To recap the argument as I understand it -- the yes-they-did folks believe that evidence supports blacks -- slave and free -- serving the Confederacy in a military capacity, whether cooks, teamsters, foragers, or infantrymen, snipers, whatever -- regardless of the Confederate government's official stand on the issue.
The no-they-didn't folks cite the Confederate government's refusal to allow blacks to serve in the army as proof that they didn't serve.
As I may have noted before, I'm not deeply invested in this issue. Still, I've developed a mild interest, not in the issue itself, but in the mentality of those taking sides on it.
Personally, I don't think the Confederacy "needs" blacks among its military to justify its struggle for independence. I think it was justified first in seceding and second in protecting its people and territory from a particularly brutal military invasion. On the other hand, I think all who served, in whatever capacity, but especially those who served on the battlefield risking life and limb, should be acknowledged, and I believe this notion motivates many yes-they-did folks.
What I find most interesting is the no-they-didn't camp's almost mad scramble to neutralize any documentation discovered and presented by the yes-they-did people. If it says "servant" or "slave" anywhere on it, that is proof enough to these folks that the servant or slave was not a soldier -- or, did not engage in soldierly conduct (i.e., shooting at the enemy). As if the two statuses are mutually exclusive. They aren't. Slaves have served in armies throughout history and around the world.
One thing I find interesting about the debunkers is their virtually total reliance on what they accept as official documentation. If the Confederate government prohibited it -- or at least didn't authorize it -- it couldn't have happened. Of course, we know all sorts of unauthorized and even prohibited activity takes place all the time -- but they can't allow themselves to accept it in this case.
I went to school with a guy who became an officer of the U.S. Navy and commanded a boat that patrolled rivers during the Vietnam war. He flew a Confederate flag from his boat. Presumably, this was/is officially prohibited somewhere, because his superior officers repeatedly ordered him to remove it. He didn't.
To believe something didn't happen -- couldn't have happened -- because it was forbidden by law is to believe there were no abortions in the USA before 1973, or that nobody drank alcohol during Prohibition.
I believe the reason there is such resistance to the notion of black Confederates has nothing to do with documentation or historical accuracy or any of that. It is the belief, shaped by modern, politically correct (i.e., socialistic) indoctrination, that blacks simply would not, could not, have fought to keep themselves enslaved.
Of course, this thought process is totally dependent on believing that Confederates fought the war solely for the purpose of keeping black folks in chains. What that means is, South=fought to keep slavery=evil, North=fought to free slaves=saintly, the war was all, all, all about this and nothing, nothing, nothing else.
Anyone who scratches off the layer of victor-pablum coating the "history" of the war is likely to see in short order that it simply wasn't that cut and dried -- indeed, slavery itself wasn't that simplistic -- but people are loathe to go against what they've been spoonfed their entire lives. They simply cannot violate their programming, regardless of the enormous amounts of truth it leaves out.
But there's an even greater/deeper reason for this belief, I suspect. What the north did to the South in the Civil War was not justifiable by any standard of decency known to civilized man. There was no justification for responding to the peaceful and democratic act of secession with war -- particularly war on civilians and particularly not with such savagery and barbarism. And so, to justify the unjustifiable, the victors had to fabricate a people so evil and a culture so malevolent that destroying both justified the union's bloody brutality.
That was accomplished by focusing solely on slavery, and not the whole of it, but the small, worst component of it -- and then smearing all Southerners with it. This process actually started before the war, and helped to build up the bloodlust of the north that resulted in the horrors perpetrated upon the South during the war. To acknowledge that blacks could have fought for the Confederacy is to acknowledge that the evilization of white Southerners, to justify their destruction in war, was wrong.
But once it was done, there was no turning back possible. The victimization of the South, justified by it's "evil," had to continue, and the result was four or five generations of deliberately created regional poverty that did not begin to ease until World War II. The demonization of Southerners continues to this day in books, fiction and nonfiction, scholarship, movies, comics, video games -- the whole of the popular culture.
There are likely diehards, like the pro-yankee bloggers who can't seem to get through a week without "monitoring" Southern heritage advocates online, who will never change. But it is past time for the self-deluded north to come to terms with what it did -- to realize that the evilization of Southerners was and is a fabrication (we're no worse than anyone else), and admit that, slavery notwithstanding, the union's savage war on the South was wrong. Just plain wrong -- whether a single black fought for the Confederacy or not.
(Photo: Matthew Bowden, Stock.Xchng)