By Mike Scruggs
As I wrote last week in part 1 of this series, perhaps the best estimate of the number of both free and bonded blacks serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War is about 65,000. This estimate came from Scott K. Williams’ comprehensive article, Black Confederates Heritage, written in 1998 and still available on the internet.
Supply wagons of both sides were a favorite target for destruction or capture by cavalry of both sides, and the success in these interdictions was eagerly reported by cavalry leaders on both sides. Teamsters were the Army truck drivers of their time and should certainly be counted as military personnel.Of an estimated 1.0 million men that served in the Confederate Army and Navy, this is about 6.5 percent. However, Williams’ estimate may not have sufficiently accounted for the large number of black teamsters vitally important to supporting Confederate supply lines.
This is probably why several estimates of the number of Black Confederates run over 100,000. The vast majority of the 193,000 blacks serving in the Union Army served in the 175 almost exclusively black regiments of the United States Colored Troops, amounting to nearly 9 percent of 2.2 million men who served in the Union armed forces
Contrary to fashionable academic and media opinion, Confederate blacks were generally more enthusiastic and dependable supporters of the Southern cause than were their Federal counterparts to the Union cause. In the vast majority of cases there remained a strong bond of affection between master and slave, and Southern blacks identified more with the South, their homes, and familiar and friendly relationships than with Yankee promises.
Late in the war, according to a letter to General Richard S. Ewell from F. W. Hancock, a group of slaves working at a Confederate hospital were asked if they would be willing to take up arms against an impending attack by Federal forces. Sixty out of 72 responded that they “would go to the trenches and fight the enemy to the bitter end.”
This is probably related to the account of Confederate Lt. Col. Shipp of the Jackson Battalion that included two companies of black soldiers in the defense of Petersburg, who praised their loyalty and performance:
“My men acted with utmost promptness and goodwill…Allow me to state sir that they behaved in an extraordinary acceptable manner.”