Nearly 180,000 totally free black men and also escaped slaves served in the Union military during the civil War. However at very first they to be denied the right to hit by a prejudiced public and a wake up government. Also after they eventually gone into the Union ranks, black soldiers continued to struggle for equal treatment. Inserted in racially segregated infantry, artillery, and cavalry regiments, these troops were almost always led by white officers.

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Native Louisiana safety volunteered for the Union Army and formed the very first unofficial devices of black troops. (Wikimedia Commons)

‘We space Ready and Would Go’

As quickly as the Civil war began, many totally free black men in the North wanted to fight for the Union cause. Frederick Douglass, who escaped enslavement to come to be a renowned abolitionist leader, stated “We are ready and would go.” however prejudice against black civilization — both cost-free and servant — was solid and deep in the North and also the South.

Most white Americans at this time thought of black adults as children, lacking in mental capacity and discipline. Slavery had stripped black guys of your manhood, so the reasoning went, making lock dependent and also irresponsible. These stereotypes led most whites come assume the a black color man might never it is in trained to fight prefer a white soldier.

During the early part of the war, chairman Lincoln opposed accepting blacks into the army. He stated that this would push border states prefer Missouri over to the Confederacy. In effect, both complimentary black men and escaped servants were banned from the Union Army.

Major basic Benjamin butler commanded the Union forces that had captured and occupied new Orleans in the feather of 1862. The Confederate federal government of Louisiana had formed a militia consist of of cost-free black guys led by their very own officers. This all-black militia came to Butler and volunteered to sign up with the Union Army. He revolutionized the Confederate militia right into the very first Regiment native Louisiana security led by black captains and lieutenants. He later went on to kind two more black regiments, which were commanded by white officers. These ended up being the first, though unofficial, units of black color troops in the Union Army.

In July 1862, conference passed a law permitting black men to enlist in ~ a pay rate of $10 per month ($3 much less than the salary of a white private). However Congress left it as much as the president to identify the duties of black volunteers. Lincoln made decision that any type of blacks enlisting into the military were come be supplied only together laborers and also not trained as combat soldiers.

By the end of 1862, it was clear that the war was no going to finish quickly. As this harsh reality started to sink in, the variety of Northern white volunteers dropped considerably. Moreover, Lincoln establish that once the battle ended and also the Union was restored, slavery can never continue. As Frederick Douglass had argued all along, slavery was “the resource and center of this giant rebellion.” for these and other reasons, Lincoln made a dramatic change in Union war policy on January 1, 1863 once he announced the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation liberated slaves in those locations still in rebellion. The went on to announce that totally free black males “will be received right into the equipped services that the united States....”

In the spring, the war Department arranged the office of colored Troops. The bureau began a massive military recruitment regime aimed at cost-free blacks in the North and also emancipated servants in Union-held southern territory. All the new regiments the U.S. Fancy Troops were led through white officers, recruited indigenous existing regular army units.


A banner the a unit of black troops. (Wikimedia Commons)

Proving Themselves

In May and also June 1863, black and white Union regiments dealt with for the very first time in major battles at harbor Hudson and also Milliken’s bend on the Mississippi River. One unit fighting to be Gen. Butler’s first Regiment native Louisiana security led by black officers, consisting of one 16-year-old lieutenant who was killed in action. Some of the white officers expressed surprised at exactly how fiercely the black troops fought. However black soldiers were fighting because that much more than restoring the Union. They to be fighting come liberate your people.

Black soldiers soon acquired to prove their fighting capability even an ext dramatically. Top top July 18, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry led the attack on ft Wagner, a Confederate stronghold guarding the entrance to Charleston Harbor. The 54th Infantry division was comprised mainly of cost-free Northern black males (including 2 of Frederick Douglass’s sons). The regiment to be commanded by an idealistic 25-year-old white officer, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.

Despite heavy artillery and also rifle fire, the guys made a furious charge on the Fort and also engaged that is Confederate defenders in brutal hand-to-hand combat. Lastly driven back, the 54th endured 40-percent casualties. Col. Shaw was killed throughout the charge and was buried with his men. Reported extensively in north newspapers, the story that the heroic action of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry at ft Wagner assisted to rotate public opinion around in donate of blacks in the Union Army.

Combat because that both black soldiers and their white policemans was doubly dangerous. When caught by the Confederates, black color captives might be returned to their previous owners, sold right into slavery, or even hanged. Their white police officers were taken into consideration “outlaws” and might be executed upon capture, rather than kept and treated as prisoners of war.

Despite your proven record as effective, courageous combat troops, African-American males still faced a lengthy struggle for same treatment. Throughout the polite War, black color troops were frequently assigned tough, dirty tasks like digging trenches. Black color regiments were frequently issued worse equipment and were sometimes given inadequate medical treatment in racially segregated hospitals. African-American troops were paid much less than white soldiers. Part black units, such together the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, refused to accept any pay as long as the price remained unequal. The Lincoln management and congress dragged their feet on this matter until they finally established equal pay near the war’s end.

Other inequalities plagued black troops. Couple of African americans were commissioned as officers and black troops stayed in segregated systems throughout the polite War. In fact, African-American troops to be not incorporated with their fellow Americans until the korean War virtually 100 year later.

Despite the inequality, the black troops in Union blue had proven themselves to it is in courageous, reliable soldiers. Black soldiers, including much more than a dozen conference Medal of respect winners, battled in 449 Civil battle battles. An ext than one-third of them passed away during the war. V their courage and also sacrifice, these black men helped press the African-American fight for equality.

For Discussion and Writing

Why perform you think Lincoln objected come the enlistment of black color men right into the Union military at the beginning of the war? Why carry out you think he changed his position in the Emancipation Proclamation?In what means were black soldiers not treated equally in the Union Army?What crucial things carry out you think black color soldiers verified in the polite War?

For further Reading

Cornish, Dudley Taylor & Herman Hattaway. The Sable Arm: black Troops in the Union Army, 1861–1865. Lawrence, Kan.: University press of Kansas, 1990.

Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle, The Civil war Alliance of black color Soldiers and also White Officers. new York: The complimentary Press, 2000.

A C T ns V i T Y

Frederick Douglass’s Paper

During the polite War, black color abolitionist Frederick Douglass produced a newspaper called Frederick Douglass’s Paper. In this activity, the course will write and also publish an worry of Frederick Douglass’s Paper, showing some that the crucial controversies concerning black troops in the Union Army.

A. Type six editorial teams. Each team will certainly be responsible because that writing one of the adhering to newspaper articles:

A news post reporting Lincoln’s Emancipation ProclamationA first-person account of a black soldier’s suffer in combatA petition to chairman Lincoln through the 54th Massachusetts Infantry listing disagreements for same payA letter to the editor native a white Union military officer criticizing the Confederate prisoner of war policy concerning black troops and also their white officersA U.S. Military recruitment advertisement aimed at totally free black men and also emancipated slavesAn editorial by Frederick Douglass worrying the equal legal rights that black world should it is in guaranteed once the war is over

B. The six parts have to be typed and reproduced in a an easy newspaper format for every the college student in the class to read.

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C. Every editorial team must report to the class the most important thing the members learned about their certain topic.