They gave important information constantly to national officers; they sheltered and succored and concealed national escaped prisoners and scouts and spies; they welcomed everywhere, with extravagant rejoicings, the advent of the successful national armies.
All this the rebels perfectly knew.
They endeavored to conceal the knowledge from the slaves, and from their enemies, and also to restrain the expression of it even among themselves.
But there was always this dark shadow of what was possible hanging over them.
There was the absolute destruction of slave property inevitable; there was the anxiety what to do with the slaves, and what the slaves might do with themselves.
This condition had existed since the beginning of the war, but as the drain upon the troops became greater, and the demand could no longer be supplied, the arming of the blacks began to be discussed, and, in the winter of 1864 and 1865, it was one of the great questions that agitated the public mind throughout the Confederacy
The blacks had been useful soldiers for the Northern
armies; why should they not be made to fight for their masters?
it was asked.
Of course, there was the immediate query whether they would fight to keep themselves in slavery; and this opened up a subject into which those who discussed it were afraid to look.
Nevertheless, it seemed unavoidable that a black conscription should be attempted.
There could be no surer sign of the straits to which the rebels were reduced.
Then there were, all through this winter, many who in spirit were already overcome; who were convinced that it was impossible to hold out much