Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Were there African American soldiers for the Confederacy?

LBE just viewed the 2017 episode of Gates' "Finding Your Roots" which involved the assertion that an ancestor of Bryant Gumble fought for the Confederacy.

There was some pushback on the blog cwmemory by Kevin Levin in the posts

Henry Louis Gates and PBS Fall For Black Confederate Myth…Again including the text "[Gumble's] family’s roots in New Orleans led to the revelation that Gumbel’s great-grandfather, Martin Lamotte, who was freed in 1840, served in the Louisiana Native Guard. Gates concludes from this that Lamotte was a Confederate soldier. Of course, anyone who knows anything about the Louisiana Native Guard knows that this unit was never accepted into Confederate service."

Henry Louis Gates’s Betrayal of Bryant Gumbel and History

Of note, the 1st Louisiana Native Guard (which included Gumble's relative) was a Louisiana state militia unit comprised of free blacks. It had ceased to exist by the time the Union captured New Orleans in April 1862. Some of its members (including Gumble's relative) became part of the The 1st Louisiana Native Guard (of the Union Army, which later became the 73rd Regiment Infantry U.S. Colored Troops). These troops definitely served in the Port Hudson campaign.

Of interest to LBE, Gates seemed to say that Gumble's ancestor was involved in the New Market battle, which was in 1864 in the Eastern theater around Richmond and Petersburg. There were African American troops there (under the command of Ben Butler) but not clear how a Louisiana person got there.

Battle of Chaffin's Farm and New Market Heights :

Once again hoping to distract Robert E. Lee and draw Confederate troops north of the river, Grant ordered the Army of the James under Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler to attack toward Richmond. (...) In a two-pronged attack, the right wing (Birney's X Corps, augmented by a United States Colored Troops division under Brig. Gen. Charles J. Paine from the XVIII Corps) would assault the Confederate lines at New Market Road and drive on to capture the artillery positions behind it on New Market Heights. (...) Three Medal of Honor recipients from the 6th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment are depicted in a painting, Three Medals of Honor by artist Don Troiani. The painting was unveiled June 24, 2013 at the Union League of Philadelphia. Portrayed in the painting are Nathan H. Edgerton, Thomas R. Hawkins, and Alexander Kelly

Also of some relevance to the issue raised by Kevin Levin is the article by Steve Davis, "That Extraordinary Document," which appeared at page 14 of the December 1977 issue of Civil War Times Illustrated and discusses the Cleburne letter of 2 January 1864. The political cartoons on page 19 are of interest, especially that from Harpers of 5 November 1864.


And, yes, tomorrow January 2, is the anniversary of the Cleburne proposal to use slaves as Confederate soldiers. And, yes, the Cleburne proposal was made one year after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863. In between those dates, the Union was using African American soldiers, notably in the siege of Port Hudson in May-July 1863.


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