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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/223

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Negroes in Our Army.

[From the Richmond, Va., Dispatch]], August 5, 1901.]


General Pat. Cleburne the First to Advocate their Use.


But a Similar One was Afterwards Adopted—Some Interesting Reminiscences on the Subject, which Show the Circumstances Prompting the Suggestion.

In the spring of 1897 I had a letter from the War Department at Washington, asking me to authenticate a document in the files of the Confederate Record Office. Considering that paper of the first interest and value, I send, herewith, a copy, and will give your readers the circumstances surrounding it, viz: After the disgraceful defeat of the Confederate army, at Missionary Ridge, in front of Chattanooga, on the 25th of November, 1864, the bulk of it retreated to Dalton, Ga. Cleburne's Division, which was the rear guard, on the 27th made a stand at Ringgold Gap, and without assistance, and single handed, checked and defeated the attempt of the pursuing army under General Hooker to capture the wagon, artillery, and ordnance train of Bragg's army. Holding the position until the safety of these were assured, the division retired, under orders to to Tunnel Hill, some ten miles north of Dalton, where it remained on outpost.

Cleburne Absorbed.

In December following, I noticed that General Cleburne was for several days deeply preoccupied and engaged in writing. Finally he handed me his MS., which upon reading, I found to be an advocacy of freeing the negroes and their enlistment in our military service. In reply to his question as to what I thought of it, I said while I fully concurred in his opinion as to the absolute necessity of some such step to recruit the army, and recognized the force of his arguments, still I doubted the expediency, at that time, of his formulating these views. First, because the slave holders were very sensitive as to such property, and were totally unprepared to con-