Examples of Enlisted Black Confederates

The question of whether there were black soldiers in the Confederate Army is one of the most heated subjects on Civil War blogs and social media sites.  

Some claim that that there were as many as 90,000 black soldiers in the Confederate army prior to 1865.  This claim, supported by a few posed photos and fleeting historical references to uniformed black soldiers in the Confederate ranks, is frequently offered as “proof” of the so-called “Lost Cause” narrative.  Black soldiers would obviously not have fought for the cause of slavery so the Civil War was clearly about something else (e.g., “states’ rights,” etc.) – or so the argument goes.

Those on the other side of the debate say that black Confederates did not serve voluntarily and that they exclusively took on the roles of “camp slaves” such as laborers, cooks, teamsters, and personal servants. Books have been written on the subject, offering evidence both for and against the existence of black Confederates.

In fact, in my continuing analysis of the National Park Service’s Soldiers and Sailors Database, I have encountered records for 38 men and 2 women in the Confederate Army who are described as “colored” or “negro” and for whom there is an actual Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR), a type of record that was typically reserved for soldiers.  Some of these black Confederates held the official rank of Private and most show evidence that they enlisted, mustered in and/or were paid.

Note that I make no claim that the existence of a CMSR “proves” anything about their service.  While the documents suggest that these black men and women did, in fact, enlist in the Confederate Army, I don’t claim that they necessarily did so voluntarily or that they did any fighting. Most of all, I emphasize that I do NOT consider that this list of 40 individuals is evidence of the much larger “Lost Cause” narrative.

While I realize that the length of this list (or the brevity of it) may be held up by either side of the interminable debate as evidence of their argument, I believe nonetheless that it should be documented for the historical record so I offer it here merely as a matter of scholarship. With that understanding, then, here is my list of enlisted black Confederates.

The first four men were recorded as having the rank of Private with an enlistment date and place.  Three of them were in the same regiment:

Name Unit Rank In/Out CMSR
David Anderson Co. F, 29th TN Inf. PVT/PVT File
  “Colored”.  Enlisted 3 Oct 1861 at Camp Henderson for 12 months.
Newton Canon Co. F, 29th TN Inf. PVT/PVT File
  “Col” and “of color”.  Enlisted 3 Oct 1861 at Camp Henderson for 12 months.
Alexander Chance Co. F, 29th TN Inf. PVT/PVT File
  “Col” and “of color”.  Enlisted 3 Oct 1861 at Camp Henderson.
James Farley Co. E, 25th TN Inf. PVT/PVT File
  “Colored”. Age 21; Enlisted on 25 Jul 1861 at Tallahoma for 12 months; Muster-in on 1 Oct 1861 at Camp Myers; “absent on furlough”.

 

These had a Compiled Military Service Record and some even have a record of being paid but are missing a surname, have no rank or a rank that was commonly filled by “camp slaves”, or reflect other characteristics which brings their voluntary “service” into question:

Name Unit Rank In/Out
Solomon Smith Co. A, 10th TX Inf. PVT/PVT
  “Negro”. Although one CMSR card says that he “Appears on a Roster of troops of the Confederate Army captured at Fort Hindman, Arkansas Post, Ark., Jan 11, 1863”, the same card describes him as a “negro servant.”
“Felix” Capt. Fenner’s Battery, LA Light Art. PVT/COOK
  “Colored”. Enlisted as a Private on 1 Jul 1862 at Jackson for 2 years; “Last paid” by Maj. Norris on 30 Jun 1863 and by Maj. Atkins on 31 Jul 1863.
“Octave” Capt. Fenner’s Battery, LA Light Art. PVT/COOK
  “Colored”. Enlisted as a Private on 1 Jul 1862 at Jackson for 2 years; “Last paid” by Maj. Norris on 31 Dec 1862 and 30 Jun 1863 and by Maj. Atkins on 31 Aug 1863.
Ned Dubose Jeff Davis AL Art. PVT/
  “Col’d”.  Convalescent on 21 Mar 1862; “Returned to duty” on 23 Apr 1862.
Ansel or Ancel Co. I, 27th SC Inf. DRUM/MUS
  “Col’d”; “Last paid: Dec 31, 1863″ by Capt. Smith.”
John Evans Co. G, 29th TN Inf. LABR/LABR
  “Col’d”; “Enlisted Sep 29, 1861” at Camp Powell for 12 months; “Never paid”.
George Co. B, 7th KY Mounted Inf. COOK/COOK
  “Colored”
Joseph Co. A, 49th VA Inf. CCOK/CCOK
  “Colored”; “Chief Comp. Cook”; “Enlisted on Dec 15, 1863” at Orange.
Amos Lide Co. C, 33rd AR Inf. CCOK/CCOK
  “Negro”; “Enlisted Nov 1, 1863” at Camp Bragg for 3 years or the war.
Stuart Middleton Co. I, 27th SC Inf. DRUM/DRUM
  “Col’d”; “Enlisted on Mar 17, 1862 at Charleston for the war”; “Last paid on Feb 29, 1864” by Maj. Lartique.
James Poisson Co. D, 10th Battl’n NC Heavy Art. MUS/MUS
  “Colored”; “Enlisted on Dec 3, 1863” at New Hanover for the war; “Last paid on Feb 29, 1864”.
Stephen Fenner’s Batt., LA Light Art. COOK/COOK
  “Colored”; “Enlisted on May 8, 1863” in Osyka for 3 years; “Last paid on Aug 31, 1863 by Maj. Atkins. 
Tom Gilchrist’s Co., SC Heavy Art. (Gist Guard) MUS/MUS
  “Negro”; “Enlisted on Apr 2, 1862”; “Last paid on Aug 31, 1862” by Maj. H. H. Smith.
Armstead Paul  Co. H, 22nd VA Inf. CHCK/COOK
  “Col’d”; “Enlisted May 8, 1861” at Kanawha Court House; “Last paid: May 1, 1864”; “Confederate Prisoners of War” paroled Apr 26, 1865. Parole document lists him as a “Priv.”
Sam Co. E, 23rd TX Cav. (Gould’s)  
  “Negro”.
Augustus 20th TN Inf.  
  “Negro”; “Appears on a Roll of Prisoners of War captured at Fairfield, Tenn.. June 27, 1863”.
Green Co. B, 24th TX Cav. (Wilkes’)  
  “Negro”; “Appears on a Roll of Prisoners of War received at Camp Butler, Ill., Jan 31, 1863”; “Negro Liberated”
Nelson Co. B, 24th TX Cav. (Wilkes’)  
  “Negro”; “Appears on a Roll of Prisoners of War received at Camp Butler, Ill., Jan 31, 1863”; “Negro. Liberated”.
Stokes Co. F, Holcombe (Inf.) SC Legion  
  “Col’d”; “Appears on the Regimental Return”; “(Servant) Cook”

 

Finally, while these men and two women had a Compiled Military Service Record, they were specifically described as slaves:

Name Unit Rank In/Out
George 4th GA Cavalry (Clinch’s) COOK/COOK
  “Slave”; aka “W. Gelzer”; “Employed at hospital at Camp Tatnall”; “Last paid: May 15 (1863) by Capt. Fort”
Adam Co. E, 32nd VA Inf. COOK/COOK
  “Slave”; “Enlisted at Bishop’s Farm” for the duration of the war; “Never paid”.
Brahm/Bram/Brom 4th GA Cavalry (Clinch’s) COOK/COOK
  “Slave”; “Employed at hospital at Head Quarters”; “Last paid: Feb 28 (1863) by Capt. Fort”
John Brown/Brook Co. A, 1st Battl’n GA Sharpshooters CHCK/CHCK
  “Colored”; “Chief Cook”; “Enrolled Aug 4, 1862” at Savannah, GA. for 3 years or the war; “Pay due from enlistment”; “Paid Dec 31, 1863” by Capt. (?); “Colored man belonging to Durham”; “Dropped by Order of Major A. Shaaff because of illegal enlistment.”
Charles Gilchrist’s Co., SC Heavy Art. (Gist Guard) MUS/MUS
  “Negro”; “Last paid: Dec 31, 1863”; “Name appears in Column of Names Present Cancelled” (?); “Slave”
Frank Moody 1st Battl’n GA Cav. MUS/MUS
  “Col’d”; “Enlisted Oct 8, (1861)” at Camp Hughes near Darien for 6 months; Last paid: Feb 28, (1862)” by Major S. J. Smith; “Property of M. Moody”. 
John Co. B, 23rd MS Inf. COOK/COOK
  “Slave”; “Enlisted Nov 30, (1862)” near Rocky Ford; and “Enlisted May 1, 1864” at Monterallo, Ala. for 2 years. 
Sampson Co. A,B, 23rd MS Inf. COOK/COOK
  “Slave”; “Enlisted on Nov 30, (1862)” near Rocky Ford; “Enlisted as cook”. 
Thomas Co. F, 32nd VA Inf. COOK/COOK
  “Slave”; “Enlisted Nov 1, 1864”; “Slave with the wagons”.
Carter Burrell/Burwell Co. 2H, 32nd VA Inf. COOK/COOK
  “Slave”; “Enlisted Apr 1, 1864” at Chaffins Farm for 1 year; “Last paid: June 30, 1864” by Capt. McCandlish; “Chief Cook for Company with Regt. wagons”.
Sam Co. H, 7th TX Inf.  
  “Contraband”; “Appears on a Roll of Prisoners of War at Camp Douglas, Ill., Aug 1, 1862”;  “Captured at Donelson on Feb 16, 1862”; “Property J. S. Crawford”.
Georgia 5th GA Cav.  
  “Slave”; “Laundress”; “Attached to Hospital on Dec 1, 1862”; “Last paid on Dec 31, 1862” by Capt. Gowen; “Deserted March 16, 1863”.
Lucy 24th TX Cav. (Wilkes’)  
  “Slave”; “Appears on the Hospital Muster Roll”; “Enlisted on Oct 1, 1862 for one month”; “How employed: Matron”
Nathan Co. H, 7th TX Inf.  
  “Slave”; “Property of J. H. Craig”; “Contraband”; “Appears on a Roll of Prisoners of War received at Camp Douglas, Ill., Aug 1, 1862”; “Captured Donelson on Feb 16, (1862)”; “Remarks: Enlisted”. 
Samuel 19th TN Cav. (Biffle’s)  
  “Slave”; “Appears on a Receipt Roll for Pay for 2 Qr., 1864”; “Occupation: Cook”; “Period of Service: Apr 1, 1864 to Apr 30, 1864”; “Rate of Pay: $20/00 per mo.”; “Signature: W. B. Embrey”. (Service card within Embrey’s CMSR).
Dreu Scott Co. B, 50th TN Inf. SRVT/SRVT
  “Col’d”; “Joined for duty and enrolled” on 20 Sep 1861; “Colored servant of Co.”
T. or George Geelzer 4th GA Cav. (Clinch’s) COOK/COOK
  “Slave”; “Appears on Hospital Muster Roll”; “Last paid: May 15, (1863)” by Captain. Fort; “Employed at Hospital at Camp Tatnall”; “W. Gelzer owner”



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