February 20, 1865: Richmond Dispatch calls for black troops

Andrew and Silas Chandler
Yeah, it’s the same old photo of a “black Confederate”. There just aren’t many out there. Guess why?

The editor of the Richmond Daily Dispatch has changed his mind about black soldiers, thanks to General Lee. If Lee wants black soldiers, who can argue? The Dispatch now favors the “Negro soldier scheme.”

Negro soldiers.

At the beginning of this war there was an important question to be solved by its progress, and that was: Could the South prosecute the struggle with out embarrassment from the existence of four millions of human beings within her limits who were not amenable to service with arms in the field.

Generally, it is considered necessary to the defence of an invaded nation that all the men between certain ages, capable of bearing arms, shall be amenable to service in the field. Here, the black constituted a distinct class, and it was supposed by many that, as they produced the necessaries of life, they would sustain the public defence more successfully in that way than if sent in the field to fight. But nations that are hard pressed by powerful invasions leave the production of the necessaries of life to that part of the population which is under and over the conscript ages.

Could we pursue a different course? Could we set apart a large population, irrespective of age, to the pursuits of production of the [fold in the paper, can’t read this line] was doing force? However that question might have been decided under other circumstances, the employment by the enemy, in making war upon us, of that very class of beings we intended to exclude from the field, forces upon us the necessity of placing them in the front to defend the country. We must fight the negro with the negro, whatever we could have done had the enemy forborne to employ him.

This necessity is, of course, disagreeable, as is proved by the evident reluctance with which we have entered upon the discussion. Therefore, whatever the differences of opinion hitherto on this subject, all parties are now willing to leave the solution to the sound, practical judgment of General Lee. He is known to be earnestly in its favor, and we want no other endorsement.

We hesitate not to say that the time has come when negroes should be employed as soldiers, and that they should be offered their freedom, for that purpose, upon entering the service. We are fully satisfied of their availability as soldiers, of their courage and efficiency under a proper system of discipline — such a system as General Lee, at once firm and humane, would inaugurate.

It is better to liberate two hundred thousand negroes, and to put them in the army, than to run the risk of losing all. We would rather sacrifice them all, and make emancipation universal, than hazard the independence of the Confederate States. If we fail, we lose everything, property of every kind, and our own independence.

Let Congress give heed to the counsels of General Lee. In pursuance of the universal public sentiment, it has called him to the chief command of the armies of the Confederate States. But of what avail will be that action if Congress does not clothe him with the means which he deems necessary to success? For this purpose, he should have carte blanche to raise the forces he desires upon such terms, and in such a way, as he deems expedient. There is no time for delay. If Congress grasp the subject with the promptness, energy and breadth of statesmanship that it demands, the country is saved.

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