Black Confederate Soldiers
Documented Historical Facts

The Real World

"From the beginning of this struggle, [African  Americans] took part ---
on the Union side thousands of run-a-way slaves joined the Army and Navy. Likewise thousands took part on the Confederate side
actuated by a type of loyalty unsurpassed in human annals."
~West A. Hamilton, Colonel, Infantry Reserve
Hampton Conference on National Defense (November 1940)
Harry S. Truman Library and Museum

Official Government Records:

Date: May 23, 1865

The Congress of the Confederate States of America  ". . . authorized slaves into companies, battalions, regiments and brigades. . ." by the Adjutant and Inspector General's Office: General Orders No. 14.  (page 1161) March 23, 1865.1

Though many Confederate officers mustered black soldiers in the Confederate Army throughout the entire American Civil War, President Jefferson Davis did not approve the official order until March 1865.  The American Civil War ended April 1865.  The information which proceeds list the historical accounts of black soldiers who served or attempted to serve in the Confederate Army prior to March 1865.

Dinner Call: Civil War Music

History Question: How does Confederate History contribute to Black History for African American musicians?

Date: April 15, 1862

The Public Laws of the Confederate States of America documents Chapter XXIX: An Act for the payment of musicians in the army not regularly enlisted,  which states: "The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That whenever colored persons are employed as musicians in any Regiment or Company, they shall be entitled to the same pay now allowed by law to musicians regularly enlisted: Provided, That no such persons shall be so employed except by the consent of the commanding officer of the Brigade to which said Regiments or Companies may belong. APPROVED April 15, 1862."2

This official act of the Confederate States of America documents that colored (African American/Black) musicians were paid by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War the same wages as every other race.  This historical account is also referenced in several books to include The Music of Black Americans: A History by Eileen Southern.

Date: July 13, 1862

Following the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, United States (Union) Lieutenant Colonel John G. Parkhurst with the 9th Michigan Infantry reports,"The forces attacking my camp were the First Regiment Texas Rangers, Colonel Wharton, and a battalion of the First Georgia Rangers, Colonel Morrison. . . . There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day."3

Date: March 5, 2008

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue affixed the Seal of the Executive Department and proclaimed April 2008 as Confederate History Month in Georgia. In this State of Georgia document, Governor Perdue acknowledged a man of African descent, "One such soldier who made a significant contribution to the state was Bill Yopp of Laurens County who served for four years in Co. H, 14th Regiment Georgia Infantry. . . . Upon his death on June 3, 1936, Bill Yopp was buried with full Confederate military honors in the Confederate cemetery in Marietta [Georgia]."4


Newspaper Accounts (1861-1865)

Date: May 10, 1862

Harper's Weekly reported that "The correspondent of the New York Herald, in one of its late numbers, reports that the rebels had a regiment of mounted negroes, armed with sabres, at Manassas, and that some five hundred Union prisoners taken at Bull Run were escorted to their filthy prison by a regiment of black men.5 

Date: August 3, 1862

The Atlanta Century reported that ". . . a Negro woman, who wanted to go to war, dressed herself in soldier's clothing and went off with the Macon Light Artillery - but she was jailed in Augusta, Georgia."6

Date: October 26, 1862

The Atlanta Century reported that "[Georgia] Governor Joe Brown, evidently fearing an attempt to capture the City of Savannah soon, has appealed to farmers and planters to send Negroes to work on the Savannah defenses. Notes the Atlanta Intelligencer in a comment: If the Union captures Savannah, the city will come a haven for Negroes running away from their Georgia masters. . . ."7

Date: January 10, 1863

Harper's Weekly Negro Rebel (Black Confederate) Pickets Picture

Picture Title: Rebel Negro Pickets as Seen Through a Field Glass
Source: Harper's Weekly January 10, 1863

Even in 1863, Harper's Weekly reported ". . . So much has been said about the wickedness of using the negroes on our [Union] side in the present war, that we have thought it worth while to reproduce on this page a sketch sent us from Fredericksburg by our artist, Mr. Theodore R. Davis, which is a faithful representation of what was seen by one of our officers through his field-glass, while on outpost duty at that place. As the picture shows, it represents two full-blooded. negroes, fully armed, and serving as pickets in the rebel army. . . ." 8

Date: March 29, 1863

The Atlanta Century headlines states "'C.S.A. Approves Impressment: Slaves Now May Be Used in Non-fighting Jobs.' The confederate Senate has approved a bill legalizing impressment of slaves to work on fortifications and do other non-fighting jobs for the military.  The measure which already had been approved by the house, has gone to President Davis for his signature.'"9

Date: April 5, 1863

The Atlanta Century headlines states "'Impressment Bill Signed by Davis.' President Davis has signed into law the controversial bill permitting Confederate military forces to press slaves into service as noncombatants.  The bill . . . is intended to provide the armed forces with manpower for such jobs as digging trenches and handling wagons."10

[Note: Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a soldier as a militant leader, follower, or worker.]

Date: August 28, 1868

In an 1868 interview with the Cincinnati Commercial newspaper, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, stated, “When I entered the army I took forty-seven Negroes into the army with me, and forty-five of them were surrendered with me. . . .These boys stayed with me, drove my teams, and better confederates did not live.”11

[Researcher Question: 
Are these 45 black confederates with General Nathan Bedford Forrest the same black men who were also referenced in the First Battle of Murfreesboro?  (See above dated July 13, 1862)  Where are the 45 names documented?  Have the ancestors of the 45 ever been interviewed? If you have the answers to these questions, email]

[An Author's Response: 
Forrest did not take a wagon train into Murfreesboro on that occasion (July 13, 1862) as his attack was a one-day raid and he had to move fast. If you want to know more about the 45 wagon drivers please see Michael R. Bradley's book: Nathan Bedford Forrest's Escort and Staff beginning on page 215.]

Date: October 7, 2007

Louis Napoleon Nelson voluntarily fought under the command of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.  His grandson, Nelson Winbush, gives this historical account during an interview over 141 years after the American Civil War with Stephanie Garry of the St. Petersburgh Times."12

Date: July 20, 2008

Cliff Harrington states in a Charlotte Observer article, "Wary [Clyburn] served as bodyguard for Capt. Frank Clyburn in Company E of the 12th regiment from South Carolina. He carried Frank on his shoulders to rescue his boyhood friend from intense fighting. He also served as a special aide to Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to documents that his daughter has."20


Period Historical Accounts:

Date: September 1861

In Frederick Douglass' Monthly (September 1861), Mr. Douglass stated, "It is now pretty well established, that there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate army doing duty not only as cooks, servants, and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops, and do all that soldiers may to destroy the Federal Government and build up that of the traitors and rebels."13

Date: 1901

Booker T. Washington in his book entitled Fredrick Douglass gives the account, ". . . a few colored men, it is said, were actually enrolled and enlisted as soldiers in the Confederate army, fighting for their own continued enslavement. The following account was published of a procession of Southern Troops in New Orleans in November, 1861: "Over 28,000 troops were reviewed by Governor Moore, Major-General Scoville, and Brigadier-General Ruggles.  The line was over seven miles long. One regiment comprised 1,400 free colored men."14

Date: March 1917

In a 1861 Volume IV Official Records compilation by John C. Stiles, the Grapevine News reported that "A Yankee colonel wrote that his scouts reported that the Richmond Howitzer Battery, C.S.A., was manned by negroes and he thought the report was correct."15


Historical Documents:

Date: July 22, 1898

At a 42nd Regiment Georgia Volunteers reunion, Confederate Captain W. L. Calhoun stated, "I can never forget "Steve," my old colored servant, who faithfully followed me until, in the mountains of Tennessee, he was seized with an incurable malady which ended his life. Steve was well known in the regiment, and if there was anything to eat around he was sure to find it, and many times, when rations were scarce and I was tired and hungry, he supplied me from the neighborhood. As a forager he was unsurpassed."16

Also Captain W. L. Calhoun during the 42nd Regiment Georgia Volunteers reunion noted that "Henry Wilson and Abram Hardeman, two of the colored servants were with the regiment during the war. and [took] a great interest in our welfare and happiness."16


Historian Accounts:

[Note: The following historical accounts have not been validated by the researcher of this website. However, these historians have provided works cited as part of their individual literary works.]

In an encyclopedia called African Americans at War, Jonathan Sutherland recounts, "When Stonewall Jackson occupied Frederick, Maryland, in 1862, of his force of 64,000, some 3,000 were African Americans scattered among the regiments. Black confederates fought at First Manassas, in the Shenandoah, during the Seven Days, and at Gettysburg." 17

Also, many slaves and freedman served  in the Confederate Navy & Marine Corps. 18


Definition of Terms:

The terms Negro, Colored, Black, and African-American are synonymous and have been used over the decades by the United States Census to categorize United States slaves/citizens of African descent.


History Question: What does the cross on the Confederate Flag represent?

Date: May 3, 1863

The Atlanta Century reports, ". . . the feature of the Battle flag - a St. Andrew's Cross with a star for each state . . ."19

Andrew was one of the disciples of Jesus in the bible.  When Andrew was crucified for his religious beliefs, the legend goes that Andrew requested for the cross not to be constructed like the cross of Jesus because Andrew felt unworthy.  Therefore, Andrew requested to be crucified on a cross in the form of an "X."   Therefore, the original representation of  the "X" on the Confederate flag is based on the religious account of Saint Andrew.


"Let us not disregard the heritage of any African-American
freedman or slave who ultimately made tough life or death choices
on the freedom road in which he or she labored in paving the way
for many generations to travel on this day."

~Ann DeWitt



1Scott, Robert. "War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and confederate Armies." Washington: Government Printing Office. Series IV. Volume III. p. 1161. Web. 28 April 2010. 

2Matthews, James M., Public laws of the Confederate States of America: Passed at the first session of the First Congress. Richmond: R. M. Smith, 1862. p. 29.
3Scott, Robert. "War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and confederate Armies." Washington: Government Printing Office. Series I, Volume XVI. p. 805. Web. 28 April 2010.

4Perdue, Sonny. "Confederate History Month." Web. 22 May 2010.

5"For Us or Against Us?" New York: Harper's Weekly, May 10, 1865. Web. 10 April 2010.

6"The War Diary." The Atlanta Century. Georgia: Capricorn Corporation,  1981. 3 August 1862: Vol. 3 No. 23 (128). Print. [Note: Available in public libraries.]

7"The War Diary." The Atlanta Century. Georgia: Capricorn Corporation,  1981. 26 October 1862: Vol. 3 No. 35 (140). Print.

8"Rebel Negro Pickets." New York. Harper's Weekly, January 10, 1863. Web. 28 May 2010.

9"The War Diary." The Atlanta Century. Georgia: Capricorn Corporation,  1981. 29 March 1863: Vol. 4 No. 5 (162). Print.

10"The War Diary." The Atlanta Century. Georgia: Capricorn Corporation,  1981. 5 April 1863: Vol. 4 No. 6 (163). Print.

11"Nathan Bedford Forrest." Web. 30 April 2010.

12Garry, Stephanie. "In Defense of his Confederate pride." St. Petersburg Times. 7 October 2007. Web. 30 April 2010.

13Douglass, Frederick. Selected Addresses of Frederick Douglass (an African American Heritage Book). Wilder Publications, p.56. Web. 28 May 2010.

14Washington, Booker T. Frederick Douglass. Philadelphia and London: George W. Jacobs & Company Publishers. 1906. p. 221. Web. 28 May 2010.

15Cunnigham, S.A. Confederate Veteran, Volume 25, No. 3. Nashville, Tenn., March 1917. Web. 28 May 2010.

Calhoun, Captain W. L. History of the 42nd Regiment Georgia Volunteers, Confederate States Army. Atlanta, Georgia. 1900. Print.

17Nevins, John. "Black Americans in the Confederate Navy & Marine Corps."  Web. 5 April 2010.

18Sutherland, Jonathan. African Americans at war: an encyclopedia, Volume 1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2003. Web. May 29, 2010.

19"St. Andrew's Cross." Web. 8 August 2010.

20"Harrington, Cliff. "Confederate army veteran - and slave." Charlotte Observer. 29 July 2008. Web. August 10, 2010.


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