This rather fascinating editorial about the issues surrounding arming slaves to fight for the south appeared on February 18, 1865. As all know, it never came to anything like full fruition, but it is interesting to see thoughts on the topic at a time when the South was in desperate need of a game-changing solution.
The Question of Negro Soldiers
(Richmond, Virginia – February 18, 1865) The question of negro soldiers we consider as settled. Public opinion has definitely declared in favor of arming the negroes; the resolution introduced in the Virginia Legislature, giving the consent of the State to the measure, will pass, and may be followed, and should be, by instructions to Senators to vote for the measure and thus put the matter at rest.
As to giving the slaves their freedom, this should be the reward for faithful services, at the end of the war, if desired by the slaves. To some it may be a boon, a reward – others may not even desire freedom. Negroes are divided in opinion as to whether they would prefer freedom to slavery, but by all means leave the choice with them, let them decide the matter. We do not expect this reward to make soldiers of them; discipline only will do that. It must be a discipline differing, very much, from that which now holds together, with loosened bands, the armies of the Confederate States. It must be a discipline sharp, severe, exacting, which first teaches them their duty and them compels them to perform it. There never has been discipline in the armies of this Confederacy, but instead thereof a kind of universal suffrage, which fights when it chooses and straggles when it feels like it. All this must be changed with the negro troops; they have not the motives that compel the white man to this fight; they must be kept up to the mark by fear of punishment more than by hope of reward.