Walking the Gettysburg battlefield today, it’s easy to imagine the Union and Confederate armies dueling for control of the Pennsylvania town and its surrounding picturesque fields and rocky hills for three days in July 1863. Continue A number of rebels passed by until a “young man of benevolent expression” attempted to locate a surgeon. The Proclamation, in effect, turned Union armies into armies of liberation, functioning as a funnel through which newly freed men could enlist in one of the black regiments that were filling up quickly throughout the North as well as in occupied parts of the Confederacy. “Joe enters into the invasion with much gusto,” he noted, “and is quite active in looking up hidden property.”. “Hidden property” served as a reference to the escaped slaves already living in southern Pennsylvania; orders had been handed down throughout the Confederate army to capture and return this “property” to the South. Now while I think as badly of slavery as Horace Greeley did I am not ashamed that my family were slaveholders. or These men chose not to escape, and while there can be little doubt that these stories convey evidence of strong bonds between owner and slave, the tendency of Lost Causers to frame them around the narrow motif of unwavering loyalty fails to capture other factors that may have influenced their behavior. Lee went on the offensive for the following two days but failed to crack the Union defenses. The soldiers themselves were glued to this issue. As their shattered command fell back following their repulse, scores of camp slaves made their way out from the cover and protection of the woods in search of their owners and to assist the wounded. Camp slaves like Moses who, for whatever reason, were committed to their owners made do with the limited resources available and resigned themselves in the end to passing on their owners’ parting words to their grieving families. Mosby despised slavery and believed the South had seceded to protect it. Removal of the wounded took on a renewed urgency through the late afternoon and evening of July 3, following another failed assault along the center of the Union line. 170 Central Park West John S. Mosby, the renowned Confederate partisan leader, dealt with this moral dilemma years after the Civil War ended. More important than the transportation of personal possessions, however, Dave also conveyed the final thoughts of his master to loved ones. . One day in January, a few years before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee wrote to The New York Times, seeking a correction. “I never saw fidelity stronger in any one,” noted the quartermaster in a letter. As units readied for battle, a member of the 24th Georgia recalled, “The Colonels sent back their horses by their servants.” On the afternoon of July 1, Union captain Alfred Lee of the 82nd Ohio found himself wounded and behind enemy lines. California Do Not Sell My Info Once released, they joined Union regiments or found their way to towns and cities across the North looking for work. These ideas spread and grew into the "Lost Cause" movement, a romantic vision of the South that would eventually gain exposure from the popularity of films including Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind. Carter wanted it known that “he was willing to die” and that he “talked to the clergyman about dying . South Carolina ought to know what was the cause for her seceding. Ask Hugh if he has been circumcised. Restoration of Library of Congress image by Adam Cuerden via Wikicommons, mythical accounts of black Confederate soldiers, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War's Most Persistent Myth (Civil War America), Archaeologists Unearth Egyptian Queen's Tomb, 13-Foot 'Book of the Dead' Scroll, You Can Now Explore the CIA's 'Entire' Collection of UFO Documents Online, How Wolves Are Driving Down Mountain Lion Populations, Wolverine Captured on Yellowstone Trail Cameras for the First Time. In the wake of Reconstruction a growing number of southerners began to argue that protecting slavery had not been the real cause of the war, and some even claimed that slavery was in fact a just institution. South Carolina went to war – as she said in her Secession proclamation – because slavery wd. This mythical narrative, which dates only to the mid-1970s, would be completely unrecognizable to the enlisted men and officers in the Army of Northern Virginia. ... reminder of America's history of slavery and racial oppression. There were literally hundreds of newspaper editorials, letters, and diaries from people in the army writing about this. Letters from captured Confederate soldiers noted the poor housing conditions and dress of freedmen they saw in Union held cities. Give a Gift. Levin’s new book, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, argues that slavery was central to the south’s war effort. Conversely, the Proclamation highlighted even further the degree to which the Confederate Army represented a force of enslavement. The following letter from a Confederate army soldier reflects the attitude prevailing in the ranks of the South before these two great armies clashed, marking the beginning of great battles to be fought in Virginia. Very few accounts exist today of black men marching with Confederates in the heat of battle at Gettysburg. Letters by Hoyle in the 55th Regiment will provide evidence for the claim that these overarching motivations did not always provide personal motivation to soldiers in the Confederate Army. Descendants of the original Confederados tend to play down their ancestors’ ties to slavery. The Civil War Was About Slavery. For real Confederates from Robert E. Lee on down, camp slaves and other enslaved workers—the entire institution of slavery, really—were crucial to the ultimate success of the army in the field and the Confederate insurgency as a whole. Four years later Burgwyn’s body was reinterred in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina. To some, the monument represents slavery. Some likely anticipated the brutal punishment that accompanied their recapture (or punishment that might be meted out to family members in their absence), while others worried about how they might be treated once behind Union lines. A … He is the author of numerous articles and books about the Civil War, including Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth. Enslaved workers constituted the backbone of the Confederate war effort. By the end of the first day, Confederates had achieved the upper hand as the Union army established a new defensive line south of the town, with Confederates taking up a position opposite along Seminary Ridge. “Slavery was less salient for most Confederate soldiers because it was not controversial. On the first of the new year, Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which emancipated enslaved people in the states that seceded from the United States. The following quotations, taken from letters, diary entries, and contemporary newspaper interviews with white Union soldiers, reveal the attitudes of those who viewed slavery … Keep up-to-date on: © 2021 Smithsonian Magazine. To what extent are John Mosby’s comments hypocritical in view of his defense of slave ownership by his family? To help block an attempted Union advance, the Confederate command moved men through Virginia, with Centreville the collecting point. Christian quotes what the Old Virginians – said against slavery. . Mosby claimed he hated slavery and was not responsible for the political merits of the cause. The news quickly filtered through Confederate ranks and was certainly discussed among the army’s enslaved servants. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. The South was my country.". . If Confederate Major General William Dorsey Pender worried about his camp servant named Joe, he Pender did not share it in what would prove to be his final letter home to his wife. Symbols of the Confederacy are an inescapable fact of life in Southern states. . In letters and diaries, soldiers mentioned the body slaves that some soldiers brought with them and the attempts they made to stay in touch with family and friends. Who Was Charles Curtis, the First Vice President of Color? According to Christian the Virginia people were the abolitionists & the Northern people were pro-slavery. Union Soldiers Condemn Slavery. A letter from Confederate soldier Edwin Kerrison to his sister about his experience during the Battle of Gettysburg, July 7, 1863. It was our inheritance – Neither am I ashamed that my ancestors were pirates & cattle thieves. . Letters to the Editor ... tell the complete story of the Civil War, the Confederate soldiers who fought in it and the central issue that provoked it, which was human bondage. In the immediate aftermath of the battle and continuing throughout the Confederate army’s retreat to Virginia, other camp slaves and enslaved men, however, abandoned their posts. Privacy Statement Advertising Notice Although stories of these impressed workers and camp slaves have been erased from our popular memory of the war in favor of mythical accounts of black Confederate soldiers, their presence in the Confederate army constituted a visual reminder to every soldier —slaveowner and non-slaveowner alike—that their ultimate success in battle depended on the ownership of other human beings. The letters also mention another Confederado, who acquired a sugar plantation with 130 enslaved workers. He says slavery was "a patriarchal" institution – So were polygamy & circumcision. Lieutenant Sidney Carter’s wounding at Gettysburg cut his life short, but before his death he requested that his camp slave, Dave, “take everything he had and bring it home,” where each item would be offered as a parting gift to his family members. When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies … One Confederate soldier wrote of the slaves during the Gettysburg Campaign, “…they preferred life and slavery in Dixie to liberty at the north”. For many tourists, no visit to Gettysburg is complete without retracing the steps General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, those Confederates who crossed the open fields toward the Union line on Cemetery Ridge on July 3 in what is still popularly remembered as “Pickett’s Charge.” Once safe behind where the Union lines held strong, however, few turn around and acknowledge the hundreds of enslaved people who emerged from the woods to render assistance to the tattered remnants of the retreating men. Historians can piece together what the battle was like by reviewing such documents, and gather an understanding of how soldiers up and down the chain of command viewed their world, including the role of enslaved labor in their lives. 49 W. 45th Street On the Northern side, the rose-colored myth of the Civil War is … Although the attitudes of many white Union soldiers toward slavery and emancipation ranged from indifference to outright racial hostility, others viewed the issue as central to their participation in the war. Read the document introduction and transcript and apply your knowledge of American history in order to answer these questions. Interestingly soldier's letters sometimes referred to harsh military discipline as a kind of slavery (punishments included whipping, for example). Monuments to the failed Confederacy were mostly erected many decades after the US Civil War. . Within months of President Lincoln’s inauguration, seven southern states began the secession from the Union and declared the Confederate States of America. The regiment’s quartermaster reassured the family that the colonel’s items, including spyglasses, watch, toothbrush, and various memoranda books plus $59, were all safe under Kincien’s care. 2nd Floor However, less than 3% of the county population owned slaves and the removal advocates have yet to produce a list of slave owner soldiers… The Confederate flag is displayed prominently near the South Carolina statehouse, evoked in multiple Southern state flags, flown in frontyards, on T-shirts and off pickup trucks. New York, NY 10036, Our Collection: Confederate soldiers rarely expressed a pure proslavery ideology in letters and diaries. In April 1865, the American Civil War was over and the former states of the Confederacy were in ruins. These men performed a wide range of roles for their owners, including cooking, cleaning, foraging and sending messages to families back home. Yet he fought to defend the Confederacy, as he felt his patriotic duty to his nation outweighed all other factors. In fact, only 20 percent of the sample of 429 Southern soldiers explicitly voiced proslavery convictions in their letters or diaries. Smithsonian Institution. True; but why didn’t he quote what the modern Virginians said in favor of it – Mason, Hunter, Wise &c. Why didn’t he state that a Virginia Senator (Mason) was the author of the Fugitive Slave law – & why didn’t he quote The Virginia Code (1860) that made it a crime to speak against slavery, or to teach a negro to read the Lord’s prayer. As one might expect, a much higher percentage of soldiers from slaveholding families than from nonslaveholding families expressed such a … . In this letter written in 1907, when he was an attorney at the Justice Department, Mosby furiously attacked the men who supported this mindset. Lee’s failure to dislodge the Union army from its position led him to order one final assault on the afternoon of July 3, utilizing the men under the command of Generals George Pickett and James Johnston Pettigrew. When Lee’s three corps of infantry, numbering roughly 70,000, crossed the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania, they encountered clear signs that they were no longer in friendly territory. The loss of Colonel Henry King Burgwyn Jr., killed on the first day of fighting at Gettysburg, was a devastating loss not only to the 26th North Carolina but also, as described by a fellow officer in the regiment, to his servant Kincien, who “takes it bitterly enough.” Once Burgwyn’s body was given an appropriate burial, Kincien proposed transporting the young colonel’s personal items home along with information about his death that he knew his family craved. (The previous summer’s campaign on the Virginia Peninsula, where the two armies were in close proximity to one another for an extended period of time, contains a wealth of such narratives.) Some of these men were briefly held as prisoners in Union prison camps. While no known evidence exists that the army’s slaves assisted in kidnapping of roughly 100 men from towns such as Chambersburg, McConnellsburg, Mercersburg and Greencastle on the eve of the famous battle, it is very likely that those ensnared and led south would have passed camp servants and other slaves whose essential presence in the army helped to make their capture possible. A letter to home will often include a passage that says, "Brother A says to say, 'X, Y, Z'" With Civil War soldier's letters the vagaries of letter survival can skew our picture a little bit. The man who would become the … Anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000 enslaved people supported in various capacities Lee’s army in the summer of 1863. 06/22/2015 08:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017. Monument to Coretta Scott and MLK Is Coming to Boston, City Where They Met, The Rise and Fall of America's Lesbian Bars, Caligula's Gardens, Long Hidden Beneath Italian Apartment Building, to Go on View, Ancient Insect Genitals Found in 50-Million-Year-Old Fossil, Yes, Giant Technicolor Squirrels Actually Roam the Forests of Southern India, The History Behind Amazon's 'One Night in Miami', The Best Board Games of the Ancient World, Meet Joseph Rainey, the First Black Congressman, The State of American Craft Has Never Been Stronger. As the Confederate army reorganized in the weeks following the campaign, the thin ranks of many regiments were magnified by the absence of its enslaved. The South was my country.”. Visit the new Gilder Lehrman Institute Gift Shop here. . Confederate Leaders Were Totally Clear On This. Cookie Policy Edwin Kerrison fought for the Confederate Army for the Second South Carolina Infantry (also known as the Second Palmetto Regiment), Company I (from Charleston). Slave owners remained convinced that these men would remain fiercely loyal even in the face of opportunities to escape, but this conviction would be tested throughout the Gettysburg campaign. Astounding damage to infrastructure and the economy greeted Southern soldiers after the conflict. . They took slavery for granted as one of the Southern ‘rights’ and institutions for which they fought, and did not feel compelled to discuss it. Absent the body, news that a soldier had been comforted in his final hours and had prepared himself for death reassured family members that their loved one experienced what 19th-century Americans understood as a “Good Death.”. Vote Now! Today some of these stories pulled from the historical record can be found on hundreds of websites, not as the stories of enslaved men, but as black Confederate soldiers. He was … There is also evidence of the hostility Confederate soldiers and civilians had for runaway slaves and blacks in Union uniform. The South went to war on account of Slavery. By Julia Craven. Kevin M. Levin is a historian and educator based in Boston. These primary source accounts, in the form of letters and diaries, detail how camp slaves remained in the rear, prepared to perform various support roles. Although stories of these impressed workers and camp slaves have been erased from our popular memory of the war in favor of mythical accounts of black Confederate soldiers, their presence in … Civil War Letters. 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