African American Confederate Civil War Soldiers

24 May

I remember watching the Who Do You Think You Are episode featuring Spike Lee. It was discovered that one of Spike Lee’s ancestors worked at a gun factory making guns to supply the Confederacy. Spike spoke of the conflict his ancestor must have had making guns to supply the Confederates who wished to keep his people enslaved. What about those African-Americans who served as soldiers?

I wrote about Louis Napoleon Nelson on this blog before. He is perhaps the most known African-American Confederate soldier from the West Tennessee area. He was very proud to have participated as a part of the Confederacy, even attending Confederate reunions in his full uniform. But what about the other African-American Confederate soldiers? Were they just as proud or did they feel conflicted? Below is a list of Confederate soldiers who applied for a Confederate Soldiers Pension while living in Lauderdale County, TN. In the coming weeks I hope to post information on the soldiers who applied for this pension while living in Haywood and Tipton counties as well.

E.D. Hawthorne –  Born in Haywood County TN in 1849. Claimed service with the 7th TN Cav. Co. L; Application accepted

James Maclin –  Born in Tipton County in 1840; Claimed service with the 7th Tenn Cav Co B; application accepted.

Louis Napoleon Nelson –  Born in Lauderdale County; Claimed Service with the 7th Tenn Cav Co M. Application accepted

Henry Read – Born in Haywood County TN in 1847. Claimed service with the 7th ten cav. Co. M. Application accepted

Wade Watkins –  Born in Haywood County TN. Claimed service with the 48th Tenn Cav. Application accepted

Nowell, Smith  – Born in Louisiana about 1847; claimed service with the 7th Tenn. Cav. Co. L; application accepted.


– Index to Tennessee Confederate Pension Applications by Samuel Sistler (Nashville, TN, Sistler & Assoc., 1994)

– Tennessee Colored Pension Applications for CSA Service –

– Tiffany


9 Responses to “African American Confederate Civil War Soldiers”

  1. Elyse August 20, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    My g-g-g-granfather Alex Porter from Paris, Henry County, TN received a Confederate Pension. After that discovery, I too had an interest in further researching these men, starting with those few from Henry County that also received pensions. In my research I found that these men were not what we typically think of as solders that went to the recruitment station and volunteered to be in the Confederate Army. These men like Alex for the most part were slaves and working as servants alongside their masters during battles in the Civil War. Therefore they weren’t soldiers in the technical sense, but really slaves in a war zone. Having said that, them being slaves in no way takes away from their work and contributions during the war, and that’s why several southern states including Tennessee enacted legislation to grant these men pensions. Alex also belonged to a local Conferderate veterans group and was in good standing as a member. But if his Master told him he was going with him to war, as his Master ordered everything else in his life as a slave, was Alex an illiterate former slave in his late 70s really a proud Confederate veteran? I’m not so sure.

    • Tiffany August 29, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Elyse. The idea of former slaves really taking pride in defending the institution of slavery really interests me. I also wonder how they were treated in the groups they joined. Them being able to join alone shows that it wasn’t a completely hostile environment.

      • carol smith December 30, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

        My great grandfather also received a CSA Pension. i’m sorry to say he was a loyal member of the Confederacy. He and his father had been priviledged slaves within the plantation household system. During the war he functioned as a body servant and stayed with his young master even after the war. I think there were many who were loyal to their white families if they had been treated well prior to the war. It doesn’t make it right or honorable, but, human nature is human nature. I’m interested in the truth and accuracy of history. Now is the time to learn and to hear the truth!

      • Tiffany January 1, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

        Thanks for commenting. What I find most interesting is the irony of it all, being enslaved and fighting or helping to keep yourself enslaved. That loyalty that men like your great grandfather and Louis Napoleon Nelson had was something else! Don’t you wish you could have a conversation with them to understand their viewpoint?

  2. Gia January 9, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    This is very amazing to find because Wade Watkins is my ancestor!!

    • Tiffany January 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

      Thanks for commenting. That’s awesome! Glad you found my blog. Did you know that you can get his service record for free from Just search for all documents relating to TN and you will see the confederate soldiers Civil War records listed. Family Search should also have his pension records online too. I hope you find some useful info!

      • Karen May 26, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

        Tiffany , thanks for bringing this to light, as many years ago I sent for Wade Watkins Colored Pension application .He was my ggggreat-grandfather. His name started with an old death certificate. Over the years I have passed on copies & information of our ancestors as I have been researching them since 1999.Wade was a slave and the story in the application documents was an invaluable look into our ancestors past during slavery & the Civil War. Keep up the good work !!!! Karen

  3. Ed October 3, 2015 at 11:47 pm #

    I’m a descendant of Wade Watkins. My family and I have been trying to connect with relatives since the 1970’s. Please contact me if you can give us additional information.

    • Karen October 6, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

      Ed, there are a few Wade Watkins in Tn.Would need specific info to verify if this is same person.

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