Myths of the Neo-Confederates

Over at the Southern Poverty Law Center, Brooks D. Simpson takes on some of the new revisionist accounts of the Civil War:

IR: A popular neo-Confederate theme is that many thousands of blacks voluntarily fought for the Confederacy. What do you make of that?

Simpson: From a light-hearted point of view, if there were all these black Confederate soldiers, given that we don’t see them show up [in historical records] as prisoners or killed or wounded, they must have been the best troops the Confederacy ever had, because they were never killed, wounded or captured. So an entire army of black Confederates would have been invincible.

If black Confederates were already there, one is at a loss to understand why white Southerners debated so ferociously over the introduction of blacks in the Confederate army late in the war. Certainly, there were blacks who accompanied the Confederate armies — servants of officers, wagon drivers, cooks, teamsters and the like. But they weren’t there, by and large, of their own volition.

They were there because they were enslaved. In terms of blacks actually in the ranks of the Confederate army, we’re talking about a handful of people at most.

You see a very selective use of the historical record by certain academics who are pushing an agenda. So where there has been some evidence of an African-American taking a weapon up in a Civil War battle and firing away in self-defense, that is transformed into regiment after regiment of African-Americans ready to fight.