Military Objectives and Political Policy


  • Patrick Jones


The question of whether or not to free and arm slaves for the Confederate Army during the American Civil War is one that has brought suspicion and discussion about our nation’s most terrifying time. In times of war, leaders are needed to step up and make difficult decisions and propose controversial issues in the face of internal dangers. This paper will examine one of the central conflicts within the South during this critical era. The argument centers on Confederate General Patrick Cleburne’s 1864 proposal to arm and free slaves to the Confederate Army in the face of an opposing culture and government. Many historians feel that the proposal Cleburne made to arm and free slaves in January 1864 failed at the time because of his mistaken belief that the South’s military goals outweighed its political foundations. The resources collected for this paper will focus on the debate to arm slaves for the Confederacy initiated seriously by Cleburne against his government’s values. Did the benefits of enlisting slaves to fight for the Confederacy outweigh the setback of betraying Confederate government ideals?