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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

June 2021 Meeting

Ms. Teresa Roane, archivist for the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Richmond VA, gave a very interesting program on the role of African Americans in the logistical operations of the Confederate Army. Attendance at our dinner meeting was 65.

The title of Ms. Roane's program was: "People of Color in the Confederate Military" or "Hidden in Plain Sight." A summary of her presentation is as follows:

  • In the 19th century, "people of color" could refer to Negroes, mulattos, or people of European African, or Indian mixed races.
  • There were over 250,000 free Blacks living in the south during the Civil War. There were more free people of color living in the south than in the north during the period of 1790-1860. Free Blacks are found in the U.S. census records.
  • There were both free Blacks and slaves living in Richmond during the Civil War. Slave owners hired out their slaves to work at the Tredegar Iron Works. Half of the money paid for the slave's labor went to the owner and half went to the slave. The slave could also earn extra money by working overtime. In some cases, slaves negotiated with their owners, in order to purchase their freedom.
  • Ms. Roane showed numerous examples of muster rolls for people of color who served in the Confederate military. These included teamsters, blacksmiths, musicians, cooks, and laundresses.
  • The typical salaries paid for labor are as follows:
    • Teamsters: $20/month.
    • Laundresses: $10-11/month.
    • Assistant cooks: $15/month.
    • Chief cook: $20/month.
    • Breastworks/fortifications: $ 15/month.
    • Privates in the military: $11/month.
  • During the Civil War the Confederacy passed impressment laws. Conscription or compulsory military service was required by law. Men were forced to serve.
  • During the Civil War, people of color that served in the Confederate military were wounded in combat, captured and sent to prison, exchanged for northern prisoners, etc. If a person of color could prove that they are a slave, the Union would let them go. Otherwise, they were kept in prison.
  • There is a "Dick Poplar Day" every year in Petersburg VA. Richard Poplar served in Company H, 13th Virginia Cavalry. He was a cook before the war and after the war. He joined the military as a private and was discharged as a private. Richard Poplar was captured at Gettysburg and transferred to Point Lookout. He wouldn't sign the oath of allegiance in order to go back home and said he was a "Jeff Davis man." Richard Poplar later served at Petersburg. When he died, all of the pallbearers were from the 13th Virginia Cavalry.
  • One of Ms. Roane's ancestors was a free man of color named George Washington. He worked on fortifications under Confederate General John B. Magruder at Gloucester Point Fort, Richmond VA. George worked on the fort as a free person. Slaves also worked on the fort.
  • A man named Moses Dallas worked as a Confederate Navy pilot. His pay started out at $80/month and was later increased to $100/month.
  • In the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Colonel Benjamin Christ and Governor Yates in May and July of 1862 said the Confederates were arming Negroes. Senator Thomas H. Hicks in September of 1863, said the North should use Negroes because the South were using them against the North.
  • An article in the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper in 1863 said there were Negro soldiers in the Confederate Army. These Negroes were armed and in uniform. Ms. Roane said she was able to purchase this newspaper at auction, thanks to the financial support of others. Dr. Lewis Steiner in the U.S. Sanitary Commission saw Negroes armed with rifles, knives, etc. riding on caissons, mules, etc. Ms. Roane said states, not the National government made the decision to use Blacks in the Confederate military.
  • In Harpers Weekly, April 1863, there is an article about President Lincoln creating the United States Colored Troops (USCT). People in the north did not want the USCT. However, a Union officer said he saw Black pickets in the Southern Army.
  • In 2012, Ms. Roane met Mrs. Mattie Clybum Rice (1922-2014) of Union County NC, who remembered seeing ten Colored Confederates being honored when she was a child. Mrs. Rice's family didn't think that Negroes wore gray. However, she overheard the former Black soldiers talking about serving during the Civil War. Mattie died in 2014 and her tombstone reads: "A Real Daughter of the Confederacy."
  • Men of color were important to the Confederacy. Non-combatants and combatants served in the Confederacy. The Confederate military was integrated, but the U.S. military was segregated until segregation was ended under President Truman.
  • Confederates of color have been part of the "cancel culture" for decades. For example, Moses G. West served in the USCT as a cook. That is accepted. But why do people question that Blacks served in the Confederate Army? Ms. Roane said because it does not fit the narrative.
  • A lot of the Negroes couldn't afford to go to reunions after the war. Soldiers would raise money in order to attend the reunions. It was important attend these reunions, because there was a bond between the men of a unit.
  • Ms. Roane said researching the service records for people of color that served in the Confederate military has been a labor of love. It is a story that needs to be told. The Confederate military records are incomplete. You cannot find all of their service records. However, these men and women of color served in the Confederate military. They were paid and they need to be recognized.
  • Some of the people of color that served in the Confederate military did receive a Confederate pension. They were legitimate. We never question a USCT soldier's service record, but we do on the Confederate side. Slaves and free people of color served. Some were probably impressed, but they were paid.
  • In order to introduce the public to the memory of these soldiers, go to the website:
Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
436 West 88th Terrace
Kansas City, MO 64114

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