Category Archives: Slavery

Confederate Black Troops statue proposed


Responding to the charge that Confederate monuments, flag displays, public school names, streets names, and more are obviously racist because they only honor white Southern men, South Carolina legislators have proposed a monument to the (fictional) black Confederates. Of course, these legislators do not acknowledge that the people they propose to honor have no more reality than unicorns. The headline for another news account of this proposal says Newspaper review of records show no black armed Confederates.

Here are two more accounts, with details, from South Carolina news sources: This from Fox Carolina, Monument sought to recognize blacks who served Confederacy, from October, 2017. This from WIS, Channel 10, in Columbia, SC, 2 Upstate lawmakers call for monument honoring African-American Confederate soldiers at State House, also from October. This last one has illustrations:

African American soldiers in the Civil War (FOX Carolina/ October 11, 2017)

African American soldiers in the Civil War (FOX Carolina/ October 11, 2017)

WIS-TV cited the lawmakers’ press release:

“Explaining the War Between the States and the events leading up to it is much more complex than can be explained by a few paragraphs in a history book,” Burns said in a news release. “This monument can help educate current and future generations of a little-known — but important — part of South Carolina history. These African-Americans, like many of their Caucasian contemporaries, stepped up to defend their home state during a tumultuous time in our country’s history. Their service has largely been overlooked or forgotten. Rep. Chumley and I want to remedy this oversight.”
Chumley added that biblical commandments inspired the proposed legislation.
“The Bible says to honor our fathers and mothers,” Chumley stated. “In that same vein, we can honor South Carolinians who showed more than 150 years ago that they loved their state as much then as Sandlappers of all persuasions do today.”

The article continues citing a statement by the South Carolina Secessionist Party (?!?!?!?! Really, it does. I kid you not!)

The stories of the service of Black Confederates is largely untold throughout the nation, and their service is discredited by those with an agenda to remove any trace of the Confederacy. These types of people often say that many Black Confederates served because they were forced to. While that may be true in some cases, their service is no less honorable and commendable than those who have been drafted and forced to serve in other American conflicts, including the thousands of immigrants forced into service by Abraham Lincoln during the War Between the States.

Modern neo-Confederates and Lost Cause thinkers go to great lengths to (falsely) assert that their desire to honor their white Confederate ancestors has nothing to do with race or racism. “You can’t change history,” they say to those who wish to remove the South’s many monuments to slave holders and traitors. In fact, these Confederate monument advocates and their predecessors work hard to change history, in the sense of what we think, write, and say about the past. For more than 150 years, they have largely succeeded in their quest. “These monuments have nothing to do with racism or slavery. They only honor the bravery of our ancestors.”

in the heady days leading up to the Southern attacks on federal military posts throughout the South and to secession, when those ancestors believed that their cause was just and that their victory was certain, Southern whites were not embarrassed to say that slavery, white slave-owning society, security of property rights in black slaves, and white supremacy were the reasons they would secede from the United States. I’ve written about this elsewhere on our blog.

Lost Cause thinkers, Dunning school historians, and others in the decades after the Civil War and in the shock of their terrible defeat rewrote history. In their telling, the cause of the War was an abstract difference of opinion between honorable white men about the nature of freedom and of states’ rights. Black people had nothing to do with it. As northern whites grew tired of the struggle for black civil rights after the end of Reconstruction, these Southern whites turned to terrorism and murder to disenfranchise blacks, to impose a system of social and legal segregation, and to build monuments to the victory of white supremacy throughout the South (and in the North too).

In their desire to absolve themselves of the charge of racism, some of the defenders of displays of the Confederate battle flag, or the Confederate national flag, or the many Southern monuments (falsely) assert that black men served in the rebel armies. Many of the speakers who defended the Tampa Confederate monument before the Hillsborough County Commission stated that the rebel armies were manned by people of many national ancestries including blacks. Some of these speakers displayed photographs of black men in Confederate uniforms. I wrote about this here.

Modern professional historians strongly support the fact that the Southern armies had no enlisted black soldiers, slave or free. The thought of arming slaves horrified right-thinking white Southerners. I wrote about the Cleburne Memorial, a memorandum prepared in 1864 by Confederate General Cleburne in which Cleburne proposed recruiting slaves into Confederate Armies in return for the promise of freedom. Here, from Wikiquotes are two statements by Howell Cobb.

Howell Cobb

You cannot make soldiers of slaves, nor slaves of soldiers… The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end.

Thomas Howell Cobb (7 September 1815 – 9 October 1868) was a Georgian politician during the 19th century. A southern Democrat who supported slavery and owned slaves himself, he was the Governor of Georgia in the early 1850s and later became a member of the Confederacy during the American Civil War.

This political figure article is a stub. You can help Wikiquote by expanding it.


  • The proposition to make soldiers of our slaves is the most pernicious idea that has been suggested since the war began. It is to me a source of deep mortification and regret to see the name of that good and great man and soldier, General R. E. Lee, given as authority for such a policy. My first hour of despondency will be the one in which that policy shall be adopted. You cannot make soldiers of slaves, nor slaves of soldiers. The moment you resort to negro soldiers your white soldiers will be lost to you; and one secret of the favor with which the proposition is received in portions of the army is the hope that when negroes go into the Army they will be permitted to retire. It is simply a proposition to fight the balance of the war with negro troops. You can’t keep white and black troops together, and you can’t trust negroes by themselves. It is difficult to get negroes enough for the purpose indicated in the President’s message, much less enough for an Army. Use all the negroes you can get, for all the purposes for which you need them, but don’t arm them. The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution.
    • Howell Cobb. “Letter to James A. Seddon”, in: Encyclopædia Britannica] (1911), Hugh Chisholm, editor, 11th ed., Cambridge University Press.
  • If slaves make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong. But they won’t make soldiers. As a class they are wanting in every qualification of a soldier. Better by far to yield to the demands of England and France and abolish slavery and thereby purchase their aid, than resort to this policy, which leads as certainly to ruin and subjugation as it is adopted; you want more soldiers, and hence the proposition to take negroes into the Army. Before resorting to it, at least try every reasonable mode of getting white soldiers. I do not entertain a doubt that you can, by the volunteering policy, get more men into the service than you can arm. I have more fears about arms than about men, For Heaven’s sake, try it before you fill with gloom and despondency the hearts of many of our truest and most devoted men, by resort to the suicidal policy of arming our slaves.
    • Howell Cobb. “Letter to James A. Seddon”, in: Encyclopædia Britannica] (1911), Hugh Chisholm, editor, 11th ed., Cambridge University Press.
    • Quote regarding suggestions that the Confederates turn their slaves into soldiers. Also quoted as ‘You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers. The day you make a soldier of them is the beginning of the end of the Revolution. And if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong’.


The first citation, from a January 1865 letter to the Confederate Secretary of War, dates from the last months of the war. Cobb wrote it to oppose desperate proposals before the Confederate Congress to form black military units. The Confederates enlisted a few companies of black men, but the war ended before any of them saw service. Here’s a good essay about Cobb’s ideas: ‘IF SLAVES WILL MAKE GOOD SOLDIERS OUR WHOLE THEORY OF SLAVERY IS WRONG’.

There are some ironies that this proposal is before the legislature in South Carolina. From this summary table of the U. S. Census of 1860, South Carolina’s 700,000 residents included 300,000 whites and 400,000 blacks. The population was about 57% black. Yet monuments to the 43% minority who fought the United States government to keep the right to own black human beings speak of their South Carolina heritage, as if they represented the South Carolina of 1860.

Modern historians, while insisting that there were no black Confederate soldiers, acknowledge that there were black slaves who accompanied Confederate armies. Some, such as the black man in the second photograph above were body servants to the Confederate officer masters. Thousands of others served as laborers, drovers, cooks, and other support personnel. Yet the South Carolina legislators assert that these slaves were serving the cause of South Carolina’s rebellion in favor of slavery. Well, I suppose that they were “serving.” But that’s a peculiar use of that word.


Plan for Confederate ‘black troops’ statue baffles historian

Fox News Reported on Proposed Monument to Black South Carolina Confederates

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Did Black Men Serve in Confederate Armies Part III


A commenter to a post about the Gamble Plantation asserted that many blacks freely served in Confederate armies. This falsehood is widely believed among the “heritage not hate” Confederate monument and flag supporters, neo-Confederates, and some southern educated white Southerners. Some of those who spoke at the recent Hillsborough County Council meetings in favor of preserving the County’s Confederate Soldiers Monument on the Courthouse grounds told this canard to the Commissioners.

I’ve written about this subject in two previous posts, Part I and Part II. In Part II, I described the Cleburne Memorial of January 1864. This proposal, to enlist black men in return for their freedom, by Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, one of the South’s best division commanders, was so scandalous that Jefferson Davis ordered it kept secret, and the Confederate War Department ordered all copies destroyed. A single surviving copy was found decades later in some regimental papers. If the Confederates had been enlisting black men as soldiers Cleburne’s proposal would have been unnecessary. If the enlistment of black men were merely undesired, as it was at the beginning of the war in the North, then the strict secrecy and destruction of all evidence of the proposal would have been unnecessary too. The Confederate government and Confederate armies did not enlist black men.

How did white Southerners, Confederate officials, officers and soldiers view armed black men, such as the soldiers in the United States Colored Troops regiments? They were horrified at the thought. They did not consider them legitimate soldiers worthy of respect due honorable enemies according to the laws of war of that time.

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Did Black Soldiers Serve in the Confederate Army? Part II


A commenter responding to one of my essays about the Gamble House asserted that many black soldiers served in the Confederate Army. I cited his remarks in my earlier post of the same title as this one. There I also linked to an essay by a professional historian who wrote about the matter in the New York Times, and to an essay that described the origins of this wildly false claim. Many among the supporters of Confederate monuments, Confederate flags, and many people educated in the South believe this claim.

In my first essay, I included and discussed a photograph of an armed Confederate white officer and an armed black man in Confederate uniform. These pictures of black men in Confederate uniform, of which there are a few, show black slaves brought by their commissioned masters to the army as personal servants. They do not show black Confederate soldiers.

I’m not a professional historian, but I’ve read a lot as an amateur. I have some things to say about this subject beyond my first post.

The Confederate government did not enlist black men, either slaves or freemen, into the Confederate army until a few weeks before the end of the war and only a few dozen at that. Indeed, Southern white people widely feared the possibility of a slave revolt, and most states banned arming slaves.

Consider the remarkable Cleburne memorial, as it is known. In this context, memorial is an old word for what we today might call a memorandum or a white paper. Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne was an Irish immigrant to Arkansas. He was not a slave owner. When Arkansas seceded from the Union, he allied himself with his new compatriots and enlisted in the Confederate armed forces as a private. He had had military experience in Ireland, and he advanced rapidly through the ranks. By January 1864, he was among the Confederacy’s most respected and capable division commanders. Union bullets struck him down among his men in the battle of Franklin in Tennessee, a calamitous Confederate defeat.

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Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson, the Civil War, and counterfactual speculation


A few days ago, Donald Trump whipped up a storm with remarks about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War:

In an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito, Trump compared himself to President Andrew Jackson and said Jackson, if he was born later, could have helped avoid the Civil War.

And then, in comments that whipped Washington into frenzy Monday morning, Trump said he didn’t understand why the Civil War had to be fought.

“I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” he said. “He was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

This link is to the full Examiner report of the interview.

Later, Trump tweeted:

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What’s Wrong with This Picture?


The photograph below is from a New York Times article Jeff Sessions, a Lifelong Outsider, Finds the Inside Track.

The headline describes a former US District Attorney and sitting US Senator, now our Attorney-General designate, as an outsider. Strange.

What interests me about this article is the photograph of our racist President-elect greeting our racist Attorney-General designate.

Does anything about this scene strike you as odd?



Black woman on the right in Southern Belle costume?


You are correct.

Consider how odd this is. Whoever organized this tarmac greeting knew that the colorful Alabama greeting shouldn’t be composed of just white people. They arranged to dress the three young women in supposedly representative ante-bellum plantation style; Gone With the Wind ball gown plantation finery. It’s Alabama history, who could object?

Except that it is not Alabama history.

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Discussing Florida’s Gamble Plantation and Judah P. Benjamin Memorial


I started drafting the below as a reply to your post, but I found myself surprised and nonplussed by the outcome of my little “5 Whys” attempt.

One of my top books ever is Liker’s The Toyota Way from 2004. Principle 14 of The Way includes root cause analysis via the “5 Whys”. To determine the root cause of a problem or unexpected event, a group of knowledgeable people ask themselves, “why did this thing happen?” They come up with an answer: “Thus-and-so caused it.” The group then asks, “OK then, why did thus-and-so come to be?”. And so on, until the chain ends in a root cause, often after a few ‘why’ steps, sometimes only after many steps – on average perhaps 5, hence the name of the method. Any given chain to a root cause might or might not be true or correct. Sometimes multiple root causes turn out to be necessary. Eventually the group arrives at its best understanding of the root cause or causes, and then takes corrective action accordingly. I propose we carry out 5 Whys on your question about Gamble honoring Judah P. Benjamin. Not saying we’ll find the one and only correct and complete answer, just proposing another approach to your question.

Here’s one possible chain, citing the Wikipedia article on Benjamin:

  1. Why would Gamble honor Benjamin? Because he was brilliant and famous, and well worthy of honoring.
  2. Why was he famous? Because he rose to cabinet positions in our former own country, the Confederate States. He was Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State, each position more important than the previous. (He had previously been a US Senator, and had been appointed to the US Supreme Court but turned that down.)
  3. Why was he appointed to the Confederacy positions? Because he was an eloquent, skilled and wealthy slaveholder and lawyer who supported Davis and the Confederacy wholeheartedly.
  4. Why or how did he become wealthy and notable? He was truly brilliant, as people around him observed when he was very young. He entered Yale at 14, financed by a person not related to him, but he quit or was expelled before graduating, reportedly because of gambling. He thrived in New Orleans, a center of the slave trade, initially based entirely on his “wit, charm, omnivorous mind and boundless energy”. He published a highly successful book about commercial law and married a wealthy New Orleans Creole socialite. He had political ambitions which were constrained in part by a society that “would only trust a man who also owned substantial land and slaves”. He bought a sugar plantation and was a slaveholder for 10 to 15 years of his life.

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Why Do the People and Government of Florida Honor Judah P. Benjamin at the Gamble Plantation State Park?


You recall that I’ve been corresponding with the Gamble House State Park director about the Park’s Judah P. Benjamin Memorial. I’ve been blogging about it. Here are the earlier posts:

There is little about the slaves who built and operated the Gamble Plantation

Gamble Plantation Manager Replies

I reply to the Gamble Plantation manager

Suggestions for the Gamble Plantation Park

More Correspondence about the Gamble Plantation

In my last correspondence, I offered to meet with Mr. Kiser, but he didn’t suggest a time. Therefore, I have written a couple of essays for him. I intend for these to form a brochure or signs to be distributed or displayed at the park. The first essay is here: “Who Was Judah P. Benjamin?”. This post has “Why Do the People and Government of Florida Honor Judah P. Benjamin at the Gamble House Park?”.

I haven’t sent these yet because I would like your advice, suggestions you or readers might have about the content or writing.


Why do the people and the government of Florida honor Judah P. Benjamin in the Gamble Plantation State Park?

Judah P. Benjamin was a Louisiana lawyer, sugar cane plantation and slave owner, a state politician, and a two term United States Senator. In the Senate, he used his acknowledged skill at oratory and rhetoric to defend Southern enslavement of black people and to support the spread of slavery into western territories and to the independent former Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. He was the Confederacy’s Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. He served sequentially in those posts from the beginning to the end of white Southerners’ armed uprising against the government of the United States. The distinguished historian of slavery, Eugene Genovese called Benjamin “… the ablest man in the Confederate government.” When the Confederate government collapsed in April, 1865, he fled Union forces, passing through Florida on his way Britain, where he practiced law as a barrister.

History records nothing in his life or career that connected him to Florida or that benefitted its residents. Nor does it record that he was ever in Florida beyond a week or two in May, 1865, as he fled justice. Why does Florida honor him with a Memorial at the Gamble Plantation State Park in Ellenton, Florida?

Today many who honor the Southern white people who formed the Confederate armed forces and government assert that they do not honor the cause for which they struggled: the preservation and spread of slavery. Nor, do they have any interest in racism or dishonoring black people or the soldiers who fought in the Union Army and Navy to preserve the United States and to end slavery. They only wish to show their respect for their ancestors’ bravery, courage, and loyalty to the rebel cause. Indeed, this is the official position of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, whose local Judah P. Benjamin chapter established the Gamble Plantation House as a memorial to Judah P. Benjamin during the 1920s and transferred the restored property to the State of Florida. This transfer was on the condition that if the State ever removed the Memorial, the property would return to the United Daughters.

What were the motives of those Southern white women of nearly one hundred years ago? None of them, or any other resident of Florida or the United States, were descendants of Judah Benjamin, whose wife and daughter lived in Paris, France, before and after the Civil War. Benjamin was not a military man and never demonstrated his valor in battle. Those women of Jim Crow Florida wished to honor him for his service to the cause of the Confederacy. A French chapter if the United Daughters of the Confederacy, formed from exiles and their descendants, installed a monument to Benjamin at his Paris grave.

The Memorial’s displays and text omit or elide Benjamin’s enslavement of black people on his Louisiana plantation. They omit mention of Benjamin’s defense of slavery in the United States Senate. They honor him as an important and effective leader in the armed uprising against the United States and its government that we know as the Civil War. This uprising arose because Southern white slave owners rejected the outcome of the presidential election of 1860 and began before that election’s victor, Abraham Lincoln, had assumed office.

The Civil War brought an end to centuries of violent racial slavery of black people by white people in the United States and freedom for the slaves. The choice of Southern white people to reject the outcome of that election brought un-paralleled disaster upon both the United States and the rebellious forces and the people and territory they strove to remove from the United States. More than 700,000 men died in combat, from war injuries, or from disease.
Combat and other military deaths included those of many thousands of black men who fought in United States Colored Regiments for their freedom and that of their brothers and sisters still enslaved. Nearly 200,000 black men served in Union forces during the Civil War. They also included deaths of the many thousands of Southern white men who remained loyal to the government of the United States and enlisted in Union army regiments from nearly every Southern state. The United Daughters of the Confederacy does not honor these Southerners, white and black, of the Civil War era who fought for the Union. Indeed, any Southern white woman of today whose military ancestor took an oath of allegiance to the United States before General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Virginia in on April 9, 1865, does not qualify for membership in the United Daughters.

In Florida, northeastern Florida in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area was in Union hands through most of the war. Key West remained in Union hands throughout the war. Pensacola was abandoned and burned by Confederate forces at the command of General Braxton Bragg in 1862 and remained in Union control for the rest of the war. Descendants of people from these areas of Florida do not qualify for United Daughters’ membership if their ancestors pledged allegiance to the United States.

The government of Florida provides its parks for all Florida residents and the state’s many visitors. In this beautiful historical house, built by black slaves, and on this former sugar plantation, cleared and operated by slaves under the compulsion of John Gamble and his overseers, the state intends for everyone to feel welcome and honored for their ancestors’ contributions to Florida.


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