Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A racially integrated Confederate military?

Recently, I was reading the most recent issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era, and I found a mention of “a racially integrated Confederate military.” The author of the essay does not believe that the Confederate army was integrated to any degree, and that the idea of tens of thousands of black Confederate soldiers served beside their masters or former masters within the ranks. As I have stated before, I’ve never believed there were hundreds of thousands of black Confederate soldiers. But at the same time, I have come to believe the Confederate army was far more integrated that most people want to believe.

The only way to back up the belief of an integrated Confederate army is to look at Confederate regiments on a company level. This type of research does not come easily, and is probably beyond the interest of the academic historian. To accomplish this type of research, you really need to be a family historian.

I’m not a family historian. But I know of lot of them. So, I formulated a test. I pulled out all of the men in Company B, 37th North Carolina Troops, who came from Watauga County and who originally enlisted in September 1861. Located in the mountains of western North Carolina, and by looking at the 1860 Federal census, Watauga might be considered one of the least ethnically diverse counties, at least in North Carolina. According to this census, there were 4,821 white people, 104 slaves, and 32 free persons of color in Watauga County. The county furnished several companies to the Confederate army in 1861 and 1862, along with a handful who joined the Federal army, and another group who used the guise of the Federal uniform to wage a dirty war on their neighbors.

Back to our test company: Company B was originally recruited from Watauga County in September 1861 and entered Confederate service in November 1861. Of that initial group of 98 men, we find 21 mixed race people. The most famous would be the Cozzens (or Cousins) brothers. They considered themselves Melungeons or descendants of the Portuguese.   The government considered them either mulattos or Negroes. We understand that Melungeons are today considered descendants of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin. The Cozzens were two members of Company B who were free blacks. They voluntarily enlisted in Company B on September 14, 1861. Franklin was killed in the fighting at Second Manassas on August 29, 1862. William Henry Cozzens served as a teamster for much of the war, a more traditional role for a black person in the Confederate army. He was captured on April 2, 1865, and spent a couple of months at Point Lookout, Maryland.

And then there is the story of Larkin Oxentine, born in Sumter District, South Carolina. He, and his family, claimed that he was a Lumbee Indian and  a recent arrival to the Watauga County area. After the war was over, Oxentine headed one more county west, settling in Carter County, Tennessee.
All of the rest of 21 men's families claim to have some degree of Native American ancestry. This is probably not the most scientific way to conduct such a study, but at the same time, even a DNA study would not tell us when the Native American ancestry entered into a person's  family background. It should also be remembered that Native Americans were not considered citizens. Anyone with Native ancestry, in the mid-19th century, hid it, or faced possible forced relocation.

So, at least 21 percent of the original enlistees of Company B, 37th North Carolina Troops, could be considered racially mixed in some form or fashion. This is just one test case. I wonder what additional research into the subject might show? Maybe that the Confederate army was little more "racially integrated" than some folks might want to admit? 


Jeffry Burden said...

Great post on a hot topic. Just to be clear, were the Cozzens (or any of the others you found) identified specifically in military-related records, either at the time of service or in later pension paperwork, as being either mulatto, or mixed-race, or Negro? Or, is that based on your research?

Michael Hardy said...

Jeffrey - none of this information regarding race is found in military or pension records. The Cozzen story comes from census records and two letters from a local citizen to Governor Ellis in 1861. It seems the Cozzens brothers were kidnapped by then Capt. George Folk in the spring of 1861 to be used as camp servants. A Watauga County resident and former General Assemblyman wrote in their behalf, securing their release. They later volunteered in what became Company B, 37th NCT.

Glenn Land said...

I've always been of the opinion, "official Confederate policy" wasn't adhered to in the same way official policy of the Lincoln Administration was. The Confederacy was after all, fighting for States Rights and already in rebellion against a strong "central Government." Hence records don't always show if a soldier was a "free person of color" or "free negro." i've found the following in my research :

Some examples of inaccurate recording and reporting (probably intentional ?)

The often mentioned, Richard, Poplar, Private, (cook) Co.H, 13th Virginia Cavalry, was captured on the retreat from Gettysburg. Spent the remainder of the war at Point Lookout. He was apparently "free-born." There's nothing in his Confederate record to indicate he's a Black man. His burial record on the other hand is plain about his race.

Colored Confederate Seaman, Benjamin Gray was a twelve-year-old youth who enlisted in the C.S. Navy at Wilmington, North Carolina. One of the several ships he served on was the Albermarle. In June 1917, while a resident of Bertie County NC, Gray applied for a Confederate Pension from North Carolina. It was approved the following month. After his death in 1924, his widow, Margaret was granted a pension based upon his service. Nothing is mentioned in either record about their race.

Confederate Private John Hammonds, Co.E 5th ((McKenzie's) east Tennessee Cavalry wrote to "a dear uncle" Feb. 10, 1862 from Knoxville. After speaking of their location and caring for comrades sick with the measles, he mentions a "small chunk of a fight" with the "Lincolnites " two days before. "We killed six of them & taken one prisoner & wounded ten more. Jack Thomas a colored person that belongs to our company killed one of them."
There is a record for a Jackson Thomas in Co.E but no indication of his race. Both men were killed at the Battle of Big Creek Gap in east Tennessee in March, 1863. According to Confederate records both men may have been killed after being wounded and captured.

Glenn Land said...

- North Carolina Troops 1861-65, A Roster:

William Rudd

Residence Chatham County NC;
Enlisted on 12/4/1862 at Martin County, NC as a Colored Cook.
On 12/4/1862 he mustered into "E" Co. NC 5th Cavalry * On rolls 8/30/1864
William Lynch

Residence Chatham County NC;
Enlisted on 1/12/1862 at Lenoir County, NC as a Colored Cook.
On 1/12/1862 he mustered into "E" Co. NC 5th Cavalry * AWOL 6/28/1864 On rolls 8/30/1864.
..................................... Jackson Evans
Enlisted on 7/15/1862 as a Private.
On 7/15/1862 he mustered as a substitute into "F" Co. NC 3rd Infantry
He deserted on 11/30/1862
* Paroled 9/20/1862 Keedysville, MD
* POW 9/20/1862 Keedysville, MD
(Negro, substitute for John W. Cox,)
Arthur Reed

Enlisted on 6/16/1864 at Edgecombe County, NC as a Private.
On 6/16/1864 he mustered into "D" Co. NC 3rd Light Artillery
* On rolls 10/31/1864 (place not stated)


Not the only ones !

Gene West said...

I'd like to see history/research done from an area that was more racially diverse or where there was more people of color. Prehaps the areas of the Deep South , say in Georgia, Mississipi or Alabama would be a better metric for this study.

Certainly later in the war ( for instance late 63 and 64 ) would be a better evaluation since the Southern Government would be looking to use all of it resources.

I personally don't believe the South would have been willingly use blacks that weren't free during the early stages of the war.

Great discussion either way.

Gene West said...

Glenn, I agree that many blacks served for the Confederacy, however it was a small percentage in relation to the populas.

Many of the blacks serving were indentured servants, without many options.

And as the Northern aggressors forged there way through the the Southern states they purposely freed the blacks from there positions to weaken the Southern cause.

Blacks were not seen as white mans equal (in the North as well as the South) so I'm not convinced that other then some exceptions this was very common.

I've recently read the book Winchester Divided, it's about 2 women in Winchester Virginia who document (in diary) the the war and life in Winchester. Laura Lee is a Southern sympathizer and Julia Chase is a Northern sympathizer.

Both woman document there observations of life in Winchester and they speak often about the indentured servants in the town and the struggle they have holding them from running off due the the Yankees releasing them from there obligations and responsibilities. Of course some of the servants/blacks feel obligated to stay but as there convinced there will be no retribution they leave and the ones that don't leave willing are forced to leave by Union soldiers.

Well it's just my thoughts and opinions, sorry for droning on. Like I said earlier great discussion.

Glenn Land said...

Gene, I agree with you and Michael. I don't believe there were legions of armed Black men in the ranks of the Confederate Armies. I personally think there were more than some today would have us believe. The bottom line for me, being shot by a colored cook, would have had the same effect as being shot by a white first Sergeant. LOL !!! It would still hurt! I've by no means done intense research on the subject, really not qualified, just a lot of interest.

Here's some info on men from the lower southern states:

The 57th Alabama Infantry show a slave named Dave as their fifer. A slave named Jerry as their drummer, The roll is dated, Sept-Oct 1863. Their owner was the regiment's Colonel.

Georgia's 18th Infantry Battalion had a cook named Scipio Africanus. There are 16 file cards in his record. He enlisted in Jan.1863, was paroled at Appomattox Listed as belonging to the "colored troops." Apparently the Yankees considered him a soldier.

Solomon Littleton, listed as a servant, 3rd Mississippi Infantry. Died a P.O.W. at Camp Morton, Indiana. March 2, 1862.

Henry "Dad" Brown (free-negro) served from 1862 to the war's end as a drummer in the 8th & 21st South Carolina Infantry.

Again not all by any means


Michael Hardy said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. I think too many times, we just want to focus on the blacks who served (of their own free will, or for their masters) and not on the broader picture. What happens when we look at society as a whole, at not only the African-Americans, but also the Hispanics, Native Americans, etc.? I too would love to see more serious research into this subject.