View single post by Johan Steele
 Posted: Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 07:34 pm
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Johan Steele
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"Generally speaking, anyone who wants to discuss the topic of "Black Confederates" ends up discussing the Louisiana Native Guards because there are very few verifiable examples of "Black Confederate" units to go on: the Louisiana Native Guards, a company in Mobile, some Partisan Rangers in Louisiana, maybe one or two others. None of those units was ever accepted into service by the Confederate government.

The *ONLY* verifiable example of a definite "Black Confederate" unit accepted by the Confederate government is 2 companies of infantry (total about 100 men) who can be placed at 3 locations in Virginia in a 15 day period in late March and April of 1865. (The three sightings: marching through Richmond one day in March; deploying as a wagon guard during the retreat to Appomattox; digging entrenchments in Farmville during the retreat to Appomattox.)

The reason there are no other verifiable examples is that it was illegal under Confederate law to enlist or conscript blacks, slave or free, as soldiers for most of the war. An exception to that was passed in 1861 allowing for blacks to be brought in as musicians or cooks -- traditional slave duties to many Southerners. After bitter debate, the Confederate Congress finally passed a law allowing blacks to serve as soldiers in other capacities in 1865 (March 24 or so). Even then, with General Lee in support and the Confederacy crashing down about their ears, about 1/3rd of the Confederate Congress voted against allowing slaves to serve as soldiers.

There was a doctor in Richmond, in the Army hospitals, who had been pushing for this and who had formed a group out of blacks working in the hospitals. They were accepted immediately, which is where the 2 companies referred to came from. General Lee, then the commanding general of the Army, did send out orders and recruiting officers for this, but no other "Black Confederate" unit is known to have formed. In at least one case, it is known that the orders arrived after the local Confederate forces had surrendered. Lee surrendered about 16 days after the Confederate Congress passed the law, so there really was no time to recruit, equip and train the units.

The Louisiana Native Guards did exist during the Civil War as a Louisiana Militia unit when the Confederacy was starting. This makes them impossible to ignore for any who discuss "Black Confederates".

They started forming with a meeting in March of 1861, were accepted by the Governor of that state in May (22nd?) when he appointed Henry D. Ogden (white) to be their commander and Lt. Col. At no time do they seem to have been issued arms from the state or the Confederate government. At no time do they seem to have ever served in the field until Farragut steamed up the river to seize New Orleans. In 1862, the state legislature passed a new law, enacting conscription for "white males", and disbanding all militia units not accepted into the state Volunteer units as of February 15. The Louisiana Native Guards officially were no longer in existence at that point. On March 24, with Louisiana being stripped of armed defenders to meet the crisis to the North (Grant's Henry & Donelson Campaign, the advance down the Mississippi under Pope, the fall of Nashville, frantic fortification at Vicksburg, Grant's arrival at Shiloh), the Governor seems to have alerted/reinstated this unit in the state forces (technically illegal, but it was an emergency). There is still no evidence of them being armed by any authority, state or Confederate.

When Farragut teamed past the forts, the Confederate Army withdrew from New Orleans to make it an "open city" (also because it looked to Lovell to be indefensible and a death trap for his army). All that was left were whatever militia and local defense forces groups the city had. The Louisiana Native Guard was one of these. They seem to have been assigned to the area by Esplanade in the French Quarter; supposedly about 300 showed up. After the surrender of the downriver forts (April 28), Farragut demanded the surrender of the city, the mayor rushed to accept, and the Louisiana Native Guards disbanded again. Ben Butler moved troops into the city.

After about a month or so, the Creole/Black leaders began to tell Union authorities that they had been more-or-less compelled to serve in the forces against them and would like to volunteer for the Union. Butler, not a supporter of black troops (he'd argues vigorously against it in 1859 in Massachusetts) ignored them. But he could not get more troops from Washington, and by August the Confederates had launched an attack on Baton Rouge that almost succeeded. Suddenly Butler was interested -- but the Lincoln administration was not yet ready for Black troops and would not authorize Black troops for Federal service. So Butler (a Boston lawyer) dusted off the LA Governor's activation of the Native Guards and started recruiting. He formed four regiments (the original seems to have been about 14-15 companies in a single regiment) of Louisiana Native Guards using his authority as military governor. These were later called the Corps d'Afrique and then became USCT regiments later in the war. A goodly number of men served in both Union and Confederate versions. Battalion will say it is fewer, because he only counts those who served in the 1st regiment, and not those who served in the other three.

To those who want to claim that there were tens of thousands of "Black Confederates" fighting for the South, these Louisiana Native Guards are very important. They will try to tell you they fought for the Confederacy -- but they never fired a shot in anger at Yankees. They will try to tell you they were in the Confederate army -- but they never were. They will try to find a way they were deployed in the field alongside Confederate troops, under Confederate command, such as at the Chalmette Line south of New Orleans -- but they never were. They will try to tell you they were a well-armed and equipped unit -- hence the falsified photo, I suppose, among other reasons -- but they never were.

You can find black individuals who served in Confederate units -- particularly as body servants, musicians, and cooks. You can find black teamsters -- but free black men were exempted from conscription of any kind until 1864, and civilian teamsters made $2/day while soldiers made $13/month; which do you think free black men would choose? You can even find the occasional man who apparently was Black (or Creole, which many Southerners in LA-MS-AL said was different) serving as a soldier somewhere. In any case, the free Black male military-age population of the Confederate states was less than 22,000 according to the 1860 Census, so where did the tens of thousands of "Black Confederates" come from?

Sorry for the dry and over-long post. All the hub-bub is really about arguments of people who wish to over-inflate the size of the "Black Confederate" contribution for one reason or another, and probably the over-reaction of those who discuss it with them.

Regards,
Tim"

http://civilwartalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25854&page=6

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