34 thoughts on “Truth, Lies, and a Black Confederate Soldiers Hoax; and the True Story of the Louisiana Native Guards

  1. Anyone can be fooled by a photo if not familiar with the original….but that doesn’t make you part of a “neo-confederate conspiracy.”

    For all we know the motives behind the photo may have been money.

    I have seen photos of Confederate units with uniformed (and enlisted) black musicians. Some publications that have this photo crop out the black musicians.
    What’s the motive there?


    As for the Native Guards Regiment (Confederate version) the amount of spin, disinformation and outright lies from Northern sources (which has been going on since 1862) makes the photo hoax look mild in comparison.

    • “Anyone can be fooled by a photo if not familiar with the original….but that doesn’t make you part of a “neo-confederate conspiracy. For all we know the motives behind the photo may have been money.” – BorderRuffian

      BR, even if someone did this for money, it’s clear that so-called neo-Confederates are using the photo. Note the youtube videos I mentioned. There are many many other places where so called “Southern heritage” folks are using the photo on the Internet. Surely they know by now that the picture is a hoax, and they still continue to use it. So, even if they didn’t create it, they are using it widely. That’s the problem.

      “As for the Native Guards Regiment (Confederate version) the amount of spin, disinformation and outright lies from Northern sources (which has been going on since 1862) makes the photo hoax look mild in comparison.”

      As I researched this post, I saw a lot of bad information about the Native Guard from a LOT of sources. The problem with the LA Native Guard story is, it’s very complex and unique, yet, people want to make it simple and draw broad generalizations from it. They wind up getting the story wrong. Also, people haven’t taken the time to research the story adequately.

      Hopefully, this post sets the story straight by presenting more facts. I appreciate that you don’t seem to find much fault in my own rendition of the story.

    • “I have seen photos of Confederate units with uniformed (and enlisted) black musicians. Some publications that have this photo crop out the black musicians.
      What’s the motive there?”

      I’d be very interested in looking at that. Can you provide any links/examples?

  2. Is this fake too? “It is now pretty well established, that there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops, and do all that soldiers may to destroy the Federal Government”

    • southron_98, exactly how many “Black Confederate” soldiers were there? Can you provide a number?

      And, you might be interested in following the link to this “southron” site.

      • Southron_98 repeats an oft-quoted line from Frederick Douglass, but (typically) never explains how Douglass could know this personally, or had any way of verifying it. It’s clear that Douglass was repeating information — rumors — that he’d heard. There were lots of rumors going around then, North and South. As “evidence,” it’s largely meaningless, and those who offer it are counting on the listener to be unwilling to question Douglass, even when it seems clear the assertion is little more than gossip.

      • Andy Hall,

        I know you can explain how Douglass could be wrong.

        How about this, he was a human able to read and talk, living in the US and may have even saw these Black Confederates himself.

        You offer nothing but an opinion, why don’t you provide a timeline onDouglass movemnets to prove he could not have actually witnessed these soldiers?/

        George Purvis

      • George, even Douglass makes no claim to have witnessed this personally. But if you think he did, you’re welcome to go digging to show that he did. My question is broader — what was Douglass’ evidence for asserting this? It’s a legitimate question, one that historians ask all the time. People assert things that are incorrect all the time — sometimes intentionally, and sometimes in good faith. If we really want to get at the truth on the subject of “black Confederates,” Douglass’ assertion isn’t evidence of anything other than, perhaps, he believed it to be true. His statement is a starting point for further research, not the finish. If folks want to use his statement as evidence (as you seem to), it’s incumbent upon them to demonstrate its reliability.

        As a separate, but related question: if you feel strongly that we should take Douglass at his word on the subject of “black Confederates,” are the rest of Douglass’ writings on the South, the Confederacy and the war also to be taken with the same level of absolute confidence? I ask because, frankly, while I’ve seen Douglass’ quote on “black Confederates” on dozens of Confederate heritage websites and discussion forums, that’s the only writing of his I’ve seen cited in those places. If you believe Douglass was a reliable reporter and had an insightful analysis, there’s MUCH more to his writing about the Confederacy than a couple of lines about black men in butternut uniforms. Funny enough, y’all never seem to quote those writings.

  3. Isn’t this page actually just as manipulative as the doctored photo? It’s using the photo to claim the ‘free black’ Confederate soldiers was a lie. But only the photo was a lie. There *were* free black soldiers fighting for the South, and whatever opinions we all have we need to acknowledge that and not just try and airbrush it away. Sure the Confederates treated them as second class, but then so did the Unionists! Obviously the issue is blurry, blurrier than many would like to believe. But I don’t think it’s right to fight spin with spin do you?

    I’m British btw, and not a NeoConfederate. I just happen to dislike manipulation of any kind on any side for any reason.

    • ff,

      As I read the post, nowhere is it said that there were no so-called black Confederate soldiers. The questions are:

      (a) How do you define a “black Confederate soldier”?
      (b) How many of these “black Confederate soldiers” were there?

      I have seen claims that there were as many as 35,000-65,000 “black Confederate soldiers.” I am still looking for a definitive source that provides an accurate count, based on a reasonable definition of “black Confederate soldier.”

      I would note that, this represents the official policy of the Confederacy with regards to the use of negros in its army, per the Official Records of the War (OR, series 4, volume 2, page 941):

      [NOVEMBER] 24, 1863.
      Our position with the North and before the world will not allow the employment as armed soldiers of negroes. If these creoles can be naturally and properly discriminated from negroes, the authority may be considered as conferred; otherwise not, unless you can enlist them as “navvies” (to use the English term) or for subordinate working purposes.
      J. A. S.,

      The J.A.S. is CSA Secretary of War James Seddon. He was specifically asked if creole (mixed race) freemen from Alabama could be used as soldiers. Seddon’s answer: no… unless they can pass for white.

      I don’t think any reasonable scholar – or at least, not me – would deny that at least several hundred, to perhaps several thousand at most, freemen or slaves acted in the capacity of a “soldier.” But that’s a guess. Meanwhile, the names of the blacks who fought in the USCT are a matter of public record and easily quantifiable.

      • LCS,

        I am working on those exact question and some of the most used arguments both pro and con.

        let me give you a brief, most people approach this issue first of all by “hair-splittin'” the issue. That is the wrong approach. If a man served he served, paperwork doesn’t matter, the CSA policy didn’t matter. All of these arguments you hear are mostly just smoke and mirrors. Even the numbers and the original statement, as I understand it, have been corrupted. Finally “thousands” did serve or were enrolled. I can and will provide passages from reliable sources that prove this.

        I seldom visit this blogs and it may be sometime before I come back. Watch for new sub-sites going up from I expect to launch this sub-site within the next two weeks, however all information will not be present at that time. Watch from our main website http://southernheritageadvancementpreservationeducation.com/page.php?4


        George Purvis


    • C.C., the problem is that there’s virtually no contemporary records (1861-65) from the Confederacy to fully document the existence of African Americans serving in the ranks, recognized as soldiers at the time. No letters, no diaries, no newspaper accounts, and above all, almost nothing in terms of service records. You’re right that Confederate service records are not complete, but in the case of “black Confederates,” that’s being used as an excuse. I have a dozen Confederate ancestors, and can document each one’s service in the National Archives combined service records.

      You also wrote, “EVERYONE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF HERE WITH NUMBERS AND ALL THAT CRAP.” Actually, numbers are central to this discussion. I’m sure you would agree that there’s a tremendous difference in the way historians understand the war if there were two, or two hundred, or two thousand, or twenty thousand, African Americans enlisted in the ranks, as soldiers. A handful would be interesting, but doesn’t change the big picture. Tens of thousands is an entirely different matter.

  5. I am a History major at Appalachian State University. I have spent a good deal of time researching this topic for my thesis. The reality is that so many people are still used to looking at history in the traditional sense with out breaking any of the boundaries that may make some uncomfortable. There is a great deal of primary source evidence that support the existence of black confederates not just in the few hundred but in the thousands. Slavery was on the negotiating table when it came to the Civil War but it was by far the reason the war started. It is easy to believe that the reason was slavery but in reality the seceding states wanted more state power and less federal interference. In fact the first threat of secession by John C. Calhoun came due to the implementation of the Tariff of 1828, which would place a tax on all imports. This would hurt the southern states due to as much trading they still did with Europe. Calhoun would use this tactic for the next thirty years in order to get his way. including when Texas wanted to be admitted as a slave state to the US. Calhoun did use the same tactic to have the Gag Rule repealed in Congress, which stated that the issue of slavery could no longer be discussed in congress. Anytime something didn’t go the way he wanted, Calhoun would threaten secession knowing that the government would fold and give him his way. The Compromise of 1850 was another prime example of this.

    I’m not saying for sure one way or another that there were thousands upon thousands of African Americans who fought for the Confederacy. However, until you put your misconceptions behind you and begin looking beyond the established norm of history you will never be able to learn the real truth. Remember more and more research and evidence comes to light everyday you just have to be willing to look at it with an unbiased eye.

    • Ryan,

      I’m not sure what to make of your comments. You say that I need to put my “misconceptions behind [me] and begin looking beyond the established norm of history [or] I will never be able to learn the real truth.” But you never describe what these “misconceptions” are or the “established norm(s) of history” that I need to look behind.

      You say there is a great deal of evidence to prove there were several hundred to several thousand black Confederates. When you have compiled a list of these men, please feel free to provide a link. Thanks in advance.

      PS: If there were several hundred to several thousand so-called Black Confederates, that would be 0.1% of the black and colored population in the Confederate States. I would pose this question to you: why is so much research being spent on 0.1% of the negro population, a number that is statistically and numerically insignificant?

      • The misconceptions are that for one that the Civil War did not revolve around slavery, it was one of the larger issues involved. Unfortunately history as I was taught in grade school and still is being taught is what is comfortable for people to accept. Most people don’t want to try and stomach the thought of slaves for free blacks would possibly fight for the side that wanted slavery to continue. However many of the free blacks also had slaves on there own plantations. As horrible as slavery was the black population at the time had no idea what the Union would bring to what they considered home. In the 1830’s the northerners idea of freeing the slaves was buying a piece of land in Africa (Liberia) and sending the blacks back to Africa.

        In 1860 the black population in the South was 3,953,656. The overall population of the South was around 9,000,000. The population of the North was around 22,000,000 being over double the population of the North many states had no choice but to enlist free blacks and slaves to military service. In the lower south the black population was 46% of the overall population. With the implementation of the Conscription Act (military draft) in April of 1862 this became even more important as draft dodging began on a fairly large scale. These are the questions that we as Historians must ask and do our best to answer, and if we cant confidently answer the question with a 100% accuracy, we need to be able to admit that all of the questions have not been answered yet.

        As historians no number is statistically insignificant. The search for events as they transpired in a war that shaped the nation from then on is important. It also has social relevance in describing human behavior. We have an obligation to search for the facts and display them as they happened and not manipulate the information to fit with what is acceptable.

        In comparison in grade school I was taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America in this whole elaborate story. Fortunately that is beginning to change but it is still being taught in some areas. In reality he didn’t, and now new information and evidence is coming to light that Africans traveled to the South American Continent way before Europeans crossed over. Regardless its is important to get history correct no matter how insignificant some may find it. If it was 150 black confederates or 500,000 it needs to be accurate information to the best of our ability because that is what future generations will look at.

        In regards to research some interesting material to look at are:
        Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia, By Ervin L. Jordan
        Black Confederates by Charles Kelly Barrow, J.H. Segars and R.B. Rosenburg
        Black Southerners in Confederate Armies: A Collection of Historical Accounts, compiled by J.H. Segars and Charles Kelly Barrow
        also the Yale, Harvard, and Appalachian State digital collections of primary and secondary sources have some revealing information as well.

    • Confederate apologists trot out the “States’ rights” argument quite a bit, but ask them to name a right, privilege or immunity belonging to a state that was being threatened, other than claimed rights directly connected to slavery, and they come up blank.

      In fact, southerners complained about NORTHERN “states’ rights” actions hostile to slavery. For example, in the Mississippi Causes of Secession (http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/Mississippi_causes.htm) one of their official complaints is “It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.”

      Or South Carolina (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_scarsec.asp), which listed among its reasons “This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.” In plain terms, some northern states let black men vote.

      So it’s clear that secessionists ATTACKED state resistance to Federal authority when that resistance took an anti-slavery form.

      And as for the tariff, the word doesn’t even appear in the Mississippi or South Carolina documents. What’s more, the tariff wasn’t a states’ rights question. Levying tariffs is an enumerated power of the federal government. The argument there was the purpose for which tariffs could be levied: protection, or revenue only? Since the constitution specifies that tariffs can be levied but says nothing about their purpose, this is a policy argument disguised as a constitutional debate. Further proof? John Calhoun voted for the original protective tariff. He only decided it was “unconstitutional” after he realized South Carolina wasn’t making money from it.

      For that matter, he supported the Missouri Compromise and called for its extension to the Pacific in the 1840s. Only after northerners insisted on the Wilmot Proviso banning slavery from all conquered Mexican land (except Texas, however big that was), did Calhoun start saying that any ban on territorial slavery was unconstitutional.

      Oh, and I assume it’s just a typo on Ryan Bowen’s part, but Calhoun wanted to MAINTAIN the “Gag Rule,” not have it repealed.

  6. Three years ago USA TODAY printed an editorial that maintained that the South seceded AFTER Lincoln freed the slaves. In other words, Lincoln got elected, freed the slaves, and the South got angry and left. Of course everybody SHOULD know that seven Southern states had already left the Union before Lincoln even took the oath of office. In his inaugaration address Lincoln maintained that he would not interfere with slavery in those states where it already existed. And Lincoln didn’t issue the emancipation Proclamation until after the war had been going on for almost 2 years and all eleven states that would secede had seceded. So it would seem that “Neo-Confederates” aren’t the only ones engaging in “propaganda. I didn’t hear any “propaganda” outcries from the David Blights of the world in this instance. I guess that means that some propaganda is acceptable.

    • OK, you’ve piqued my curiosity: can you provide a link to the article from USAToday which you mention above?

  7. You know, it’s been three years ago, and foolishly enough, I didn’t save it. But get me a Bible and I will swear that that is what they said. And what’s more, when I sent a letter to them pointing out their errors, they failed to print it. In fact, they printed no letters that would have pointed out their errors. I will look, though, and see if I can come up with anything.

  8. “After Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, the southern states seceded, fearing the new Republican party’s commitment to ending slavery.” I found the article, and I was wrong as to how it was presented. The article DOES NOT state that Lincoln freed the slaves upon his taking office, as I represented it. It was in the April 8, 2010 edition. My apologies.

  9. and actually, I have read somewhere in one of the mainstream Civil War publications (CIVIL WAR TIME, AMERICA”S CIVIL WAR, I can’t remember which) that the Louisiana Native Guard was made up of free black men, some who themselves were slave owners, who offered their services to the Confederacy to help defend New Orleans from the Northern invader. The authorities accepted them with open arms, but the citizens protested, which caused the authorities to make an about face and reject them. Consequently, the guards offered their services to the Union when New Orleans came under Federal occupation.

    • The above blog entry does mention several of the things you’ve noted.

      I do not believe, though, that it’s fair to say “the guards offered their services to the Union when New Orleans came under Federal occupation.” That makes it seem that the entire, or even most, of the pre-Union occupation Native Guard members enlisted with the Union. My understanding is that only a small portion of those who were with the Louisiana militia Native Guards signed up with the Union. And as also noted in the blog entry, many of the Union enlistees were escaped slaves, who would not have been (could not have been) part of the Louisiana state militia.

      • One thing I would say, though, as a follow up to my USA TODAY correction. I truly believe that the article, when it first appeared, said exactly what I originally said that it did. I read it over and over again on the day it appeared before I sent my letter of protest. I have no doubt that they recieved many letters of protest (who know,they might have even recieved one from Mr. Blight, but I doubt it), and rather than acknowleging their error just quietly amended it for the archives.

  10. What percent of the confederate POWs captured were Black? Wouldn’t that give us some idea as to the number of Black troops in the confederate army?

    • Answer: No. The persons captured would not be soldiers, but rather, slaves. So, the POWs captured who were Black would indicate the number of slaves who were with their masters.

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