13 September 2015

A Different Foray into the "Black Confederate" Discussion

Brought to us by historian and fellow blogger, Michael Hardy:
. . . people seem more interested in adopting positions than actually doing the research to confirm or refute their ideas. The positions run the gambit from "There were no blacks in the Confederate army," to "There were no blacks willingly serving in the Confederate army," to "There were tens of thousands of blacks willingly serving in the Confederate army." Second - it's not easy to find good sources, especially when the "National Narrative" is already against you. Why is this?
You may read more of Michael's interesting and refreshing perspective here.


Anita Henderson said...

Great article! I have had an ongoing research interest in the subject of Black Confederates. I believe they did exist and people's attempt to deny it shows how the idea of black men fighting/willingly supporting the Confederacy messes with their 21st century sensibilities. I am a black living historian who belongs to both a civilian and cavalry unit. The cavalry unit is the 13th VA Cavalry, Co. H., Light Sussex Dragoons which had a documented black Confederate, Dick Poplar, a free black chef/caterer from Petersburg who was invited to join the unit. He was duly mustered in, captured at Gburg and imprisoned at Ft. Delaware then Point Lookout for the remainder of the war because he refused to take the Oath of Allegiance. Our unit has two black members (there was an alleged 2nd black Confederate in the unit), I am one of the buglers. We can accurately portray this man when we show up at events. I define a black Confederate as a military/civilian who WILLINGLY served the Confederacy so I don't include the ubiquitous servant who was dragged to war by his owner. If you count the two LA Native Guard regiments who were initially Confederate home militia plus the ones and twoseys from various regiments, my estimate is around 3-5000. This number of course is unofficial but is based on my countings of documented black Confederates I have read about or researched. It will be hard to ever determine accurate numbers due to the burning records in the 1865 Richmond fire. It is an ongoing interest and maybe once I am retired, I can look at various state records lol!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hi Anita. Good to hear from you! Bought that metal detector yet? ☺

Agreed. As already noted, you really have to look at each individual for their motivations and circumstances. You can't paint them all with a broad brush. Self-preservation was, in MANY cases, the primary motivator, I believe. And, like anyone else, these men chose (when they could) what they likely thought would be in their best interest at the moment. And there were, of course, nuances beyond that. I look forward to what else you may uncover. Thanks for the comment!

cenantua said...

I still like the find we had in writing the Lexington book. Hard to say that fellow wasn't a legitimate soldier.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, I recall him, but not the specifics. I'll try to look him up later. Thanks for commenting Robert.

Anita Henderson said...

Dear Richard;

No I haven't bought that detector yet lol! I did present the adapted paper on Maria Lewis this summer at Sweet Briar College where it was well received. Do you know what black Confederate Mr. Cenantua referred to from Lexington? There is a black Confederate from Lexington who joined the 1st VA Cavalry and is listed in the gray book series on the 1st Va. I think his name was Humbles ?


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hi Anita. Yes, it was James Humbles. He was a free black and enlisted as a bugler. Both before and after the WBTS, Humbles was employed the the town of Lexington as an engineer maintaining the town's waterworks. Bob Driver's CW related book on Lexington and Rockbridge County quotes an unnamed source that, "For some time during the war he carried his musket and saw active service."

I've suggested that the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation have you in to do Maria Lewis. Hopefully some time soon.

"Cenantua" is actually Robert Moore. I recommend his blog: https://cenantua.wordpress.com/