Nevertheless there were others who would play an important role to help the Union win the Civil War. The implementation of black soldiers was crucial to the Union in order to achieve victory against the Confederate Army. Yet, the contributions and accomplishments of black soldiers during the Civil War were overlooked for nearly a century following the Civil War. However, within the last 30 years, many scholars and historians have begun to publish books on the history of black soldiers and their contributions to the Civil War. During the Civil War, free blacks were permitted to serve in the Union Army.
Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2007. Glatthaar, Joseph. Forged in Battle: Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. New York: Free Press, 1990. Greenberg, Kenneth.
In a letter to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, in August 1862, Lincoln wrote: “My paramount object in this struggle is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing [any] slave I would do it…” (Selected Speeches 343 as qtd. in Tackach 44). Lincoln also refused to declare that slavery was the Civil War’s main focus because many Whites in the North and in the much-valued Border States would not agree with a war to free slaves since they believed Blacks were inferior to Whites (Wheeler 225-226). The political and military advantages of the Border States made Lincoln reluctant to proclaim the Civil War to be a war about slavery (Wheeler 225-226).
“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States." The quote mentioned above was proclaimed by African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and served as motivation for African Americans to enlist in the Union’s Army efforts and take an initiative in their future. With President Abraham Lincoln's issue of his Preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, the Civil War developed to be a war to ultimately save the union and to abolish slavery. Blacks overall played a substantial part in the victory of the union, helping them turn the tide against the confederate army. In all, there were roughly 200,000 black soldiers who served in over 100 units in the Union Army and Navy (10 percent of the Union).
These units included veterans of the civil war and the frontier Indian fighting regiments. Retired sergeants often became respected, conservative leaders in their communities. This history set a foundation for black support and involvement in America’s future wars. In 1917, the United States entered World War I under the slogan “Make the World Safe For Democracy.” Within a week after the U.S, entered the war, the War Department stopped accepting black volunteers because colored army quotas were filled. No black men were allowed in the Marines, Coast guard or Airforce.
Citadel Press, 2005. Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the American Revolution. Chapel Hill: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Va., by University of North Carolina Press, 1961.
The Civil War is often thought of as white northerners and southerners fighting over the freedom of African American’s. African American soldiers would fight on both sides of the war. The eventual acceptance of African American’s and their contributions to the Union Army would be pivotal in the Unions success. African Americans were banned from joining the Union Army in the early part of the Civil War. President Lincoln feared that African Americans in the Army would persuade certain states, such as Missouri, to join the Confederacy.
Lincoln tried very hard to abolish slavery, but it seems that he did not fully think through what would happen to these slaves after the war ended. In 1865 the Union created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to help the men and women after the war. This came to be recognized as the Freedmen’s Bureau, and was used to help slaves transition to freedom. Unfortunately, not all of its goals were accomplished. Abraham Lincoln’s resistance to expand slavery into the West created a long period of conflict that led up to the civil war.
In Boston disappointed would-be volunteers met and passed a resolution requesting that the Government modify its laws to permit their enlistment. The Lincoln administration wrestled with the idea of authorizing the recruitment of black troops, concerned that such a move would prompt the border states to secede. When Gen. John C. Frémont (photo citation: 111-B-3756) in Missouri and Gen. David Hunter (photo citation: 111-B-3580) in South Carolina issued proclamations that emancipated slaves in their military regions and permitted them to enlist, their superiors sternly revoked their orders. By mid-1862, however, the escalating number of former slaves (contrabands), the declining number of white volunteers, and the increasingly pressing personnel needs of the Union Army pushed the Government into reconsidering the ban. As a result, on July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, freeing slaves who had masters in the Confederate Army.
Anxious to avenge the Battery Wagner repulse, the Fifty- fourth was the best black regiment available to General Seymour, the Union commander. Along with the First North Carolina Colored Infantry, the Fifty-fourth entered the fighting late in the day at Olustee, and helped save the Union army from complete disaster. The Fifty-fourth marched into battle yelling, "Three cheers for Massachusetts and seven dollars a month." The latter referred to the difference in pay between white and colored Union infantry, long a sore point with colored troops. Congress had just passed a bill correcting this and giving colored troops equal pay.