The Civil War was a fiery prism at the center of American society. Every life entered the prism at its own angle and was refracted in its own way. Freed slaves smile for the camera amidst the ruins of Richmond in Library of Congress The lives of Southern black people changed immeasurably during the war years.
In the Union army, overAfrican American men served in over units, as well as more serving in the Navy and in support positions.
In the Confederacy, African-Americans were still slaves and they served mostly in labor positions. Bythe South allowed slaves to enlist but very few actually did.
Although African Americans had served in the army and navy during the American Revolution and in the War of few, if any served in the Mexican Warthey were not permitted to enlist because of a law that barred them from bearing arms in the U.
President Abraham Lincoln also feared that accepting black men into the military would cause border states like Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri to secede. By Maythe Bureau of Colored Troops was established to manage black enlistees.
Recruitment was low until active efforts were made to enlist black volunteers—leaders like Frederick Douglass encouraged free black men to volunteer as a way to ensure eventual full citizenship. The First Black Regiments The first authorized black regiments—designated colored troops—consisted of recruits from Massachusetts, Tennessee, and South Carolina, the latter in areas under Union control, of course.
He planned for it to consist of 18 regiments, infantry, artillery and cavalry, with engineers and mobile hospitals. Black Union soldiers did not receive equal pay or equal treatment. Even in the North, racial discrimination was widespread and blacks were often not treated as equals by white soldiers.
In addition, segregated units were formed with black enlisted men commanded by white officers and black non-commissioned officers. Some of the white officers had low opinions of their colored troops and failed to adequately train them.
Black units and soldiers that were captured by the Confederates faced harsher treatment than white prisoners of war. In the Confederate Congress threatened to punish captured Union officers of black troops and enslave black Union soldiers. At the Battle of Fort PillowTennessee, on April 12,the disorganized Union garrison—almost men, about half of whom were black—suffered nearly casualties when they were attacked by Confederate cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The fight was promptly dubbed a massacre in the Northern press, and it was claimed that black soldiers who attempted to surrender were massacred. Other reports say the Union troops and their commanders refused to surrender.
Black troops played a major role at the Battle of the Crater during the siege of PetersburgVirginia, and formed a significant part of the Union force during the Battle of Nashville. By the time the war ended, someblack men had served in the Union Army, representing 10 percent of its total.
Nearly 20, more were in the navy. Nearly 40, died, three-fourths of them due to disease or infections. The South refused to arm blacks but used them to build fortifications and perform camp duties; many Northern officers refused to believe black troops would fight, and so they were often assigned to non-combat duties or placed in the rear guarding railroads and bridges.
Blacks also served as spies and scouts to the Union Army, providing valuable information about Confederate forces, plans, and familiar terrain. Information gathered from black sources were so numerous and valuable, they were put in a special category—the so-called Black Dispatches.
Escaped slaves, many of whom fled to the Union lines, were referred to as contrabands in the early stages of the war since they were seen as technically being property of the Confederates states. They were carefully debriefed and some were recruited as spies, returning to slave territory with white agents posing as masters.
Freed blacks, including Harriet Tubman, were also spies, scouts, and agents. Tubman even famously led a raid outside Beaufort, South Carolina, in Lee wrote "The chief source of information to the enemy is through our negroes.
Records also show men who served as color-bearers in militia units. Tens of thousands may have served, willingly or otherwise. At the midpoint of the war inwhen more Confederate soldiers were needed, state militias of freed black men were offered to the Confederate war office but refused.
At the beginning of the war, a Louisiana unit offered its services but was rejected; that state had a long history of militia units comprised of free men of color. As the war continued, the issue became even more hotly debated in the Confederate Congress. On January 2,Confederate major general Patrick Cleburne proposed arming slaves.
Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, ordered that the proposal be suppressed. Despite his reputation as "the Stonewall Jackson of the West," Cleburne never rose to higher command, and it is widely believed that was because of his unpopular proposal.
On March 13,legislation was finally passed that would free black slaves if they enlisted in the Confederate Army, although they had to have consent from their masters.
Only a handful of black soldiers, probably less than 50, enlisted because of this legislation and were still in training when the war ended.
Fighting for Freedom By Paul D. The question, of course, revealed an underlying attitude— white people still regarded African Americans as objects, not equals, and not a part of the polity.Service of Blacks Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor from the Civil War to the Spanish American War, National Archives Microfilm Publication M, Roll 1, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group 24, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
By the end of the Civil War, roughly , black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S.
Army and another 19, served in the Navy. Nearly 40, black soldiers died over the course of the war—30, of infection or disease. , Billie. Letter, 2 January Accession 4 pages. Letter, 2 January , from a soldier named Billie at Petersburg, Virginia, to his sister Maggie describing the wintery weather conditions around Petersburg during the siege of Apr 09, · A Roundtable Discussion.
On April 9, , Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union forces at Appomattox, putting an end to the bloodiest war in American history. The American Civil War was almost fated to happen, as the enduring issue of slavery had only been placated by stop-gap measures.
While it was not the only factor in starting the war, slavery was certainly the main point of contention, as argued by the numerous declarations regarding the seceding states, who listed the maintaining of the institution of slavery as their raison d'être.
The watershed event of United States history was the American Civil War (–), fought in North America within the territory of the United States of America, between 24 mostly northern states of the Union and the Confederate States of America, a coalition of eleven southern states that.