View single post by CleburneFan
 Posted: Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 01:28 am
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Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021

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Many of the Southern high command were extremely reluctant to arm slaves to fight for the Southern  cause. Endemic cultural beliefs stood against such a plan. One, that slaves, once armed, would turn on their owners and create a much feared slave insurrection, stopped any talk of arming slaves or drafting them. At the very least, Southerners believed that armed slaves would be cowardly and flee to the Yankee invaders at the first sign of battle.

Another belief was that the slaves were inferior to whites. To arm them, train them and trust them to fight side-by-side with whites would be a negation of that theory of black inferiority...the major theory on which the basis of slavery existed.

To illustrate the level of animosity toward the notion of drafting slaves, it is often believed that the reason one of the Western Theater's most capable commanders, Patrick Cleburne, was never promoted beyond a division command was that he dared to propose that the Confederacy arm and free slaves and their families to fight for the cause.

A visionary, Cleburne saw that about all the whites who could be drafted had been drafted or enlisted. The ONLY way he saw to meet the north's superiority of manpower numbers was to begin arming and training slaves. His controversial idea was met with harsh resistance. President Davis ordered him to never speak of such an idea again. From then on Cleburne was passed over for promotion when opportunities arose. 

Another serious impediment to drafting slaves was that they were the ones doing most of the farm work, growing agricultural products and raising livestock: They did much of the domestic work. All the white males who were fit were gone to war. It remained for slaves to carry on the bulk of such work to help feed the hungry armies and grow vital cash crops such as cotton, tobacco and rice. 

The Confederacy did use slaves from the start  in non-combat work as teamsters, cooks, butchers, personal servants, and "pioneers," squads of men  used to build and repair roads, dig trenches, build breastworks, etc.

I'm not certain that arming slaves would have made a major difference in the war. I don't know how drafting even a part of them would have worked out because their absense would have been keenly felt on the home front.

 I'm also not sure that attitudes in the Confederacy would have allowed the South to use the slaves to best advantage in battle. They probably would not trust them in combat to do what was needed. Even Northern Blacks had to work very hard to prove themselves. It would have been an even heavier burden for Southern slaves to prove their value as soldiers.

Even as late as World War II, Black units were at a disadvantage and had to try very hard to be allowed to fly airplanes and do certain other military tasks that only WHites were thought capable of performing.

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