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 Posted: Sat Jun 11th, 2011 01:41 pm
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Mark
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Good point Pender. However, I would suggest that the movement to arm slaves was born of sheer desperation. In 1861 the Confederate government refused the service of several black militia regiments in New Orleans. By late 1863, though, manpower predictions were so dire in the Confederacy that some were willing to consider a completely altered form of slavery, "if slaves will make good soldiers, our whole view of slavery is wrong" said Confederate legislator and onetime general, Howell Cobb. Even so, as you point out, Cleburne's proposal was quickly tabled and not brought up again until late 1864. With the endorsement of RE Lee, the proposal finally passed in March 1865. Even then, however, the final legislation did not include a provision to free blacks who fought for the Confederacy. In my dissertation I argue that a combination of desperation, devotion to RE Lee and the successful use of USCT by the Federals convinced many Confederate soldiers to accept the idea of enlisting blacks to fill the depleted ranks. At the end, Confederates had to decide whether having their own country or having slavery was more important. They chose their country, but it was such a tough choice, it was too late by the time they made it. I've found the Confederate debate to arm the slaves one of the most interesting stories of the war. My old graduate advisor, Dr. Phillip Dillard is in the process of publishing a book on the subject. I highly recommend it when it comes out next year! Cheers!

Mark

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