|Johan Steele wrote:
Wall Street Journal, May 8, 1997
And here's some more from the WSJ article.
"'It's pure fantasy,' contends James McPherson, a Princeton historian and one of the nation's leading Civil War scholars. Adds Edwin Bearss, historian emeritus at the National Park Service: 'It's b.s., wishful thinking.' Robert Krick, author of 10 books on the Confederacy, has studied the records of 150,000 Southern soldiers and found fewer than a dozen were black. 'Of course, if I documented 12, someone would start adding zeros,' he says.
"These and other scholars say claims about black rebels derive from unreliable anecdotes, a blurring of soldiers and laborers, and the rapid spread on the Internet of what Mr. McPherson calls 'pseudohistory.' Thousands of blacks did accompany rebel troops -- as servants, cooks, teamsters and musicians. Most were slaves who served involuntarily; until the final days of the war, the Confederacy staunchly refused to enlist black soldiers.
"Some blacks carried guns for their masters and wore spare or cast-off uniforms, which may help explain eyewitness accounts of blacks units. But any blacks who actually fought did so unofficially, either out of personal loyalty or self-defense, many historians say.
"They also bristle at what they see as the disingenuous twist on political correctness fueling the black Confederate fad. 'It's a search for a multicultural Confederacy, a desperate desire to feel better about your ancestors,' says Leslie Rowland, a University of Maryland historian. 'If you suggest that some blacks supported the South, then you can deny that the Confederacy was about slavery and white supremacy.'
"David Blight, an Amherst College historian, likens the trend to bygone notions about 'happy plantation darkies.' Confederate groups invited devoted ex-slaves to reunions and even won Senate approval in 1923 for a 'mammy' monument in Washington (it was never built). Black Confederates, Mr. Blight says, are a new and more palatable way to 'legitimize the Confederacy.'"
7 pages in, I think this posting bears repeating. Some excellent, professional, and well-respected historians have looked into this topic, and as Ed Bearss said, "it's B.S."
I also bristle a bit at the idea that, at least as far as the Civil War goes, the winners write the history. I don't think history has ever been kinder to a similar group/movement than it has been to the Confederacy. Do some research into Lost Cause mythology and you'll easily see how prevelant its tenets still are in Civil War historiography. Eric Foner and David Blight are two historians who I would recommend if anyone is interested in studying the ways in which the service of black men in the Union army, and the issue of slavery, were pushed to the rear in the 1890's in the name of "reconciliation" between North and South.