Black Americans in the Civil War
“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. ” These words spoken by Frederick Douglass moved many African Americans to enlist in the Union Army and fight for their freedom.
With President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the Civil War became a war to save the union and to abolish slavery (Hist 2008). The Black American experience predating the Civil War was predominantly one of slavery. Even though Black men came to fight in a war which initially began to end secession, emancipation became a chief concern as the Northerners recognized the huge resources which lay at their hands, if they accepted Black recruits.
Simultaneously Black leaders like Frederick Douglas recognized that Black participation in the Civil War was nevertheless, Black soldiers Continued to suffer discrimination as Berlin states in Slaves No More, ‘Dealings between Black soldiers and their officers generally carried all the historic burdens of white-Black relationships in the United States’. They were assigned menial positions as it was argued that they had no skill in fighting. However, those who were armed proved indispensable, relishing the prospect of maintaining their freedom through Union success.
They helped achieve emancipation and paved the way for changes such as the establishment of the Bureau of Colored Troops in 1863 (Howd 2008). Prior to World War I American society developed increased racism and once again Black men had to fight to enlist. The President, Woodrow Wilson, even stated that it was a “White man’s wai”. Any progress which had resulted from the Civil War was undermined by the inherent racism within American society.
Once again Black soldiers were generally placed in menial positions; J R. Johnson identifies that ‘Of the 200,000 Negroes who went to France some 160,000 were used as servants and in labor battalions’ (Howd 2008). Black soldiers were not treated as equal to white soldiers. Often they had to do work that white soldiers did not want to. They did what was called “fatigue duty”. Often they served white soldiers and did hard physical labor. But when there was an emergency, they were sent to the battles. By the end of the Civil War many black soldiers fought battles of the front lines.
The true history of this war will show that the loyal army found no friends at the South so faithful, active, and daring in their efforts to sustain the government as the Negroes-. Negroes have repeatedly threaded their way through the lines of the rebels exposing themselves to bullets to convey important information to the loyal army of the Potomac (Markle 1995). In my point of view, Even though the Black Americans were once became slaves, they fought well in the Civil Wars as front liners.
Even though the black soldiers suffered from discrimination, they still fought just to prove themselves of what they worth as a person. Although they were treated differently, they prove themselves that no matter what race you are, no matter what color your skin is, it is the bravery, and your loyalty for your country is what important. But as long as there are people who feel aggrieved, they can be called as descendants of the slaves. For them, there is still no equality in the society.
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