Unsung Heroes: Black Confederate Soldiers of the Civil War - Part I

Author’s Notes & Credits:

Excerpts in this article have been taken from the website Black Confederates In the Civil War, authored by Scott K. Williams. This author found Mr. Williams writing and information exceptional and well researched and credits him with some of the information contained herein which when quoted appears in bold, italic type. Permission is granted on Mr. Scott’s website to use his work with the following provision: “Copyright 1998-2003, by Scott K. Williams, All Rights Reserved. Permission granted to reproduce this fact sheet for educational purposes only. Must include this statement on all copies.” The remainder of this article, which the author considers educational, is the work of the author and is her opinions, conclusions and writing in their entirety.




Source

Beautiful East Texas. . .

The piney woods of East Texas are one of the shining stars in the State of Texas crown. An area of beautiful forests, historical sites and exceptional people; East Texas is high on any visitor to Texas list of “must see” and enjoys a steady influx of tourists. Palestine, Texas, the county seat of Anderson County, Texas is a growing and progressive town, and indicative of all East Texas has to offer. The railroad was instrumental in bringing folks to that area early on and remains a strong presence -- drawing railroad buffs from all over the world. The marvelous, historic houses/buildings of Palestine are beyond compare.

Palestine is surrounded by five – yep, count ‘em – five state prisons and employs an amazing number of people. Once a sleepy, little town, the area has become a beehive of activity with new businesses moving in, new buildings in place and being built and a growing population. The racial demographics of Palestine are interesting and ever changing due to employment opportunities, sufficient housing and good schools. Sound like an idyllic place to live and raise a family? Indeed it is! One problem, however, raises its head from time-to-time that concerns all citizens of this progressive East Texas town and that problem is once again waiting in the wings to make another unwelcome appearance.

Memorial to all Confederate Soldiers. . .

This author lived in Palestine, Texas, some years ago, still has many friends there, visits frequently and is therefore aware of what’s going on socially and politically. A recent visit just happened to coincide with racism raising its ugly head. . . again. . . as a result of a small, park-like memorial being constructed to honor Civil War veterans of the Confederacy.

The park – not yet completed, is close to the downtown area but in a rather obscure place, covers maybe one-fourth to one-half of a city block and appears to be very tasteful – not an “in your face” sort of tribute. It’s a fact, dear hearts: Texas fought on the side of the Confederacy in the Civil War and that’s not going to go away. The ancestors of many Texans, both Black and White, fought and died in that war. Are the heroes of any war, regardless of race, to be ignored and forgotten because a segment of the population finds a war and/or the reason for it, repugnant? If that’s the benchmark for honoring men who died for their beliefs then history reflects many wars that should just be swept under the rug of time and forgotten.

Confederate Soldier's Drawing of Confederate Flags
Confederate Soldier's Drawing of Confederate Flags | Source

Racism. . . again. . .

Last year, in honor of Confederate History Month (Texas State Senate Res. 526) the Sons of the Confederacy in Palestine asked permission to fly the Confederate flag on the Anderson County Courthouse lawn, to honor those who died in the Civil War. Permission was granted and the flag was flown along with the American and Texas flags. Palestine’s local chapter of the NAACP was outraged and demanded the flag not be flown . . . and so it was taken down. The entire incident went somewhat viral, made national headlines and created dissention among the general populace of Palestine, Texas . . . and therein lies the subject addressed herein.

Black Soldiers that fought honorably in the Civil War, on the side of the Confederate States of America have only been minimally recognized, throughout the South, for their valor and contribution. Palestine, Texas is making an attempt to honor ALL who fought for the southern cause by building their small park – and that includes Black Confederate soldiers who fought and died in a war that happened over 150 years ago.

The park – again, not yet completed – has once more drawn the ire of the NAACP who objects to the park, considers it an affront to Palestine’s Black citizens and has sent a letter polling businesses in Palestine as to whether or not they were consulted before construction began on the park. The letter suggests that the park, in and of itself, will cause dissention among the populace and divide the city into two camps – those “fer” and those “against.” Before the first verbal volley goes forth in this quandary; a bit of history and a touch of common sense should be considered by all concerned.

Although the Civil War boiled down to the question of slavery there was lots of plain, old politics involved and it would take a lifetime to cover all those bases in print so we’ll not go there other than to point out that President Abraham Lincoln, long heralded as the guiding light and savior of the United States of America, had to make some tough decisions that affected both sides. Truth is, he wasn’t actually all that enchanted with many of them. He personally had some ideas on the subject of slavery that did not endear him to either side of the question but as an unpopular president (at that time) he had to take a stand and stick with it – which he did – and which ultimately resulted in his assassination at the hands of a zealot. History now recognizes him as one of the greatest presidents that ever lived – and rightly so -- as he held together a citizenry that ascribed to two very different ideologies and lifestyles. Within that citizenry existed Black men and women who fought and died on the side of the South, both freemen and slaves, as well as the North. Is it necessary – or even prudent -- to keep fighting that war 150 years later?

How many black Confederates served the South in combat or direct battlefield support? The numbers vary wildly from 15,000 to 120,000. The truth remains that nobody has an accurate figure. My estimate is that 65,000 Blacks scattered across the entire South followed the Confederate armies from one battlefield to the next from 1861 to 1865. Larger numbers of Blacks loyally served the Confederacy, not as soldiers, but as employees of the Army, Navy, Confederate government or the individual State governments.

Gathering of Black Confederate Soldiers
Gathering of Black Confederate Soldiers | Source

Unringing History's Bell. . .

Many of us, this author included, have ancestors who fought and died in the Civil War. There are many graves in my little, hometown cemetery (not in Anderson County) of Civil War soldiers and their service is honored by all. The amazing part of reading those grave stones and their dates is that many of those soldiers were very young boys – far too young to have ever owned slaves or even capable of discerning whether slavery was right or wrong as they were basically uneducated, country boys. There’s also no way to know how many died too far away for their bodies to be returned to their families for burial so the number who died is impossible to calculate but they all fought for the Confederacy – and some of those soldiers, both men and boys, were Black.

Men of all colors labor to protect what they know, have been brought up to understand and are comfortable with and human nature was no different during the period of the Civil War. As one reflects on the history of these United States there’s much that could have been done differently – but wasn’t – and none of us can change it now. If any segment of society chooses to use the past as a standard for the future there’s not much hope as the bell of history cannot be unrung.

Black Confederate Soldier of the Civil War
Black Confederate Soldier of the Civil War

"Will you fight. . . ?"

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 history of the South.” -- (To be Continued)

Part I of a series entitled:

Unsung Heroes: Black Confederate Soldiers of the Civil War

Angela T. Blair© 2013

More by this Author


Comments 20 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

The leftist history revisionists allow no part of state's rights to enter the conversation, as if that played no part. Yes, of course the main theme was abolition of slavery, but in the process, the authority, power, and size of the federal government grew enormously, and ALL the states lost a huge amount of self rule.

Most of the soldiers who fought for the South owned no slaves themselves. They fought for what they believed was self-determination, and I suppose the black soldiers fought for the same reason.

Excellent Hub, and I look forward to more, Sis!


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas Author

Tremendously astute comments, Will. I decided to address these unsung heroes as it seems their own people, of which there's a large number in Palestine, Texas, have for years neglected (or refused) to honor them. I find it sad that the Civil War, after 150 years, still divides segments of a citizenry that right now, of all times in history, should be joining together instead of drawing apart. Thanks so very much for commenting. Best/Sis


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Sis.....I suppose you been told this many many times...but you are a fabulous writer and can tell one hell of a great story!

I started enjoying History, for the first time, after joining HP. Now, I can't seem to get enough. "Alastar" is my new teacher, as a matter of fact.

Had History been this interesting and beautifully told, in school, I wouldn't have rejected it!

This is so intriguing to me and I thank you for bringing this story to us. You realize, of course, your LOVE of Texas shines through your words!

Very important that you highlight the unsung heroes, who have been ignored for far too long!....UP+++


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas Author

Howdy fpher -- and thanks for the kind words. As the Civil War is still (and probably always will be) a hot button topic for many -- forever -- I've pretty much avoided writing about it until this thing came up in East Texas although I've been a Civil War afficionado for years. The town of Palestine is not a mean, separated, attack-one-another town but has always seemed to me to be a place where everyone pretty much worked together -- and to see a small park, honoring soldiers of all ethnicities, be a bone of contention grieves me. Yes, I love Texas with all my heart and it's the great state it is because of the efforts and love we've all contributed to its well being these many years. Any segment of Texans withdrawing -- one from the other -- weakens the whole and I pray that doesn't happen. Best/Sis


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 3 years ago from Singapore

many blacks did fight in the civil war. Voted up


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas Author

MG Singh -- thank you so very much for commenting! Best/Sis


KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

Wow, what a fascinating topic, sis! You did an excellent job with this. I look forward to reading the other chapters. I didn't realize there were so many blacks who fought in the civil war, I learned something this morning! Thank you for writing this :)


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas Author

KathyH -- thanks for commenting and the compliment. I already had a bit of Civil War history under my belt but researching for this piece certainly widened my own horizons. I knew Black soldiers fought on the side of the South but had no idea there were so many. Best/Sis


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 3 years ago

This subject needed to be addressed and you did so brilliantly. Up, interesting and awesome.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thanks, Poppy -- we definitely agree on the need for this to be addressed -- obviously it's apparent that the subject is dear to my heart as I hate research worse than anything and this is the first in a long time. Burned totally out on any kind of research as a paralegal for so many years! Thanks again for commenting. Best/Sis


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 3 years ago from Michigan

Thanks for sharing. I don't know why Hollywood can remember slavery in their movies, but the south has to abandon its history. I'm just a neutral yankee, so it doesn't matter to me. I just like history and information to flow freely. We can learn from it if it is out there.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas Author

Michiganman -- good points indeed. Like you, I enjoy history and wish we could just accept it as it was. Thanks so very much for commenting. Best/Sis


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Fascinating read, and it reminded me of a film about the black hero's in this war, I wish I could remember the name of the film, but as you said history should not be swept under the carpet so to speak. I love reading historical books and articles especially living in England and reading the American past, great hub Sis!


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas Author

Nell Rose -- thanks so very much for commenting and the compliment. I, too, love historical "stuff" and am delighted that you do too -- although a bit of America's history leaves a bit to be desired a lot of it is pure gold. Obviously, the Civil War is still somewhat a bone of contention among some -- Best/Sis


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 3 years ago from Great Britain

This hub was awesome. I had no idea that so many Black boys and men fought for the Confederacy.

Loved this hub. Thank you. Up and awesome and interesting.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thanks, Dim. I was also amazed at the number of Blacks that fought in the Confederacy in the Civil War. I was recently in Palestine and it appears the park will happen -- at least they're still building on it. Best/Sis


OhMe profile image

OhMe 2 years ago from Pendleton, SC

I think the park in Palestine is a wonderful idea and look forward to hearing of its completion. I also had relatives in the war and none of them were slave owners. I enjoyed reading this very much.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 2 years ago from Central Texas Author

OhMe -- thanks! The park is now beautiful and appreciated by most -- they have lots of visitors. Best/Sis


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West Virginia

There is a movie out about this and it is called "Glory" Matthew Broderick is the General that bring a total colored union soldiers to the beach in the end and he gets killed.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 2 years ago from Central Texas Author

I've not seen the movie but will check it out - thanks for the heads' up! I thoroughly enjoyed the research on this Hub -- it was a self-education process! Thanks for commenting. Best/Sis

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