Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“The negro has no qualities out of which a soldier can be manufactured”

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on October 26, 2010

On June 15, 1864, the Galveston Daily News reprinted this brief editorial from the Richmond Whig & Public Advertiser, excoriating the value of slaves as soldiers, and boasting that the Federal army’s “unnatural and diabolical” enlistment of black troops “renders their overthrow more certain and speedy.”

NEGRO TROOPS. — The catastrophe of the Yankees at Fort Pillow, like their rout at Ocean Pond [Olustee, Florida], and other mishaps that have befallen them of late, is attributed by themselves to the cowardice of their negro [sic.] allies. We are well satisfied that the result in each of the cases would have been the same, if the places of the negroes had been held by Yankees. But at the same time we believe that the presence of the negroes hastened our victories and made them easier. We need not say to Southern readers that the negro has no qualities out of which a soldier can be manufactured. Any reliance on him in that way is sure to bring disappointment and disaster. An army composed in any degree of such troops is an army with a weak point, that may always be beaten through by an adversary who knows how to use his opportunities. Hence it is that we hold that the enrollment of negro troops has brought into their armies an element of positive weakness, and given us a great advantage. The unnatural and diabolical attempt to turn slaves against their own masters reacts upon those who conceived the villany, and renders their overthrow more certain and speedy. In this as in other ways, the institution of slavery is being miraculously vindicated by the events of the war.

It would seem that the Richmond Whig was unfamiliar with that famous “integrated” local militia unit, the Richmond Howitzers. It’s another case where real Confederates didn’t know about Black Confederates.

It’s worth noting, too, that the writer makes a distinction (second sentence) between “Yankees” and “negroes” [sic.] — revealing quite clearly that, in his view, U.S. Colored Troops are not just inferior to, but completely different from, conventional, white Federal troops; the color of their uniform is not what defines them. Black Confederate orthodoxy requires one to believe that large numbers of African Americans were enlisted into Confederate service, and that their race was considered irrelevant to their skill as soldiers. It’s hard to imagine the author of this editorial being convinced of either premise.