Black Confederate Soldier Myth

Alleged photo of "Black Confederate soldiers" often passed around and used by revisionist Neo Confederates. The photo however was taken in 1864 Philadelphia (very much a Union stronghold), showing black Union soldiers--of which there were some 180,0000. Civil War historian David Blight contends the photo appears to have been doctored by Neo Confederates to provide a false impression. Similar photos abound, also changing the blue uniforms of Black Union soldiers to gray, or usually of slaves in Confederate camps or those few given weapons to protect local communities.

The recent uproar over a Virginia 4th grade textbook alleging that "thousands" of blacks fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War is not a new one. This myth of massive numbers of black soldiers in the Confederacy has little to do with the US Civil War and more to do with revisionist notions of the Old South, where "content" and "faithful" slaves lived whimsical lives under kind paternalistic masters. The truth however is that blacks more than anyone else pushed the Civil War from one of preserving the Union to one of emancipation. Blacks fought against discrimination and risked their lives to join the Union ranks, even though they were often mistreated. Slaves often flocked to Union camps, acted as spies, saboteurs and robbed the South of its most precious resource simply by running away during the war--labor. Evidence for blacks fighting on the side of the Confederacy are usually given in vague references to a free black southerner who bought Confederate war bonds, singular black figures who may have wielded weapons against banditry by either side, slaves often forced to work in Confederate camps and the case of the free black population of New Orleans--who organized a local militia to protect against any possible looting in the city, but (as the revisionists often fail to point out) promptly joined the Northern side as soon as Union troops arrived. Entering blacks en masse into the Confederacy was something tossed around in sheer desperation in the last fleeting moments of the war, but would have so turned the entire cause upside down, it never materialized. The closest were found in Richmond Virginia, just days before Union troops arrived--where slaves were put into Confederate uniforms and marched and drilled in formation. The local white populace pelted them with rocks and mud at the sight of them. None ever saw fighting, and quickly joined the Union ranks when they arrived. There remains no mass army of black Confederate soldiers in the historical record. Rather they exist in the fevered imaginations of Old Dixie.

The video above highlights this new-old controversy that appeared in a recent Virginia textbook, as does the Washington Post article below.

Virginia 4th-grade textbook criticized over claims on black Confederate soldiers

By Kevin Sieff
Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 12:53 AM

A textbook distributed to Virginia fourth-graders says that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War -- a claim
rejected by most historians but often made by groups seeking to play
down slavery's role as a cause of the conflict.

Full article here.

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