Were African Americans really Confederate soldiers?
Black history is filled with stories of the Underground Railroad, the Emancipation Proclamation, and names of African Americans who fought for freedom from slavery. What is not generally talked about is the fact that there were slaves who aided the Confederacy during the Civil War. It might sound preposterous that any slave would fight to remain in bondage but this situation is not as simple as that and indeed is very complex.
With all due respect to the Harriet Tubmans and Frederick Douglases of the movement, there is so much more to Black History than their stories There were no known regiments of all black soldiers fighting for the South as some have alleged and a photo that seems to indicate there was has now been proven to be doctored. There are however hundreds of articles, from organizations and websites that report fake news and attempt to rewrite history.
Separating truth from fake news related to the war
The rumor mill alleged that between 500 and 100,000 African American males both slave and free volunteered to be soldiers in the Confederate army. It was said that these men were fighting to maintain the institution of slavery out of love for their owners. There were not any official African American Confederate soldiers but let's take a look at what is known regarding what really happened during Civil War.
In movies like North and South, there have been scenes where faithful slaves joined their masters as companions in the war and returned home with them. No one said what these Black Southerners did but we may have some clues. The cover photo shows Sgt. Andrew Chandler with his "manservant" Silas Chandler and both are dressed in Confederate uniforms and Silas is holding a gun. According to Wikipedia Silas transported letters back and forth between his master and his family until Andrew endured a leg injury. When army doctors wanted to amputate Silas helped his young master to find a doctor who saved the leg. Unable to return to Confederate service, Andrew remained at home but Silas was sent back to the Civil War to serve Andrew's brother Benjamin.
What really happened during the Civil War?
It is believed that the majority of male slaves were forced by their masters to accompany them and or were forced to labor behind the lines. Consider the above image of Marlboro Jones the manservant of Confederate captain Randal F. Jones of the 7th Georgia Cavalry. Marlboro sat for an ambrotype photo dressed in a Confederate uniform. All that is known is that he was with his master during the war but no records indicate he fought in the battle. Legally Blacks were not allowed to serve in combat during the war between the States. They were instead manual laborers, cooks, and teamsters.
They were still slaves but just not toiling in a field from sunup until sundown, There is no documentation that any Black man was paid a pension for being a soldier in the Confederacy but "some did receive pensions for their work as laborers." Historical records also indicate that slaves turned servants formed bonds with the White Confederate soldiers and later these men, black and white attended the same regimental reunions. There are also accounts of unskilled Blacks being forced to make gunpowder during the war and experiencing the loss of their hands, their vision or even death.
Eye witness accounts
There is not, however, proof positive that there was never a situation where a black man fired a gun for the Confederacy. The “Official Records of the War of the Rebellion,” is a collection of more than 50 volumes and over 50,000 pages, of military records from both the North and the South. None of this information made its way into the US history books but the documentation speaks for itself. In these records are a total of seven Union eyewitnesses who report having seen Black Confederates.
Three of the accounts are of African American males who were spotted shooting at Union soldiers. A fourth report reveals that a handful of armed black men were seen by the sides of some of the White Confederate soldiers. The fifth, sixth and seventh testimonies indicate that there were unarmed Black laborers spotted but again there is no record of Union soldiers encountering an all-Black Confederate unit at any time. The official position of the Confederacy was that they did not desire to win the war with the help of their slaves. Rumors persist that there were indeed a few Black men who fought for the South during the Civil War. If true it is likely that it was kept quiet in order to reinforce the position that only White males went to battle for the Confederate states.