For us Southrons, it’s always a good time for another discussion of Civil War history. Francis kicks things off.
The first Negro slaves arrived in North America long before the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Slavery was an established and accepted practice virtually everywhere on Earth at that time. The great men who crafted the founding documents of the United States of America largely recognized the moral horror of it – yet they refrained from abolishing it in the new nation. Some felt they could not endanger the Revolution, or the eventual acceptance of the Constitution, by acting too swiftly to expunge it. Even so, anti-slavery sentiment was sufficiently strong in 1787 that the states where slavery was practiced accepted the provisions made for the curbing and gradual abolition of slavery twenty years after the Constitution’s ratification:
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person. [Article I, Section 9, first clause]
While the approach might not be to the taste of contemporary moralists, nevertheless it probably struck the Founders as the best they could do.
Now, the main thrust of Fran’s post isn’t CW v1.0, or slavery itself. But as a callow stripling I found Civil War history an entirely captivating topic, and I do to this day, so his glancing mention of it above got me to thinking. That inspired me to poke around what you might call the historical record’s dusty old manse a bit; there’s an almighty lot of good stuff to be found in those dim, musty rooms, so much of it that it’s quite easy to get lost in ’em. For example:
10 Surprising Facts About The Confederacy
I made this list in order to clear up some misconceptions people had about the Confederacy. This is not a comprehensive list of facts about the Confederacy; I picked a few that I thought most people wouldn’t be familiar with. Overall, I intended for this to be a fun and informative list, and not to start a North versus South debate.
10 Battle Names
Union troops were primarily city and town dwellers. They named battles after natural objects near the scene of the conflict. Confederate troops were, chiefly, from the country and named battles after impressive artificial (man-made) objects near the scene of the conflict. The battle of “1st Manassas / Bull Run”: The Union army named the battle “Bull Run” after a little stream near the scene, called Bull Run, and the Confederate army named the battle “Manassas” because of the Manassas railroad station located nearby. There were at least 230 actions that were known to have more than one name. In “Ball’s Bluff / Leesburg”- The Union troops noted the steep 100-foot-high bank rising above the Potomac on the Virginia shore, and the Confederate army noted the nearby city of Leesburg, Virginia. “Pea Ridge / Elkhorn Tavern”: Elkhorn was a nearby tavern and Pea Ridge was the name of a crest of the Ozark’s Ridge.
Follows, more stuff your run-of-the-mill, woefully undereducated Amerikan probably neither knows nor cares a whit about, which we’ll just casually skip past. But here’s a couple of fun facts that even someone of above-average erudition might not have been aware of:
2 Equal Pay
The confederate Congress specified that black soldiers were to receive the same pay as the white soldiers. The Union army’s black soldiers were paid less than the white soldiers. A black soldier in the Union army would have been paid $10 a month with a $3 clothing fee taken out, leaving the soldier with $7 a month. White soldiers were paid $13 a month and were not forced to pay a clothing allowance, which is almost twice as much as the black soldiers. By contrast the Confederate army paid their privates of both races $11/month until 1864. Equal pay for both races in the federal army did not come into effect until June 1864. The Confederate Army also authorized a salary for black musicians in 1862.
In 1864, the Confederate States began to abandon slavery. There are some indications that even without a war, the Confederacy would have ended slavery. Most historians believe that the Confederacy only started to abandon slavery once their defeat was imminent. If that were true then we are to believe that the CSA wanted independence more than they wanted to hold on to slavery. The CSA’s highest ranking generals, Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston were not slave holders and did not believe in slavery. And according to an 1860 census, only 31% of families owned slaves. 75% of families that owned slaves owned less than 10 and often worked beside them in the fields. The Confederate Constitution banned the overseas slave trade, and permitted Confederate states to abolish slavery within their borders if they wanted to do so. Slavery wasn’t abolished until 1868, 3 years after the war. Thus Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland and Delaware still had slaves.
Yes, the Civil War was fought to end slavery…in part. But by no means was slavery the sole issue. In fact, a good argument could be made that it wasn’t even the main one, although as the situation developed the Abolitionist cause grew in importance until it had finally become pretty much the whole point before the end. That gradual shift in opinion was in large measure due to Lincoln’s canny use of sympathy for the plight of the poor Nee-Grows as a means of firming up support among restive Yanks—especially in the northernmost portions of the Union—whose patience for an ever-more-costly and agonizing war was steadily dwindling as ever-more-horrific casualty lists kept on pouring in. All this has been the subject of quite a few discussions at this humble websty over lo, these many years.
Which leads us to more fun if seldom-acknowledged facts.
Most historical accounts portray Southern blacks as anxiously awaiting President Abraham Lincoln’s “liberty-dispensing troops” marching south in the War Between the States. But there’s more to the story; let’s look at it.
Black Confederate military units, both as freemen and slaves, fought federal troops. Louisiana free blacks gave their reason for fighting in a letter written to New Orleans’ Daily Delta: “The free colored population love their home, their property, their own slaves and recognize no other country than Louisiana, and are ready to shed their blood for her defense. They have no sympathy for Abolitionism; no love for the North, but they have plenty for Louisiana. They will fight for her in 1861 as they fought in 1814-15.” As to bravery, one black scolded the commanding general of the state militia, saying, “Pardon me, general, but the only cowardly blood we have got in our veins is the white blood.”
Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest had slaves and freemen serving in units under his command. After the war, Forrest said of the black men who served under him, “These boys stayed with me.. – and better Confederates did not live.” Articles in “Black Southerners in Gray,” edited by Richard Rollins, gives numerous accounts of blacks serving as fighting men or servants in every battle from Gettysburg to Vicksburg.
Professor Ed Smith, director of American Studies at American University, says Stonewall Jackson had 3,000 fully equipped black troops scattered throughout his corps at Antietam – the war’s bloodiest battle. Mr. Smith calculates that between 60,000 and 93,000 blacks served the Confederacy in some capacity. They fought for the same reason they fought in previous wars and wars afterward: “to position themselves. They had to prove they were patriots in the hope the future would be better…they hoped to be rewarded.”
Many knew Lincoln had little love for enslaved blacks and didn’t wage war against the South for their benefit. Lincoln made that plain, saying, “I will say, then, that I am not, nor have ever been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races…I am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” The very words of his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation revealed his deceit and cunning; it freed those slaves held “within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States.” It didn’t apply to slaves in West Virginia and areas and states not in rebellion. Like Gen. Ulysses Grant’s slaves, they had to wait for the 13th Amendment, Grant explained why he didn’t free his slaves earlier, saying, “Good help is so hard to come by these days.”
Interesting indeed, and somewhat puzzling also. Before anybody starts in shrieking here, I’d better say once more that NONE of this is to be construed as an argument in support of slavery. I won’t further belabor that point, because I see no reason to; it’s entirely obvious, and only a hysterical fool would say otherwise. Onwards.
No circumstances connected with the late war caused more surprise, perhaps, than the general conduct of the slave population of the South during the whole contest. This surprise was common to the people of both sections, for there were few persons at the North who did not expect, and at the South who did not fear, a servile insurrection as the Federal armies penetrated deeper into the Southern territory. The people of the South did not, of course, have any great opinion of the negros’ courage, but still they felt apprehensive about the women and children left at home, and fearful, too, in regard to neglected plantation work; and the fact of this apprehension is embodied in all the draft schemes and conscription laws of the Confederacy, which, both under the State government regimen, and later under the general conscription system, made specific provision for a certain line of exemptions, looking to the peace and good order of the plantations, and keeping the negroes at work. These exemptions included detailed officers and veterans, home guards, etc., and, even in the last and severest conscription law passed in the fall of 1864, one overseer was exempted “for each plantation containing over fifteen able-bodied male slaves.”
On the other hand, a slave insurrection was counted on at the North as one factor in the war. It was deprecated, of course; it was not invited, but it was still looked for, and the Emancipation Proclamation was calculated upon as a means of inciting the negroes to strike for their freedom. Those who will examine the periodicals of the period-the Atlantic Monthly, for instance; the Continental Monthly, etc.-will find them teeming with historical instances written up of slaves who had so risen. The Atlantic, in particular, in urging the Emancipation Proclamation, took occasion to give, as arguments for it, detailed accounts of the revolt of Spartacus, of the Maroons, of Nat. Turner’s outbreak, etc.; all showing the wish that was father to the thought. Butler speculated in this sort of business at Fortress Monroe and New Orleans, and Hunter tried it in South Carolina and Florida. Higginson’s regiment at Beaufort was intended to be a nucleus for the negro rising which was looked for on the Carolina coast.
The negroes, however, refused to disturb the Confederates with any fire in the rear. They behaved in the most exemplary manner everywhere. Where the Federal armies settled down they came in in large numbers, and established their camps upon the fringes of the army, playing the parts of “intelligent contrabands” to perfection. They told miraculous stories, and brought in no end of “grape-vine ” intelligence for the divertissement of the newspaper correspondents, and the gobemouches; but they were disgustingly apathetic on the subject of striking “blows for liberty.” They had no fight in them, in fact, and, when they came into camp, had no idea of any other freedom than freedom from work and free rations. The best of the negroes, where they could, stayed at home and worked along as usual, and there was no general enlistment of the negroes until the substitute brokers began to buy them up, and put them in the army by wholesale.
There can be no doubt that the negroes behaved very well, and that the Confederate people had a lively and very grateful appreciation of the fact. There is evidence enough and to spare of this. I have before me a curious pamphlet, “Marginalia; or, Gleanings from an Army Note-book,” by “Personne,” army correspondent of the Charleston Courier, published at Columbia, S. C., in 1864, which abounds with instances and recitals of the good conduct of the negroes. Thus, “Personne” relates the story of Daniel, a slave of Lieutenant Bellinger, who was shot to pieces trying to take his master’s sword to him, in the fort at Secessionville, during the assault on that post, and he says: “Such instances of genuine loyalty have their parallel nowhere so frequently as in the pages of Southern history, and gives a flat contradiction to all the partial and puritanical statements ever made by Mrs. Stowe and her tribe of worshiping abolitionists.” “The fidelity of our negroes,” this writer says, in another Place, “has been as much a subject of gratification to us as of surprise to the enemy. It has been thought that every slave would gladly avail himself of an opportunity to regain his freedom; but the prophets have been disappointed. General John B. Gordon, United States Senator from Georgia, who used to own several plantations and a great many slaves, in his testimony before the Ku-Klux Investigating Committee, in July, 1871, spoke in the strongest terms of the good conduct of the Southern negroes during and after the war. He said that “they have behaved so well since the war that the remark is not uncommon in Georgia, that no race, relieved from servitude under such circumstances as they were, would have behaved so well.”
This article, of which you should read the all, is particularly intriguing. Again: NOT as an argument in support of the “Peculiar Institution,” but for its depiction of the overall attitude and character of many Negro slaves in the Southern Confederacy. It restores a panel of history’s tapestry that the victors very carefully painted over after the war was won, something no history buff will find at all surprising or unusual.
Okay, that ought to be enough Civil War talk to get everybody riled up and yelling at everybody else in the comments, I reckon. Have at it, y’all.