Confederate Congressional Decision to Enlist Blacks in the Army
The following correspondence is significant in documenting the date of the decision of the Confederate government in relation to the end of the war. It was, after all, less than a month until the surrender by Lee at Appomattox. It is also significant to note that while this is undoubtedly a measure of desperation, the legislature was more interested at that moment in staving off the Union armies and preserving the Confederacy than in preserving the "peculiar institution" of slavery.
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Va., March 16, 1865.
The PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES:
SIR: I have the honor, by direction of the governor, to inclose herewith a copy of the joint resolution of the Virginia Legislature "in relation to the employment of slaves and free negroes as soldiers, or otherwise, for the public defense," and to remain your obedient servant,
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That it shall be lawful for all free negroes and slaves, who may be organized as soldiers, now, or at any time hereafter by the State or the Confederate Government, for the public defense during the present war with the United States, to bear arms while in active military service, and carry ammunition as other soldiers in the Army.
2. All acts, and parts of acts, in conflict with the foregoing, are hereby repealed.
3. This shall be in force from its passage.
A copy from the rolls [secret].
WILLIAM F. GORDON, JR.,
Clerk House of Delegates.
Passed March 6, 1865.