Monday, May 30, 2011

In reading Ernest B. Furguson's Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War I ran across quite an interesting quote from Confederate Congressman Warren Akin. Akin wrote to his wife Mary in Georgia about the possibility of enlisting blacks to join the Confederate army. This was in the fall of 1862, way before most people, especially politicians, seriously considered this extreme measure.

Akin fully understood that, "It is a question of fearful magnitude." He wrote, "To call forth the negroes in the army with the promise of freedom, will it not be giving up the great question involved by doing the very thing Lincoln is now doing?" However, if it assured Confederate success and ultimately independence Akin was for it.

But the thoughts related to this important matter troubled Akin's mind. The logic of it did not seem to make sense to him. Warren asked Mary, 'Have you ever noticed the strange conduct of our people during this war?" How people of the Confederacy could oppose a measure that could help win the war seemed to have a hypocritical twist. Akin continued, "They give up their sons, husbands, brothers & friends, and often without murmuring, to the army; but let one of their negroes be taken, and what a howl you will hear. The love of money had been the greatest difficulty in our way to independence - it is now our chief obstacle...."

Of course, the Confederacy would eventually enlist African Americans. But, not until it was a last resort measure, and not until the last weeks of the war. And, not with much success in numbers or effectiveness. Undoubtedly, more slaves ran away from Richmond homes and farms and served in the Union army than ever were armed and enlisted for the Confederacy.

1 comment:

  1. You have Aiken quoted as saying "Have you ever noticed the strange conduct of our people during this war?:
    This is perhaps misquoted here. The quote comes from a letter of Aiken's to Nathan Land.
    Source: Perman, Michael. Major Problems in the Civil War and Reconstruction. 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin. 1998, p223