Although I was born, grew up, and was educated all the way through graduate school in the North, I have lived in the South—on and off—for several decades. I’ve worked with people whose ancestors fought against the Union during the Civil War. Some were members of “The Sons of the Confederacy” and had a whole different perspective on the Civil War than the one with which I was raised.
I love history, so I listened to their viewpoint with as unbiased a mind as possible. After all, it is normal for history to be adjusted as additional facts are uncovered. Recently, I did a little research and here are some interesting facts and figures from credible sources.
DISCLAIMER: Some of my ancestors may have been heroes, villains, or just plain folks trying to get by. I cannot control my ancestors, but I can maintain my own set of values and accept or reject their actions. I do not hold others responsible for their ancestors’ actions, only their own. In that frame of reference, here are some of the data that I found.
- Records indicate that 1,082,119 men served in the Confederate Army, throughout the Civil War, although not all at the same time.
I tried to determine how many Confederate soldiers owned slaves. Nowhere is that number directly reported, but the following statistics are:
- According to the 1860 US census—just before the Civil War—more than 32 percent of white families in those states which would secede from the Union owned slaves.
- There were approximately 2,880,000 slave owners when the Southern population was about 9 million people.
- There were estimated to be more than 3½ million slaves in the South. (For full disclosure, there were also 432,586 in the border states—those states that did allow slavery but did not secede from the union.)
- Some slaveholders in the South did not actually own the slaves who worked for them, but instead rented them from slaveowners.
I suspect that the numbers reported in the 1860 census were reasonably accurate, since each slave counted as 3/5 of a citizen toward the number of Congressional representatives, Electoral College votes, etc. (Isn’t it ironic that there has recently been pressure to count only citizens? The founding fathers from the South wanted ALL people counted since it benefited them.)
Based on the data I acquired:
- There were more than 3 times as many slaves in the South as there were soldiers who fought for the Confederacy.
- If the total population reported in the census included slaves at the 3/5 ratio, then the white population of the South was closer to 6.8 million. In which case one-third of the actual population of the South would have been enslaved persons.
- After the Civil War, many slaves were not told that they were free. In fact, by virtue of the Emancipation Proclamation, those enslaved people in the Confederate States had been freed on 1 January 1862.
- Juneteenth celebrates 19 June 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas—one of the most remote locations—the first news those slaves had that they were free.
- The border states either freed their slaves by state law or else by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in December 1865.
A couple of thoughts.
- For several centuries—in the Land of the Free—some people believed it was good business to have a workforce that was not paid, had no rights, and could be beaten, bought, and sold at will.
- For more than a century after that, there have been some people who seem to be wishing for a return to those days.
- If you ask many of those waving the red flags with the “X” what they are, they will probably misidentify it as “the flag of the Confederate States of America.” It’s not—it’s a battle flag. The Confederacy went through a number of national flags.
- If you really want to have fun, ask them which former US President became a Confederate legislator. (John Tyler)
One final trivia item – Many people talk about freedmen (former slaves) owning slaves themselves. There is truth to this, but most of these freedmen owned one or a small number of slaves. Why? Historians believe that once a man or a woman was freed, they would purchase their spouse and, if possible, their children. If so, this was not slavery, it was a family struggling against all odds to be together.
American Battlefield Trust