October 25, 1864: Sherman on black troops.

27th regiment USCT

Sherman writes to the secretary of war about black troops. If black men fight, they’ll insist on equality. Sherman doesn’t think they’re ready for it. He also thinks that white men should all be fighting for their country, and then there would be no necessity for black troops. But if the government is set on enlisting black men, Sherman will arm the ones that come into his lines.

Official Records 79:428

In the Field, Gaylesville, Ala., October 25, 1864.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:

SIR: I do not wish to be considered as in any way adverse to the organization of negro regiments, further than as to its effects on the white race. I do wish the fine race of men that people our Northern States should rule and determine the future destiny of America; but if they prefer trade and gain, and leave to bought substitutes and negroes the fighting (the actual conflict), of course the question is settled, for those who hold the swords and muskets at the end of this war (which has but fairly begun) will have something to say. If negroes are to fight, they, too, will not be content with sliding back into the status of slave or free negro. I much prefer to keep negroes yet for some time to come in a subordinate state, for our prejudices, yours as well as mine, are not yet schooled for absolute equality.

Jeff. Davis has succeeded perfectly in inspiring his people with the truth that liberty and government are worth fighting for, that pay and pensions are silly nothings compared to the prize fought for. Now, I would aim to inspire our people also with the same idea -that it is not right to pay $1,000 to some fellow, who will run away, to do his fighting, or to some poor negro, who is thinking of the day of jubilee, but that every young and middle-aged man should be proud of the chance to fight for the stability of his country, without profit and without price; and I would like to see all trade, commerce, and manufactures absolutely cease until this fight is over, and I have no hesitation or concealment in saying that there is not, and should not be, the remotest chance of peace again on this continent till all this is realized, save the peace which would result from the base and cowardly submital to Jeff. Davis’ terms.

I would use negroes as surplus, but not spare a single white man, no one. Any white man who don’t or won’t fight now should be killed, banished, or denationalized, and then we would discriminate among the noisy patriots and see who really should vote. If the negroes fight and the whites don’t, of course the negroes will govern. They won’t ask you or me for the privilege, but will simply take it, and probably reserve the relation hitherto existing, and they would do right. If, however, the Government has determined to push the policy to the end, it is both my duty and pleasure to assist, and in that event I should like to have Colonel Bowman, now commanding the District of Wilmington, Del., to organize and equip such as may fall into the custody of the army I command.

Major-General, Commanding.

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