Today, January 11th, marks a significant date in the history of the United States. On this day in 1865, The Confederacy forced Blacks to fight on their side, based on the recommendation of Robert E. Lee. This decision was met with controversy as the Confederacy had long upheld the institution of slavery, and the idea of Black soldiers fighting for the Confederate cause was met with resistance.
During the Civil War, enslaved people were forced to work in a variety of jobs, primarily as cooks, launderers, and stretcher bearers. However, as the war progressed, the Confederacy found itself in desperate need of manpower and began to consider using enslaved people as soldiers. In January 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis received a letter from Robert E. Lee recommending the use of enslaved people as soldiers in exchange for their freedom.
However, it was clear that this decision was motivated by a desire to shore up the flagging Confederacy rather than a belief in the equality of African Americans. Black soldiers were denied the right to bear arms and were relegated to less important roles such as manual labor. Furthermore, many black soldiers defected to the Union army in search of freedom, further depleting the Confederacy’s ranks.
It is critical to remember this contentious aspect of the Civil War, and how the Confederacy’s defense of slavery drove their decision to enlist black soldiers. Today, January 11th, serves as a reminder of the atrocities committed during this turbulent period in American history, as well as the ongoing fight for equality and justice for all people.
Robert E. Lee was born in 1807 and grew up surrounded by enslaved African Americans because his father, Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, and mother, Ann Hill Carter Lee, both came from prominent families who owned enslaved people. Although Lee did not own enslaved people before the age of 22, he inherited the responsibility of managing enslaved people left by his father-in-law, George Washington Parke Custis, after his death. Lee was chastised as the executor of his father-in-estate law’s for taking the full five years to free them.
Prior to the Civil War, Lee and his wife backed the American Colonization Society, which aimed to relocate enslaved African Americans to Africa, but opposed the abolitionist movement. Lee always maintained that his support for the Confederacy was not motivated by a desire to defend slavery. During the Maryland and Gettysburg campaigns, Lee’s officers kidnapped and sold free Blacks into slavery, contradicting his own claim.
In 1865, as the Confederacy was losing the war, Robert E. Lee advocated for the enlistment of enslaved African Americans as soldiers in the Confederate army. However, the decision was made too late and had little impact on the war’s outcome. He was generally opposed to political and racial equality for African Americans after the war. His relationship with slavery and race was complex and fraught with ambivalence and contradiction, reflecting a society in which these issues were difficult to confront or comprehend.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee recommended to the Confederate government on January 11, 1865, the enlistment of enslaved African Americans as Confederate army soldiers. This contentious decision was made as the Confederacy faced increased pressure from the Union army and dwindling troop numbers.
Lee, who had previously opposed abolition, believed that this move was required to ensure the Confederacy’s victory in the Civil War. Despite Lee’s advice, the Confederate government did not immediately implement this policy, and it was ultimately too late to have a significant impact on the outcome of the war.
Lee, who was born into a prominent Virginia family that had a history of owning enslaved people, had a complicated relationship with slavery and race. Throughout his career, he was known for both his military prowess and his opposing views on these issues. His recommendation that Black soldiers enlist in the Confederacy reflects not only the desperate measures he believed were required to save the Confederacy, but also the complicated history of his stance on slavery and race.
It is important to note, however, that these Black soldiers were not given the same rights and privileges as their white counterparts and were frequently used in support roles rather than being permitted to bear arms. However, this decision ultimately backfired because many of these Black soldiers fled to the Union side for freedom during the war.
As we remember this day, we are reminded of the atrocities and injustices that occurred during the Civil War, as well as the importance of continuing to fight for equality and freedom for all people of African descent.