The American Civil War Will Forever

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The American Civil War will forever be a defining chapter of the history of the United States. The war, which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands, left a deep scar on a nation that was still young and trying to find its true place—and purpose—in a world full of uncertainties. A war that initially begun with the purpose of preserving the Union after seven states seceded from the United States to form the Confederate States of America soon became a war over the issue of slavery and African American civil rights. While the Civil War began a white man’s war, it did not long remain so. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of white men who fought in the war, over a hundred thousand African Americans fought in the Civil War as well. This is a fact that goes relatively unknown in American culture, in part due to the politics behind commemoration and the lack of memorials honoring African Americans who fought in the Civil War. Thankfully, though, there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel: the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington D.C., specifically in the U Street/Shaw district area. This is the only memorial that honors all African Americans who fought in the Civil War. In reality, if it were not for the contribution that African Americans made in the war, both on and off the battlefield, the Union would not have won the Civil War. Thus, while the role that African Americans played in the Civil War still has yet to be fully acknowledged and appreciated, the African American Civil War Memorial on U Street has made a substantial contribution to this ongoing effort. Four years of fierce fighting between 2.7 million troops (1.5 million Union troops and 1.2 million Confederate troops), 625,000 deaths, over one mi... ... middle of paper ... ... violation of the laws of war a rebel soldier shall be executed, and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due a prisoner. (United States H4374). In short, 166 African American regiments were organized by the end of the Civil War. Of the estimated 185,000 African American soldiers who fought, over 37,000 were killed in combat. In addition, “of the 1,523 Medal of Honor awarded during the Civil War, twenty-three were awarded to [African American] soldiers and sailors” (United States H4374). Thus, at the end of the Civil War, the United States was faced with the dilemma of choosing the appropriate way to commemorate all those who fought in the war, a challenge that is still facing the nation today.
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