Southern History

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.

In addition:

  • 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.


Thanks to:
American Battlefield Trust

2 responses to “Southern History

  1. Very interesting information regarding the Confederacy and the issue of slavery. I also have a strong interest in history and it’s great to read posts about the topic from other people as well. 19th century America is just such an interesting thing to learn about and I hope you post more about it! It is particularly interesting that we do not learn much about the South in school today, it seems there’s a lot of information out there about it that people do not know.

  2. Rick Martinez

    Thank you, Steve, for another insightful, thought-provoking and timely post on not only the “problems of man,” but “man as the problem.” Our history as Americans is not always pretty, yet instructive. For me it conjures up memories of my tough but good, loving and caring dad–who arrived here as a Mexican immigrant already an American in soul, spirit and will.
    I will never forget when we as a family were watching the news on TV and a reporter announced, “The robbery suspect was a Mexican, 160lb, 5′ 7″, wearing a white shirt and blue jeans…” and dad said, “How does the reporter know he’s Mexican? Could he be from Honduras or Brazil?” You see it’s easy for any of us to create and imagine anything, rather than truly consider the facts and truth of what is or did happen.
    While off topic for a second, dad explained from his farmer and unlearned perspective that CREATION is of GOD and is the beginning. EVOLUTION is of MAN, and is about continuation, change, adaptation, survival, and progress over time. Creation and evolution is the difference of WHO did it vs. WHAT happened?
    And he went on to say to see clearly, we must see the whole. We must see how life began vs. (and) how life developed. The incredible part of any story are “things”–which began thus—and developed thus. But we indulge in imagination and imagine anything. Anyone thinking what “might” have happened may conceive a sort of evolutionary equality: If there was ever a moment when man was only an animal–we can choose to make a picture of his career transferred to some other animal…an entertaining fantasia. But considering “what did happen,” we decide man has distanced everything else. We contemplate, not imagine, God and man as Church two thousand years afterward with thought and everlasting enthusiasm, without rival or resemblance, and still as new as it is old.
    Yes, slavery happened here in America, yet it didn’t begin here. It was God and our civilization and domestication of our raw passions, and education that informed us and our humanity–that awakened us not to new landscapes, but to SEE with NEW EYES.
    Of course we have progressed. Everyone must progress. If we– Americans all–look back only to see a dark past, we will live each day in our tomorrow with a hardened heart. Imagine that…it’s happening now.

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