|View single post by Old Blu|
|Posted: Sat Feb 13th, 2010 04:18 pm||
| Problems with Documenting Black Confederates
“1. Muster Rolls: Virtually all Confederate muster rolls do not contain any racial information. While it is fairly easy to identify American Indians and Hispanics by their non-Anglo names, most blacks, on the other hand, adopted European names. Although some individuals can be assumed to be slaves for lacking last names, but free blacks are virtually indistinguishable from their white comrades-in-arms. For instance, brothers, Arthur and Miles Reed both served as Privates in Co.D, 3rd NC Artillery (also in the 40th NC Infantry), but Broadfoot's Confederate roster (index of National Archives' service records) does not in any way identify them as black. Due to these difficulties, secondary sources including pension records, United Confederate Veteran files, and family records must supplement research in suspected black soldiers.
It should also should be noted that for some States, muster roll records are notoriously incomplete for a variety of reasons. For example in Alabama, many of this military records were destroyed or conveniently lost rather than hand them over to the Federal government where persecution of ex-Confederate was a very real possibility. In Missouri, a serious attempt to compile Confederate muster records did not begin until 1908, by that time many rolls were lost and many veterans had already passed away. As a result, the completeness of Confederate muster rolls are a recognized problem, not only for the black Confederate descendant but for many white Confederate soldiers as well.
2. Pension records: Only those surviving to pension age, or were aware of this benefit, or were fortunate enough to overcome postwar anti-Negro prejudice. Since pension files were controlled by State authority, they were often subject to a local county review board. This caused considerably differences in various States and from county to county. South Carolina, for instance, recorded 30 black Confederates pensioners in one county (York County) alone, Tennessee claimed 267, while the State of Missouri, which was rather hesitant to issue pensions to anyone, let alone to black Confederates, appears to have not issued any. Discrimination towards black Confederates was another real problem. For example, in South Carolina white Confederates could apply for old age pensions as early as 1887. Black veterans were denied pensions until 1923. By that time the majority of them were deceased.
One of the best resources about Black Confederates is the book, "Forgotten Confederates: An Anthology about Black Southerners", by Charles Kelly Barrow, J. H. Segars and R.B. Rosenburg. Not only packed full of very good historical accounts, it lists the names of hundreds of black Confederate veterans who received pensions for their service. While it is far from being comprehensive, it is the best resource available to date.
3. Classification: One must understand what is meant by the term, "black Confederate". Most black Confederate were NOT what one would considered as a "soldier" in the nineteenth century sense of the word. There was and still remains today an old bigoted argument that this "old boy was not a soldier but a slave" ? Well this is the same mindset that opposed compensation for black Confederates back in 1923. To be truthful and nondiscriminatory we must look either at their counterpart in the Union army or in today's modern army. Did U.S. servicemen ever serve as stable assistants, aides to Commissioned officers, cooks, teamsters, ect ? They certainly did. Plus many eye witness accounts of black Confederates testify that even some in these positions did occasionally carry arms. It would be wrong to claim that the bulk of black Confederates working in factories, repair shops, and hospitals far away from the battlefields, were soldiers even in today's standard. Most of these would NOT be considered "soldiers" but "employees of the Army". Nether the less we must be careful not to continuing to inject nineteenth century discriminatory bias on men that in today's Army would be considered soldiers. If they were serving on the battlefield or immediately behind frontlines of battle performing military service, then we should consider the modern Army equivalent. Unfortunately since we must use muster rolls, and other 1861-1865 era documents, many of these Southern black patriots will be forever unknown and forgotten. We must do the best we can to see that the few were can document are not forgotten. “