Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Research a Mile Wide, and an Inch Deep

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on December 28, 2011

The deeply shallow “research” to prove the existence of black Confederates continues apace. This image, from the Alabama Department of Archives and History, is of men from the 15th Alabama Infantry attending a statewide Confederate veterans reunion in Montgomery, in November 1902. The 15th Alabama, many will recall, is the regiment that made repeated attempts to dislodge the Union flank on Little Round Top on the second day at Gettysburg, facing the famous 20th Maine Infantry. I believe the former commander of the 15th Alabama, William C. Oates, is the first man at left in the front row in the image, directly above the C in “C.S.A.”

The image has become a point of discussion online recently, particularly in reference to the dark-skinned man in the second-to-last row, third from the end on the right. The discussion seems to center around whether the man is African American, of mixed race, or perhaps is a white man with very dark, tanned skin. Whether he’s actually African American or not is critical, because the beginning and end of the question is whether or not a black man attended a Confederate reunion. That fact, in and of itself, is apparently supposed to tell us all we need to know about African Americans and the Confederacy.

Of course, it doesn’t.

Warning: The following includes historical quotes that use offensive language and themes.

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120 Years of Black Confederates

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on March 22, 2011

The existence of black Confederate soldiers has been asserted — and flatly refuted — longer than I’d imagined. From the St. Louis Republic, August 16, 1891:

On the much disputed question as to whether the South ever enlisted negro [sic.] soldiers, General Shelby writes to a friend denying that it was ever done. He himself, he says, solicited General Kirby Smith to allow him to enlist 10,000 negroes and move into Kansas, but General Smith’s reply was, “No; we will win or go to the grave before we enlist the negro.” “I thought it was a mistake,” says General Shelby, “in our leaders not placing blacks in the field, nor have I changed my opinion.”

I’ve said it before: real Confederates didn’t know about black Confederates.

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Image: Joseph O. Shelby, via the Mid-Missouri Civil War Roundtable.