Black Confederate Soldiers

Andrew and Silas Chandler, Co. F, 44th Mississippi Infantry

 posing with D-Guard

This page is in tribute of these brave Slaves and Freemen of Color who supported and fought for the Confederate States of America, and believed in the cause of Southern Independence.

It has been estimated that over 65,000 Southern blacks were in the Confederate ranks. Over 13,000 of these, "saw the elephant" also known as meeting the enemy in combat. These Black Confederates included both slave and free. The Confederate Congress did not approve blacks to be officially enlisted as soldiers (except as musicians), until late in the war. But in the ranks it was a different story. Many Confederate officers did not obey the mandates of politicians, they frequently enlisted blacks with the simple criteria, "Will you fight?" Historian Ervin Jordan, explains that "biracial units" were frequently organized "by local Confederate and State militia Commanders in response to immediate threats in the form of Union raids". Dr. Leonard Haynes, an African-American professor at Southern University, stated, "When you eliminate the black Confederate soldier, you've eliminated the a part of the history of the South."

People know little about them, but in 1861, noted black abolitionist Frederick Douglass said;

"There are many colored men in the Confederate Army as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders, bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops and doing all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government."

Black soldiers' contributions to Union armies are already well known, popularized in Hollywood films such as "Glory", but suggesting that Southern blacks fought and died for a government that condoned and supported slavery is politically incorrect nowadays.

The South was the only home most of the slaves and Freemen knew and some sixty thousand of them were willing to risk their lives to protect their way of life against the unknown dangers of defeat by the Union Forces.  Black historian, Roland Young, says he is not surprised that blacks fought. He explains that "some, if not most, Black southerners would support their country" and that by doing so they were "demonstrating it's possible to hate the system of slavery and love one's country." Some would ask, "Why would they serve; why would they fight?" They served and fought for the same reasons as their white counterparts. They felt that the South was their home, too. Whether slave or free, each had a stake in the society and each had a home they felt endeared to. For example, many Charleston negroes actually cheered at the possibility that they would be able to shoot Yankees shortly after the outbreak of War. This is the very same reaction that most African Americans showed during the American Revolution, where they fought for the colonies, even though the British offered them freedom if they fought for them.

1. The "Richmond Howitzers" were partially manned by black militiamen. They saw action at 1st Manassas (or 1st Battle of Bull Run) where they operated battery no. 2. In addition two black "regiments", one free and one slave, participated in the battle on behalf of the South. "Many colored people were killed in the action", recorded John Parker, a former slave.

2. At least one Black Confederate was a non-commissioned officer. James Washington, Co. D 35th Texas Cavalry,  Confederate States Army, became it's 3rd Sergeant. Higher ranking black commissioned officers served in militia units, but this was on the State militia level (Louisiana) and not in the regular C.S. Army.

3. Free black musicians, cooks, soldiers and teamsters earned the same pay as white confederate privates. This was not the case in the Union army where blacks did not receive equal pay. At the Confederate Buffalo Forge in Rockbridge County, Virginia, skilled black workers "earned on average three times the wages of white Confederate soldiers and more than most Confederate army officers ($350- $600 a year).

4. Dr. Lewis Steiner, Chief Inspector of the United States Sanitary Commission while observing Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson's occupation of Frederick, Maryland, in 1862: "Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in this number [Confederate troops]. These were clad in all kinds of uniforms, not only in cast-off or captured United States uniforms, but in coats with Southern buttons, State buttons, etc. These were shabby, but not shabbier or seedier than those worn by white men in the rebel ranks. Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie-knives, dirks, etc.....and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederate Army."

5. Black and white militiamen returned heavy fire on Union troops at the Battle of Griswoldsville (near Macon, GA). Approximately 600 boys and elderly men were killed in this skirmish.

6. In 1864, President Jefferson Davis approved a plan that proposed the emancipation of slaves, in return for the official recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and France. France showed interest but Britain refused.

7. The Jackson Battalion included two companies of black soldiers. They saw combat at Petersburg under Col. Shipp. "My men acted with utmost promptness and goodwill...Allow me to state sir that they behaved in an extraordinary acceptable manner."

8. Recently the National Park Service, with a recent discovery, recognized that blacks were asked to help defend the city of Petersburg, Virginia and were offered their freedom if they did so. Regardless of their official classification, black Americans performed support functions that in today's army many would be classified as official military service.

9. Confederate General John B. Gordon (Army of Northern Virginia) reported that all of his troops were in favor of Colored troops and that it's adoption would have "greatly encouraged the army". Gen. Lee was anxious to receive regiments of black soldiers. The Richmond Sentinel reported on 24 Mar 1864, "None will deny that our servants are more worthy of respect than the motley hordes which come against us." "Bad faith [to black Confederates] must be avoided as an indelible dishonor."

10. In March 1865, Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary Of State, promised freedom for blacks who served from the State of Virginia. Authority for this was finally received from the State of Virginia and on April 1st 1865, $100 bounties were offered to black soldiers. Benjamin exclaimed, "Let us say to every Negro who wants to go into the ranks, go and fight, and you are free Fight for your masters and you shall have your freedom." Confederate Officers were ordered to treat them humanely and protect them from "injustice and oppression".

11. A quota was set for 300,000 black soldiers for the Confederate States Colored Troops. 83% of Richmond's male slave population volunteered for duty. A special ball was held in Richmond to raise money for uniforms for these men. Before Richmond fell, black Confederates in gray uniforms drilled in the streets. Due to the war ending, it is believed only companies or squads of these troops ever saw any action. Many more black soldiers fought for the North, but that difference was simply a difference because the North instituted this progressive policy more sooner than the more conservative South. Black soldiers from both sides received discrimination from whites who opposed the concept .

12. Union General U.S. Grant in Feb 1865, ordered the capture of "all the Negro men before the enemy can put them in their ranks." Frederick Douglass warned Lincoln that unless slaves were guaranteed freedom (those in Union controlled areas were still slaves) and land bounties, "they would take up arms for the rebels".

13. On April 4, 1865 (Amelia County, VA), a Confederate supply train was exclusively manned and guarded by black Infantry. When attacked by Federal Cavalry, they stood their ground and fought off the charge, but on the second charge they were overwhelmed. These soldiers are believed to be from "Major Turner's" Confederate command.

14. A Black Confederate, George _____, when captured by Federals was bribed to desert to the other side. He defiantly spoke, "Sir, you want me to desert, and I ain't no deserter. Down South, deserters disgrace their families and I am never going to do that."

15. Former slave, Horace King, accumulated great wealth as a contractor to the Confederate Navy. He was also an expert engineer and became known as the "Bridge builder of the Confederacy." One of his bridges was burned in a Yankee raid. His home was pillaged by Union troops, as his wife pleaded for mercy.

16. As of Feb. 1865 1,150 black seamen served in the Confederate Navy. One of these was among the last Confederates to surrender, aboard the CSS Shenandoah, six months after the war ended. This surrender took place in England.

17. Nearly 180,000 Black Southerners, from Virginia alone, provided logistical support for the Confederate military. Many were highly skilled workers. These included a wide range of jobs: nurses, military engineers, teamsters, ordnance department workers, brakemen, firemen, harness makers, blacksmiths, wagon makers, boatmen, mechanics, wheelwrights, etc. In the 1920'S Confederate pensions were finally allowed to some of those workers that were still living. Many thousands more served in other Confederate States.

18. During the early 1900's, many members of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) advocated awarding former slaves rural acreage and a home. There was hope that justice could be given those slaves that were once promised "forty acres and a mule" but never received any. In the 1913 Confederate Veteran magazine published by the UCV, it was printed that this plan "If not Democratic, it is [the] Confederate" thing to do. There was much gratitude toward former slaves, which "thousands were loyal, to the last degree", now living with total poverty of the big cities. Unfortunately, their proposal fell on deaf ears on Capitol Hill.

19. During the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913, arrangements were made for a joint reunion of Union and Confederate veterans. The commission in charge of the event made sure they had enough accommodations for the black Union veterans, but were completely surprised when unexpected black Confederates arrived. The white Confederates immediately welcomed their old comrades, gave them one of their tents, and "saw to their every need". Nearly every Confederate reunion included blacks that served with them, wearing the gray.

20. The first military monument in the US Capitol that honors an African-American soldier is the Confederate monument at Arlington National cemetery. The monument was designed 1914 by Moses Ezekiel, a Jewish Confederate. Who wanted to correctly portray the "racial makeup" in the Confederate Army. A black Confederate soldier is depicted marching in step with white Confederate soldiers. Also shown is one "white soldier giving his child to a black woman for protection".- source: Edward Smith, African American professor at the American University, Washington DC.

21. Black Confederate heritage is beginning to receive the attention it deserves. For instance, Terri Williams, a black journalist for the Suffolk "Virginia Pilot" newspaper, writes: "I've had to re-examine my feelings toward the [Confederate] flag started when I read a newspaper article about an elderly black man whose ancestor worked with the Confederate forces. The man spoke with pride about his family member's contribution to the cause, was photographed with the [Confederate] flag draped over his lap that's why I now have no definite stand on just what the flag symbolizes, because it no longer is their history, or my history, but our history."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Charles Kelly Barrow, et.al. Forgotten Confederates: An Anthology About Black Southerners (1995). Currently the best book on the subject.

Ervin L. Jordan, Jr. Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia (1995). Well researched and very good source of information on Black Confederates, but has a strong Union bias.

Richard Rollins. Black Southerners in Gray (1994). Excellent source.

Dr. Edward Smith and Nelson Winbush, "Black Southern Heritage". An excellent educational video. Mr. Winbush is a descendent of a Black Confederate and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

This fact page is not an all inclusive list of Black Confederates, only a small sampling of accounts. For general historical information on Black Confederates, contact Dr. Edward Smith, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20016; Dean of American Studies. Dr. Smith is a black professor dedicated to clarifying the historical role of African Americans.

Bill Yopp

A Southern Sympathizer 

Excerpt from

Forgotten Confederates

An Anthology about Black Southerners

Compiled and edited by

Charles Kelly Barrow

J.H.Segars & R.B. Rosenberg

William H. "Ten Cent Bill" Yopp truly was a beloved veteran. He was born in a small slave cabin in Laurens County, Georgia. His master's family was one of the most prominent in the area, producing several members of the state legislature and one member of the Georgia secession convention of 1861. At the age of seven, Bill was bound as a body servant to young T. M. Yopp. The two boys were inseparable. They went everywhere together and became lifelong friends.

When the war broke out, T. M. Yopp, commissioned as a captain in Company H, 14th Georgia Infantry, promptly went to Virginia. Along with him went "Ten Cent Bill." During the many battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, Bill was always by his master's side, twice nursing him back to health from severe wounds. Bill guarded the captain's belongings and consistently found needed provisions. In addition, he served as drummer for the company. When Captain Yopp was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, it was Bill who cleaned the wound and nursed the captain back to health. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Captain Yopp was again severely wounded, and Bill was right there to care for him until, owing to exhaustion, he was sent home. Nevertheless, Bill soon rejoined his master in Virginia and remained at his side for the remainder of the War.  He witnessed the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865.

As the outcome of the war became clear, slavery ended. During the earliest days of reconstruction, Bill set out to travel and to earn a living. Yet, many years later, Bill returned to the captain's family. In time, he came to care for his former master at the Georgia Confederate Soldiers' Home in Atlanta. While at the home, Bill gained the love and respect of the other veterans. He was admitted to the Atlanta U.C.V. Camp (United Confederate Veterans) and was prominent at all activities. His relationship with the home's chairman of the board of trustees, Col. R.D. Lawrence, was warm and long-lasting.

Bill was very effective in raising funds for the home. For several years he, with the help of the Macon Telegraph, raised enough money to give each veteran in the home a gift of $3.00 at Christmas. A book written by Bill concerning his exploits before, during, and after the war was also used for many years as a fundraiser for the home. The veterans at the home were so thankful that they took up a collection in 1920 to have a medal made for Bill, and the board of trustees voted to allow him to stay at the home as long as he lived. For years Bill was an attraction at both the soldiers' home and at the state fair on the day reserved for blacks who fought for and supported the Confederacy. He was one of the last surviving veterans in the home, which closed its doors to veterans in the 1940s.

At the age of 92, Captain Yopp died. Bill was the featured speaker at the memorial service, and it was a particularly emotional one. Not long afterward, Bill joined his longtime friend in the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia, where several residents of the home were interred. Clearly, there was not a more beloved veteran than Bill Yopp.

 

 
The grave of 10-cent Bill Yopp

Anthony T. Welters
 

Welters, who served in Capt. John Lott Phillips' Company B, 3rd Florida Infantry Regiment, called the St. Augustine Blues, was also known under other names, such as Anthony Wetters, Tony Fontane and Antonio Huertas. A former slave, he was born in 1810 and enlisted as a fifer in 1861, when he was 51 years old.

He participated in the battles of Perryville, Murfreesboro, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin and Nashville.

Returning to St. Augustine, Florida after the war, Welters lived at 79 Bridge St. and became active in politics and with the E. Kirby Smith Camp, United Confederate Veterans. He died in 1902 at 92 years old.

 


Dr. Winbush as a small boy and his Confederate Veteran grandfather.

Black Confederates Why haven't we heard more about them? National Park Service historian, Ed Bearrs, stated, "I don't want to call it a conspiracy to ignore the role of Blacks both above and below the Mason-Dixon line, but it was definitely a tendency that began around 1910." Historian, Erwin L. Jordan, Jr., calls it a "cover-up" which started back in 1865. He writes, "During my research, I came across instances where Black men stated they were soldiers, but you can plainly see where 'soldier' is crossed out and 'body servant' inserted, or 'teamster' on pension applications." Another black historian, Roland Young, says he is not surprised that blacks fought. He explains that "some, if not most, Black southerners would support their country" and that by doing so they were "demonstrating it's possible to hate the system of slavery and love one's country." This is the very same reaction that most African Americans showed during the American Revolution, where they fought for the colonies, even though the British offered them freedom if they fought for them.

It has been estimated that over 65,000 Southern blacks were in the Confederate ranks. Over 13,000 of these, "saw the elephant" also known as meeting the enemy in combat. These Black Confederates included both slave and free. Many Confederate officers frequently enlisted blacks with the simple criteria, "Will you fight?" Historian Ervin Jordan, explains that "biracial units" were frequently organized "by local Confederate and State militia Commanders in response to immediate threats in the form of Union raids". Dr. Leonard Haynes, an African-American professor at Southern University, stated, "When you eliminate the black Confederate soldier, you've eliminated the history of the South."

As the war came to an end, the Confederacy took progressive measures to build back up its army. The creation of the Confederate States Colored Troops, copied after the segregated northern colored troops, came too late to be successful. Had the Confederacy been successful, it would have created the world's largest armies (at the time) consisting of black soldiers, even larger than that of the North. This would have given the future of the Confederacy a vastly different appearance than what modern day racist or anti-Confederate liberals conjecture. Not only did Jefferson Davis envision black Confederate veterans receiving bounty lands for their service, there would have been no future for slavery after the goal of 300,000 armed black CSA veterans came home after the war.

When most Americans think of Civil War soldiers, the colors that spring to mind are blue and gray, not black. Until the 1989 movie "Glory," there was little recognition of the 200,000 blacks who fought for the North. Now, many Southerners say, it is time to honor another forgotten group: blacks who served the Confederacy. What makes this revisionism startling is that several of its leading proponents are African Americans who regard their research as liberating.

"There's this caricature of all blacks in the South being victimized and supporting the North," says Edward Smith, a black professor and director of American Studies at American University in Washington. "But we are just as complicated as any people. We're three-dimensional."

Since Dr. Smith began speaking about black Confederates six years ago, the subject has spawned several books, scores of articles and heated debate on the Internet. Some blacks have joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans and donned gray at Civil War re-enactments. Confederate heritage groups have proposed erecting monuments to black rebels and other "Confederates of color," such as Hispanics and American Indians.


FROM THE ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA TIMES:

Rebel ancestry isn't uncomfortable at all for the black SCV member in Florida, Nelson Winbush. who fondly recalls his grandfather, Mr. Nelson, and his war tales. "He used to say the Yankees were the dumbest damned people you've ever seen," Dr. Winbush says, telling a story about Union men marching straight at rebel guns.

Dr. Winbush's trove of mementos includes pension papers and newspaper clippings describing his grandfather's service in the Army, He also foraged for the rebels and, "fired rifles like everyone else."

When asked if he thought the role of blacks in the Rebel army was any less than that of whites he said, "Their lives were at risk: they served, thats all that matters."

His grandfather, Dr. Winbush goes on, grew up playing with white boys on the plantation and felt it was only natural to "go along with his pals" to fight Yankees. After the war, he attended 39 Confederate reunions and became a minor celebrity in his native Tennessee. "They all had a spot in their heart for the good old darky. and he loved them devotedly," a Tennessee paper wrote when Mr. Nelson died. Asked about the tone of such reports, Dr, Winbush shrugs. "Those were just the times." he says.

Now times have changed. But Dr. Winbush, a retired school teacher and assistant principal, once taught many of the men who now belong to his SCV group, which has been renamed in honor of his grandfather. Dr. Winbush's fellow members also welcome his Confederate Memorial Day address, which includes a defense of states' rights and of his grandfather's commander. Nathan Bedford Forrest. an oft-reviled figure who was a slave trader and imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

"We finally have someone who can give a different point of view and no one can say it's just another ignorant redneck trying to promote racism", says John Carroll, a founding member of the Kissimmee SCV camp.

Dr, Winbush has taken his message to groups across the South and has appeared in pro-Confederate videos. He now plans to place a rebel veteran's headstone by his grandfather's grave. "I'm an individual, just like him." he says. driving to Kissimmee's cemetery to adorn rebel graves with battle flags. "People did what they thought was appropriate in that war, black and white, and I'm doing the same now."


FOLLOW-UP TO THE ABOVE STORY:

There is something very disturbing and sad about the way stories of black Confederates are reported in the news.  I suspect that much of it has to do with the fact that those reporting these stories have very little understanding of the history behind their subject.  This seems to be the case in this story reported by the St. Petersburg Times about Nelson Winbush's memories of his "black Confederate" grandfather.  We read about how unusual it is for a black American to adhere to a narrative that is usually associated with white Southerners and are asked to suspend disbelief and acknowledge the bravery of a man who subscribes to "a different version than mainstream America."  Why not, after all here we have a decent man who wants nothing more than to acknowledge his family history and a grandfather who apparently had a profound impact on Winbush's life.

Here is a little about Dr. Winbush's grandfather: it is the story of a young slave from a Tennessee plantation named Louis Napoleon Nelson, who went to war with the sons of his master. "They grew up together," Winbush says. At first his grandfather cooked and looked out for the others, but later he saw action, fighting with a rifle under the command of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader and plantation owner.

At Shiloh, a two-day battle in 1862 in which more than 23,000 American men were killed or wounded, the Confederate Army needed a chaplain. Louis Nelson couldn't read or write, but he had memorized the King James Bible. He stayed on as chaplain for the next four campaigns, leading services for both Confederate and Union soldiers, before they headed back to the battlefield. He also foraged for food. One time, he killed a mule, cut out a quarter and hauled it back to his comrades. "When you don't have anything else, mule meat tastes pretty good," he would tell his grandson.

Over the years, the aging veteran Winbush went to 39 Confederate reunions, wearing a woolly gray uniform that Dr. Winbush still has. In photos, he stands next to two white men who accompanied him to soldiers' reunions until they were old men. Through the sepia gleams a dignity earned on the battlefield. "When he came back, that was storytelling time," Dr. Winbush says. His grandfather died in 1934. The local paper ran an obituary that called him a "darky." Dr. Winbush is proud that his grandfather's death was marked at all.