I will say first and foremost that I do believe slavery was morally wrong and should never happened, but we do need to realize for the discussion of history that it was a legal system of labor at the time right or wrong at the time. I hope we all will now agree that it was wrong. Most people know the history of the War Between the States. Unfortunately “To the victor go the spoils”. Since the North won they often write the history and in many cases distort it. Many young children are taught in school that white men from the North fought and died so they could be free, but the reality is that in most cases nothing could be further than the truth. Lincoln did not free the slaves because of a great affection for the race, but rather because he did not agree with slavery. Many southerners also did not and at the time of the war less than 15% of southerners owned slaves. Most people don’t know this number does include several black slave owners.
Lincoln had stated several times that he did not believe in the “Equality of the races” or blacks voting. He further said if he could have saved the union without freeing slaves that he would have to preserve the union. Here is a great question. If you think Lincoln was a great liberator; how many slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation? The answer is none initially. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the Confederate States of America. This would be like a President saying that Canada has to pay a 1% tax increase because he is spending like “drunken sailors”. They can’t do this because it is not their country. Just like the United States left England the Confederate States of America had left the United States and was a separate nation until invaded and taken back in the union by force after one hell of a four year battle which saw more Yankee causalities despite the South having less money and being outnumbered six to one.
Most people don’t know that the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to slave states that remained loyal by whatever means (like throwing the legislature in jail in the case of Maryland) like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia when they broke away from Virginia (Abe saw nothing wrong with this). In those states during the war that was supposed to be “To end this evil institution of slavery” Slaves were still being raped, worked to death, and abused in all the mentioned states loyal to the union until the ratification (which was a kangaroo court ratification considering the South was not allowed to vote and had puppet governments from the Yankees) of the 13 Amendment which ended slavery. There are many countless facts that directly disprove the theory that every Southerner fighting for the confederacy was an advocate for slavery as they had a draft just like the Yankees. Many did not even own slaves. Also many Union soldiers were very racist and simply did not like the economic competition that slavery gave the South. Distortions of facts are part of the reason you often will not hear about things like black slave owners, Africans selling their own people into slavery instead of the white men capturing them, the bigotry of Lincoln and Grant, and black Confederates. It does not go along with the politically correct agenda of vilifying everything associated with the Confederacy.
Initially several confederate generals wanted to use slaves or free blacks as soldiers. The slaves would be given freedom in exchange fro their service, but this was rejected by the Confederate Congress. It would not be until the last couple months of the war that the idea of black Soldiers for the Confederacy would be a reality. There were several blacks who did fight for the south. Some were slaves who had a genuine affection for their masters and their families. There were also some freed blacks employed as cooks and other positions that ended up seeing combat. Aside from the concept of belonging to another person I am sure that a majority of slaves were treated badly, but I am also sure there were many southerners who were very good to their slaves were they were like family. While the men were at war the slaves often took care of the family. If there was not some love there they all would have run off. Lincoln had hoped for a quick end to the war with the aid of slave rebellions, but for the most part this did not occur. Here are some examples of brave black men in gray.
Silas Chandler was born a slave owned by the family of Andrew Martin Chandler. At the age of 15 Andrew had enlisted in Mississippi’s 44th infantry division. Before he went off to war his boyhood playmate, fried, and former slave Silas Chandler volunteered to go with him into battle. There was definitely racism in the Confederate army like the Union army, but Silas and Andrew fought the enemy in defense of their homeland back to back. Silas also saved Andrew’s leg from amputation by taking him from a Confederate field hospital to the family plantation in Mississippi. The Chandler family was very grateful for saving Andrew’s life and leg that they gave Silas land and a house. He was awarded the Confederate Iron Cross posthumously by The United Daughters of the Confederacy for his bravery and loyalty. In an interview with Andrew Chandler he mentions that many in the unit thought of Silas as a slave or servant, but “He was very much an equal, displaying just as much hatred for the Yankees as anyone in the whole unit”! Mississippi state records show that Silas also received a Confederate Pension. When Andrew was injured he could have made it to the Yankee lines if he did not want to be there or simply run off. He also was freed before the war started and did not even have to go.
Dick Poplar served with 13th Virginia Cavalry and was captured during the retreat from Gettysburg. He spent five months at Fort Delaware Prison and fourteen months at Point Lookout Prison. He served over a year and a half in prison. People often wonder why he was in prison so long. As noted before Abraham Lincoln thought there would be massive slave rebellions and no blacks possibly would be loyal to the Confederacy. A loyalty oath was typically given to prisoners before being paroled and anyone black captured with the Confederates could leave as soon as they wanted. Dick Poplar refused to sign it much to the anger and surprise of his Union Captors. When he died he was buried with full Confederate honors and his pallbearers were officers from the 12th and 13th Virginia Cavalry.
Other facts to consider are put forth by Professor Ed Smith of American University (who is black) noted that blacks had fought in most wars. George Washington, who was a slave owner, had 5,000 black soldiers that fought with him during the Revolutionary War. Andrew Jackson, also a slave owner, in 1812 heavily praised blacks in his service. He believes blacks volunteered to show patriotism and improve their situation. Various records show that many blacks received pensions from service in the Confederacy and have gone to Confederate reunions and were treated as brothers by their white counterparts.
Another example of how blacks served in the Confederacy and that the majority of men in gray did not fight to perpetuate slavery. Probably the most controversial Confederate General was Nathan Bedford Forrest. He had been a slave trader prior to the war. Monuments have been protested and there have been attempts to change the name of a school in Florida named after him. During the war he had forty five slaves from his plantation ride in his regiment. He had an escort that was always with him in battle that was the elite of his cavalry and 20% of them were blacks. This escort was like the Green Berets of the day. He told his slaves that if the Union won they would be free and in exchange for their service they will be free if the Confederacy wins. Either way they would be free. Only one of his slaves deserted during the war. Twenty of them returned home to the plantation with General Forrest and he freed his slaves before the 13th amendment was passed.
What people don’t understand is that General Forrest was a man of his time. He profited from slavery when it legal and after the war dealt with blacks more as fellow citizens going as far as pushing for them to be able to vote in the democratic party. He did help organize the Ku Klux Klan and was the first Imperial Grand Wizard, but the organization was not started as a hate group but a social organization for former Confederates. Initially their main targets were northern carpetbaggers and Southerners loyal to the Union. He actually called for the group to be disbanded when it became a hate group yet it was reborn numerous times.
It is also worth noting that prior to The War Between the States that 500,000 free blacks were in the south and 60,000 were in Virginia alone. There were bonds that went back several years and not all masters were as horrible as the ones in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By all means slavery was horrible and more masters were cruel than benevolent, but many slaves loved their masters and many masters loved their slaves. Also nine out of ten of the soldiers that fought in the Confederate Army did not own any slaves.
The question some people will ask themselves is why there is such denial that blacks served loyally and voluntarily in many cases in the Confederacy. Some also will wonder why they did if the goal of the Confederate States of American was to keep blacks in slavery. First if anyone thinks the south only wanted to keep blacks in slavery and the north wanted full equality really needs to read a history book. Racism was different but prevalent in both areas. The reason that there is such denial is that it goes against political correctness. If blacks fought for the south then the confederacy can no longer be made out to be based totally in slavery. Many people don’t even know that the original 13th amendment before the war was going to be an amendment to protect slavery were it already exists as a way to preserve the Union by Lincoln. If he was the great liberator and hater of slavery that people make him out to be he would not have been willing to do this. As I stated earlier the side that wins usually writes history and that is how much of the history of the South is painted in bigotry. It is true that segregation, Jim Crow and things of that nature were in the south, but very few historians note that the reason for that was just as much the fault of Yankees who were using the Negro against the southerners. The north went as far as keeping white southerners from voting and allowing blacks. Many people could only take so much. Had reconstruction not been as horrible on the south it is likely race relations would have been much better for the United States of America.
Sources and for reference
Black Confederates By J Segars. Paperback (2001)
Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream By Lerone Bennett Jr. Paperback (2007)