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25 August 2014


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It could just be me, but I don't find this surprising at all. If a textbook said otherwise, then I'd be surprised.

Alex Poe

The textbook reads, "thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson."

Are you suggesting that black soldiers held rank in the Confederate Army and bore arms in defense of the Confederacy?

William R. Cumming

Personally I believe PL's civil war novels give some perceptive insight into why even freed blacks would fight for the Confederacy. Humans are complicated in their rationales for their actions and emotions. WAR in all its elements is perhaps the best evidence of that conclusion.

Hank Foresman

Pat, this is an interesting debate as it has the "mainstream" historians in conflict with some who have been labelled neo-confederates. Of course the mainstream has their credentials of Ph.D that is piled higher and deeper after their names. Both groups have an ideological perspective. Unfortuately for the public the truth lies somewhere in-between.

I will check with a friend while a Ph.D. and a CW historian but who is not really part of the mainstream CW historians to get his take and get back to you.


Fascinating. Thank you for bringing these facts to light. It shows that the truth is always more complex and far more interesting than whatever hegemonic view holds sway at any given time.

Patrick Lang


Ph.D's are a club. They group themselves in groupthink circles and are quite capable of ignoring truth that might alienate their peers and mentors. If you ask about this please don't put words in my mouth. My position is in my post. BTW Francis Smith volunteered VMI to train and officer Black units after passage of the Negro Soldier Act in 1865, but, it was too late. That's in the OR. pl

Patrick Lang


The willingness of humans to fight in armies that do not represent their interests is a commonplace of history. The Rhodesian and South African armies had many Black soldiers and Black units. The British Indian Army in all its wondrous complexity is another example. pl


Colonel Lang,

For what it is worth. My father [USNA class of '40 and something of a Civil War buff]used to say that that the Negro in the Confederate Army in 1865 was more accepted and integrated than the Negro in the US Navy when he joined. In my youth I interpreted this to be only an unfavorable comment on the USN. Much later I understood it to be a favorable comment on the CSA. I grew up on naval stations/bases around the world. I can still remember the stir, in 1960, in the little world we inhabited, when a Negro naval officer, serving on a visiting ship, showed up at the O Club. Most people allowed as to how they had never seen such a thing before. I met one Negro Midshipman between 1961 and 1965. It was some time in the early 1970s before I actually came face to face with a Negro USMC officer. Given the times and the circumstances the numbers and the role of the Negro in the CSA is very interesting. Maybe it was a glimse of what the beginning role of the Negro in an independent South would have been.

USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96

Patrick Lang

Alex Poe

You are distorting what I said with the old rhetorical trick of asking questions that do not reflect stated views. We do not do that here.

There were no Black units in the Confederate Army. Before passage of the Negro Soldier Act in 1865 that would have been illegal. There were no LEGAL Black confederate soldiers before then Nevertheless, there were many Blacks acting as contract employees of the army.

It was common in much of the antebellum South for Blscks to possess firarms. On some plantations the owners organized a plantation guard or posse headed by themselves and manned by slaves. On many other plantations slaves were expected to hunt for meat for the big house and themselves. They did not use archery as a hunting technique. Free Blacks possessed firearms. My point is that it was not a strange sight for white Southerners to see Blacks with guns. This continued during the Civil War. Black contract employees of the army were armed. If you harbor a vision of the Confederacy as a smoldering bomb seething with racial hatred during to the war, you should consider the fact that there were no slave rebellions during the war. pl


The willingness of humans to fight in armies that do not represent their interests is a commonplace of history. The Rhodesian and South African armies had many Black soldiers and Black units.

Given the historical trajectory of Rhodesia-Zimbabwe it turned out that it *was* in the interests of blacks to support the Ian Smith regime. Also, I don't recall that Rhodesia had any Apartheid-type laws.

Patrick Lang


"it turned out that it *was* in the interests of blacks to support the Ian Smith regime"

Sophism. When these men served the "trajectory" was not evident.

Can't you do better than that? pl


Hank and Col Lang,

In re PhDs, I think of academic discourse (e.g. journals, books, classes, et al) as being essentially a huge, ongoing, closed conversation among PhDs and perhaps a few non-PhD professors grandfathered in. Within this conversation, we use our own language and have our own reasons for saying particular things. Sometimes these reasons have to do with expanding the borders of human knowledge or wrecking the tyrannies of dogma and illogic, but much more often these have to do with getting another publication line on the CV, pushing a self-serving intellectual agenda, or just getting personal recognition (deserved or not). This is why imagery of navel gazing or, to paraphrase, circle jirgas is apt, absolutely.

Whereas 'academic' is a job, and 'doctor' is a status, being a 'scholar' is a calling. And, like Adam Silverman has noted here before, it is a calling that, like priests and judges, even involves the solemnity of wearing a robe. Personally, I judge intellectuals on how much they deserve the term 'scholar,' and I aim to one day earn the title myself.


There is something similar with regards South Korea and its nationalist myths vis-a-vis Japan. People are still surprised--perhaps much more today than decades ago, now that people know history only from textbooks--when they hear that as many as 300,000 Koreans served in Imperial Japanese armed forces. Their services were riven with extreme contradictions, too--such as the story of a Korean kamikaze pilot who flew off to his death singing a banned Korean nationalist song. Why people serve the causes that they do is a bizarre thing...


The world is full of things that wouldn't be expected. Not all data fits neatly into the hypothesis or the preferred narrative.

And people can act for reasons not immediately obvious or rational. For instance I once has the misfortune of knowing a fellow who styled himself an American black Nazi.

It makes for a richer, more interesting world when you take things as they are, rather than trying to make them fit you preconceived notions. Every now and then you might learn something useful.

Patrick Lang


In re the Koreans, the special Naval Landing Force Japanese marines that my uncle John landed with at Nanking in 1928 from USS Palos were Koreans with Japanese officers.

That is a great note about the Korean kamikaze pilot

The Confederate navy cruiser "Alabama" had a ship's company (officers and men) made up of white southerners, black southerneres various kinds of Europeans, Africans, etc. When CSS Alabama sortied from Cherbourg to face USS Kearsarge (a much heavier vessel) a French Navy band on the quai played "Dixie" while officers and men lined the rail at a hand salute. pl

Carl O.

Tom Ricks, over on his blog, has a comment about the author of that textbook:

"The textbook's author also said she was relying on the work of University of Virginia historian Ervin Jordan. But Professor Jordan tells the Post, "There's no way of knowing that there were thousands. And the claim about Jackson is totally false. I don't know where that came from."

"The textbook's author, Joy Masoff, is also co-author of "Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty" and "Oh Yikes! History's Grossest Moments." I am not joking."

You can read the full post at:


Patrick Lang


Ricks is partisan in this matter. A couple of months ago he compared Confederate general officers to the Cosa Nostra and Al Capone.

What Jordan is saying is that he is unable to calculate the exact number. He is just being an academic. As I said before there were no Black Confederate Army units. they would have been illegal before 1865. that does not mean that there were no Black men serving with Confederate field forces either illegally or as contract employees. pl


It really depends what we're talking about. If we're talking about how to teach the civil war in a factually correct way to 4th graders, focusing on the several thousand black soldiers who served with the Confederacy while glossing over the close to a hundred thousand black soldiers from Confederate states who served with the Union is pretty hard to justify.

If we're just having a discussion of the history of the civil war that was prompted by recent events in the news, this is a fascinating bit of history.

Patrick Lang


Nobody has proposed the minimization of the role of Black Union soldiers. You constructed that red herring all by yourself. In fact Black Union soldiers have been given lots of attention. there are monuments to them, built by a belatedly grateful country that paid them less than a white soldier. The Black Confederates have been conveniently forgotten. pl


Our modern sense of moral superiority can not understand that any slave-master relationship was anything but cruel and antagonistic, certainly not familial. The WPA slave narratives run the whole emotional spectrum in their thoughts about their previous White owners. For better or worse, Blacks and Whites on a plantation lived in a closer bond than in the North, or the present.

Some White babies in the South suckled on the breasts of a Black wet-nurses. I've always wondered what affect that had on the relations of the two.


Colonel Lang,

Dr. Lewis Steiner, Chief Inspector of the US Sanitary Commission, who said in 1862 while observing General “Stonewall” Jackson’s army in Frederick, Maryland, “Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in this number (Confederate troops). Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie-knives, dirks, etc. and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederate Army.”
Typically inaccurate civilian extrapolation of "3000 armed Negroes" could explain the reference to two Bns.

USMC 65-72
FBI 73-96


"Ricks is partisan in this matter. A couple of months ago he compared Confederate general officers to the Cosa Nostra and Al Capone."

That's nothing. There are progressively minded folks who think nothing of comparing Jefferson Davis to Hitler.


Here's what that textbook in question, has to say on race in the civil war.
This image was taken directly from the online version of the book from the publisher's website.

I stand by my contention that this book was glossing over the number of black soldiers who fought for the union and attempting to create a false equivalence between the numbers who fought on either side.

I was not, and would not, suggest that this is representative of a wider trend, nor am I suggesting that Black Confederates should be ignored. It's why I tried to be very specific about the scope of my statement.


"...or as contract employees."

Contract employees don't count as soldiers, do they? People who work for Blackwater are not part of the US army, not even if they're armed.

Would it be a fair estimate to say that the number of black Confederate soldiers was smaller than the number of female Confederate soldiers? I'm not being snide -- there were a nontrivial number of women surreptitiously in the ranks on both sides.

I recall reading recently that six thousand black Virginians fought for the Union. They too were fighting for Virginia, though for a different idea of what the state could be.

Sidney O. Smith III

Col. Lang in his first novel described several scenes that, in turn, explain why black Confederates fought for the South. There is a significant percentage of whites and blacks in the South who are very comfortable with each other and this closeness leads to sense of affinity and family kinship. It is a type of kinship that rarely exists anywhere else in the US and it is handed down from generation to generation. It is based, in large measure, upon shared suffering.

I distinctly recall coming across those passages in Col. Lang’s first novel . One sequence took place among black and white Confederates on some rail cars.

This kinship, btw, explains why, when all is said and done, attempts at integration in the South were far more successful than anywhere in the United States. When MLK Jr. went to Chicago, he experienced, firsthand, the lack of kinship and then returned South.

It also explains why over the past several decades, blacks have moved to the South.

Please note: I wrote a significant percentage of Southern whites and blacks understand this concept of kinship. Not all whites and blacks. It as if some Southern blacks and whites have a built in radar that can tell who is “for real” and who isn’t. May have something to do with Myers Briggs type.

Finally, this kinship is not based upon a dynamic of “guilt-empowerment” so courageously described in the book, Content of Our Character, by Shelby Steele (good Lord, I almost wrote Shelby Foote, which may make my point).

The guilt empowerment dynamic never leads to a sense of kinship but ultimately alienation, and unfortunately the idea of empowerment through guilt plagues most discussions of race, from the cocktail parties to the msm. It is particularly acute among those whites and blacks who want to blame everyone else of racism but never looked within.

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