Blacks In the Union Army

Blacks served in both armies under white officers. They fought effectively for the North, but Southern leaders armed their slaves only in desperation in 1865. About 186,000 Negroes became federal soldiers. The blacks suffered discrimination in such matters as pay and bounties. The confederate officials were shortsighted in failing to use slaves as soldiers. Not until March of 1865 did the confederate government authorize the recruitment of 200,000 Negroes as soldiers. Not all black units were sent to combat, but a few all black units were conscripted into southern service. Negroes supported the union cause with 186,017 in combat troops, and their losses were numbered at 68,178 or about one third of the total enrolled.

The Civil War served as a school for Negro soldiers. They fought bravely, with discipline, authority, and responsibility, and they also demonstrated the ability to work as a free person. Colonel Oliver T. Beard of the 48th New York infantry wrote from Beaufort, South Carolina on November 10, 1862:

The colored men fought with astonishing coolness and bravery, for alacrity in effective landing, for determination and for bush fighting, I found them all that I could desire more than I had hoped. They behaved bravely, gloriously and deserved all soon as we took a slave from his claiment and placed a musket in his hand, he began to fight for the freedom of others.

By Carma S.,
Tascha Sonntag,
Nikki S.

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