Thoughts on Confederate Emancipation and Black Troops
In late 1864 and into 1865, the Confederate government toyed with the idea of emancipating slaves in exchange for war service. While many Southerners (including, eventually, Robert E. Lee) endorsed the idea, many others viewed it as the potential downfall of Southern civilization. One of these, a letter-writer to the Macon Telegraph (January 6, 1865), made his opposition clear in terms that seem to shed some light on the beginning of the war.
It should be constantly kept in view, through all the bloody phases and terrible epochs of this relentless war, that slavery was the causus belli --- that the principle of State Sovereignty, and its sequence, the right of secession, were important to the South principally, or solely, as the armor that encased her peculiar institution --- and that every life that has been lost in this struggle was an offering upon the altar of African Slavery. In the light of this great and solemn truth, is it not a matter of wonder and astonishment, that Southern men should gravely propose to arm, and as a necessary consequence, emancipate all the able-bodied slaves in the Confederacy, or a large portion of them, thereby striking an irretrievable and fatal blow at the institution. The adoption of this policy would be foul wrong to our departed heroes who have fallen in its defense. The compulsory adoption of such a policy would be tantamount to defeat; for what else is the forced assimilation of our institutions to those of the North but the abandonment of the whole object of the war?
This excerpt is taken from Robert Durden's study, The Gray and the Black: The Confederate Debate on Emancipation, LSU Press, 1972, p. 118.