Welcome to
History & Genealogy


A History of the

in the Wars of
1775-1812, 1861-'65,
Joseph T. Wilson
Late of the 2nd Reg't. La. Native Guard Vols. 54th Mass. Vols.
Aide-De-camp to the Commander-In-Chief G. A. R.
Author of
"Emancipation," "Voice of a New Race,"  "Twenty-Two Years of Freedom," etc., etc.
56 Illustrations
Hartford, Conn.:
American Publishing Company


pg. 481 -

     The leaders at the South in preparing for hostilities showed the people of the North, and the authorities at Washington, that they intended to carry on the war with no want of spirit; that every energy, every nerve, was to be taxed to its utmost tension, and that not only every white man, but, if necessary, every black man should be made to contribute to the success of the cause for which the war was inaugurated.  Consequently, with the enrollment of the whites began the employment of the blacks.
     Prejudice against the negro at the North was so strong that it required the arm of public authority to protect him from assault, though he declared in favor of the Union. Not so at the South, for as early as April, 1861, the free negroes of New Orleans, La., held a public meeting and began the organization of a battalion, with officers of their own race, with the approval of the State government, which commissioned their negro officers.  When the Louisiana militia was reviewed, the Native Guards (negro) made up, in part, the first division of the State troops.  Elated at the success of being first to place negroes in the field together with white troops, the commanding general sent the news over the wires to the jubilant confederacy :

"NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 23rd, 1861. 

     "Over 28,000 troops were reviewed to-day by Governor Moore, Major-General Lovell and Brigadier-General Ruggles. The line was over seven miles long; one regiment comprised 1,400 free colored men."

[Pg. 482]
     The population of the city of New Orleans differs materially from that of any other city on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.  It has several classes of colored people: the English, French, Portuguese and Spanish all a mixture of the African -and the American Negro — mulatto.-numerically stronger than either of the others, but socially and politically less considered and privileged; the former enjoyed distinctive rights, somewhat as did the mulattoes in the West Indies before slavery was abolished there.  Of these foreign classes many were planters, and not a few merchants, all owning slaves.  It was from these classes that the 1,400 colored men, forming the Native Guard regiment, came, and which recruited to 3,000 before the city was captured by the Union fleet.  This brigade was placed at the United States Mint building, under command of a creole, who, instead of following the confederate troops out of the city when they evacuated it, allowed his command to be cut off, and surrendered to General Butler.
     Of course, prior to this date, the negro at the South had taken au active part in the preparations for war
building breastworks, mounting cannon, digging rifle-pits and entrenchments, to shield and protect his rebelling
     January 1st, 1861, Hon. J. P. Walker, at Mobile Ala., received from R. R. Riordan, Esq., of Charleston, S C a dispatch rejoicing that—
     "Large gangs of negroes from plantations are at work on the redoubts, which are substantially made of sand-bags and coated with sheet-iron."
     These doubtless were slaves, and mere machines; but the Charleston Mercury of January 3rd, brought the
intelligence that—
     "One hundred and fifty able-bodied free colored men yesterday offered their services gratuitously to the governor, to hasten forward the important work of throwing up redoubts, wherever needed, along our coast."
     Only the fire-eaters based their hope of success against the North, - the National Government, - upon the stub-

[Pg. 483]
born energies of the white soldiery ; the deliberate men rested their hopes,—based their expectations, more upon the docility of the negro, than upon the audacity of their white troops.
     The legislature of Tennessee, which secretly placed that State in the Southern Confederacy, enacted in June, 1861, a law authorizing the governor—
     "To receive into the military service of the State all male free persons of color, between the age of 15 and 50, who should receive $8 per mouth, clothing and rations."
     And then it further provided—
     " That in the event a sufficient number of free persons of color to meet the wants of the State shall not tender their service, the Governor is empowered, through the sheriffs of the different counties, to press such persons until the requisite number is obtained."
     A few mouths after, the Memphis Avalanche, of September 3rd, 1861, exultingly announced the appearance on the streets of Memphis, of two regiments of negroes, under command of confederate officers. On the 7th of September, again the Avalanche said:
     "Upwards of 1000 negroes armed with spades and pickaxes have passed through the city within the past few days.  Their destination is unknown, but it is supposed that they are on their way to the 'other side of Jordan.' "
     Nor were the negroes in Virginia behind those of the other Southern States.  In April, the Lynchburg Republican chronicled the enrollment of a company, of free negroes in that city, also one at Petersburg.
     Thus instead of revolts among the negroes, slaves and free, as predicted by some Union men at the North, many became possessed of a fervor,—originating generally in fear,—stimulated by an enthusiasm of the whites, that swept the populace like a mighty sea current into the channel of war. The negro who boasted the loudest of his desire to fight the Yankees; who showed the greatest anxiety to aid the confederates, was granted the most freedom and received the approval of his master.
     The gayly decked cities; the flags, bunting and streamers of all colors; the mounted cavalry; the artillery trains

[Pg. 484]
with brazen cannons drawn by sturdy steeds; followed by regiments of infantry in brilliant uniforms, with burnished muskets, glittering bayonets and beautiful plumes; preceeded by brass bands discoursing the ever alluring strains of the quick-step; all these scenes greatly interested and delighted the negro, and it was filling the cup of many with ecstasy to the brim, to be allowed to connect themselves, even in the most menial way, with the demonstrations.  There was also an intuitive force that led them, and they unhesitatingly followed, feeling that though they took up arms against the National Government, freedom was the ultimatum.  Many of those who enlisted feared to do otherwise than fight for slavery, for to refuse would have invited, perchance, torture if not massacre; to avert which many of the free blacks, as well as some of the slaves, gave an apparent acquiescence to the fervor of their lesser informed comrades, who regarded any remove from the monotony of plantation life a respite.
     The readiness with which they responded to the call was only astonishing to those who were unacquainted with the true feelings of the unhappy race whose highest hope of freedom was beyond the pearly gates of the celestial domain. One thing that impressed the blacks greatly was the failure of Denmark Vesy, Nat Turner and John Brown, whose fate was ever held up to them as the fate of all who attempted to free themselves or the slaves.  Escape to free land was the only possible relief they saw on earth, and that they realized as an individual venture, far removed from the field-hand South of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
     It was not unnatural, then, for some to spring at the opportunity offered to dig trenches and assist Beauregard in mounting cannon, and loading them with shot and shell to fire upon Fort Sumter.
     The negro did not at first realize a fight of any magnitude possible, or that it would result in any possible good to himself.  So while the free negroes trembled because they were free, the slaves sought refuge from sus

[Pg. 485]

Negroes building fortifications for the Confederates at James Island, S. C., under direction of General Beauregard, to repel the land attack of the Federal Troops.

[Pg. 486] - BLANK

[Pg. 487]
picion of wanting to be free, behind, per se, an enthusiasm springing, not from a desire and hope for the success of
the confederates, but from a puerile ambition to enjoy the holiday excitement.
     Later on, however, when the war opened in earnest, and the question of the freedom and slavery of the negro entered into the struggle; when extra care was taken to guide him to the rear at night; when after a few thousand Yankee prisoners, taken in battle, had sought and obtained an opportunity of whispering to him the real cause of the war, and the surety of the negroes' freedom if the North was victorious, the slave negro went to the breastworks with no less agility, but with prayers for the success of the Union troops, and a determination to go to the Yankees at the first opportunity ; though he risked life in the undertaking.  When the breastworks had been built and the heavy guns mounted, when a cordon of earth-works encircled the cities throughout the South, and after a few thousand negroes had made good their escape into the Union lines, then those who had labored upon the fortifications of the South were sent back to the cotton-fields and the plantations to till the soil to supply the needs of the confederate soldiers who were fighting to keep them in bondage.  But when the policy of the North was changed and union and liberty were made the issues of the struggle, as against slavery and disunion, and the Union forces began to slay their enemies, the Confederate Government realized the necessity of calling the negroes
from the hoe to the musket,—from the plantations to the battle-fields.
     In the incipiency of the struggle, many of the States made provision for placing the negro at the disposal of the Confederate Government; but elated at their early victories, the leaders deemed the enforcement of the laws unnecessary, negro troops not being needed.  As the change came, however, and defeats, with great losses in various ways depleted the armies, the necessity of the aid of the negroes became apparent.  Stronghold after strong hold, city after city, States in part, fell before the march

[Pg. 488]
of the Union troops. The negro had become a soldier in the Union army, and was helping to crush the rebel lion. President Lincoln had declared all slaves in rebeldom free, and thousands of black soldiers were marching and carrying the news to the slaves.
     This state of affairs lead President Davis and his cabinet to resign to the inevitable, as had the North, and to inaugurate the policy of emancipating and arming the slaves, knowing full well that it was sheer folly to expect to recruit their shattered armies from the negro population without giving them their freedom.
     It was therefore in the last days of the confederate authorities, and it was their last hope and effort for success.  Despair had seized upon them.  The army was daily thinned more by desertion than by the bullets of the Union soldiers, while Sherman's march from Atlanta to the sea had awakened the widest alarm.  In the-winter of 1864 and 1865 the question of arming the slaves was presented as a means of recruiting the depleted and disordered ranks of the army, and it soon assumed an importance that made it an absorbing topic throughout the Confederacy.  There was no other source to recruit from.  The appeal to foreigners was fruitless.  "The blacks had been useful soldiers for the northern army, why should they not be made to fight for their masters?"  it was asked.  Of course there was the immediate query whether they would fight to keep themselves in slavery.  This opened up a subject into which those who discussed it were afraid to look;  nevertheless it seemed unavoidable that a black conscription should be attempted, and with that in view, every precaution was taken by those who supported the scheme to avoid heightening the dissensions already too prevalent for good.  The newspapers were advised of the intended change of policy, to which not a few of them acquiesced.  General Lee was consulted, as the following letter, afterward printed in the Philadelphia Times, shows:
                                                              "HEAD-QUARTERS ARMY NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
                                                                                          "January 11th, 1865. }

     "HON. ANDREW HUNTER:  I have received your letter of the 7th instant, and, without confining myself to the order of your interrogato-

[Pg. 489]
riee, will endeavor to answer them by a statement of my views on the subject.
     "I shall be most happy if I can contribute to the solution of a question in which I feel an interest commensurate with my desire for the welfare and happiness of our people.
     "Considering the relation of master and slave controlled by human laws, and influenced by Christianity and an enlightened public sentiment, as the best that can exist between the white and black races, while inter-mingled as at present in this country, I would deprecate any sudden disturbance of that relation, unless it be necessary to avert a greater calamity to both.  I should, therefore, prefer to rely on our white population to preserve the ratio between our forces and that of
the enemy, which experience has shown to be safe.  But in view of the preparations of our enemies it is our duty to prepare for continued war and not for a battle or a campaign, and I own I fear we can not accomplish this without overtaxing the capacity of our white population.
     "Should the war continue under existing circumstances the enemy may in course of time penetrate our country, and get access to a large part of our slave population. It is his avowed policy to convert the able-bodied men among them into soldiers, and emancipate all.  The success of the federal arms in the south was followed by a proclamation from President Lincoln for two hundred and eighty thousand men, the effect of which will be to stimulate the northern states to procure as
substitutes for their own people the negroes thus brought within their reach.  Many have already been obtained in Virginia, and should the fortunes of war expose more of her territory the enemy will gain a large accession of strength.  His progress will thus add to his numbers, and at the same time destroy slavery in a manner most pernicious to the welfare of our people.  Their negroes will be used to hold them in subjection, leaving the remaining force of the enemy free to extend his
     " Whatever may be the effect of our employing negro troops it can not be as mischievous as this.  If it end in subverting slavery it will be accomplished by ourselves, and we can devise the means of alleviating the evil consequences to both races.  I think, therefore, we must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions.  My own opinion is that we should employ them without delay.  I believe that, with proper regulations, they can be made effective soldiers.  They possess the physical qualifications in an eminent degree.  Long habits of obedience and subordination, coupled with that moral influence which in our country the white man possesses over the black, furnish the best foundation for that discipline which is the surest guarantee of military efficiency.  Our chief aim should be to secure their fidelity.  There have been formidable armies composed of men having no interests in the country for which they fought beyond their pay or the hope of plunder.  But it is certain that

[Pg. 490]
the best foundation upon which the fidelity of an army can rest, especially in a service which imposes peculiar hardships and privations, is the personal interest of the soldier in the issue of the contest.  Such an interest we can give our negroes- by granting immediate freedom to all who enlist, and freedom at the end of the war to the families of those who discharge their duties faithfully, whether they survive or not, together with the privilege of residing at the south.
     "To this might be added a bounty for faithful service.  We should not expect slaves to fight for prospective freedom when they can secure it at once by going to the enemy, in whose service they will incur no greater risk than in ours.  The reasons that induce me to recommend the employment of negro troops at all render the effect of the measures I have suggested upon slavery immaterial, and in my opinion the best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this auxiliary force would be to accompany the measure with a well-digested plan of gradual and general emancipation.  As that will be the result of the continuance of the war, and will certainly occur if the enemy succeed, it seems to me most advisable to adopt it at once, and thereby obtain all the benefits that will accrue to our cause.
     "The employment of negro troops under regulations similar to those indicated would, in my opinion, greatly increase our military strength, and enable us to relieve our white population to some extent.  I think we could dispense with the reserve forces, except in cases of emergency.  It would disappoint the hopes which our enemies have upon our exhaustion, deprive them in a great measure of the aid they now derive from black troops, and thus throw the burden of the war upon their own people.  In addition to the great political advantages that would result to our cause from the adoption of a system of emancipation, it would exercise a salutary influence upon our negro population, by rendering more secure the fidelity of those who become soldiers, and diminishing the inducements to the rest to abscond.
     "I can only say in conclusion that whatever measures are to be adopted should be adopted at once.  Every day's delay increases the difficulty.  Much time will be required to organize and discipline the men, and action may be deferred till it is too late.
                                                                                         "Very respectfully,
                                                                                                "Your obedient servant,

     "A true copy,  J. B. W."                                                "(Signed,)  R. E. LEE, General

     This letter was intended for members of Congress to read, and it was circulated among them, but all was not harmony.  Many members were bitterly opposed to arming the slaves, some of them denounced General Lee for writing the letter, and prepared to oppose the measure when it should be introduced into Congress.*
     *General William C. Wickham led the opponents of the project in a very bitter pro-slavery speech.

[Pg. 491]
At length the period for its introduction arrived.  Lee in his attempted invasion of the north made no more careful preparations than did Mr. Davis and his cabinet to carry through Congress the bill enrolling slaves and to emancipate them.  Finally the hour was at hand, and amid the mutterings of dissenters, and threats of members to resign their seats if the measure was forced through, the administration began to realize more sensibly its weakness.  However, it stood by the carefully drawn bill.
     Of course the negro people about the city of Richmond heard of the proposition to arm and emancipate them if they would voluntarily fight for their old masters.  They discussed its merits with a sagacity wiser than those who proposed the scheme, and it is safe to say that they concluded, in the language of one who spoke on the matter, "It am too late, de Yankees am coming."  There were those among them, however, known as the free class, who stood ever ready to imitate the whites, believing that course to be an evidence of their superiority over the slaves.  They were very anxious to enlist.
     On February 8th Senator Brown, of Mississippi, introduced a resolution which, if it had been adopted, would have freed 200,000 negroes and put them into the army; but on the next day it was voted down in secret session.  Upon this very February 9th, when Senator Brown's resolution was lost, Mr. Benjamin, Secretary of State, addressed a large public meeting at Richmond.  He made a very extraordinary speech, setting forth the policy of President Davis and his cabinet.  Emissaries of Mr. Davis had just returned from the Peace Conference at Fortress Monroe, where they met representatives of the United States government, and learned that the conditions upon which the Southern States could resume their relations were those which they were compelled to accept finally.  During Mr. Benjamin's speech he said:

[Pg. 492]
fight for you.' You must make up your minds to try this or see your army withdrawn from before your town.  I know not where white men can be found.''
     Mr. Benjamin's speech created an intense excitement among the slave-holders.  The situation seemed to have narrowed itself down to a disagreeable alternative.  They must either fight themselves or let the slaves fight.  Doubtless many would have preferred submission to Lincoln, but then they could not save their slaves. Immediately following Mr. Benjamin's speech on the 11th, a bill was introduced into the House of Representatives authorizing the enlistment of 200,000 slaves, with the consent, of their owners.  As a test of its strength a motion was made for the rejection of this bill, and the vote not to reject it was more than two to one.  There was every indication that the bill would pass.  It was while this measure was under discussion that General Lee wrote the letter which follows in answer to one of inquiry from a member of the House:

                                                                                  "HEAD-QUARTERS CONFEDERATE STATE ARMIES,
                                                                                                                         February 18th, 1865. }

"Hon. Barksdale, House of Representatives, Richmond/
     "Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 12th inst. with reference to the employment of negroes as soldiers.  I think the measure not only expedient but necessary.  The enemy will certainly use them against us if he can get possession of them, and a his present numerical superiority will enable him to penetrate many parts of the country, I can not see the wisdom of the policy of holding them to await his arrival, when we may, by timely action and judicious management, use them to arrest his progress.  I do not think that our white population can supply the necessities of a long war without over taxing its capacity, and imposing great suffering upon our people; and I believe we should provide resources for a protracted struggle, not merely for a battle or a campaign.
     "In answer to your second question I can only say that, in my opinion, under proper circumstances the negroes will make efficient soldiers.  I think we could at least do as well with them as the enemy, and he attaches great importance to their assistance.   Under good officers and good instructions I do not see why they should not become soldiers.  They possess all the physical qualifications, and their habits of obedience constitute a good formulation for discipline.  They furnish a more promising material than many armies of which we read in history, which owed their efficiency to discipline alone.  I think those employed

[Pg. 493]
should be freed. It would be neither wisdom nor justice, in my opinion, to require them to serve as slaves.  The best course to pursue, it seems to me, is to call for such as are willing to come with the consent of their owners.  Impressment or draft would not be likely to bring out the best class, and the use of coercion would make the measure distasteful to them and to their owners.  I have no doubt if Congress would authorize their reception into service, and empower the President to call upon individuals or States for such as they are willing to contribute with the condition of emancipation to all enrolled, a sufficient number would be forthcoming to enable us to try the experiment.
     " If it proves successful, most of the objections to the matter would disappear, and if individuals still remained unwilling to send their negroes to the army, the force of public opinion in the States would soon bring about such legislation as would remove all obstacles.  I think the matter should be left as far as possible to the people and the States, which alone can legislate as the necessities of this particular service may require.  As to the mode of organizing them, it should be left as free from restraint as possible.  Experience will suggest the best course, and would be inexpedient to trammel the subject with provisions that might in the end prevent the adoption of reforms, suggested by actual trial.

                                                                                         "With great respect,
                                                                                                                             "ROBERT E. LEE,
     Meanwhile the measure, to forward which this letter was written, was progressing very slowly.  J. B. Jones, clerk of the War Department of the Confederate Government, entered in his diary from day to day such scraps of information as he was able to glean about the progress of this important matter.  These entries are significant of the anxiety of this      critical time.  Under February 14th we find this entry:
     "Yesterday some progress was made with the measure of 200,000 negroes for the army.  Something must be done soon."
     " February 16th. - Did nothing yesterday; it is supposed, however, that the bill recruiting negro troops will pass.  I fear when it is too late."
     "February 17th. - A letter from General Lee to General Wise is published, thanking the latter's brigade for resolutions recently adopted declaring that they would consent to gradual emancipation for the sake of independence and peace.  From all signs slavery is doomed.  But if 200,000 negro recruits can be made to fight and can be enlisted, General Lee may maintain the war very easily and successfully, and the powers at Washington may soon become disposed to abate the hard terms of peace now exacted."
     "February 21st. - The negro bill has passed one house and will pass the other to-day, but the measure may come too late.  The enemy is enclosing us on all sides with great vigor and rapidity."

[Pg. 494]
     "February 22nd.— Yesterday the Senate postponed action on the negro bill.  What this means I cannot conjecture, unless there axe dispatches from abroad with assurance of recognition, based on stipulations of emancipation, which can not be carried into effect without the consent of the States, and a majority of these seem in a fair way of falling into the hands of the Federal generals."
     " February 24th.—Yesterday the Senate voted down the bill to put 200,000 negroes into the army. The papers to-day contain a letter from General Lee, advocating the measure as a necessity.  Mr. Hunter's* vote defeated it.  He has many negroes, and will probably lose them; but the loss of popularity and fear of forfeiting all chance of the succession may have operated upon him as a politician.  What madness!  'Under which king, Benzonian?'"
     " February 25th.—Mr. Hunter's eyes seem blood-shot since he voted against Lee's plan of organizing negro troops."
     " February 26th.—Mr. Hunter is now reproached by the slave-holders he thought to please for defeating the negro bill.  They say his vote will make Virginia a free State, inasmuch as General Lee must evacuate it for want of negro troops."
     " March 2d.—Negro bill still hangs fire in Congress."
     "March 9th.—Yesterday the Senate passed the negro troops bill— Mr. Hunter voting for it under instruction."
     " March 10th.—The president has the reins now, and Congress will be more obedient; but can they leave the city? Advertisements for recruiting negro troops are in the papers this morning."
     "March 17th.—We shall have a negro army.  Letters are pouring into the department from men of military skill and character asking authority to raise companies, battalions, and regiments of negro troops.  It is a desperate remedy for the desperate case, and may be successful.  If 200,000 efficient soldiers can be made of this material there is no conjecturing when the next campaign may end.  Possibly 'over the border;' for a little success will elate our spirits extravagantly, and the blackened ruins of our towns, and the moans of women and children bereft of shelter, will appeal strongly to the army for vengeance."
     "March 19th.—Unless food and men can be had Virginia must be lost. The negro experiment will soon be tested.  Curtis says that the letters are pouring into the department from all quarters asking authority to raise and command negro troops. 100,000 troops from this source might do wonders."

     * It was upon the discussion of this bill that Mr. Hunter, of Virginia, made these significant statements and admissions:
     "When we left the old government we thought we had got rid forever of the slavery agitation; but, to my surprise, I find that this (the Confederate) Government assumes power to arm the slaves, which involves also the power of emancipation.  This proposition would be regarded as a confession of despair.  If we are right in passing thsi measure, we are wrong in denying to the old government the right to interfere with slavery and to emancipate slaves.  If we offer the slaves their freedom as a boon we confess that we are insincere and hypocritical in saying slavery was the best state for the negroes themselves.  I believe that the arming and emancipating the slaves will be an abandonment of the contest.  To arm the negroes is to give them freedom.  When they come out scarred from the conflict they must be free."

[Pg. 495]
     So ends the entries on this interesting subject in Mr. Jones' diary.  Though the conscientious war clerk ceased to record, the excitement and effort of the advocates of the measure by no means slackened.  Grant's cordon around the city drew closer and tighter each day and hour, continually alarming the inhabitants.  Governor Smith gave the negro soldier scheme his personal influence and attention.  The newspapers began clamoring for conscription.  No little effort was made to raise a regiment of free blacks and mulattoes in the latter days of January, and early in February a rendezvous was established at Richmond, and a proclamation was issued by the State authorities.  A detail of white officers was made, and enlistment began. The agitation of the subject in Congress, though in secret session, gave some encouragement to the many despairing and heart-sick soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia.*  Their chief commander, Lee, perhaps dreamed nightly that he commanded 200,000 negro troops en masse, and was driving the Yankees and their Black Phalanx like chaff from off the "sacred soil "  of the Old Dominion, but, alas, such a dream was never to be realized.
     About twenty negroes, mostly of the free class, enlisted, went into camp, and were uniformed in Confederate gray. These twenty men, three of whom were slaves of Mr. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of State, were daily marched into the city and drilled by their white officers in the Capitol Square, receiving the approving and congratulatory plaudits of the ladies, who were alway's present.‡  However, no accessions were gained to their ranks, consequently the scheme, to raise by enlistment a regiment of blacks, was a failure, for the few volunteers secured in Virginia and a company in Tennessee are all that the writer has been able to obtain any account of. The Con-
     *Of these twenty volunteers six of them are frequently to be met on the steets of Richmond, while some of them are members of the Colored State Militia of Virginia.
     †The veterans of General Henry A. Wise's Legion adopted resolutions commending the scheme.
     ‡On April 1st, 1865, quite a company of negroes, most of whom were pressed into the service, paraded the streetes of Richmond.


[Pg. 496]
federate authorities then sought to strengthen the as-my by conscripting all able-bodied negroes, free and slave, between the age of eighteen and fifty. Monday, April 3d, was appointed as the day to begin the draft.  The Virginia State Legislature had come to the rescue of the Davis-Lee-Benjamiu scheme, and so had the local authorities of Richmond, but all was to no purpose.  It was too late; they had delayed too long.  With a pitiable blindness to the approach of his downfall, only a few days before he became a fugitive, Jefferson Davis wrote the following letter: *

                                                                   "RICHMOND, Va., March 30th, 1865.
"His Excellency William Smith, Governor of Virginia:
     "Upon the receipt of your letter of the 27th inst. I had a conference with the Secretary of War and Adjutant-General in relation to your suggestion as to the published order for the organization of negro troops, and I hope that the modification which has been made will remove the objection which you pointed out.  It was never my intention to collect negroes in depots for purposes of instruction, but only as the best mode of forwarding them, either as individuals or as companies, to the command with which they were to serve.  The officers in the different posts will aid in providing for the negroes in their respective neighborhoods, and in forwarding them to depots where transportation will be available, and aid them in reaching the field of service for which they were destined.  The aid of gentlemen who are willing and able to raise this character of troops will be freely accepted.  The appointment of commanders, for reasons obvious to you, must depend on other considerations than the mere power to recruit.
     "I am happy to receive your assurance of success as well as your promise to seek legislation to secure unmistakably freedom to the slave who shall enter the army, with a right to return to his old home when he shall have been honorably discharged from the military service.
     "I remain of the opinion that we should confine our first efforts to getting volunteers, and would prefer that you would adopt such measures as would advance that mode of recruiting, rather than that of which you make enquiry, to wit: by issuing requisitions for the slaves as authorized by the State of Virginia.
     "I have the honor to be, with much respect,
                                                                                        "Your obedient servant,
                                                                                                    JEFFERSON DAVIS."

     * This letter is a copy of the original now in possession of Senator George A. Brooks. It has never before been published.

[Pg. 497] - BLANK PAGE

[Pg. 498]


     This negro being a good marksman was induced by the confederates to become a sharpshooter for them, and greatly annoyed the Union pickets before Yorktown by firing upon them from trees, in the branches of which he would perch himself at early morning and remain there through the day, shooting at such Union soldiers as happened come within his range.  His hiding place was finally discovered however, and after refusing to surrender, thinking himself safe, he was brought down by a bullet through his head.

[Pg. 499]


     The appointed time came, but instead of the draft, amid blazing roofs and falling walls, smoke and ashes, deafening reports of explosions, the frenzy of women and children, left alone not only by the negro conscripting officers and President Davis and his Cabinet, but by the army and navy; in the midst of such scenes, almost beyond description, the Black Phalanx of the Union army entered the burning city, the capitol of rebeldom, scattering President Linclon's Proclamation of Emancipation to the intended confederate black army.  For twelve squares they chanted their war songs, "The Colored Volunteers" and "John Brown," in the chorus of which thousands of welcoming freedmen and freedwomen joined, making the welkin ring with the refrain,
"Glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory hallelujh,
We is free today!"

    The decisive events of the next few days, following in rapid succession, culminating with Lee's surrender, on the 9th of April, at Appomattox, left no time for further action, and when the war was over, with the important and radical changes that took place, it was almost forgotten that such projects as arming and freeing the negro had ever been entertained in the South by the Confederate Government.

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