The Gospel
Study Guide


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 ? '
        " ' Had a little taste of it, sa.'
        " ' Stood your ground, did you?
        " ' No, sa ; I runs.'
        " ' Run at the first fire, did you ? '
        " ' Yes, sa. ; and would ha' run soona had I know'd it was comin'.'
       " ' Why, that wasn't very creditable to your courage.'
       " ' Dat isn't in my line, sa ; cookin's my perfeshun.'
       " ' Well, but have you no regard for your reputation ? '
       " ' Refutation's nuffin by the side ob life.'
       "' Do you consider your life worth more than other people's ? '
       " ' It's worth more to me, sa.'
       " ' Then you must value it very highly.'
       "  Yes, ss, 'I does ; more dan all dis wuld ; more dan a million of dollars, sa : for what would dat be Wuf to a  man wid de bref out of him.  Self-perserbashum am de  fust l'bm wid me.'
       " ' But why should you act upon a  different rule from other men ? '
       " ' Because different men set different values upon dar lives : mine is not in de market.'
       " ' But if' you lost it, you would have the satisfaction of knowing that you  died for your country.'
       " ' What satisfaction would dat be to me when de power ob feelin' was gone? '
       " ' Then patriotism and honor are nothing to you ? '
       " Nuffin whatever, sa: I regard dem as among de  vanities ; and den de gobernment don't know me ; I hab no rights ; may be sold like old hoss any day, and dat's all.'
      " 'If our old soldiers were like you, traitors might have broken up the Government without resistance.'
      "'Yes, sa; dar would hab been no help for it.  I wouldn't put my life in de scale 'ginst any gobernment dat ever existed; for no gobernment could replace de loss to me.'
      "'Do you think any of your company would have missed you if' you had been killed ? '
       " ' May be not, sa; a dead white man ain't much to dese sogors, let lone a dead nigga; but I'd n missed myself, and dat was de pint wid me.'
       " It is safe to say that the dusky corpse of that African will never darken the field of carnage."

                           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