Prior to the start of hostilities in early 1861, local authorities across the South were enlisting free black soldiers for military service, the most notable being the all-black Louisiana Native Guards of New Orleans, led by black officers. In June of 1861, the Tennessee legislature authorized the governor to receive into State service “all male persons of color between the ages of fifteen and fifty and to provide them with eight dollars a month, clothing and rations.” In November, 1864, in a message to Congress, President Davis spoke of a possible time when slaves should be needed for the army, stating: “should the alternative ever be presented of subjugation or of the employment of the slave as a soldier, there seems no reason to doubt what should be our decision” (See Black Southerners in Confederate Armies, Segars & Barrow).
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Raising a Potent Creole Brigade
“Congressman E.S.] Dargen of Alabama, introduced a bill [on December 28, 1863] to receive into the military service all that portion of population in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, known as “Creoles.”
Mr. Dargen supported the bill in some remarks. He said the Creoles were a mixed-blood race. Under the treaty of Paris [when Louisiana Territory was purchased] in 1803, and the treaty of Spain in 1819, they were recognized as freemen.
Many of them owned large estates, and were intelligent men. They were as much devoted to our cause as any class of men in the South, and were even anxious to go into the service. They had applied to him to be received into service, and he had applied to Mr. [George W.] Randolph, then Secretary of War. Mr. Randolph decided against the application, on the ground that it might furnish the enemy a pretext for arming our slaves against us.
Mr. Dargen said he differed with the Secretary of War. He was anxious to bring into the service every free man, be he who he may, willing to strike for our cause. He saw no objection to employing Creoles – they would form a potent element in our army. In his district alone a brigade of them could be raised.
The crisis had been brought upon us by the enemy, and he believed the time would yet come when the question would not be the Union or no Union, but whether Southern men should be permitted to live at all. In resisting subjugation by such a barbarous foe he was for arming and putting slaves into the military service. He was in favor, even, of employing them as a military arm in the defense of the country.”
(Proceedings of the First Confederate Congress, Fourth Session, 7December 1863 – 18 February 1864; Southern Historical Society Papers, New Series – No. XII, Whole No. L, Frank E. Vandiver, editor, Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1992, excerpt pp. 134-135)