Browsing "Lincoln’s Patriots"

The North's Damnable Bounty System

The Northern enlistment bounty system was notorious for corruption and graft as State agents from the North swarmed into the occupied South regions to obtain Negroes captured from plantations to fill State troop quotas. Seizing slaves in the South accomplished two goals: one, depriving the South of agricultural laborers, and two, obtaining new recruits to fill State quotas and avoid Lincoln’s conscription threat which would draft white Northern men. Predictably, much of the enlistment bonus for the new recruit remained in the agent’s hands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The North’s Damnable Bounty System

“Ulysses S. Grant, general in chief of the Union armies, “was down on the Massachusetts idea of buying out of the draft by filling their quota . . . from among the [Negro] contrabands in Sherman’s army.” When Forbes defended the law, Grant answered that “Sherman’s head is level on that question. He knows he can get all these Negroes that are worth having anyhow and he prefers to get them that way rather than fill up the quota of a distant State and thus diminish the fruits of the draft.

General Lorenzo Thomas, charged by the federal government with raising Negro troops in the Mississippi Valley, complained that [State] agents were inducing soldiers of several Negro regiments stationed at Vicksburg to desert and enlist with them. General Napoleon J.T. Dana, commander of the military district of Vicksburg, charged that the agents were taking “diseased men, entirely unfit for the service.”

John C. Gray, a young officer from the Bay State, expressed horror at the way in which agents from Massachusetts implemented the [quota] law and asserted that such a system of recruitment brought the State “contempt and sneers.” According to Gray, “this traffic of New England towns in the bodies of wretched Negroes, bidding against each other for these miserable beings, who are deluded, and if some of my affidavits that I have in my office are true, tortured into military service, forms too good a justification against the Yankees.”

Albert Gallatin Browne, a former aid of Governor Andrew who was a Treasury agent at Hilton Head, South Carolina, also questioned the benefit that his home State received from the [troop quota] law. According to Browne, “The whole system is damnable. I can conceive of nothing worse on the coast of Africa. These men have been hunted like wild beasts and ruthlessly dragged from their families.” He informed Andrew that the men enlisted by Massachusetts agents got only a fraction of the [bounty] money promised them, the agents pocketing the remainder.”

(Cotton and Capital, Richard H. Abbott, UMass Press, 1991, page 135)

 

Filling Lincoln's Regiments by Whatever Means Necessary

Canada was a source of many recruits for Lincoln’s army and his military agents used devious means with which to obtain enlistments. Illegally accepting a US Army commission and emoluments, British Col. (and Canadian Parliament member) Arthur Rankin tried to raise a regiment of Canadians by advertising for “farm laborers and stablemen” to go to Detroit with him. A violation of the Neutrality Act, he was arrested and dismissed from service.  Author Adam Mayer’s book “Dixie and the Dominion is highly recommended for further reading.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Filling Lincoln’s Regiments by Whatever Means Necessary

“John Allison was a slightly built, blond-haired boy of 15, whose only mistake was to talk to a stranger. One evening in July 1864, as Allison walked home for supper in the Canadian border town of Niagara Falls, a man stopped him and asked for directions. A shadow flitted across his face, a pungent odor filled his nostrils, and, as he would later tell his rescuer, “I became insensible.”

He regained consciousness to find himself facing an involuntary three-year hitch in the U.S. Navy. The youth had fallen victim to “crimps,” agents who made a living providing recruits to the [Northern] armies and navies. Ella Lonn, who in the 1940s and 1950s published landmark works of foreigners in Confederate and Union military service, called the work of the crimps and their customers “the worst scandal of the war.”

Seven days after the kidnapping, Allison’s name appeared in the Buffalo, New York, newspaper as having been mustered into the U.S. Navy. The British consul in Buffalo, a Mr. Donohue, reported the incident to Lord Richard Lyons, British Ambassador to the United States, calling the case one of the most heartless outrages” of its kind that he had ever seen.

He eventually found the boy in Sandusky, Ohio, some 350 miles from home, swabbing the decks aboard the gunboat USS Michigan. Donohue secured Allison’s release, took custody of him, and saw that he was returned home.

“The question arises whether British youths of less than 16 are to be enticed from their homes and enlisted into the military service of the US by officers who must be well-aware of what they are doing,” Donohue wrote to Lyons after July 25, 1864. “How many of these are drugged and brought over to this side it may be impossible to say. But a regular system is now organized by which men are passed over the frontier and kept stupefied with liquor until they enlist. I have no doubt whatsoever.”

Allison was one of perhaps a thousand victims of a dangerous and illegal cross-border trade in recruits for the Union army and navy. At the time of hi kidnapping in mid-1864, the trade was reaching its peak. Organized teams of crimps were based in Detroit, and in Buffalo and other points in upper New York State. They worked the Canadian side of the border, snatching boys off streets and pulling drunks from local bars. By whatever means necessary – coercion, mugging, alcohol, or potent drugs – the crimps harvested their victims, then bundled them into carriages or waiting boats and moved them across the nearest border.”

The unlawful traffic in human beings kept US-Canadian relations tense . . . and a secret Canadian police force was formed to combat it.”

(Stolen Soldiers, Adam Mayers, Civil War Times Illustrated, May/June 1995, pp. 56-57)

Jan 4, 2015 - Lincoln's Patriots    No Comments

Lincoln's German Patriots

Keenly aware of German immigrant political power in Illinois, Lincoln secretly purchased the Springfield Staats-Zeitung in 1859 to help further his electoral chances. The influential “Forty-Eighter” element of the German immigrants were radical reformers and revolutionaries determined to remake the world, and bringing forth the millennium. This element proved useful in Lincoln’s future need for troops, though few if any understood the American form of government.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s German Patriots

“The Federal hosts were . . . not recruited from one continent alone. The speech of almost every European nation might have been heard in the camps of the Army of the Potomac. There were brigades of Irish and divisions of Germans. There were those who had fought with the Red Shirts of Garibaldi, and some who had followed Kossuth into rebellion . . . [and Canadians].

The call to war issued from Washington gathered under one flag a motley assemblage. Motivated . . . by honor, by a desire for emoluments, (including the promised bounties), or by sheer love of adventure, the soldiers came – patriot (whether native or foreign) and hireling, foreign prince, knight-errant, and soldier of fortune – to range themselves under the Stars and Stripes.

It was such a cosmopolitan assemblage, of Germans and Irishmen, of Frenchmen and Italians, of Poles and Scandinavians, of Hungarians and Dutchmen, as had ever been gathered together since the Thirty Years’ War.

In New York City alone, thousands of Germans tendered their services at the firing of the first gun on Fort Sumter. During the war there went out from New York ten almost solidly German regiments: three regiments in which one-half or more were of that nationality, five German artillery batteries, and two cavalry regiments in which fully one-half the men were Germans.

The ten purely German regiments, with two others more than one-half German, were all organized in 1861, the first six under Lincoln’s first call. In addition the Fifth New York Militia . . . was one of the first to leave New York under Colonel Christian Schwarzwalder for the defense of the capital.

All told, there were 1,046 men in the Eighth Regiment, known also as the First German Rifles, commanded by that picturesque semi-soldier of fortune, General Louis Blenker. Although the lieutenant color sergeant of the regiment was Hungarian, and several other nationalities were scantily represented in the ranks, this might be termed an “echt” (genuine) German regiment.

Few of the German regiments enlisted more attention that the De Kalb Regiment, or the Forty-first New York . . . [which] received material help from R.A. Witthaus, a patriotic and wealthy German citizen. About 700 of its 1,040 members, as well as its commander, had fought in the Prussian Army against the Danes in 1848-1849; and 23 of its 33 officers were veterans who had seen service in European campaigns.”

(Foreigners in the Union Army and Navy, Ella Lonn, LSU Press, 1951, pp. 93-96)

The Brahmin Aristocracy Must Save the Union

Frances Parkman was a militant New England war hawk who disliked the black man but considered the Boston aristocracy superior to the Southern leadership, though it must emulate the military expertise exhibited by Southern men. The Brahmin class may have indeed been tested by the battles Parkman lists, but they were no great victories. At Ball’s Bluff, Northern scouts mistook a row of trees as Confederate tents, and the 17th Mississippi delivered the Brahmin’s a severe thrashing when their regiments later assaulted the “encampment.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Brahmin Aristocracy Must Save the Union

“Parkman had always detested the abolitionists, and he had little concern for the Negro, but he was [Robert Gould] Shaw’s cousin, and he took great pride in later years pointing this out to distant correspondents. One suspects, however, that he was almost ashamed that Shaw led Negroes [of the 54th Massachusetts], since he never mentioned this fact.

[In] two letters [of November 1862], he further developed the odd propaganda line that the best way to whip the South was to emulate certain aspects of its civilization. He went from praising the military education of the Southern aristocrat to praising his political education. Compared to the North, where an “organized scramble of mean men for petty spoils” had driven the better elements from politics, the South had made politics “a battleground” for the well-born, “where passion, self-interest, self-preservation, urge to [the most intense] action every power of their nature.” This explained “the vigor of their development.”

By comparison, the education of Northern gentlemen had been too academic. Now, however, the war was altering the picture. The South, which had identified the North with three classes: the merchants, the politicians and the “abolitionist agitators” and therefore, with “extravagance, fanaticism and obstreperous weakness,” was learning how, “under a surface of froth and scum, the great national heart still beat with the pulsations of patriotic manhood.” In other words, they underestimated the ability of the Northern gentry to adapt to military life.

It was in his letter of July 21, 1863, published only three days after the death of [Col. Robert G.] Shaw, that Parkman revealed most fully what was really on his mind. Repeating his charge that “the culture of the nation” had become a “political nullity,” Parkman referred specifically to the “Brahmin cast”, which had “yielded a progeny of gentlemen and scholars since the days of the Puritans,” but had “long since ceased to play any active part in the dusty arena of political turmoil.”

This class, however, had at last found an outlet for its energies. Brahmins had been tested in battle at places like Ball’s Bluff, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg and removed all doubts about their vigor and character. Pointing to the “necrology” of Harvard University” as an example to the nation, Parkman clearly suggested that the American people had no further excuse for rejecting the political and social authority of what was now a tried and true aristocracy. Perhaps a patrician could finally say that the age of “ultra-democratic fallacies” was coming to an end.

There were very genteel New Englanders who professed to see the war as a vindication of democracy and egalitarianism. Charles Eliot Norton and others claimed that their wavering belief in democracy had been revived by the proofs of obedience and endurance shown by the common people and by the Negroes in the struggle.

It depended on the preservation of the model which had been suggested by the assault on Fort Wagner. If the “inferior elements,” whether Negro or white, consented to be led by “the best culture [of aristocratic New England],” then their rights were assured; if however, they struck out in directions of their own, democracy and equality might again be questioned.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, pp. 161-165)

Jan 2, 2015 - Lincoln's Patriots    No Comments

Money to Fill New York Regiments

Americans in the South fought primarily for family, hearth and State, in sharp contrast to those in the North who required strong financial incentives after casualties mounted. From the time of the Northern draft of 1863 to the conclusion of the war, the Northern States, counties, cities and towns paid over $286 million; the Northern government itself paid out more than $300 million – and with substitute fees paid the total of all would be at least $750 million.  This would have paid for the emancipation of every slave several times over, and saved the lives of a million Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Money to Fill New York Regiments:

“At the outbreak of the war, New York had four million people, and during the course of the war it furnished the equivalent of 400,000 three-year enlistments to the armed forces. This represented about seventeen per cent of the total northern enlistment and was in proportion to the state population.

Before the war ended, 40,000 New Yorker’s gave their lives to the enterprise. It is interesting to keep in mind that thirty per cent of New York enlistees were foreign-born:  40,000 came from Ireland, 41,000 from Germany, over 12,000 from England, 12,000 were Canadian, 3600 from France, 2000 from Wales, and 2000 from Switzerland. On top of this, 5000 Negroes were in New York regiments.”

In the conscription activity of 1863, the Republican-organ Oswego (New York) Times emphasized the material benefits which would accrue to those possessing the “lucky draft numbers.” A US Bounty of $102, State Bounty of $100, City Bounty of $300 (if offered as the Mayor suggested); Total of $502.00.  Then one year at $13. per month, one year’s service totaling $156.  “$658 or almost $2. per day! Soldiering will be the best business for the future.”

On August 4 [1863] the draft came to Oswego. While most draftees accepted the [conscription] law . . . the Times reported that some were applying to the British Vice Consul for papers giving them protection as aliens. A few were said to be “skedaddling” across the Canadian border.  The Times noted also, that the draft had developed an extraordinary number of sharks in the area. “Several half-starved lawyers, who don’t often get any business, have been taking advantage of the anxiety of drafted men to become exempt, to charge the most exorbitant rates for their services in making out the necessary papers.”

A year later a second draft stared Oswegonians in the face. It might be avoided, of course, if the quota could be raised by enlistment; but for a time the latter lagged. Groping for a solution an imaginative group of twenty-five men sent the local recruiting agents, E.B. Burt and A.B. Getty to Newport News, Virginia, in a military district occupied by Federal troops under General Benjamin Butler, for the purpose of procuring substitutes among the freedmen; expecting, it is assumed, that they could be hired cheaply.

The agents wrote that they found a few substitutes, though the place was filled with bounty-jumpers, but that General Butler had issued an order prohibiting the removal of freedmen from the district; that they would therefore try to enlist them [freedmen] as part of the Oswego quota, provided the city would pay the bounties required.  The City Council quickly voted bounties up to $300, including the agents’ fees, but the project fizzled and the agents returned home empty handed.

The Times writer considered this scheme quite ingenious until he discovered that Jefferson County [New York] was trying the same experiment.   As has been seen, when enlistments lagged, bounties served as a stimulant. As early as July 1862, the State was offering $50 and the County [Oswego] an additional $50, By January 1864, the County was paying $300 bounties, and by December, 1864, the sum was increased to $300 for one year, $500 for two years, and $700 for three years.

Meanwhile, the Federal government had increased its offer to $300. Thus a volunteer might pick up $1000 if he had patience to wait for the installments; this, when laborers wages were about one dollar per day! To those who remained hesitant, the Mexico [New York] Independent offered the happy thought that the war would not last long, and they might never fire a gun or draw a sword.”

(New York State in the Civil War, Robert J. Rayback, New York State Historical Association, 1961, pp. 69-70; Oswego Counties Response to the Civil War, Charles M. Snyder, New York State Historical Association, 1961, pp. 81-84)

Jan 2, 2015 - Lincoln's Patriots    No Comments

Millions for Bounties But Not Emancipation

The  Northern States were quite willing to raise millions of dollars for bounty-enriched mercenaries to subdue the American South, but never advanced a compensated emancipation plan to free the slaves — assuming that emancipation was the desired result.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Millions for Bounties But Not Emancipation

“It is very well known that the Northern people were so averse to military service that enlistments were, in most cases, procured by high bounties. When the Central Government began to draw imperative requisitions of men on the States, the local authorities, instead of simply drafting the required numbers from among their own militia, almost universally made arrangements for purchasing mercenaries to supply their “quotas;” thus relieving their own citizens from the dreaded service.

The price usually paid, towards the end for the human cattle for Confederate shambles, was not less than fifteen hundred dollars each. A sorry commentary by the way, upon the courage and patriotism of that people, that so large a bribe was needed to persuade them to “save the nation.” But thus it came to pass that not only the States, but cities, counties, country towns, and even the rural subdivisions called, among the people, townships, raised loans. Laws were passed to authorize them to make such loans, and to levy taxes necessary to provide for their interest.

The aggregate of these bounty-debts cannot be estimated by us from any evidences in our reach; but some data will be given to enable the reader to approximate it. The city of Philadelphia alone, it is believed, owes a debt of forty-four millions ($44,000,000) chiefly for bounties. It was a very “loyal” city. It claims about six hundred thousand (600,000) souls. The State of New York admits a bounty-debt of its own of $26 millions. But cities, counties and townships, within the State have also their own little debts for this and similar objects in addition.

A few other items may aid in our approximation. The federal Secretary of War informs us that in the latter part of the war there were 136,000 re-enlistments of the veterans honorably discharged. It is well known that these usually received the highest bounties. If we place them at fifteen hundred dollars ($1500) each, these cost the Northern people two hundred four millions ($204,000,000). The system of bounties was general from May 1863 until the end of the war.

The government itself fixed the minimum price of a man at $300 by appointing that sum as the cost of an exemption from the draft. But it is well known that few substitutes were purchased at so cheap a rate. The Secretary of War informs us that after May 1, 1863, there were one million six hundred thirty four thousand (1,634,000) enlistments. Placing the cost of each of these enlistments at three hundred dollars ($300), which is far below the average bounty, somebody had to pay for them four hundred ninety millions ($490,000,000).

The “bounty jumpers” as it is well known perpetrated immense frauds; and the number of bounties paid to them was far larger than that of the enlistments. The interest and principal of it (the debt) must be paid by the same people who have the federal debt to pay. If the policy pursued by the Government as to the local obligations incurred in the war of the Revolution is again to prevail, all these bounty-debts should be assumed and funded by the United States. Already this claim is heard in many quarters.

The recognized State and federal debts as we have seen, amount to three billion, four hundred forty three million dollars ($3,443,195,000).  It is most manifest, that the total mass of public debt now resting on the American people (nearly the whole incurred in the late war) for the payment of which provision must be made by taxation, must be at least four billions of dollars ($4,000,000,000).

Mr. Andrew Johnson, late president of the United States and an ardent advocate for the war, always affirmed constantly that the total cost of the war to the taxpayers would prove to be five billions ($5,000,000,000). He, of course, is good authority. And the interest on this debt is from 5 to 7 and one-fifth per centum!”

(Robert L. Dabney, Discussions, Volume IV, Secular, C.R. Vaughn, editor, Sprinkle Publications, 1897/1994, pp. 143-145)

Jan 2, 2015 - Lincoln's Patriots    No Comments

Bounty-Furnished Patriotism

Often concealed in Northern versions of the war is the immense amount of money paid in bounties for recruits, usually called volunteers, who would not have stepped forward if no money was proffered. Villages, towns, cities, counties and State’s paid lavishly into funds in order to buy exemptions and substitutes for residents, with the promise of additional bounties upon mustering. State agents were sent into the Northern-occupied South to capture and enlist black slaves, counted toward the State quota of troops and relieving white citizens from duty.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Bounty-Furnished Patriotism

“The Union army was meeting with defeat and loss of men. The President made a call for three hundred thousand more. The smothered fire of patriotism that was burning in the hearts of the young men in Perry [New York] burst forth, and fathers’ commands, mothers’ warnings, nor sweethearts’ pleadings and caresses could avail aught in trying to subdue the flame.

On the 22nd of August [1862], Mr. George S. Hastings received authority to raise recruits to join the organization called Captain Lee’s Battery, then stationed at Newport Barracks [North Carolina]. In one week fifty men had volunteered; another week increased the number to sixty.

The citizens of the town where they enlisted, encouraged them with kinds acts and words. Generous bounties were offered and paid. To many volunteers this was useful in the final settlement of their pecuniary matters. To the families of others it left a competence for a short time. To all it was acceptable; but to few, if any, was money a motive power to volunteering.

They arrived at Buffalo at ten o’clock, and forming into line at the depot, marched directly to the examining surgeon’s office . . . the surgeon was quick and skillful . . . He remarked several times it was one of the finest companies he had examined [with] manly bearing.

Town Bounty Fund. – The following is a correct list of the contributors to this fund for the town of Perry. The subscribers are requested to pay immediately to G.C. Chapin or C.W. Hendee, at Smith’s Bank, who will pass it to the credit of G.C. Chapin, treasurer. It is designed to pay this bounty to volunteers to-morrow or Monday [List of 163 individual contributors of $10, $15, $25 and $50 follows].

The men recruited by Geo. S. Hastings for Company B, Rocket Battalion, Captain J.E. Lee, took their final departure for the seat of the war, Wednesday. The citizens turned out early in the morning, to bid a last “good bye” to the boys. Forming into a line at the depot (preceded by Alpin’s Band, who kindly volunteered for the occasion), they marched to the Arcade, where a number of new recruits were mustered in, and then proceeded to Roth’s Hall, on Batavia Street, and took dinner.

Expecting to leave for Albany the same night, at four o’clock they returned to the mustering office to receive the Government bounty . . . The procession attracted much attention, and many flattering remarks were made by citizens along the route, complimentary both to the men and the band. We noticed a number of the boys had bouquets, showing that if they had left home, they were still among friends.

After a few days’ stay at a German hotel in Batavia street, Buffalo, where we were initiated into rations of Dutch bread, Bologna sausage and lager beer, furnished by the United States at thirty cents per diem, we were sent to Albany.

In this city we were quartered at the Asylum Barracks, and underwent another examination. I cannot conceive for what purpose, unless it was to put fees into the pockets of the post-surgeon.”

(Records of the 24th Independent Battery, New York Light Artillery, USV, J.W. Merrill, Ladies Cemetery Association of Perry, NY, 1870, pp. 162-169)

 

Jan 2, 2015 - Lincoln's Patriots    No Comments

Bounties for Northern Soldiers

Dwindling enlistments after crushing losses at Fredericksburg and around Richmond forced the US Congress to offer men $300 bounty for three-years’ service, later extended to conscripts who agreed to longer terms. Altogether, the Northern government paid some $300 million in bounties during the war, with State and local governments paying about an equal amount – totaling $600 millions to find men to fight to maintain a territorial union. Below, Colonel Lafayette Baker describes the common bounty-jumping schemes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Bounties For Northern Soldiers

“The great demand for [Northern] recruits during the war, the large bounties offered for them, and the manifold facilities for fraudulent transactions, presented temptations of great power, even to reputable citizens, to evade the plain letter of the law, and traffic in substitutes, or, by bribery and deception, personally to keep out of the hands of the recruiting officer.

I had been told that soldiers would receive the bounty, re-enlist the same day, be sent to the Island, and repeat the process the day following. I was greatly amused while listening to the exploits of [bounty-jumpers]…One related, that in a certain period he left New York, and having enlisted in Albany, Troy, Utica, Buffalo, and Chicago, returned via Elmira, at which place he likewise enlisted.

Another had enlisted at every rendezvous from New York to Portland, Maine; while a third boasted of amounts he had received, and mentioned those paid to recruiting officers, surgeons, brokers and detective.”

(The Blue and the Gray, Henry Steele Commager, editor, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1950, pp. 728-732)

Black Soldiers on Both Sides

The first black unit, including black line officers, in the War Between the States was the Louisiana Native Guards of New Orleans, accepted into State service by Governor Thomas D. Moore on May 2, 1861. The Daily Crescent assured its readers that “They will fight the Black Republicans with as much determination and gallantry as any body of white men in the service of the Confederate States.”  The author below illustrates that black men served on both sides.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Black Soldiers on Both Sides

“Chapter XX: In Which is Recalled the Fact Negroes Served on Both Sides In That War and Yankee Recruiters Fished a Long Way From Home and Hardly Got Their Bait Back.

The Civil War wasn’t entirely a white man’s fight. Negroes served in both the Federal and Confederate forces. Soon after Edmund Ruffin pulled the trigger at Charleston, Negroes tried to enlist in both the Northern and Southern armies but their services, as was the case in the Revolution, were at first declined.

This attitude changed rather quickly in the North. The Federal Congress, in July of 1862, passed a law permitting the enlistment of Negro troops. Their pay at first was fixed at $10 a month compared to $16.50 for white troops. Fred Douglas protested to Lincoln and Old Abe told him that if he were a Negro he’d be glad to fight for his freedom free of charge. Douglas and the other Negro leaders continued to protest and the pay differential was wiped out.

Negro troops were used in the main by the North for garrison duty and labor forces and, after Appomattox, for occupation duty in the South; but they saw action in 250 battles and skirmishes, including the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg in which Negro troops were scheduled to have led the charge after that mine was exploded. They missed the assignment due to a foul-up in orders.

Northern governors sent 1,405 agents into captured areas of the South in an attempt to recruit Negro slaves to help fill their State draft quotas but business was mighty poor. They worked for several months but got only 5,052 recruits. When the war ended there were 178,975 Negroes in the Yankee armies, comprising 116 regiments.

In the South, free Negroes came forward at first in large numbers to offer their services to the Confederacy. Richard Kennard of Petersburg gave $100. Jordan Chase, of Vicksburg, gave a horse and authorized the government to draw on him for $500. Down in New Orleans, Thomy Lafon gave $500. An Alabama Negro gave 100 bushels of sweet potatoes. At Charleston a little Negro girl gave twenty-five cents. Confederate war bonds found many Negro subscribers (The Negro in the Civil War, Quarles).

Negroes by the thousands were employed in Southern war factories. Free Negroes were paid the prevailing wage. Slaves impressed into service were given food, shelter and clothing and their owners paid $25 a month. If a slave ran away or died, the owner was paid $354.

Negroes in the South rendered their greatest service to the Confederacy by tilling the farms and taking care of the folks at home while the white men were at the front. The slaves could have ended the War overnight had they chosen to rise in rebellion. Southern armies would have headed back home en masse at even the rumor of such a development.

As the War dragged on, the need for men became finally so desperate the Confederate Congress, acting on the recommendation of General Lee and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, passed a law in March of 1865 authorizing enlistment of Negroes, both slave and free.

They were to be paid the same as white troops; and slaves, if they remained loyal through the War, were to be set free. President Davis signed the law on March 13. It was less than a month before Lee’s surrender.”

(Then My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!, W.E. Debnam, The Graphic Press, 1955, pp. 49-50)

Black Men in Blue Under Fire

Little used for combat, black soldiers in Northern armies were more often utilized for labor and servant duties rather than fighting for emancipation, though the primary attraction was enlistment bounty money. If used for offensive operations at all, black soldiers were usually assigned the task of encouraging slaves to abandon their plantations to deny labor and food to the Southern war effort.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Black Men in Blue Under Fire:

“About 43 percent of the 6th [US Colored Infantry] Regiment had volunteered for military service. Another 31 percent were drafted, and over one-quarter of the regiment were listed as “substitute.” A conscriptee could avoid military service if he furnished an able-bodied substitute to take his place. Most substitutes in this regiment were young, usually in their twenties. A youth might well agree to be a substitute; he might likely be drafted anyway; better to join and accept a substantial cash payment for taking someone’s place.

The soldiers hailed from twenty-three different State, both North and South, as well as the District of Columbia. The most common State of birth was Pennsylvania. Of those whose birthplace is listed, over 36 percent of the men of the 6th Regiment claimed Pennsylvania as their birth place. Delaware and Maryland claimed 16 and 15 percent respectively, and Virginia, another 12 percent. Canada, providing twenty-two soldiers, stood as the most frequent birthplace of any foreign nation. Like most black units, the 6th Regiment would be assigned to an unusually amount of physical labor particularly at building fortifications.

From the time blacks had first been recruited it generally had been understood that they were to serve as laborers, and they were used disproportionately often in that role. Their work at Dutch Gap [Virginia] would have been physically demanding under the best of circumstances, but this assignment included a complication that made it especially difficult and dangerous – they would have to do the [canal digging] work within range of Confederate artillery.

They burrowed into the steep walls of the canal to make caves for shelter [but the] mortar shells were deadly. They were fired high into the air “and then fell by their own weight, with no warning scream, and, dropping in the midst of busy groups, burst into raged fragments of iron, which maimed and killed.”

Union artillery was brought in to silence those mortars, but its task was nearly impossible . . . [as] they would try to direct their fire at [mortar positions] . . . Confederate sharpshooters stationed in hiding near the riverbank would open fire on the artillery crews and distract them from their task.”

(Strike the Blow for Freedom, The 6th US Colored Infantry in the Civil War, James M. Paradis, White Mane Books, 1998, pp. 34-35, 61-64)