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The genesis of the black participation in the civil war in america

In the Union army, over 179,000 African American men served in over 160 units, as well as more serving in the Navy and in support positions.

In the Confederacy, African-Americans were still the genesis of the black participation in the civil war in america and they served mostly in labor positions. By 1865, the 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 1812 few, if any served in the Mexican Warthey were not permitted to enlist because of a 1792 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 May 1863, the 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 1863 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, 1864, the disorganized Union garrison—almost 600 men, about half of whom were black—suffered nearly 575 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, some 179,000 black men had served in the Union Army, representing 10 percent of its total.

Nearly 20,000 more were in the navy. Nearly 40,000 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 1863. 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 in 1863, when 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, 1864, 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, 1865, 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 genesis of the black participation in the civil war in america war ended.

City of Alexandria, Virginia

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. The status of freed slaves clearly presented a problem for the North.

But in fact it played an important role in Confederate war councils as well.

African Americans In The Civil War

And ultimately the conflict proved how unready either side was to deal with it constructively. Patrick Cleburne, a zealous supporter of Southern independence, who was supported in his views by 13 other high-ranking officers in the Army of Tennessee.

Library of Congress Others Southerners had earlier voiced concern about the future of former slaves. After the fall of Vicksburg in July, a few citizens of Mississippi and Alabama had also felt the despair that weighed on Cleburne. Many deserters were outside Confederate lines and would not make reliable soldiers, even if captured.

But he and his fellow officers also urged a far more drastic step: His superior, General Joseph E. With an eye on the 1864 elections in the North, Davis wanted to avoid dissension in the Southern ranks.

He was hoping that the image of a strong, resolute Confederacy might help to defeat President Abraham Lincoln. But after the fall of Atlanta in September 1864, Davis knew his strategy had failed. The Army had to be enlarged. Within a few weeks Davis and his allies were pressing forward with their maneuver, both inside the Confederacy as well as abroad. A wealthy Louisiana slaveholder who had independently advocated enlisting and freeing slave soldiers, Kenner readily accepted his diplomatic instructions.

On the home front, the administration used Robert E. At the suggestion of Secretary of State Judah Benjamin, Lee invited his men to speak out, and most declared that they needed and wanted black reinforcements.

More important, Lee himself called for bold steps. To this might be added a bounty for faithful service. The idea of arming and freeing the slaves horrified many prominent Southerners.

North Carolina Senator William A. But most of the leadership elite valued slavery above all else.

Although the South was in a truly desperate situation by that juncture, the Confederate Congress delayed on a decision for months, its members unwilling to act. Even so, this tardy measure referred only to using slaves as soldiers; it emancipated no one. Davis tried to require a pledge of emancipation from any owner who offered his slave for service. But recruitment proved difficult, as resistance continued to making soldiers of slaves.

A small number of black recruits began drilling in Richmond, but since the war soon came to an end, the Confederate proposal to arm and free slaves amounted to nothing. Most Confederate slaveholders did not want to give up slavery. When Davis and Benjamin were seeking allies for their measure, they made it clear that freedom would not bring equality.

African Americans might be better off after the war, but in a markedly limited way. Though they were technically free, they would remain inferior and subordinate within society. Such low expectations were not restricted to the South. Racism, in fact, had always been a national problem. Though today the North is popularly credited with fighting the war for the sake of freedom and equality, such was not the case.

This misconception had its origin in postwar cultural battles over the meaning of the Civil War, when Northerners often used emancipation to claim the moral high ground.

Although Lincoln wanted an end to slavery, neither he nor his party was committed to racial equality. The Northern president was more the genesis of the black participation in the civil war in america on conciliating Southern whites, to gain their participation in reunion, than on improving the postwar status of African Americans.

A few facts can help to bring into perspective the larger picture of the American view of slavery. When Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861, he gave his support to a proposed constitutional amendment that would have guaranteed the existence of slavery against federal interference forever.

Moving slowly, Lincoln repeatedly proposed measures of gradual, compensated emancipation. These plans envisioned voluntary action by the states and colonization of the freed slaves somewhere outside the nation. He justified the Emancipation Proclamation as a necessary war measure, taken under his authority as commander in chief, to preserve the Union.

What he expected was revealed in a letter to General John McClernand that is seldom quoted, since it does not support the idea of Lincoln as a fervent idealist. Writing on January 8, 1863, Lincoln noted that in his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation he had given Southern states 100 days to return to the Union.

Had they returned, they could have avoided emancipation. When he issued his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction at the end of 1863, he sought to reassure white Southerners.

For this reason he consistently reiterated his view that formerly rebellious states should be readmitted to the Union promptly. Charles Sumner and other advocates of black rights feared that the defeated South would block the 13th Amendment. The Confederacy had more than enough states to defeat it, and a few states in the Union voted heavily Democratic and were unlikely to support the measure. For that reason Sumner argued that ratification should be determined only by the loyal states.

Racism pervaded the social landscape in both North and South. Although the war settled the question of secession vs.

  1. Though they were technically free, they would remain inferior and subordinate within society. Tubman even famously led a raid outside Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1863.
  2. The fight was promptly dubbed a massacre in the Northern press, and it was claimed that black soldiers who attempted to surrender were massacred. A few facts can help to bring into perspective the larger picture of the American view of slavery.
  3. But he and his fellow officers also urged a far more drastic step.

Before 1865 had passed, three Northern states—Connecticut, Wisconsin and Minnesota, all of which had very few black residents—voted against giving suffrage to African-American men. Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War.