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The Confederate Congressional Record and Black Confederates:

The Evaporation of a Myth

The Journal of the Confederate Congress was printed in a seven (7) volume set by the U.S. Government printing office in 1904. The volumes and page numbers I use refer to that book. I will also indicate the date of the entry where it is critical.

The policy of the Confederate government towards the use of African Americans in the Confederate army is quite clear from the record as well as what the actual participation of African Americans were in the Confederate army.

The record evaporates this carefully contrived myth of the "Black Confederate." I have done other investigations which I will be writing up which show how this "Afro-Confederate" myth is put together. I also refer the reader to the May 8, 1997 Wall Street Journal article on the subject by Tony Horwitz.

After the summary review, I am going to list the records as I found them in the Journal of the Confederate Congress. I am going to use the language as found in the record itself. For reference the Civil War traditionally as been seen as starting on April 12, 1861 and ending on April 9, 1865 with the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. However, Prior to April 12, 1861 southern state troops were seizing by force Federal property and forts in the south and there were some negotiated surrenders that occurred after the surrender of Robert E. Lee. The ending date is important to remember when reviewing the following chronology.

I have also indexed the Congressional Record as Reported in the Southern Historical Society Papers in three webpages. Section One - Section Two -- Section Three. The SHSP are more widely available that the Confederate Congressional Record published in 1904.

Review of the Record

Up until February 1865 the Confederate Congress has not only not authorized the use of Negroes as soldiers but members of the House are speaking against it. The senate postpones consideration on Feb. 21st. On March 13, 1865 the House asks for the bill from the Senate, mentioning that they have heard the Senate has passed it. This is less than 30 days before Lee's surrender. On April 2, 1865 the Confederate government evacuates Richmond. So what black Confederate troops existed are raised between March 13, 1865 to April 2, 1865, after which the primary activity of the Confederate government is to flee American authorities and give Jefferson Davis cabinet resignations.

H.R. 107 from the record is just to use African Americans as cooks, nurses, wagoners and like tasks. So up to Feb. 17, 1864, so it is not until almost the 4th year is started that the Confederate government even gets around to even using them in these laborer roles.

On Nov. 8, 1864, there are only five months left of the Confederacy, with the American armies having already divided the Confederacy in two with the capture of Vicksburg. Atlanta was captured in the previous month and Sherman is continuing his advance. On this day Abraham Lincoln, is being re-elected as expected with the nation's renewed commitment to fighting the war. In general the Confederacy is crumbling all around them.

Yet, on that day the use of blacks as soldiers is resolved to be inexpedient by the House of Representatives of the Confederacy.

It should be seen that what Afro-Confederate troops were raised, we raised in the most dire emergency out of utter, utter desperation. Of course if the Confederate armies had had 5, 10, 20, 30% (has a higher percentage been quoted lately?) black troops already neither this resolution would exist or the debates going on in February 1865 just before the collapse of the Confederacy.

The attitude of the Confederate Congress towards using black troops is expressed several times.

On Feb. 10, 1863 the Confederate House of Representatives resolves that "the enlistment of negroes as soldiers" is against the constitution of the Confederate States.

The Confederate Senate April 30, 1863 passed a resolution that white officers of American black troops, or any white person involved at all in preparing them to be soldiers, should be put to death if captured. They also resolved that black troops captured should be sold into slavery, regardless whether they had been free or formerly slaves. In actuality captured black troops were frequently massacred by Confederate troops and this part of the resolution was a dead letter. On May 1, 1863 the Confederate House of Representatives passed the same resolution.

In both resolutions of the Confederate Senate on April 30, 1863 and the Confederate House on May 1st, condemn "to employ negroes in war against the Confederate States" as "inconsistent with the spirit of those usages which in modern warfare prevail among civilized nations," and a "violation of the laws or usages of war among civilized nations." In short to use black troops was a war crime in the minds of the members of the Confederate congress. This is an accusation that can be made only if you are not using black troops yourself.

The Journal of the Confederate Congress makes it quite clear that what Afro-Confederate troops that might have existed where in existence only briefly in the last few weeks of a Confederacy forced out of utter desperation and facing imminent defeat.

 

Actual text from the record is in quotes.

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Vol. 1 Senate Proceedings

Did not find anything.

Vol. 2 - Senate Proceedings

Under Negroes, Employment in the army I found entries on pp. 45, 113, 118, 152, and 174. They are as follows:

1. 45 March 8, 1862 Concerning using negroes as musicians.

2. 113 April 1, 1862 Concerning using negroes as teamsters.

3. 118 Using negroes as teamsters.

4. 152 Using slaves as cooks.

5.174 Using slaves as cooks.

Vol. 3 - Senate Proceedings.

Free negroes employment in the army. Entries pp. 633, 677.

1. 633 "Bill S.211 to place free persons of color in military service introduced." Jan. 30, 1864." Open session.

2. 677 "Bill H.R. 107 by the employment of free negroes and slaves in certain capacities." It is referred to the Committee on military affairs.

Subsequent volumes which cover these two bills when finally passed is the "capacities" they refer to are being teamsters, cooks, etc., NOT soldiers.

Negroes, employment in the army. Pp. 446, 447, 496, 553, 584, 719, 730, 740, 741, 769, 794.

1. 446 Dec. 8, 1863. Message read from Jefferson Davis to the Senate on the need for more troops.

"The sources of supply are to be found by restoring to the Army all who are improperly absent, putting an end to substitution, modifying the exemption law, restricting details, and placing in the ranks such of the able-bodied men now employed as wagoners, nurses, cooks, and other employees as are doing services for which the negroes may be found competent."

2. 447 Dec. 8, 1863 from the same message.

"If to the above measures be added a law to enlarge the policy of the act of the 21st April, 1862 so as to enable the Department to replace not only enlisted cooks, but wagoners and other employees in the Army by negroes, it is hoped that the ranks of the Army will be so strengthen for the ensuring campaign as to put at defiance the utmost efforts of the enemy."

3. 446 Dec. 30, 1863

"Mr. Phelan presented the following resolutions of the legislature of the State of Mississippi; which were severally read, viz:

A resolution in relation to repealing that portion of the conscript law authorizing substitution in the Army; and a resolution in relation to the practicality of using negro men in the armies of the Confederate states as teamsters, nurses, and pioneer corps."

4. 553 Jan. 12. 1864

"Mr. Clay presented a communication from V. Sheliha, chief engineer of the Department in the Gulf, in relation to the organization of a sufficient number of negroes into a corps of engineer laborers, to serve during the war; which was referred to the Committee on Military Affairs."

5. 719 Feb. 12, 1864, Committee of the Whole

"to the consideration of the bill (H.R. 107) to increase the efficiency of the army by the employment of free negroes and slaves in certain capacities. "

The vote is 7 yeas to 7 nays for a tie.


6. 730 Senate resumes consideration of H.R. 107, Feb. 13, 1864.

"Ordered, that it be transferred to the secret legislative chamber."

7. 740-1 H.R. 107 is amended. Feb. 13, 1864.

8. 769 H.R. 107 is read in the senate and passed. Feb. 16, 1864.

9. 793-4 Feb. 17, 1864. HR.107 passes in the House. Message from the House to the Senate.

The following entries in Vol. 3 are about the use of negroes as soldiers in the U.S. Armies.

1. 89 Feb. 23, 1863. Secret session.

"Mr. Orr by leave introduced,

'A bill (S.53) to deprive negroes and mulattoes taken in arms against the Confederate States of the rights and immunities of prisoners of war, and to sell them into perpetual slavery where no person claims of right of property in them; which was read the first and second times and referred to the Committee of the Judiciary.'

On the motion by Mr. Hill,

The Senate resolved into open legislative session."

2. 155 March 12, 1863

"Mr. Hill, from the Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the bill (S.53) to deprive negroes and mulattoes taken in arms against the Confederate States of the rights and immunities of prisoners of war, and to sell them into perpetual slavery where no person claims right of property in them, reported it with an amendment.

On motion by Mr. Hill

Ordered, That the bill and amendment be printed in confidence for the use of the Senate.

On motion by Mr. Sparrow.

The senate resolved into executive session.

3. 386-387 April 30, 1863.

"Mr. Semmes, from the committee of conference on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the joint resolution (S. 2) relative to the plan of retaliation proposed in the President's message, reported.

That they recommend that the Senate agree to the amendment of the House of Representatives, amended so as to read as follows:

1. 'Resolved by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, in response to the message of the President transmitted to Congress at the commencement of the present session, That , in the opinion of Congress, the commissioned officers of the enemy ought not to be delivered to the authorities of the respective States, as suggested in the said message; but all captives taken by the Confederate forces ought to be dealt with and disposed of by the Confederate Government.

2. That, in the judgment of Congress, the proclamations of the President of the United States, dated, respectively, September 22, 1862, and January 1, 1863, and the other measures of the Government of the United States and of its authorities, commanders, and forces, designed or tending to emancipate slavers in the Confederate States, or to abduct such slavers, or to incite them to insurrection, or to employ negroes in war against the Confederate States, or to overthrow the institution of African slavery and bring on a servile war in these States, would, if successful, produce atrocious consequences, and they are inconsistent with the spirit of those usages which in modern warfare prevail among civilized nations. They may, therefore, be properly and lawfully repressed by retaliation.


3. That in every case wherein, during the present war, any violation of the laws or usages of war among civilized nations shall be or has been done and perpetrated by those acting under the authority of the Government of the United States, on the persons or property of citizens of the Confederate States, or of those under the protection or in the land or naval service of the Confederate States, or of any State of the Confederacy, the President of the Confederate States is hereby authorized to cause full and ample retaliation to be made for every such violation in such manner and to such extent as he may think proper.

4.That every white person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as such, who during the present war shall command negroes or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate States, or who shall arm, train, organize, or prepare negroes or mulattoes for military service against the Confederate states, or who shall voluntarily aid negroes or mulattoes in any military enterprise, attack, or conflict in such service, shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection or who shall incite or cause to be incited a slave to rebel shall, if captured, be put to death or be otherwise punished, at the discretion of the court.

5. Every person being a commissioned officer or acting as such in the service of the enemy who shall, during the present war, excite, attempt to excite, or cause to be excited a servile insurrection or who shall incite or cause to be incited a slave to rebel shall, if captured, be put to death or otherwise punished, at the discretion of the court.

6. every person charged with an offense punishable under the preceding resolutions shall, during the present war, be tried before the military court attached to the army or corps by the troops of which he shall have been captured or by such other military court as the President may direct and in such manner and under such regulations as the President shall prescribe; and, after conviction, the President may commute the punishment in such manner and such terms as he may deem proper.

7. All negroes and mulattoes who shall be engaged in war or be taken in arms against the Confederate States or shall give aid or comfort to the enemies of the Confederate States shall, when captured in the Confederate States, be delivered to the authorities of the State or States in which they shall be captured, to be dealt with according to the present or future laws of such State or States.'

The Senate proceeded to consider said report; and

Resolved, That they concur therein.

Ordered, That the Secretary inform the House of Representatives thereof.

Vol. 4 - Senate.

pp. 257-259 Nov. 7, 1864 Jefferson Davis address to the Senate. Davis refers to the authorization of the use of slaves in an act. Feb. 17, as teamsters, cooks, etc.

1. 526, 528 Feb. 7, 1865 asks for a bill for negro soldiers.

2. 585 Feb. 21, 1865 (S.190) a bill for negro soldiers is post-poned indefinitely with a vote of 11 to 10.

3. 704 March 13, 1865 is a message from the House asking for bill from the Senate.

Vol. 5 House of Representatives

1. 142 March 25, 1862 Negroes for government works.

2. 158 March 28, 1862 Negroes for government works.

3. 277 April 19, 1862 Negroes for government works.

4. 316 August 26, 1862 Negroes for government works.

5. 488 bill for employment of slaves.

Vol. 6 House of Representatives.

Enlistment in the U.S. Army

1. 89-90 Feb. 10, 1863

Whereas information has reached this congress of the passage by the Congress at Washington, District of Columbia, of a bill for the enlistment of negroes as soldiers in the armies of the United States, which armies are to be engaged in prosecuting the further invasion of the Confederate States of America; and

Whereas the constitutions, both of the Confederate States and the United States recognize Africans and their descendants as property; and

Whereas we can not consent to any change in their political status and condition:

Therefore,

Resolved, That the Committee of the Judiciary be instructed to inquire into the expediency of bring in a bill providing the proper forms for the disposition of all negroes or mulattoes who may be captured from the enemy in such manner that those of them who are fugitives from their masters may be restored to their right followers and those whom no masters can be found shall be sold into perpetual bondage for the purpose of raising a fund to reimburse citizens of this Confederacy who have lost their slave property by reason of the interference there with that of the enemy:

Which was read and agreed to:

2. 129 Feb. 21, 1863

"Mr. Colliers also offered the following resolution, viz.:

'Whereas the Congress of the United States has by law authorized the raising of negro troops, to be used in the present war in the attempted subjugation of the Confederate States: therefore,

Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary inquire into the expediency of providing by law that all negroes captured while so in the service of the United States shall, ipso facto, unless they be fugitive slaves, become the property of the captors, and shall thereafter be held and considered in all respects as slaves:'

Which was read and agreed to."

3. 486-487 May 1, 1863 Same subject as Senate pp. 386 April 30, 1863.


1. 'Resolved by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, in response to the message of the President transmitted to Congress at the commencement of the present session, That , in the opinion of Congress, the commissioned officers of the enemy ought not to be delivered to the authorities of the respective States, as suggested in the said message; but all captives taken by the Confederate forces ought to be dealt with and disposed of by the Confederate Government.

2. That, in the judgment of Congress, the proclamations of the President of the United States, dated, respectively, September 22, 1862, and January 1, 1863, and the other measures of the Government of the United States and of its authorities, commanders, and forces, designed or tending to emancipate slavers in the Confederate States, or to abduct such slavers, or to incite them to insurrection, or to employ negroes in war against the Confederate States, or to overthrow the institution of African slavery and bring on a servile war in these States, would, if successful, produce atrocious consequences, and they are inconsistent with the spirit of those usages which in modern warfare prevail among civilized nations. They may, therefore, be properly and lawfully repressed by retaliation.

3. That in every case wherein, during the present war, any violation of the laws or usages of war among civilized nations shall be or has been done and perpetrated by those acting under the authority of the Government of the United States, on the persons or property of citizens of the Confederate States, or of those under the protection or in the land or naval service of the Confederate States, or of any State of the Confederacy, the President of the Confederate States is hereby authorized to cause full and ample retaliation to be made for every such violation in such manner and to such extent as he may think proper.

4.That every white person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as such, who during the present war shall command negroes or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate States, or who shall arm, train, organize, or prepare negroes or mulattoes for military service against the Confederate states, or who shall voluntarily aid negroes or mulattoes in any military enterprise, attack, or conflict in such service, shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection or who shall incite or cause to be incited a slave to rebel shall, if captured, be put to death or be otherwise punished, at the discretion of the court.

5. Every person being a commissioned officer or acting as such in the service of the enemy who shall, during the present war, excite, attempt to excite, or cause to be excited a servile insurrection or who shall incite or cause to be incited a slave to rebel shall, if captured, be put to death or otherwise punished, at the discretion of the court.

6. every person charged with an offense punishable under the preceding resolutions shall, during the present war, be tried before the military court attached to the army or corps by the troops of which he shall have been captured or by such other military court as the President may direct and in such manner and under such regulations as the President shall prescribe; and, after conviction, the President may commute the punishment in such manner and such terms as he may deem proper.

7. All negroes and mulattoes who shall be engaged in war or be taken in arms against the Confederate States or shall give aid or comfort to the enemies of the Confederate States shall, when captured in the Confederate States, be delivered to the authorities of the State or States in which they shall be captured, to be dealt with according to the present or future laws of such State or States.'

Vol. 7 House

1. 247 Nov. 7, 1864

"Mr. Swan offered the following resolution.

'Resolved, That in the judgment of this House no exigency now exists or is likely to occur in the military affairs of the Confederate States which demands that negroes shall be placed in service as soldiers in the field.'

Mr. Swan moved that the consideration be postponed until Thursday, and demanded the yeas and nays thereon;'"

The delay was passed.

2. 261 Nov. 8, 1864

"Mr. Foote offered the following resolution to wit:

'Resolved, That this House does cordially concur in that portion of the views expressed by the President in his late annual message touching the employment of slaves by the Confederate Government in connection with the present war, which is embraced in the following propositions:

First. The 'general levy and arming of the slaves for duty of soldiers' would be inexpedient.

Second. 'Until our white population shall prove insufficient for the armies we require and can afford to keep in the field, to employ as a soldier the negro, who has merely been trained to labor, and as a laborer the white man accustomed from his youth to firearms' would neither be wise nor advantageous.

Third. 'Should the alternative ever be presented of submission [subjugation] or of the employment of the slave as a soldier,' then such employment would be right and proper."

The fourth section of the resolutions concerns using negroes as cooks, etc.

3. 494 Jan. 25, 1865

"Mr. J.T. Leach introduced

'A joint resolution 'condemning the use of negroes as soldiers in the Confederate Army.' Which was read a first and second time and referred to the Committee on Military Affairs.'"

4. 504 Jan. 27, 1865

"Mr. Garland moved that the rules be suspended and that the Senate bill (S.129) 'to provide for the employment of free negroes and slaves to work on fortifications and perform other labor connected with the defenses of the country' be taken from the Calendar and made the special order for the morning hour.

Amendments were then proposed.

5. 507 Jan. 27, 1865

"Mr. Ramsey submitted the following amendment.

Insert after the amendment just adopted the following:

'Provided, That said slaves shall not be armed or used as soldiers.'

6. 508 Jan. 27, 1865

" Mr. J.M. Leach submitted the following amendment:

Add the following proviso to the end of the third section:

' Provided further that in on events shall any portion of said slaves or free negroes so impressed have arms placed in their hands, or be mustered into the Confederate States service or be used at any time as soldiers in said service.'"

Was defeated 48 to 21.

7. XXX Jan. 28, 1865 A Mr. Ramsey has a similar amendment that was defeated.

8. 526 Feb. 1, 1865

"Mr. Gholson offered the following resolution.

Resolved, further ….. and since General Lee has been made 'General in Chief,' by assigning under him our best and most acceptable generals to the command of our respective armies, and by ceasing to agitate the policy of employing negro troops, a measure which has already divided public sentiment and produced much despondency.'"

The resolution was not acted since other matters interrupted.

9. 542 Feb. 6, 1865 still debating issue.


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