FAQ

"From the beginning of this struggle, [African  Americans] took part ---
on the Union side thousands of run-a-way slaves joined the Army and Navy.Likewise thousands took part on the Confederate side
actuated by a type of loyalty unsurpassed in human annals."
~West A. Hamilton, Colonel, Infantry Reserve
Harry S. Truman Library and Museum


1. Why is the preservation of Confederate Soldier records important?

2. What is the difference between a Black Confederate and a Black Confederate Soldier?

3. How many Blacks served with the Confederate States  Army?

4.  Did the Congress of the Confederate States of America approve for Blacks to enlist with the Confederate States Army?

5.  Why was the Confederate Battle Flag created?

6.  Why would my ancestor serve with the Confederate States Army or Navy to preserve slavery?

7. Who was responsible for the The Battle of Fort Pillow, also known as the Fort Pillow Massacre, on April 12, 1864.




Military records, including Confederate Soldier Records, state pension records, and memorials, may provide insights into the slaveholder or region where your ancestor lived.  Vital information from 1861 to 1865 may be the missing link to assist you in getting beyond the 1870 census genealogical  brick wall.


What is the difference between a Black Confederate and a Black Confederate Soldier?


A "Black Confederate" is an African-American who served the Confederate States Army, Navy or Civil Service of the Confederate States of America and/or gave  material aid during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

A "Black Confederate Soldier" is (1) an enlisted  African-American, usually free person of color, in the Confederate States Army, (2) an African-American acknowledged by a Confederate Officer or Officers as engaged in military service, and/or (3) an African-American  approved by the Confederate Board of Pension Examiners  to receive a Confederate Pension for military service during the American Civil War (1861-1865).



The official  number starts at 45.  In an 1868 interview with General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the United States 40th Congress 3rd Session reported that General Forrest said, "When I entered the army I took 47 negroes into the army with me, and 45 of them were surrendered with me. I said to them at the start: 'This fight is against slavery; if we lose it, you will be made free; if we whip the fight, and you stay with me . . .  I will set you free. In either case you will be free. [They] stayed with me, drove my teams, and better confederates did not live."  Thus, General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the first on record to refer to the 45 men as Confederates.  In the 20th Century southern historians later named them "Black Confederates."

In a September 1, 2011  interview with the Harvard Gazette, Harvard Professor John Stauffer stated, 'Though no one knows for sure, the number of slaves who fought and labored for the South was modest. Blacks who shouldered arms for the Confederacy numbered more than 3,000 but fewer than 10,000. Among the hundreds of thousands of whites who served, Black laborers for the cause numbered from 20,000 to 50,000."



Confederate States Army General Patrick Cleburne's January 2, 1864 Proposal to Officially Enlist Blacks in the Confederate States Army is recorded in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 1 - Volume 52 (Part II) pp. 586-59.    However, the Congress of the Confederate States of America did not authorize Blacks to enlist until General Orders No. 14 was issued on March 23, 1865.  To the contrary, prior to March 1865, there were several Confederate Officers who enlisted Blacks in their individual military units of the Confederate States Army.  A list of the Blacks on Confederate Soldier Service Records (muster rolls) are archived at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and available online on fold3.com.



During the American Civil War, the United States Flag and the national Confederate States of America Flag looked too similar for soldiers across the battlefield.  Confederate soldiers were unintentionally emerging from the horizons into Union territory; as a result, Confederate soldiers were being killed because they could not distinguish the two flags from a distance.  Therefore, the Confederate Battle Flag was created and adopted for visual clarity.   seiyaku.com has a great article titled "Saint Andrew's Cross" that demonstrates how many flags, to include the Confederate Battle Flag, incorporate the St. Andrew's Cross.  Research for this website uncovered that the original symbolism of the Confederate Battle Flag was religious.



Regardless of race, people in general served with the Confederate States Army and Navy for a variety of reasons.  For the slave, the majority had little choice but served due to their enslaved state.  No doubt, many slaves, as many nonslaveholding whites, wanted to go beyond the borders of the plantation to see a world outside of their reach.  Others in slave narratives stated that they wanted to be given the choice as men to decide which side they wanted to serve. Several slaves didn't want to leave their families behind in the south and cross the lines to the north.  A few Southern Historians believe that quite a few slaves served to protect the little they had from what they believed to be an 'invading army."   Regardless, the war was complex and each family has to search its own family narratives for the answer.  For sure, one size does not fit all.



Historians have conflicting views. Many United States historians state that Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was responsible for events surrounding The Battle of Fort Pillow.  On the other hand, just as many southern historians state that United States Major Lionel F. Booth should have never placed the United States Colored Troops on the front line.   However, genealogy unites people through family research. The walls built by history are coming down.  Love is prevailing.  Many descendants of slaves and descendants of slaveholders are uniting.



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