The title of J.H. Segars and Charles Kelly Barrow’s compilation, originally published by South Lion Press, might lead readers to think that this is a work of fiction; it is not. In recent years, researchers such as these editors have dug through many archives and other sources to find minute references to blacks involved in the Confederate Army. The National Archives, which houses many Civil War documents, is one of the major sources. The problem, as Segars and
Barrow show, is that the lack of good indexing forces researchers to spend many hours poring through various books and documents.
The researchers discovered that most of the blacks who were involved in the Confederate Army were unwilling participants, mostly slaves forced to work on creating fortifications and other devices to repel the Federal Army. They also served as cooks, drummers, and teamsters. Many were personal servants of the white soldiers and officers; some were women who did many of the same jobs as the men.
Segars and Barrow discovered, too, that many blacks served willingly (and seemingly paradoxically) served the Confederacy’s military, and the evidence comes from Confederate Army pension lists and diaries. Many of the blacks in the Army did not handle weapons, but some did. Some blacks remained with the Army even after their masters had been killed; the authors present evidence from both Confederate and Federal sources.
In New Orleans and Louisiana, armed regiments of blacks fought against General Butler’s force. Why would these blacks be fighting their liberators? Originally, the Civil War was not over slavery but over states’ rights. It was not until later in the War that the Union emphasized not only saving the Union but also freeing the slaves. Many Southern blacks joined the Confederate Army believing they were fighting for a way of life.
Some believe that the Confederacy would never have contemplated freeing the slaves; this is not true. General Robert E. Lee, President Jefferson Davis and others came to the conclusion that, since they were running out of white men to serve in their Army, they could use blacks. They thought that if they offered slave freedom after their service that they would serve willingly in the Army. The Confederacy never got to find out, since they considered this idea too late in the war.
Segars and Barrow excerpt or supply entire records of their historical sources. They also include black-and-white photographs of United Confederate Veterans organizations that show one or more blacks seated or standing with white Confederates; some blacks are holding the Confederate battle flag.
Segars, Barrow and others have touched upon a controversial topic that many may not want to know about, but it seems that research into this topic is gaining momentum. This revealing book is recommended to those who want to know where they can find historical sources for this topic.
Segars and Barrow were the authors of Black Confederates (2002) and co-authored Forgotten Confederates (1997) with R. B. Rosenberg. J. H. Segars is the author of In Search of Confederate Ancestors (2005) and of Andersonville: A Southern Perspective (2002).