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25 August 2014


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I don't know who you are and so do not have the ability to judge the context of your statements and arguments.

"such people are essential to the functioning of an army. However, it does not make them combatants in the sense under discussion"

I can only assume from this that you do not know how an army engaged in prolonged combat and campaigning functions in the field. A field army consists of its fighting elements and its logistical train. In the 19th Century the field trains of an army although increasingly dependent on railroads were essentially carried in wagons drawn by horses or mules. Each echelon of command at regiment, brigade, division, army corps and field army had a long wagon train that it was followed by and which provided ammunition, food, carriage of personal belongings, medical support, etc. Hopefully these various levels of trains linked the army to one or more depots in the rear. The people who ran the trains at the levels closest to the fighting; regiment, battery or battalion of artillery, brigade and division were, of necessity, very close to the front line. Deliveries, evacuations and the like had to be made to troops in contact with the enemy. You may remember the Battle of Isandhlwana in the Zulu War in which the British were defeated and massacred because the logistics function broke down just behind the firing line. The same thing is true today. US Army logistics troops push the support function right up to the men shooting at the enemy and are often exposed to hostile fire. You may remember the woman supply soldier who was captured early in the 2003 Iraq war when her supply convoy blundered into an enemy position by taking a wrong turn. Therefore, to say that people performing logistics functions for troops actively engaged are not combatants is highly misleading. pl


Col., I do not have a military background. That's one reason why I read your blog. I have done a little reading on the subject. I believe I have already acknowledged the essential function these support roles play in an army. I did not intend to denigrate that service and I do not believe I did. It is also true that in other armies these roles are played by men (and today, women, as you note) who would otherwise be fighting. In his recent book on Gettysburg, Allen Guelzo claims that over 20,000 slaves were with Lee in Pennsylvania. (Guelzo also notes that about 500 free blacks living in Pennsylvania were kidnapped by the ANV under the pretense of capturing “fugitives,” their intended destination the Richmond slave markets, while the highest ranking officers turned a blind eye. I wonder what the blacks serving with Lee’s army thought about that, if they knew.)

These blacks were indeed doing almost everything for the Southern armies – emphasis on the almost. I know of no testimonies that speak to significant numbers of black people fighting as soldiers, de facto or de jure, for a Confederate cause we know them to have believed in. We also know that some of these blacks with the armies were impressed into labor – something of course that historically armies have often done.

People fight for many reasons. Some Southerners saw secession as opening the way to not only the preservation of slavery but for its expansion following independence and the reopening of the slave trade. Some were non-slaveholders but proud white men who understandably did not like the idea of competing with free blacks for land and work. Others hoped one day to own slaves themselves. Others had different motivations unrelated to slavery. Some were anti-slavery. There were blacks who held slaves. There were individuals like the young black man in “Ride with the Devil” who fights with Confederate bushwhackers alongside the white boy he grew up with. And on and on.

Like Shelby Foote, I am partial to the explanation of the Confederate captive who was asked by his captors why he was fighting and replied, “Because you’re down here.”

I am in complete agreement with you about the current tendency to regard Confederates as a bunch of Victorian Nazis.....



"I know of no testimonies that speak to significant numbers of black people fighting as soldiers." IMO you have an excessively "pure" understanding of what "fighting" means in an army in wartime. Logistics soldiers rarely fire their weapons except in self defense but they are still combatants and are regarded as such in international law. The concept you raise of whether or not Blacks with the Confederate Army believed in "the cause" is, I think irrelevant. I didn't believe in "the cause" in VN but I fought like hell there because of my overall devotion to the Army, my oath and my comrades. The little tribal men I led there didn't believe in any cause but me and my fellow American SF men as well as a vague dislike of the Vietnamese(all of them). pl



I think the 20,000 number is absurd. Two or three thousand would be useful in the right jobs but 20,000 would just be a great burden.

Lee severely punished several of his own soldiers for roughing up German farmers who gave them lip because they were helping themselves to cherries and other fruit. Do you think his subordinates would risk his wrath for what was a crime under Confederate law. There were a lot of free Blacks in the South, some of whom owned slaves as you wrote. to put a free Black into slavery was a crime in every Southern state. pl



Of course the WaPo article doesn't 'get around to" any characterization of malice. That is a bias of the author and editors who are fearful of the vocal few within their local readership. The last thing those few want to do is investigate the complexity of human society as it existed in the 1860's. It's far easier emotionally and intellectually to have an simple framework to fall back on. If you want to understand the complexity of the culture of civil war society you should read about Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson and his role over multiple years in helping teach the bible (including how to read it) to blacks (both free and slave), which was against Virginia law at the time. There is a memorial to him in in a church in Roanoke dedicated by some of descendants of those to whom he help bring the word of God. (Which also upsets a few of the WaPo readership). Unlike Hollywood movies reality is far more complex than a viewing of Spartacus, Gladiator or Glory makes it seem.



Col., I also wondered about the 20,000 number. More a hindrance than a help, I agree. I would think at least two or three thousand, though, maybe more. Fremantle wrote of something like 20 to 30 slaves following each regiment, and that's not counting blacks serving in other capacities.

However, I have seen the reports of blacks in Pennsylvania being rounded up in more than one place. Whoever was or wasn't aware, these things seem to have happened. Links:




Col.: Points taken.


So Ricks is saying the "two black battalions under Jackson" claim in the textbook is categorically false. I read you as concurring with that, in saying there were no formed black units. So why *not* criticize a clear factual inaccuracy in a history text? You are agreeing the statement in question is wrong.


The difference of course, is that all the masquerading women (as opposed to the "out" women camp followers and launderers still in skirts) held rank. No one to my knowledge has ever pointed to a "black Confederate" holding a military rank anyone else in the army would have recognized.

To say that a large number of black civilians in support roles meant the army was part-black is like saying the Confederate army had a large female contingent because of all the laundrywomen and non-military nurses. True in a sense, I suppose, and of course there are always gray areas in history (no pun intended).



what are you: black? A Yankee white die-hard determined to deny the South any dignity? A Southern white liberal determined to deny your ancestors/ Which are you? Since you ignore my description of the service of Blacks with the Confederate Army I can only think you some kind of fanatic. pl



BruceR has an e-mail account connected to a server in the Canadian Ministry of Defense. I have decided that i do not want to debate the US WBS with a foreigner. pl



It would seem the Canadian Armed Forces have allot of time on their hands and ought to find something more useful to do than try to enforce political correctness (Canadian version) on others.

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