Slavery during the Civil War
Slavery was in constant conflict with the founding Democratic principles of the budding American nation. It is one of the main culprits that contributed to the disbanding of the union of states, which were already at an impasse among its freedom-loving citizens. The focal point of this conflict were the Africans who were bought, sold, and used as slave workers on American soil.
Prior to the civil war, the breeding ground of slavery in America increased at the inception of trade with other countries during the discovery age.In the year 1750, over 200,000 African slaves were said to have arrived in the Americas. This number grew to about 700,000 fifty years later, which accounts for about a third of the American population at the time. In South Carolina alone, African slaves were said to have outnumbered the white population, making up more than one half of the populations in the states of Maryland and Virginia. By 1770, the free Black American population had increased to about 40,000 throughout the colonies (McPherson, 2003).
Although African slaves were widely used by each state union, it was the Southern region that excessively took advantage of the influx of slave trade from their European counterparts, as slaves were scattered to work on cotton, rice, sugar cane, tobacco and indigo plantations. Other slaves were acquired as servants, dock and craft workers (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2006). The Northern region had mostly used African slaves on small farms, factories and along the coast as fishermen, shipbuilders, craftsmen and helpers of tradesmen.Nonetheless, this region would become one of the major pioneers for anti-slavery protests and movements.
This notion of conflicting interests would eventually instigate the dispute for the concept of freedom and civil rights (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2006). The system of slavery that was in existence was so deeply rooted in the early formation of the American society that it inevitably became a national issue. Such conditions ensued years of heated debates, political compromises, moral dilemmas and slave rebellions that eventually escalated into a Civil War.A nation divided against itself suddenly had to face the issue of enraged African slaves who wanted nothing more than to be recognized as free (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2006). The existing disunity of the states denoted a growing resentment toward the confederate governing body and its constituencies, which created a backlash on the purpose of its existence.
The struggle to meet the demands of the economy and its citizens, most especially the slaves, further intensified the rift between the North and the South.An awareness of the debilitating state of the American nation has led Abraham Lincoln to respond to it accordingly as President, stating that a nation divided as half slave and half free would not be able to withstand the predicaments to national progress (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2006). At the outset of the Civil War, every citizen regardless of color was encouraged to enlist themselves to join the Union Army. This opportunity gave the slaves hope that they could also serve in the military as a sign of support for the causes of the war and their inclusive worthiness into the Confederate states of America.For instance, some black slaves remained with their masters and assisted them on the side of the Confederacy. On the whole, there was widespread resistance by most Whites in accepting Blacks as part of the military (Blight, 2001).
At first, Lincoln was hesitant to entertain the idea that Black participation was needed in the Union Army, stating that he did not want to alienate those border states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri who still owned slaves but were loyal to the Union. There were also many anti-abolitionist groups in the North who agreed that this war should not involve Blacks.History records even showed that a statement from the Union Secretary of War was released at the time, expressing the unnecessary need of colored soldiers. However, the harsh realities of war had given them no other choice but to resort to enlist more men in the army, taking a toll on its male citizens (Blight, 2001). As the bloody war progressed, many slaves were said to have flocked to the Union lines to seek freedom from its oppressors.
According to records, these slaves were said to have crossed the Union territory and were placed in contraband camps.While an on-going confusion was still brewing, more people grew restless of the state that the civil war has brought to their communities. With the numbers of soldiers dwindling in the barracks, the need for able-bodied fighting men of color seemed to have soothed the allaying fears of its citizens. There were some individual states that even employed all black troops in their respective military regiments.
Other Blacks found acceptance as volunteers in semi-military or military support positions. Accounts showed that in 1862, the Blacks received the endorsement of Congress to serve in the civil war (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2006).In line with the endorsement, Abraham Lincoln also announced the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 which granted freedom to all slaves in the rebellion states and ensured the participation of slaves in the U. S. Union Armed Forces.
It was said that Lincoln needed to win the war, which explained the precepts of the Emancipation as it aimed in getting more recruits. Although this was good news to all parties concerned, the Emancipation Proclamation made clear that the only freed slaves are those located in the states that are under the jurisdiction of the Confederacy (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2006).The Proclamation of Emancipation opened the doors for Blacks to participate in the civil war. Among the newly freed slaves out of the Confederate states came thousands of volunteers. In 1863, the Bureau of Colored Troops was established by the War department in order to handle the recruitment and organization of all black regiments known as the United States Colored Troops. Despite the advancement of efforts to provide more freedom for slaves with regard to the military, doubts about their competency and loyalty were still guarded (Blight, 2001).
Discrimination against blacks in the military continued to persist as some White officials refused to accept colored troops in their regiments, most especially in the rural regions. It was only at the battle at Fort Wagner that the 54th Massachusetts All Black Infantry Regiment was given due recognition for their efforts in defending the state from its Southern opponent. Documents showed that over 300 African-Americans died at the Fort Wagner assault. On a positive note, twenty-four black soldiers were given the meritorious Congressional Medals of Honor for their bravery and unrelenting efforts during the Civil War (McPherson, 2003).As a result of the triumphs and defeats of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the Blacks had once again proven their significance to the success of the civil war that left an indelible mark in American history. At the end of the Civil War, over 186,000 Black slaves had served in the U.
S. Armed Forces, which resulted to the death of 38,000 Black men who made an effort to become a part of the fight for freedom in America. In totality, over 360,000 Union troops had died in the war against 260,000 Confederate troops (McPherson, 2003).The status of slavery had undergone major changes through the course of the civil war. In the events preceding the Civil War, the American Confederacy had only condoned slavery from 1619 up until the issuance of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which officially proclaimed the abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude in 1865.
Based on this account, the causes that provoked the on-set of the Civil War had a major effect in the civil rights status of African- Americans to date (Blight, 2001).