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Marching Masters

Marching Masters: Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army during the Civil War

Colin Edward Woodward
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrjps
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    Marching Masters
    Book Description:

    The Confederate army went to war to defend a nation of slaveholding states, and although men rushed to recruiting stations for many reasons, they understood that the fundamental political issue at stake in the conflict was the future of slavery. Most Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders themselves, but they were products of the largest and most prosperous slaveholding civilization the world had ever seen, and they sought to maintain clear divisions between black and white, master and servant, free and slave.

    InMarching MastersColin Woodward explores not only the importance of slavery in the minds of Confederate soldiers but also its effects on military policy and decision making. Beyond showing how essential the defense of slavery was in motivating Confederate troops to fight, Woodward examines the Rebels' persistent belief in the need to defend slavery and deploy it militarily as the war raged on. Slavery proved essential to the Confederate war machine, and Rebels strove to protect it just as they did Southern cities, towns, and railroads. Slaves served by the tens of thousands in the Southern armies-never as soldiers, but as menial laborers who cooked meals, washed horses, and dug ditches. By following Rebel troops' continued adherence to notions of white supremacy into the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, the book carries the story beyond the Confederacy's surrender.

    Drawing upon hundreds of soldiers' letters, diaries, and memoirs,Marching Masterscombines the latest social and military history in its compelling examination of the last bloody years of slavery in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3542-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    James Paul Verdery of the Forty-Eighth Georgia Infantry got into position. It was about eight o’clock in the morning on 30 July 1864. He and the rest of the men in Mahone’s division could barely load their rifles before the Union forces stormed over their breastworks. The Federals kept charging, but Verdery and his comrades would not retreat in the face of the attacking “Niggers.” “As fast as they came over the Bayonet was plunged through their hearts & the muzzel of our guns was put on their temple & their brains blown out,” Verdery wrote his sister, describing the...

  5. 1 “The Question of Slavery” CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS AND THE SOUTHERN CAUSE, 1861–1862
    (pp. 11-30)

    By April 1862, most of the men who served in the Confederate army had already enlisted. Others joined later, and still more found themselves drafted, but examining men’s words in the first year of the war allows us to understand why they fought for the South. When it came to the “question of slavery,” Rebel soldiers expressed proslavery views that included fears of abolitionism and slave revolt, and worries that the North sought to eradicate white Southerners’ political power. Men often spoke vaguely of defending their “rights,” but they understood that the right to own slaves was one of the...

  6. 2 Planters and Yeomen, Officers and Privates RACE, CLASS, AND CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS
    (pp. 31-54)

    Proslavery thinking did not always assure harmony among white Southerners. As the Civil War ground on and took increasingly more lives, the struggle to create a white man’s government led many Confederates to question whether protecting slavery was helping or hurting their cause, and whether planters had an unfair advantage in affecting government policy. Confederate troops sometimes complained they felt like “slaves” to the government, and that it was a “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.” But throughout the war, there remained solidarity between planters and yeomen.¹

    Confederate soldiers had many reasons for objecting to their politicians’ conduct of the...

  7. 3 The Greatest of Masters THE CONFEDERATE ARMY AND THE IMPRESSMENT OF BLACK LABOR
    (pp. 55-79)

    The Confederate draft forced Southern troops to remain in the army against their will. Slaves were by definition compelled to serve, but in 1863, they too became conscripts of a sort. In March 1863, the Confederacy passed an impressment law giving commanders power to use slaves for military work. Impressment proved a controversial aspect of the Confederacy’s massive effort to use black workers to aid the war effort. From the war’s beginning, the army found itself in a power struggle with masters who did not want their property taken and commanders who needed slaves for military work. Impressment created tensions...

  8. 4 “Send Me the Negro Boy” CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS AND THE NEED FOR SLAVES IN CAMP
    (pp. 80-103)

    The conscription of able-bodied white troops and the impressment of slaves into the Rebel armies were two instances of the Confederacy exerting unprecedented power in the South. Throughout the war, Confederates hoped to strike a balance between the forces of states’ rights and centralization, volunteerism and coercion, the free market and government intrusion into the economy. Many slaves who served in the Confederate army were impressed from Southern masters, but when Irby Goodwin Scott entered the army in 1861, he brought two slaves with him. They were among only six slaves who shared the camp with his entire unit, but...

  9. 5 “We Crushed Their Freedom” EMANCIPATION AND THE PROBLEM OF SLAVE LOYALTY
    (pp. 104-129)

    In July 1863, the Federal army raided Adams Run, South Carolina, near Charleston. With the arrival of troops came the freeing of slaves. “My Plantation will very soon become a wilderness,” complained Henry H. Manigault, a civilian who owned dozens of black workers. All but two had left him. Before they fled, they broke open a trunk, stole clothes, and robbed a neighboring colonel’s plantation “of everything.” They even ripped apart feather beds to make rough sacks to carry away their booty. The Confederate soldier Lewis Grimball wrote of the destruction and its aftermath. Concerning his uncle Henry, he said,...

  10. 6 On Battlefields and in Prisons CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS CONFRONT BLACK UNION TROOPS
    (pp. 130-154)

    With the Emancipation Proclamation came the North’s use of black Union troops to help crush the Confederacy. By the spring of 1863, the United States had organized some black regiments, and it had thousands of volunteers ready to fill others. Over the course of the war, 180,000 African Americans, most of them former slaves, served in the Union army. In 1863, Confederates found, much to their dismay, that colored troops were now invading the South. Rebels who had joined the ranks with dreams of Walter Scott–like glory, found their chivalry tested when they confronted black men in battle. Confederates...

  11. 7 Free to Fight THE CONFEDERATE ARMY AND THE USE OF SLAVES AS SOLDIERS
    (pp. 155-179)

    The presence of 200,000 African Americans in the United States army and navy, combined with the vast number of slaves who escaped their masters, underscored black people’s desire to help the Union crush the Confederacy. It also showed how the United States was adept at forging an alliance, albeit troubled at times, between black soldiers and their mostly white officers.¹ However, as the war turned against the Confederacy in 1863, some white Southerners began thinking it wise to enlist their black population of military age. In 1864 and 1865, the Southern armies engaged in an intense debate about how Confederates...

  12. 8 Relics of the Antebellum Era CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS AND THE POSTWAR WORLD
    (pp. 180-202)

    After fighting four years in a conflict that took at least 620,000 lives, Confederate soldiers returned home to communities impoverished and scarred by war. Southern men had seen more than 260,000 comrades die, and the Federal army had done untold damage to homes and farms. Emancipation, furthermore, liquidated billions in Confederate wealth.¹ The war dramatically changed Southern race relations, and in April 1865, with the Confederacy defeated and the slaves freed, the U.S. government began Reconstruction in earnest.² Confederates were forced to accept abolition, they very thing they had fought so hard to prevent. Yet, in the face of a...

  13. Conclusion “REPUBLICS HAVE PROVERBIALLY SHORT MEMORIES”
    (pp. 203-210)

    This work has shown the proslavery nature of the Confederate army and the Rebel military’s attempts to protect the peculiar institution from various threats. The war might have ended at the Battle of Bull Run, and slavery might have lasted indefinitely. But it did not, and the bloodier the war became, the greater were the North’s efforts to crush slavery. Confederates had to fight many battles—not only against the Union army; this was a war between whites and whites, whites and blacks, and, to some extent, it was a conflict among black people as well. But slavery finally ended...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 211-244)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-274)
  16. Index
    (pp. 275-284)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 285-286)