NIGGERS WON'T FIGHT
Dark Artillery – Frank Leslie’s Illustrated, October 5, 1861
"You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers. The day you make a soldier of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution. And if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong. And was not that the theory the South fought for? It would be the most extraordinarv instance of self-stultification the world ever saw arm and emancipate slaves, declared the Rhetts. "It is abolition doctrine . . . the very doctrine which the war was commenced to put down,""
General Howell Cobb of Georgia
Battle Cry For Freedom, J. M. McPherson, page 836
The Confederacy as well as Northerners were sure that slaves would not fight; they portrayed Black men as cowards with no principles. They were thought of as child like people that must be cared for. A Confederate paper published this article following the Fort-Donelson Battle which occurred February 16, 1862
Proslavery newspaper correspondents from the North, in the Western and Southern departments, still continued to report to their journals that the slaves would not fight if an opportunity wag offered to them. Many of these were ridiculously amusing. The following is a sample
" I noticed upon the hurricane-deck, to-day, an elderly negro, with a very philosophical and retrospective cast of' countenance, squatted upon his bundle, toasting his shins against the chimney, and apparently plunged into a state of profound meditation. Finding by inquiry that he belonged to the North Illinois, one of the most gallantly behaved and heavily-losing regiments at the Fort-Donelson battle, and part of which was aboard, I began to interrogate him upon the subject. His philosophy was so much in the Falstaffian vein that I will give his views in his own words, as near as my memory serves me: -
Were you in the fight ? '
The Negro in the American Rebellion, W. W. Brown, page 127
I once spoke with an adult high school class about this article and I asked for their opinion of this cowardly Black soldier. One girl replied, “He thought it was useless, why even try.” This image was deeply grown into the minds of African American’s to make them feel inferior. It was part of identity genocide. This man never existed. Desertion or cowardice among colored troops was rare.
The perception that Negro’s (free or slave) would not fight was widely held. Most of the Generals in the Union Army were conservative and did not think well of Negroes.
"I have had the question put to me often,"'' 'Is not a negro as good as a white man to stop a bullet?' Yes: and a sand-bag is better; but can a negro do our skirmishing and picket duty? Can they improvise bridges, sorties, flank movements, etc., like the white man? I say no."
Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.
The Civil War, G. C. Ward, page 246
However, as Black soldiers demonstrated their fighting ability, attitudes changed.
At Millikens Bend, some Illinois cavalrymen sneered, "A man ud be a dam fool to try to make soldiers out ah niggers. . . . Any one ough to Know a nigger wont fight: they'r running now. before they seen a reb. . . . We will show them how it is done if we find any of them." Several minutes later the Illinois horsemen raced past in retreat, pursued closely by the Confederates. The black company then rose up and delivered a volley that drove the Rebels back and saved the day.”
J. T. Glatthaar, Forged in Battle