Could this be the first time, only 3 months after the fall of Ft. Sumter, that a recommendation was made to the Confederate government to enlist blacks as soldiers?
SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series IV - Volume I. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900.
NOTE: The first letter addressed to the Confederate States' Secretary of War by a citizen of Helena, Arkansas. The second letter is the reply from that office.
HELENA, ARK., July 17, 1861.
Hon. L. P. Walker:
DEAR SIR: I wrote you a few days since for myself and many others in this district to ascertain if we could get negro regiments received for Confederate service, officered, of course, by white men. All we ask is arms, clothing, and provisions, and usual pay for officers and not one cent pay for negroes. Our negroes are too good to fight Lincoln hirelings, but as they pretend to love negroes so much we want to show them how much the true Southern cotton-patch negro loves them in return. The North cannot complain at this. They proclaim negro equality from the Senate Chamber to the pulpit, teach it in their schools, and are doing all they can to turn the slaves upon master, mistress, and children. And now, sir, if you can receive the negroes that can be raised we will soon give the Northern thieves a gorge of the negroes' love for them that will never be forgotten. As you well know, I have had long experience with negro character. I am satisfied, they are easy disciplined and less t rouble than whites in camp, and will fight desperately as long as they have a single white officer living. I know one man that will furnish and arm 100 of his own and his son for their captain. The sooner we bring a strong negro force against the hirelings the sooner we shall have peace, in my humble judgment. Let me hear from you.
Your old friend,
W. S. TURNER
Confederate States of America, War Department
Richmond, August 2, 1861.
W. S. TURNER, Helena, Ark.:
SIR: In reply to your letter of the 17th of July I am directed by the Secretary of War to say that this Department is not prepared to accept the negro regiment tendered by you, and yet it is not doubted that almost every slave would cheerfully aid his master in the work of hurling back the fanatical invader. Moreover, if the necessity were apparent there is high authority for the employment of such forces. Washington himself recommended the enlistment of two negro regiments in Georgia, and the Congress sanctioned the measure. But now there is a superabundance of our own color tendering their services to the Government in its day of peril and ruthless invasion, a superabundance of men when we are bound to admit the inadequate supply of arms at present at the disposal of the Government.
A. T. BLEDSOE,
Chief of Bureau of War.