Friday, November 11, 2016
"98 Percent of Confederate Soldiers Never Owned a Slave"
Back in 2011, the Texas legislature passed a resolution designating April Confederate Heritage Month. As I just learned from Dead Confederates, written into the language of the bill was an old bit of Lost Cause propaganda, the statement that "ninety-eight percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave". This statement is routinely made about Confederate soldiers in general, and is factually inaccurate. The best available study on this sort of question is Joseph T. Glatthaar's General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse (2009). Glatthaar showed that about 10 percent of the soldiers who volunteered to serve in 1861 personally owned slaves. But even that number is misleading, because soldiers were mostly young men, and young men don't own much property. Another 26 percent of Lee's soldiers came from families that owned slaves, so their own future inheritances consisted largely of human beings. So a better number for the number of slave owners in Lee's army is about 36 percent. Across the whole Confederacy, about 24 percent of households owned slaves, so soldiers were more likely to own slaves than those who did not serve.