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Afro-Confederates took their stand for Dixie


Date published: 9/15/2011

DID Southern men of African descent fight for the Confederacy?

With textbooks rejected for erroneously stating that black Confederate units existed; with a proliferation of pro-Old South websites publishing dubious, retouched photos and making false or unsubstantiated claims; with scholars such as Bruce Levine (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Kevin Levin (St. Anne's-Belfield School in Charlottesville) attempting to set the record a little too straight on such matters, it is difficult to ascertain an accurate historical record.

While it is counterintuitive for modern Americans to think that free blacks, slaves, and former slaves fought for the Confederacy, we assert that there is ample evidence to show that many persons of color fought for the Confederacy--some paying the ultimate price.

Amid Civil War sesquicentennial events, we wade into these murky waters not to hail the glories of the Old South but for one reason: to offer the proper respect to the brave soldiers that history forgot or, worse, denied.

We believe it is demonstrable that there were many--at least dozens, possibly hundreds, perhaps thousands--of black men who fought for the Confederacy, and we wish to celebrate their legacy and acknowledge their contribution to America's historical landscape during this sesquicentennial.

For anyone wanting to survey an authoritative historical source on the subject, a good place to start is "The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion." Once available only at academic libraries, this source is now in CD-ROM format. Section II includes after-action reports by Federal officers. This document offers numerous first-person accounts of such officers reporting the presence of armed, combatant black troops within Confederate ranks--not simply servants, cooks, and teamsters.

Further, these references span the full conflict, contradicting some modern scholars who assert that it was only near the very end of the war that black men might have been forced into service by a losing South.

THE LIEUTENANT'S REPORT

Here is an excerpt from the report of Lt. Parkhurt, 9th Michigan Infantry, contained in "The Federal Official Records," Series I, Vol. XVI, on Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's attack at Murfreesboro, Tenn., July 13, 1862:

"There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces."


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