George Mason University economist and syndicated columnist Walter Williams weighs in on the myth of black Confederate legions:
Kevin Sieff, staff writer for The Washington Post, penned an article "Virginia 4th-grade textbook criticized over claims on black Confederate soldiers," (Oct. 20, 2010). The textbook says that blacks fought on the side of the Confederacy. Sieff claims that "Scholars are nearly unanimous in calling these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history." William & Mary historian Carol Sheriff said, "It is disconcerting that the next generation is being taught history based on an unfounded claim instead of accepted scholarship."Let's examine that accepted scholarship.In April 1861, a Petersburg, Va., newspaper proposed "three cheers for the patriotic free Negroes of Lynchburg" after 70 blacks offered "to act in whatever capacity may be assigned to them" in defense of Virginia. Ex-slave Frederick Douglass observed, "There are at the present moment, many colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down ... and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the federal government."Charles H. Wesley, a distinguished black historian who lived from 1891 to 1987, wrote "The Employment of Negroes as Soldiers in the Confederate Army," in the Journal of Negro History (1919). He says, "Seventy free blacks enlisted in the Confederate Army in Lynchburg, Virginia. Sixteen companies (1,600) of free men of color marched through Augusta, Georgia on their way to fight in Virginia."Wesley cites Horace Greeley's "American Conflict" (1866) saying, "For more than two years, Negroes had been extensively employed in belligerent operations by the Confederacy. They had been embodied and drilled as rebel soldiers and had paraded with white troops at a time when this would not have been tolerated in the armies of the Union."