Rejuvenating Confederate Ranks
Slave Emancipation Proposal


     Nobody in the Confederacy would have considered the overall benefit of black slave emancipation to be coming from an Irish born major general serving in the ranks of the Army of Tennessee. Some had proposed the idea since the very beginning of the war, but the politicians refused to entertain such thoughts and dangerous ideas.

     Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne had pondered the question long, perhaps even understood how the European powers would ultimately change their point of view towards the south and throw their support in the Confederacy's corner. Manpower was becoming a rare commodity by the end of 1863, the battlefields had used up the cream of their young fighting men, and Richmond really needed to think of alternatives if their cause was going to succeed.

     On the 2nd day of January 1864, General Cleburne had offered sound advice to an ebbing country. Signed and co-signed by a mix of colonels and general officers he spelled out for the government in Richmond what they can reap by emancipating the black slave.

     Offering the black slave something higher to fight for; their freedom, the slave turned soldier would nullify the fighting motivation of the black soldiers in the north, and would end what was recognized as an omnipresent spy system to the invader. Over two decades since Europe spent millions emancipating their own slaves in the West Indies, did the Richmond government expect them to materially support the institution in this country? Common sense dictated intervention was more hopeful without it.

     The incentive of freedom was everything to the slave. The Constitution had already reserved to the respective governments the right to free their slaves for meritorious service, therefore, no better cause to give them in fighting for their home. The states, plantations and farms that the slave had come from were the only home he knew. With the promise of freedom, he would no longer become that viable resource to the federal government. He like the others would defend his homeland.

     What then would history say about the Constitutional freedoms that the southern states were thus seeking? Has slavery become so important that history will neglect to remember our rights and civil liberties? Without an absolute emancipation of the slave, subjugation was only a matter of time, all else would be conveniently forgotten about.

     This Irish born officer understood that the institution was dangerous to them. He also knew that these men of color would become even more dangerous for them, trained, armed and collected together as an army. He had suggested turning a visible weakness into a source of great strength.

     History had already proved the idea successful and with the numbers added to the ranks, may gain independence for the southern states. By only relieving the fields of half their strength, the armies of the Confederacy could beef up their ranks to take the war back to the Yankees.

     The idea could have saved the Confederacy, but instead was probably the key factor in General Cleburne's failed military future. Rejected by Richmond, the south became engulfed in a lost cause; and the war for emancipation unfortunately its climactic demise.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2003

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar.net