Indian, but Black. Look at the Goins soldiers and then look at the Y-dna results which are largely e-m2 and e-p277.

        “In human genetics, Haplogroup E-V38 is a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. It is the phylogenetic term for the series of unique sequence variants on the human Y-chromosome. It is often found in African males and their descendants and is heritably passed in lineage from father to son. Geneticists study these variants in populations to find the evolutionary lineage to a common male human ancestor. It can also be referred to in phylogenetic nomenclature by names such as E1b1a (although the exact definition of phylogenetic names can vary over time).

        E-V38 has two basal branches, E-M329 and E-M2, the former is almost exclusively found in Ethiopia. The E-M2 branches are the predominant lineage in Western Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, and the southern parts of Eastern Africa. E-M2 has several subclades, however many members are included in either E-L485 or E-U175.”

        So we can either buy the misconstrued tales of exotic origins, or look at the hard scientific evidence

  3. OhioGuy said, on February 21, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Another irony: yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the date that the Confederate Congress authorized the recruitment of blacks into the Confederate States Army. That’s February 20, 1865! The war was almost over. It was a last ditch effort. This fact alone should dispel the myth of black Confederates earlier in the war. But, for some, it’s an attempt to twist history to extricate their ancestors from the taint of slavery. For truth in packaging reasons, I should mention that my own family owned slaves in Maryland before my g3grandfather — who died in the Union Army during the insurrection — and his wife (raised a Quaker) left Maryland for Ohio in the early 1830s.

  4. Sorn Jessen said, on February 21, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    So, I’m working on a section of this thesis that spells out how the narrative of African American war-time service created its own logic of citizenship and equal protection on July 4, 1865. The narrative had not yet been co-opted around the common valor of soldiers North and South, something David Blight, talks about in great length. Had there been black confederates I would have come across something on the National anniversary in 1865 that alluded to their service, but as of yet I haven’t found anything.

    To be clear, I think John Stauffer has done some great work. His book The Black Hearts of Men is something everyone should read. I don’t know what to make of his peice concerning Black Confederate soldiers. On the one hand, he says:

    The total number of black Confederate soldiers is statistically insignificant: They made up less than 1 percent of the 800,000 black men of military age (17-50) living in the Confederate states, based on 1860 U.S. census figures, and less than 1 percent of at least 750,000 Confederate soldiers.

    But on the other hand, he talks about their immense “symbolic weight,” but this is something I haven’t found much evidence of in 1865 in the aftermath of the war. In many ways, particularly with his framing of the Louisianna native guards, who he rightly notes switched sides in 1862, he’s on firm ground. But on the other side, we might be arguing about this merely because an editor chose to highlight it under a controversial headline that raises page-veiws.

    His conclusion, is mostly in line with what Glenn said up above:

    Ironically, the majority of blacks who became Confederate soldiers did so not at the end of the war, when the Confederacy offered freedom to slaves who fought, but at the beginning of the war, before the U.S. Congress established emancipation as a war aim. The Union’s emancipation policy prompted blacks, slave and free, to recalculate the risks of fleeing to Union lines versus supporting the Confederacy. Frederick Douglass was right: Emancipation was a potent source of black power.

    I mean, most of his evidence is of impressed laborers forced to fight. Which is a rather different thing. So, I don’t know what to think, insofar as the evidence you point to and the headline–to quote Mencken: No one ever went broke underestimating the ignorance of the American people–it helps to perpetuate a mythology of the Confederacy that is harmful. Yet, in the introduction and in the conclusion Stauffer isn’t saying much we don’t already hold to be true, namely that the emancipationist vision of the North proved a more powerful spur to black folks than the slave-holding vision of the South. So I’m rather conflicted over the whole thing. I hope you don’t mind my posting this. I don’t know if it’s the scholarship and the source base that’s in question or if it’s the headline, which many authors don’t have much control over.



    • Andy Hall said, on February 21, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      Sorn, the modern “black Confederate” phenomenon is better understood as a continuation of the “faithful slave” narrative that extended from antebellum times up through the most of the 20th century. It’s a way of recasting slavery in terms of patriotism.

      • Sorn Jessen said, on February 21, 2015 at 10:05 pm

        I get that and I understand the motives that Lost Cause apologists put this narrative towards in the present day. I just don’t know, given the body of evidence from the article, how much or how little Stauffer’s peice contributes to that mythology. There’s a deep unresolved conflict at the heart of the peice as a whole, and it stems directly from the ways that civil war memory shapes our present understanding of American nationalism.

        I don’t think this peice is in line with modern black confederate apologists like H.K. Edgerton:

        A close read shows that Stauffer is mainly on the side of Blight, McPhereson, and others who stress the war’s narrative of emancipation. On the other hand, the examples of the early volunteering Louisanna native guards, their denial by the Confederate government, and their switch after 1862 has long been a subject that everyone knows about, but no one in scholarship–outside of a few idiots–ever used to legitimate the Confederacy.

        I mean, I guess I don’t really know how far to take any of this seriously. Most of his examples were things you could pick up from reading Alan Nevins. Things we’ve known about for a long time None of them legitimate the Confederacy, and none of them actually show any Free African Americans actually serving under arms in any official capacity for the South.

        It mainly feels like a yes, but. Does this make sense? Yes, many of the things here were true in a small degree particularly the impressment of slaves into labor battalions, but none of them really matter, because as we all know from reading Stephen Hahn, Dubois, Foner, Mcphereson, and all the rest, Black Americans were Unionists. You can find examples of the odd former slave supporting the Democratic Party in the South during reconstruction too, but they are isolated.

        Like I said, I think Stauffer, particularly in his concluding remarks is on our side. The stories of Charleston S.C., and labor battalions have long been known to everyone who studies this stuff. The huge mass of evidence, however, is all on the other side. We know, and Stauffer does too, that black Americans stood with the union, and a few contrarian examples from 1861 doesn’t change that. The mountain of evidence runs the other way.

        So, I guess I’m left with the same question what’s the point of this peice? I don’t think he’s endorsing the black confederate apologists, but does that mean stauffer is merely being contrarian to be contrarian?

    • Andy Hall said, on February 21, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Yet, in the introduction and in the conclusion Stauffer isn’t saying much we don’t already hold to be true, namely that the emancipationist vision of the North proved a more powerful spur to black folks than the slave-holding vision of the South. So I’m rather conflicted over the whole thing. I hope you don’t mind my posting this. I don’t know if it’s the scholarship and the source base that’s in question or if it’s the headline, which many authors don’t have much control over.

      Last one first: Stauffer certainly could have had the headline changed; that’s the beauty of online publishing.

      But as I said to Glenn, the detailed content of Stauffer’s essay isn’t as problematic as the over impression that it leaves with the lay reader who is not well-versed in the subject.

      • Sorn Jessen said, on February 21, 2015 at 10:33 pm

        Last one first: Stauffer certainly could have had the headline changed; that’s the beauty of online publishing.

        But as I said to Glenn, the detailed content of Stauffer’s essay isn’t as problematic as the over impression that it leaves with the lay reader who is not well-versed in the subject.

        Both of these are true. I imagine that the Lost Causers in this world will make heavy use of this, and it will be another continuation of Lost Cause mythology that we will have to deal with. On the whole, it would have been better if he had studied the origins of the black confederate mythology and its political uses, as a legitimization of white supremacy in a modern age.

        I guess after reflection, I shouldn’t have posted my comments. You were two steps ahead of me and I didn’t see it.

        • OhioGuy said, on February 21, 2015 at 11:45 pm

          I don’t think most true white supremacists like the black Confedrate myth at all. However, as I stated before, I believe this myth is used primarily so that neoConfederates can claim that the war was not over slavery, and that old massa and Uncle Tom were the best of buddies and fought together to fend off the Yankee devil. In essence they are saying that the relationship of equality present in much of American society today was not too dissimilar to the way things were in the Old South. That, of course, is hogwash, but it is not stemming from racism so much as it is from a desire to prove that their ancestors weren’t racists. As Andy has said, this is a modern version of the happy slave myth, but now the slave is man enough to shoulder a musket and fight as an equal along side his master. Jubal Early would never recognize this version of the Lost Cause mythology.

          • Andy Hall said, on February 21, 2015 at 11:52 pm

            “I don’t think most true white supremacists like the black Confedrate myth at all.”

            Yep. The League of the South crowd has a real contempt for the “black Confederate” meme, and dismiss those who push it as “rainbow Confederates,” trying to reinvent the South of 1861-65 as a diverse and egalitarian society, in order to assuage their own, modern values and reconcile the cognitive dissonance of honoring a government and society that had African slavery at its core. In that sense, at least, the LoS folks are (as Bill Maher might say), not wrong.

            • JV said, on May 16, 2017 at 2:46 am

              Two words

              William Ellison

          • Sorn Jessen said, on February 22, 2015 at 2:13 am

            “I don’t think most true white supremacists like the black Confedrate myth at all.”

            I think this is false. Here’s former Georgia Gubenatorial Canidate, Ray McBerry: “You’ll find blacks in almost every regiment throughout the South who fought right alongside white Southerners,” during the Civil War.”

            Scratch the surface of the folks speaking about black confederate soldiers and I think you’ll find something different.

            Here’s the same McBerry on his sovreign state movement from back in 2010: “We must say to them both… “Georgia First!” Will you join with me in this political revolution and help take back control of our lives, our liberties, and our destiny as a sovereign state?”

            Now, the sovreign citizen, or sovreign state, movement as we all know is rooted in racism, anti-semetism, and a lot of the stuff that Groups like the Freemen in Jordan, Montana were peddling from the Southern Poverty Law Center:

            The ideas of the “sovereign citizens” movement originate in the ideology of the Posse Comitatus, an anti-Semitic group that raged through the Midwest in the late 1970s and 1980s. Sovereign citizens claim that they are not subject to most taxes, are not citizens of the United States (but instead are “non-resident aliens”), cannot be tried for crimes in which there is no complaining victim (zoning and professional licensing violations, for instance), and are only subject to “common law courts,” a sort of people’s tribunal with no lawyers. Most refuse to obtain Social Security cards, register their vehicles, carry driver’s licenses or use zip codes; many refer to UCC-107, a part of the Uniform Commercial Code, to justify their bizarre claims; and some use weird forms of punctuation between their middle and last names in all kinds of documents. Sovereign citizens also often distinguish between so-called “14th Amendment citizens,” who are subject to federal and state governments, and themselves, who are also known as “organic citizens” — an ideology that causes adherents to claim that black people, who only became legal citizens when the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War, have far fewer rights than whites. Some of the more famous adherents of sovereign citizens ideology include Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and members of the Montana Freemen.

            I would argue that the Black Confederate myth is another means of legitimating white supremacy. The public face if you will of private hate. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone who believes the myth of black confederates is racist, but as with “states rights” it helps to legitimate ideas that would recreate Jim Crow. I also, think that you’re right that a certain number of virulent racists, go father than people like McBerry. But, I really do think that behind talk of black confederate veterans is a belief in white supremacy, at least with more than a few people.

            • OhioGuy said, on February 22, 2015 at 11:50 am

              We will just have to agree to disagree here. I’ve encounter a number of folks that believe the black Confederate myth, and the vast majority of them are using it to run from racism not to embrace it. The wackos you site are a very tiny minority of the nation’s citizens, and an even smaller minority within the ranks of neoConfederates. The most outrageous group that you cite is from Montana, not exactly a hotbed of neoConfederate sympathy.

              • OhioGuy said, on February 22, 2015 at 11:58 am

                P.S. McBerry got 2.5 percent of the vote in the GOP primary for governor in 2010. Many of those were probably mindless protest votes that had nothing to do with his stance on any issue. He’s not exactly mainstream.

              • Sorn Jessen said, on February 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm

                You might be right. This could be something I need to reconsider. Thanks for the input, hey. 🙂

              • OhioGuy said, on February 22, 2015 at 5:09 pm

                There’s always that possibility! 😉

  5. Glenn B said, on February 22, 2015 at 2:05 am

    Stauffer’s main point was that so-called Black Confederates were motivated by things other than support for the Confederacy. That’s good history. But dropping 3,000 without any solid evidence only adds to the volume of crap on the internet that makes numerical claims like that. Another major problem I have with it, is that he says that the “black confederates” began to disappear because the Union made emancipation a war aim, thus they stopped serving the south. I insist, however, that he builds his number on claims that were purposefully exaggerated to gain support for emancipation, and thus it is the CLAIMS that dried up in 1863 (not actual men) because the CLAIMS were no longer needed. To me, that is an extremely important difference to note. Lastly, his use of the word “soldier” when describing these men is problematic in some very serious ways. So no, I can’t see Stauffer on our side of this.

  6. Elliott Hall said, on June 6, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    the army of the “confederacy was authorized to impress slaves and six states gave a similar power to governors.” Much of our success was due to the much- abused institution of african servitude”…jefferson davis. and benjamin quarles historian. to say there were no confederate soldiers is inaccurate. to say “soldiers’ met the true definition of soldier is also inaccurate. these soldiers were drafted and probably as rebellious as a rogue ‘Nam grunt.

    • Andy Hall said, on June 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      This is discussed in Quarles’ book, The Negro in the Civil War, p. 47. Quarles is clear that these men were being impressed for non-combatant roles. They were not issued weapons, were not enlisted, and held no rank. And they were not considered soldiers by the Confederacy. These are all things that differentiate them from draftees who were sent to Vietnam or others of America’s war. These impressed slaves were civilians who labored in various capacities, and payment for their services went to their masters, not the workers.

      • OhioGuy said, on May 17, 2017 at 9:08 pm

        Just re-read this blog and thread. Some interesting exchanges. I found particularly intriguing the post by the African American who talked about the DNA of descendants of free blacks who might have formed a black Confederate recruiting base in on area of North Carolina. The key point, though, IMHO was the admission that many of their descendants “passed as white.”

        • Andy Hall said, on May 17, 2017 at 11:40 pm

          There’s lots of complexity to it, that’s lost on people who simply want to say “black Confederates existed, as if that’s the end of the discussion. It should really be the beginning.

          • OhioGuy said, on May 18, 2017 at 1:06 am


            And, as I’ve pointed out, we at most are talking about 2,000 black Confederates vs 180,000+ in the various USCT regiments, and that includes the Louisiana turncoats! And, many of the others were not really volunteers in any sense of the word. And then there are the enslaved cooks who posthumously have been made men of the ranks! 😉

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