Introduction - Black Confederate SoldiersIt is a well-known fact that the Union Army allowed black men to enlist in their army and these brave soldiers helped win the war; several of them winning the U.S. Medal of Honor. Their famous deeds like the storming of Fort Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts Regiment are well known; however it is a little known fact that there were actually black Civil War Confederate soldiers. Why would black soldiers fight for the Confederates, a side which fought to keep the institution of slavery? Why did the Confederates allow black men, who they considered inferior, to enlist in their army? The answers to these questions along with other interesting facts are included in the list below. This information is written for both kids and adults.
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Interesting Black Confederate Soldiers Facts
- How many black Civil War Confederate soldiers there were is not certain. Most experts put the number between 3,000 and 10,000; however others believe there were just a few hundred. Some of these soldiers were slaves and others were freed black men.
- At first the Confederate Congress did not allow the arming of slaves to fight for their cause; this, in some cases, did not include freed blacks. The Congress feared it could backfire on them and lead to a slave uprising; most also felt this would be a disgrace to the South. It was not until near the very end of the war that the Confederate Congress, out of desperation, allowed slaves to enlist in their army.
- An important fact is that most of these men were compelled to fight for the South in various ways. Some slaves were simply ordered to fight at the threat of being killed by the Confederates. Others faced harsh treatment if they did not join the Confederates. Freed slaves were often motivated to fight for the South out of fear of re-enslavement.
- While most black men who served as soldiers in the Confederate Army or aided the Confederates in other ways were compelled to do so there was the unusual case of The First Louisiana Native Guard. This was a regiment of about 1,000 free black men who sympathized with the Confederacy and chose to fight for them. This regiment never participated in battle and were never even issued weapons. In February of 1862 the regiment was disbanded after a law was passed requiring Confederate soldiers to be white.
- The majority of black soldiers throughout the South never saw combat but rather were put to work on various projects such as building forts.
- Some people have questioned whether any black Confederates ever participated in military action. Many cases have been documented that they did see action; in fact the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass noted that he spoke with a witness to the First Battle of Bull Run who saw black Confederate soldiers "with muskets on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets".
- One documented case of a black soldier compelled to fight for the South is that of John Parker forced to fire a cannon at Union soldiers during the First Battle of Bull Run. He later stated that at the battle he had prayed for the Union to win and dreamed he might be able to escape to the Union side.
- After devastating defeats at Vicksburg and the Battle of Gettysburg several Confederate generals, including General Lee, urged Confederate President Jefferson Davis to allow slaves into the army and to grant them their freedom after the war. Davis rejected the idea and not until later in the war when the South's situation was much more desperate were slaves allowed to join the Confederate Army.
- On March 13, 1865 the Confederate Congress authorized the enlistment of black Confederate soldiers. This was way too late to have any effect on the outcome of the war which ended less than one month later when General Lee surrendered to General Grant ending the American Civil War.