The Paris Exposition of 1900 included a display devoted to the history and "present conditions" of African Americans. W.E.B. Du Bois and special agent Thomas J. Calloway spearheaded the planning, collection and installation of the exhibit materials, which included 500 photographs. The Library of Congress holds approximately 220 mounted photographs reportedly displayed in the exhibition (LOTs11293-11308), as well as material specially compiled by Du Bois: four photograph albums showing "Types" and "Negro Life" (LOT 11930); three albums entitled "The Black Code of Georgia, U.S.A.," offering transcriptions of Georgia state laws relating to blacks, 1732-1899 (LOT 11932); and 72 drawings charting the condition of African Americans at the turn of the century (LOT 11931). The materials cataloged online include all of the photos in LOT 11930, and any materials in the other groups for which copy negatives have been made.
Compiled References Regarding Black Confederates
The Union Army
According to the revised official data, slightly over two millions troops were in the United States Volunteers, over 316,000 died (from all causes), or 15.2%. Of the 67,000 Regular Army (white) troops, 8.6%, or not quite 6,000, died. Of the approximately 180,000 United States Colored Troops, however, over 36,000 died, or 20.5%. In other words, the mortality rate amongst the United States Colored Troops in the Civil War was thirty-five percent greater than that among other troops, notwithstanding the fact that the former were not enrolled until some eighteen months after the fighting began.
The Confederate Army
"Nearly 40% of the Confederacy's population were slaves. The work required to sustain the same society during war naturally fell disproportionately on black shoulders as well. By drawing so many white men into the army, indeed, the war multiplied the importance of the black work force." Even Georgia's Governor Joseph E. Brown noted that "the country and the army are mainly dependent upon slave labor for support."
It has been estimated that over 65,000 Southern blacks were in the Confederate ranks. Over 13,000 of these, "saw the elephant" also known as meeting the enemy in combat. These Black Confederates included both slave and free. The Confederate Congress did not approve blacks to be officially enlisted as soldiers (except as musicians), until late in the war. But in the ranks it was a different story. Many Confederate officers did not obey the mandates of politicians, they frequently enlisted blacks with the simple criteria, "Will you fight?" Historian Ervin Jordan, explains that "biracial units" were frequently organized "by local Confederate and State militia Commanders in response to immediate threats in the form of Union raids". Dr. Leonard Haynes, an African-American professor at Southern University, stated, "When you eliminate the black Confederate soldier, you've eliminated the history of the South."
The impressment of slaves, and conscription of freedmen, into direct military labor, initially came on the impetus of state legislatures, and by 1864 six states had regulated impressment (Florida, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, in order of authorization) as well as the Confederate Congress. Slave labor was used in a wide variety of support roles, from infrastructure and mining, to teamster and medical roles such as hospital attendants and nurses.
The idea of arming slaves for use as soldiers was speculated on from the onset of the war, but not seriously considered by Davis or others in his administration. As the Union saw victories in the fall of 1862 and the spring of 1863, however, the need for more manpower was acknowledged by the Confederacy in the form of conscription of white men, and the national impressment of free and slave blacks into laborer positions.
State militias composed of freedmen were offered, but the War Department spurned the offer. One of the more notable state militias was the all black 1st Louisiana Native Guard, a militia unit composed of free men of color. It was the first of any North American unit to have African American officers. The unit was short lived, and forced to disband in February 1862. The unit was "intended as a response to demands from members of New Orleans' substantial free black population that they be permitted to participate in the defense of their state, the unit was used by Confederate authorities for public display and propaganda purposes but was not allowed to fight." A Union army regiment was later formed under the same name after General Butler took control of the city.
First Black Medal of Honor Winner
William Harvey Carney was born a slave in Norfolk, Virginia in 1840. His father William, Sr. had escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad and eventually earned enough money to buy the freedom of his wife and son. After freeing his family, the reunited Carneys moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. William Carney, Jr. had intended to pursue ecclesiastical training with the intentions of becoming a minister. Instead of following the call to preach he decided to enlist in the Union Army in 1863, following the Emancipation Proclamation which for the first time in the Civil War officially authorized the recruitment of black soldiers. Recruited out of New Bedford, Carney joined the soon to be famous all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment commanded by 26 year-old Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the son of a wealthy Boston abolitionist. Carney soon rose to the rank of sergeant due to his education and strong potential to lead others.
During the summer of 1863 the 54th Massachusetts was sent to James Island, South Carolina, where the unit saw its first combat. After two days of sleep and food deprivation the 54th Regiment was ordered into battle. Shaw volunteered the 54th to lead the charge on the heavily garrisoned and fortified Fort Wagner.
During the battle Shaw was pinned down beneath the parapet of the fort and was desperately trying to rally his men forward. As Shaw and the flag bearer were mortally wounded and began to fall, Carney seized the colors and prevented the flag from touching the ground. He struggled up the parapet and, though wounded in the legs, chest, and arm, planted the colors at the top of the parapet. Despite his wounds and the heavy gunfire around him, Carney was able to keep the flag aloft. Carney and the rest of the 54th Massachusetts remained pinned down. Only after reinforcements arrived was the beleaguered and decimated unit able to withdraw. Struggling back to Union lines while still carrying the colors, Carney collapsed saying: “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.”
After the battle Carney was discharged from the infantry due to his wounds. For his act of heroism at Fort Wagner, Carney was awarded the highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor (which had just been created in 1861). Carney was the first African American to receive this award. Upon his death in 1908, the flag at the Massachusetts state house was flown half mast in his remembrance, an honor usually given only to honor a deceased governor, senator, congressman or US President. [blackpast.org]
Black Confederate Soldiers
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