Confederate negro enlistments.
No circumstances connected with the late war caused more surprise, perhaps, than the general conduct of the slave population of the South
during the whole contest.
This surprise was common to the people of both sections, for there were few persons at the North
who did not expect, and at the South
who did not fear, a servile insurrection as the Federal
armies penetrated deeper into the Southern
The people of the South
did not, of course, have any great opinion of the negroes' courage, but still they felt apprehensive about the women and children left at home, and fearful, too, in regard to neglected plantation work; and the fact
of this apprehension is embodied in all the draft schemes and conscription laws of the Confederacy
, which, both under the State
government regimen, and later under the general conscription system, made specific provision for a certain line of exemptions, looking to the peace and good order of the plantations, and keeping the negroes at work.
These exemptions included detailed officers and veterans, home guards, etc., and, even in the last and severest conscription law passed in the fall of 1864, one overseer was exempted “for each plantation containing over fifteen able-bodied male slaves.”
On the other hand, a slave insurrection was counted on at the North
as one factor in the war. It was deprecated, of course; it was not invited, but it was still looked for, and the Emancipation Proclamation
was calculated upon as a means of inciting the negroes to strike for their freedom.
Those who will examine the periodicals of the period — the Atlantic Monthly
, for instance; the Continental