Slaves in the ConfederacyWillis Case Rowe's March 14...

SATURDAY MAIL BOX

March 26, 1994

Slaves in the Confederacy

Willis Case Rowe's March 14 letter, "Blacks Did Fight for the Confederacy," does not give a single example of slaves fighting, i.e. bearing arms in combat, for their masters.

He refers to the English officer Fremantle, who accompanied Gen. Robert E. Lee into Pennsylvania in 1863, and was an admirer of Southern society and the Southern military aristocracy, hardly an unbiased observer.

Fremantle was rather typical of the British officer class' prejudice of the time. The prejudice of the British working class was equally slanted to the Northern cause.

The story Mr. Rowe tells is made of isolated and rare examples of slaves performing tasks for their masters in the Confederate Army, and that is hardly the same thing as fighting for the Confederacy.

On the other hand, the U.S. Colored Troops definitely did fight ferociously against their Southern masters, and this fact can in no way be disputed. The written records are very clear.

The personal allegiance of slaves to their masters is not particularly surprising, although the degree of devotion Willis Rowe describes was rather rare.

He mentions some unnamed "black man" serving (what ever that actually entailed) throughout the war and for 30 years afterward as a drummer for a South Carolina infantry company.

This is amazing, if only in the fact that after April 1865, all Confederate troops were disbanded and ceased to be "fighting companies" in which to serve.

Many infantry companies were established by Union troops as state militia or regiments, and former Negro slaves were enlisted.

This occurred in South Carolina in 1862 and later along the coast as Union troops captured tidewater lands and moved inland. It also occurred as early as 1862 in Kansas.

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards, who had fought alongside Andrew Jackson in 1815, were again organized for the Confederacy early in the war.

These were black troops, some with black officers. However, they never fought for the Confederacy.

The 1st Louisiana Native Guards were all freedman, and some of the black officers were reported to be slave-holders themselves.

When Gen. Benjamin Butler took New Orleans in 1862, they offered their services to the Union Army and fought valorously for the Union cause both at Port Hudson and Millikan Bend, by then designated as the 73rd, 74th and 75th U.S. Colored Infantry.

Finally Mr. Rowe uses Judah P. Benjamin's actions in the last two months of the war. These desperate proposals were for desperate men -- and even then there were no black fighters for the Confederacy. There was no time to organize companies and get them into battle.

It is true that most Union troops considered Negroes their inferiors, but not their slaves. Many did not like them and some feared their competition for jobs.

The fact remains that many ex-slaves and freedmen enlisted in the Union Army, which was not too happy to see them, but they did fight against their former masters and they fought well.

The final fact remains that if the Confederacy had won, slavery would have remained on this continent for a couple of score more years, and though the slaves were ignorant they were not stupid, and they did not like their masters or the slavocracy. The South did lose the war.

Oakley B. Miller

Annapolis

Nuclear Danger

I find the action of North Korea, blocking a full nuclear inspection, confrontational and frightening.

Nuclear weapons are one of the greatest hazards facing humanity today, and we cannot afford to take any situation in which they are involved lightly.

Their catastrophic power has redefined our era, and their enormous destructive capacities remain a threat today.

The United States is right to make the inspection a condition for talks with North Korea. If North Korea does not change its policy soon, the U.S. needs to take even stronger actions.

While shifting political winds can always change the leadership of a country, nuclear power, once attained, will probably remain.

It is imperative that the United States aid in the control of nuclear arms. We need to ensure that the kind of blatant violation of international policy which North Korea has shown be condemned.

While the U.S. obviously strives to maintain a healthy relationship with other countries, it is also essential that we set priorities, and controlling the spread of nuclear power deserves to be one of the highest.

Nuclear arms control is too critical to be sacrificed for temporarily improved diplomatic relations. We cannot allow a danger of this magnitude to go unchecked.

athryn Markham

Columbia

Frightening

Certainly no one wants to have youngsters smoking cigarettes, but the fact that one single individual has authority to issue an order affecting so many adult citizens should frighten everyone.

According to the March 13 edition of The Sun, Secretary of Licensing & Regulation William A. Fogle "concedes the last-minute nature of his actions," though it was "planned since fall."

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