The Forgotten Soldier Essay

This essay has a total of 1409 words and 7 pages.

The Forgotten Soldier




In a variety of ways, ranging from the popular movie Glory, to a planned memorial in
Washington, D.C., African-American soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War
have begun to receive the praise and recognition they have long deserved. But there were
other African-Americans who fought in the Civil War who have been largely forgotten --
those who fought on the side of the Confederacy.

Throughout the entire war, the slaves worked as noncombatant soldiers. Working as cooks,
launders, medics, and carriers, the African-Americans were involved in the war that was
meant to make them slaves (Geary, 68-69). In addition to serving as laborers,
African-Americans fought for the South even in the beginning of the war, filling in
companies and regiments all through the country (Pohanka 74-77). Although they were not
formally recognized as were the whites. Newspapers at the time report African-American
units serving with southern militia at Charleston, South Carolina; Mobile, Alabama;
Nashville, Tennessee; New Orleans, Louisiana; Bowling Green, Kentucky; and Lynchburg,
Virginia (Coulter, 106).

While most slaves longed for the freedom the North promised, those who fought for the
South preferred the familiarity of their homes to the strange, new, and sometimes hostile
and racist world of the North (Jordan, 86-87). Also, the opportunity for the slaves to
fight meant getting away from the hardships that they were enforced to endure every day on
the plantations. Many slaves had grown accustom to their surroundings in the South, and
had no education or training to perform any other task but what they had been bought to
perform. Due to the offer of freedom by the Confederate leaders, some of the Southern
slaves looked forward to the chance of fighting in the war (Lyman, 325-327).
Nevertheless, despite all these reasons for the Southern slaves to fight for the
Confederacy, they do not prove that the slaves believed in the cause of the South. In
fact many of the Southern slaves were anti-Confederacy, and some of the slaves dwelled
upon their hatred toward the Southerners.

For a long time, the Confederate government resisted the formal inclusion of
African-American soldiers within their army's ranks (Coulter, 101-102). The Southerners
were force to face many demoralizing decisions. For instance, the slaveowner's believed
that after forcing the slaves to fight for their racist freedom, they could never look the
slaves in the eyes again, knowing that they owed their captive slaves their freedom
(Higginson, 209-211). Also, if the Congress allowed for the enlistment of
African-Americans in the Confederate Army and it failed due to lack of participation from
the slaves, the conflict in the South would be aggravated even more, and the North would
win yet another moral victory. Many reasons not to enroll the slaves lingered in the back
of Confederate leaders' minds, and morally the whites could never ask the slaves to fight
for their captivity.

Yet, the quest for men had come full circle. The war dragged on, and the Confederacy
eventually loosened its grip on the institution of slavery, and even considered offering
the slaves their freedom in exchange for their taking up arms for the South. Possibly the
final straw that helped the leaders make their final decision to arm the African-American
slaves was a remark made by General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of
Northern Virginia, "My own opinion is that we should employ [African-American soldiers]
without delay (Jordan, 86)." Finally on March 13th 1865, the slaves were armed for the
South by a law passed in the Confederate Congress. Still, no formal agreement of freedom
was ever made to the slaves who chose to fight (Pohanka, 76).

Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne wrote, "By arming the African-American man and
training him and making him fight for his country, every consideration of principle and
policy demands that we shall set him and his whole race, who side with us, free"
(McPherson, 117).

Another stunning remark by a well respected Southerner, Confederate Secretary of War Judah
P. Benjamin, he wrote, "The Negroes will certainly be made to fight against us if not for
our defense ... if they are to fight for our freedom, they are entitled to their own"
(Rice, 36).

These statements by beloved leaders of the South are proof that the Southerners knew that
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