Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers: Perspectives on the African American Militia and Volunteers, 1865-1917

By Bruce A. Glasrud | Go to book overview

The Black Militia of the New South
TEXAS AS A CASE STUDY

Alwyn Barr

The existence and significance of black militia units in the New South have proved elusive for historians, although black citizen soldiers attained considerable importance during Reconstruction. African Americans had been recruited in nine of the eleven former Confederate states to protect Republicans from white Democratic violence. White Democrats, who opposed the black militia as a challenge to white domination, ultimately resorted to increased violence as a means of disarming the black troops and defeating Republican political efforts.1

With those events in mind, Richard Hofstadter, in his book on American violence, asserted that “by 1877, with the defeat of radical reconstruction, the last of the Negro militias was dissolved.”2 Except for the study by John D. Foner who states that “after the end of Reconstruction, blacks were almost entirely excluded from militias in the South,”3 general histories of the militia and of black troops in the United States ignore the topic.

Those assumptions of exclusion are misleading, however, as is shown by militia figures from southern states. Virginia in 1885 counted nineteen black companies with 1,000 men. In North Carolina eleven black infantry companies numbered over eight hundred men in 1878. South Carolina maintained 837 black men in two regiments and two unattached companies during 1891. The black Georgia Volunteers of 1892 totaled 952 men in three battalions and six unattached companies. The Alabama militia included a black battalion of 181 men as late as 1898. Tennessee retained at least two black companies in the 1890s. Several black companies drilled in Arkansas during the late

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