As we’ve seen, late in the war proposals were made in several venues that slaves should be enlisted to take up arms for the Confederacy, in return for the promise of freedom. What did the editor of the Charleston Mercury, the house organ of secession, think of this proposal? The title of the article tells it all.
For those who now claim that the south didn’t secede over slavery: “It was on account of encroachments upon the institution of slavery by the sectional majority of the old Union, that South Carolina seceded from that Union.”
For those who claim that thousands of “Black Confederates” fought against the Union: “The soldiers of South Carolina will not fight beside a nigger–to talk of emancipation is to disband our army.”
Somehow the modern apologists for the Confederates seem not to have paid attention to what those venerated ancestors actually said at the time.
The wild talk prevalent in the official and the semi-official organs at Richmond grates harshly upon the ear of South Carolina. It is still more grievous to her to hear the same unmanly proposition from those in authority in the old State of Virginia. Side by side Carolina and Virginia have stood together against all comers for near two centuries–the exemplars and authors of Southern civilization. Side by side it is our earnest hope they will stand to all time against the world. But we grieve to say there are counsels now brewing there that South Carolina cannot abet–that she will not suffer to be consummated, so far as she is concerned in them. . . .
In 1860 South Carolina seceded along from the old union of States. Her people, in Convention assembled, invited the slaveholding States (none others) of the old Union to join her in erecting a separate Government of Slave States, for the protection of their common interests. All of the slave States, with the exception of Maryland and Kentucky, responded to her invitation. The Southern Confederacy of slave States was formed.
It was on account of encroachments upon the institution of slavery by the sectional majority of the old Union, that South Carolina seceded from that Union. It is not at this late day, after the loss of thirty thousand of her best and bravest men in battle, that she will suffer it to be bartered away; or ground between the upper and nether mill stones, by the madness of Congress, or the counsels of shallow men elsewhere.
By the compact we made with Virginia and the other States of this Confederacy, South Carolina will stand to the bitter end of destruction. By that compact she intends to stand or to fall. Neither Congress, nor certain make shift men in Virginia, can force upon her their mad schemes of weakness and surrender. She stands upon her institutions–and there she will fall in their defence. We want no Confederate Government without our institutions. And we will have none.–Sink or swim, live or die, we stand by them, and are fighting for them this day.
That is the ground of our fight–it is well that all should understand it at once. Thousands and tens of thousands of the bravest men, and the best blood of this State, fighting in the ranks, have left their bones whitening on the bleak hills of Virginia in this cause. We are fighting for our system of civilization–not for buncomb, or for Jeff. Davis. We intend to fight for that, or nothing.
We expect Virginia to stand beside us in that fight, as of old, as we have stood beside her in this war up to this time. But such talk coming from such a source is destructive to the cause. Let it cease at once, in God’s name, and in behalf of our common cause! It is paralyzing to every man here to hear it. It throws a pall over the hearts of the soldiers from this State to hear it.
The soldiers of South Carolina will not fight beside a nigger–to talk of emancipation is to disband our army. We are free men, and we chose to fight for ourselves–we want no slaves to fight for us. Skulkers, money lenders, money makers, and blood-suckers, alone will tolerate the idea.
It is the man who won’t fight himself, who wants his nigger to fight for him, and to take his place in the ranks. Put that man in the ranks. And do it at once. Control your armies–put men of capacity in command, re-establish confidence–enforce thorough discipline–and there will be found men enough, and brave men enough to defeat a dozen Sherman’s. Falter and hack at the root of the Confederacy–our institutions–our civilization–and you kill the cause as dead as a boiled crab.
The straight and narrow path of our deliverance is in the reform of our government, and the discipline of our armies. Will Virginia stand by us as of old in this rugged pathway? We will not fail her in the shadow of a hair. But South Carolina will fight upon no other platform, than that she laid down in 1860.