The Myth Of Black Confederate Soldiers

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Whenever someone finds out I'm reading about the Civil War (off blog, I mean) they feel obliged to inform me that black people fought for the Confederacy. From what I can tell, this is basically false. It's true, in the early stages of the War, some regiments made up of free blacks tried to form, but they were promptly refused.

The Native Guard in Louisiana mustered, but basically ended up serving on the side of the Union. And then at the very end of the War, Lee, in desperate straits, consented to raising a black regiment. But they never fought either. Moreover, there are scattered reports of black slaves doing things like fighting in defense of their master, but certainly nothing approaching the USCT.

If I have this wrong, please correct me.

More interesting to me is why the myth holds so much sway. I think it's an extension of the Lost Cause theology--if there were black regiments fighting for the Confederacy, the War couldn't have been about slavery.

Meanwhile, in the open thread, Brucds links the Mississippi Declaration of Secession, which begins as follow:

In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.

These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.

That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2009/07/the-myth-of-black-confederate-soldiers/21370/