African Americans in the Civil War Essay

African Americans in the Civil War Essay

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African American contributions were not limited to the role of working the fields in the south or supplying labor for industry in the north. Many Negroes in both south and north participated in either direct or supporting roles in the military. While few saw combat in the south many northern black troops did see combat. The north started using black regiments to further beef up its already large white force. This spurred the southern General Robert E. Lee in 1865 to reopen the idea of using slaves as soldiers for the south. This idea had previously been trashed by legislators. One General Cobb of Georgia stated, "You cannot make soldiers of slaves....If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong." With Robert E. Lee being as respected as he was and the reality that the war was at a crises point for the Confederacy his statement on the use of Negro soldiers "We should employ them without delay," was heard and implemented. A month before Appomattox President Davis signed the "Negro Soldier Law" authorizing slave enlistments. The act was too little too late, the war was already lost for the south.

Blacks in the Union Army

For Negroes the road to the battle fields of the civil war was hard fought for. Abolitionists and prominent blacks in America such as Frederick Douglass effectively campaigned for the enlistment of black soldiers as early as Fort Sumter. Once enlistment began 185,000 black union soldiers were organized into 166 all black regiments (145 infantry, seven cavalry, 12 heavy artillery, one light artillery, and one engineer).1 Black soldiers participated in 449 battles, 39 of them being major engagements.2 Of these engagements Frederick Douglass' own two sons were with the 54th Mass...


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...ice. This regiment later became by a strange mutation of history, the first black regiment officially recognized by the Union army.13 It was not until the end of the war that Gen. Lee and President Davis issued the "Negro soldier law" calling for the enlistment of slaves immediately.

Final thoughts

With the passage of time the wounds of the civil war have somewhat faded and will only continue to fade with each new generation. I pray that we will not however forget the issues and the causes behind the civil war for if history has only taught us one thing that would be that it repeats itself. For it would be an even greater disaster than the civil war to lose what was so hard fought for by so many men.

"On the banks of the stream of time, not a monument that has been raised to a hero or nation, but tells a tale, and renews the hope of improvement."14

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