seems that throughout the years, any mention of black soldiers in
the American Civil War has nearly always placed those men in the blue
uniform of the United States Army.
There is, however, information available in books and on the Internet
today that questions those old theories. Fact is, there is a lot of
new material being written about black men who fought for the South.
Not only did they fight, these soldiers distinguished themselves on
the battlefield. I think itís safe to say that this information is
not common knowledge. I doubt that any of this is recorded in high
school or college level history books.
Iíll have to admit that I was of the opinion that all black soldiers
served in the Union army and indeed most did. But after becoming aware
of this information about his role in the Confederate army, I have
had to sort of rethink my position on this matter.
The black man served his country, with honor, against hostile Indians
on the frontier after the Civil War. We have all heard of the famous
and the job they did fighting Indians and protecting settlers. But
what about those black Confederate soldiers?
It was my assumption that if a black man fought for the South, he
must have been forced to perform that role and most likely at gunpoint.
While this may have happened, existing information explains that some
of these soldiers were free men and chose to fight for what they considered
to be their country.
Whereas the South was where he was born and raised itís not surprising
that the black man would fight to defend his home and family. Some
data indicates that he even considered the Union army to be his enemy.
A group of people currently maintain a site on the Internet known
as Terrell's Texas Cavalry (34th Regiment, CSA). This unit
fought in the Civil War and consisted of both white and black soldiers.
An excerpt from their unit history gives this information: "Unit rosters
showed the 34th to be of multiracial makeup including White, Black,
Brown and Red Confederates. Company A had 25 Hispanic troopers and
two Blacks; Company C had 28 Hispanics and five Blacks; Company D
was commanded by Capt. Jose Rodriguez and had a Black 3rd Sergeant,
The 34th Texas fought in many engagements during the war and like
many other confederate units Terrell's Texas Cavalry never surrendered.
Additional material from this web site quotes author Ervin L. Jordan,
Jr. as saying: "Tennessee in June 1861 became the first in the South
to legislate the use of free black soldiers. The governor was authorized
to enroll those between the ages of fifteen and fifty, to be paid
$18 a month and the same rations and clothing as white soldiers; the
black men appeared in two black regiments in Memphis by September....Ē
The documentation and many historical references that are available
on the Terrell's Texas Cavalry web site is very impressive and shows
that extensive research has been done on the subject of black participation
in the Confederate army.
I think the most interesting information is from a fact sheet provided
by Mr. Scott Williams. He quotes Terri Williams, a black journalist
for the Suffolk Virginia Pilot newspaper.
In the article Williams writes: "I've had to re-examine my feelings
toward the Confederate flag. It 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."
From 1861 to 1865 our ancestors were involved in a great conflict.
More people died in the Civil War than any other war in our history.
Many men, black and white ó fought, were wounded, and died for a cause
they believed in.
I feel that we have an obligation to those people ó black, white,
and all the others ó to record their history as accurately as possible,
regardless of which flag they chose to serve.
Although mankind should never tolerate the enslavement of any human
being, we do need to make sure the truth about our history is told,
even if it isnít politically correct by todayís standards.
October 18, 2005 Column
| Texas Black History