“Think of it!” A Confederate reflects on the duties of slaves with the Army of Northern Virginia

Posted on September 8, 2009 by


I recently saw this article come across the Web… and, quite naturally, was taken aback by the claim that these people make regarding the “rebel flag” flying “for freedom” and, of course, that “at least 100,000 blacks… fought in the war,” seemingly in the name of freedom as provided courtesy of the flag. So, when I found this quote today, I thought it worthwhile mentioning… 

All thought money to be absolutely necessary, and for awhile rations were disdained and the mess supplied with the vest that could be bought with the mess fund. Quite a large number had a ‘boy’ along to do the cooking and washing. Think of it! a Confederate soldier with a body servant all his own, to bring him a drink of water, black his boots, dust his clothes, cook his corn bread and bacon, and put wood on his fire. Never was there fonder admiration than these darkies displayed for their masters. Their chief delight and glory was to praise the courage and good looks of ‘Mahse Tom,’ and prophesy great things about his future. Many a ringing laugh and shout of fun originated in the queer remarks shining countenance, and glistening teeth of this now forever departed character.

– Carlton McCarthy, Richmond “Home Guard,” and later the Second Company, Richmond Howitzers (quote can be found on p. 19 of Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865). Note: emphasis made in the quote is my own.

It’s interesting that McCarthy makes no mention of the ‘boys’ being seen as fellow soldiers/comrades in arms.

I will add, however, that I took note recently of a reference to a black servant who did take to horse and pistol, along with his master, in the fight at Mile Hill in Leesburg, on September 2, 1862. In his report on the affair, Col. Thomas T. Munford (2nd Virginia Cavalry) noted “It is proper to say that Edward, a servant of Private [William O.] English [*], Company K, went into the charge, following his master, gun in hand, and shot the notorious Everheart [**], who was left in Leesburg badly wounded.”

I wonder if “Edward,” after receiving praise for his actions, returned to his duties as English’s “boy.” Incidentally, it appears that “Edward” was not included on the muster rolls of the regiment.

*William O. English later made his way through the ranks and was a 1st lieutenant in the Ordinance Dept. by Feb. 1863, serving first with Snowden Andrew’s artillery battalion, and later Carter Braxton’s battalion.
**”Everheart” was Armstead Everheart, a farrier with Co. A, Loudoun Rangers… a Southern Unionist from Waterford, Virginia. He survived the shooting, but was discharged in April 1863. I haven’t seen his service record, but it would seemly likely that the discharge came as a result of the wound. I’m not quite sure yet why Munford referred to him as “notorious.”