First let me say that I very much enjoy the discussions among members of this group. You and a few others offer perspectives, often contrary to my own, but I do enjoy the civil discourse.
If you will permit, I would like to offer an observation and my opinion before I list a few of the Federal references to which I alluded.
My observation is this. Two people can look at the same facts and come to entirely different conclusions. Lawyers do it all the time, and I have seen it happen on this board. This subject is a prime example. I think the difference is in what is each party trying to prove. A historian should look at facts as logically as possible, without personal involvment. However, I doubt we humans are entirely able to do that. So that means we each have to look at what is presented and make up our own minds.
As far as whether or not blacks fought for the South, it is my opinion, based on recorded facts, that there were many southern blacks who were found in the field with their white Confederate counterparts. Their reasons were varied and many, as would be expected.
To me, whether or not the Confederacy officially sanctioned their presence is beside the point. A dead soldier, whether he was "official" or not, is still just as dead. What is important to me is the fact that there was a large group of men who lived during the mid and late 1800's, and that served in the most devastating war in our nations history, that have been systematically ignored by many current historians and today's society. That group is the Black Confederate soldier. To ignore these men is an injustice.
How they got to be in the field is also of little importance to me. A servant who went with his master was still there. If he went against his will, then that is little different than conscription of that time, or a modern draft. Tell a Vietnam War Infantryman that he really wasn't a soldier because he was drafted and see what happens.
Some blacks were armed, but many blacks in the field performed labors such as cooking, washing clothes, carrying supplies and driving mule teams and wagons. Were they less of a soldier than our modern day supply and logistics corps?
It is my opinion that all American veterans should be honored, including those that are not currently "politically correct."
OK, I'll get off the soapbox now. See a few of my references below. They are abbreviated to the content in question.
After-Battle Report of Federal Brigadier General D. Stuart:
“…Col. Giles Smith commanded the First Brigade and Col. T. Kilby Smith, Fifty-fourth Ohio, the Fourth. I communicated to these officers General Sherman's orders and charged Colonel Smith, Fifty-fourth Ohio, specially with the duty of clearing away the road to the crossing and getting it into the best condition for effecting our crossing that he possibly could. The work was vigorously pressed under his immediate supervision and orders, and he devoted himself to it with as much energy and activity as any living man could employ. It had to be prosecuted under the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, protected as well as the men might be by our skirmishers on the bank, who were ordered to keep up so vigorous a fire that the enemy should not dare to lift their heads above their rifle-pits; but the enemy, and especially their armed negroes, did dare to rise and fire, and did serious execution upon our men. The casualties in the brigade were 11 killed, 40 wounded, and 4 missing; aggregate, 55…”
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol. XVII, Chapter XXIX, Pg. 635-637
Federal Report of Col. Peter H. Allabach, 132nd Pennsylvania Infantry, 2nd Brigade.
"...Under this disposition of my command, I lay until 11 o'clock, when I received orders from you to throw the two left regiments perpendicular to the road, and to advance in line of battle, with skirmishers in front, as far as to the edge of the wood bordering near the Chancellor house. This movement was explained to me as intended to hold the enemy in check long enough for the corps of Major-Generals Couch and Sickles to get into another position, and not to bring on an action if it could be avoided; and, should the enemy advance in force, to fall back slowly until I arrived on the edge of the wood, there to mass in column and double-quick to the rear, that the artillery might fire in this wood. I was instructed that I was to consider myself under the command of Major-General Couch.
In obedience to these orders, at about 11 o'clock I advanced with these two regiments forward through the wood, under a severe fire of shell, grape, and canister. I encountered their skirmishers when near the farther edge of the wood. Allow me to state that the skirmishers of the enemy were negroes. Slight skirmishing going on until retiring...."
Battle of Chancellorsville
Volume XXV - in Two Parts. 1889. (Vol. 25, Chap. 37) Part I - Reports Page 555
Lt. Col. Parkhurst, 9th Michigan Infantry
Report on General Forrest's attack at Murfeesboro, Tenn, July 13, 1862:
“There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day.”
Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol XVI Part I, pg. 805
Report of Colonel John W. Phelps, First Vermont Infantry
“CAMP BUTLER, Newport News, Va., August 11, 1861 - SIR: Scouts from this post represent the enemy as having retired. They came to New Market Bridge on Wednesday, and left the next day. They, the enemy, talked of having 9,000 men. They were recalled by dispatches from Richmond. They had twenty pieces of artillery, among which was the Richmond Howitzer Battery, manned by negroes. . . Their numbers are probably overrated; but with regard to their artillery, and its being manned in part by negroes, I think the report is probably correct…”
Federal Official Records, Series 1, Volume 4, p.569