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African-Americans served in the civil war, because of this they had to of had some sort of effect on the war. In this essay, I will be showing how, and giving multiple examples of how African-Americans indeed affected the civil war. This essay will go through three main topics, African-Americans in the Confederate side, African-Americans on the union side, and finally the other roles (including discrimination) that African-Americans played in the war that is not specifically referring to either side. African-Americans served in the civil war on both sides, because of this they faced discrimination and in many ways affected one of the most devastating conflicts in American history.
African-Americans in The Confederate Army: Blacks served in the Confederate army, however, most of the black soldiers were impressed as a slave labor force. While others were usually brought from their masters and to tend to their master’s needs in camp. In some of these cases, if the master was killed, the servant was meant to return his master’s personal effects to his family. From this point, there were a couple instances that a few servants who were responsible for taking their master’s place in the firing line, and because of this they were adopted by the regiment. In 1863, which was marked at around the midpoint of the war, state militias of free African-American men presented the Confederate war office but refused, this was because of their lack and need of Confederate soldiers. The war continued, and as the war was getting longer, the issue of the lack of Confederate soldiers became more and more apparent and was eventually debated in the Confederate Congress. Confederate major general Patrick Cleburne proposed the idea of arming slaves. This proposal was very unpopular and was widely disagreed upon. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, actually ordered Cleburne’s proposal to be suppressed. The legislation eventually passed that if enlisted in the Confederate army, certain black slaves would be freed. However they needed consent from their master’s to do so, and only a small bunch of black soldiers were actually enlisted because of this legislation.
African-Americans in the Union Army: Blacks also served in the Union Army, however even though black’s were still discriminated against, there were many differences from how they were treated and how they were used in the war. In the Union Army, freed black men went to volunteer for service with the Union Army at the start of the war. However, they were not even permitted to enlist, even though African-Americans had served in the navy and army in the war of 1812 and the American Revolution. This was because of a law in 1792 that actually blocked them from being able to carry or use arms in the U.S. Army. Not only that though, but “President Lincoln also feared that accepting black men into the military would cause border states like Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri to succeed”. Eventually, black men that were free were finally permitted to enlist in late 1862. If a master of a slave was in the Confederate Army, this freed the slave. This was because of the Militia Act, Second Confiscation, and president Lincolns signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, of 1863. This was “The first official authorization to employ African Americans in federal service was the Second Confiscation and Militia Act of July 17, 1862. This act allowed President Abraham Lincoln to receive into the military service persons of African descent and gave permission to use them for any purpose”. The Emancipation Proclamation said that “And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.” In May of 1863, the Bureau of Colored Troops was created to watch over black enlistees. However, the recruitment was low until intense efforts were made to enlist African-American volunteers. Frederick Douglass was one of the people who encouraged free black men to enlist as a method to be sure of a eventual full citizenship.
Other Roles and Discrimination of African-Americans in the Civil War: African-Americans worked as cooks, blacksmiths, and nurses during the war as well. This was referred to as them being served in relief roles, this was done on both the Confederate and the Union side. Because Northern officers actually refused to believe/allow black troops would fight, they would often assign non-combat type duties to them, such as building bridges and go into constructing railroads. This is said more directly here “Because of prejudice against them, black units were not used in combat as extensively as they might have been.” This type of thinking was done similarly in the South as well since they refused African-Americans to be armed, they were used to perform camp duties and build/reinforce fortifications. In the Union Army, Blacks also were used as scouts and sometimes spies to provide information about unfamiliar terrain, and the Confederate Forces themselves. Because of this very valuable information, this class was put into their own category, they were referred to as the “Black Dispatches”. Contrabands were escaped slaves that usually were attempting to flee to Union Lines. The reason of being called Contrabands was because early in the way they were seen to be technically part of the property of the Confederate state. These Contrabands were debriefed and eventually were recruited as spies. White agents would be posing as masters, which the African-American would be returning to slave territory. An example of a spy would be Harriet Tubman, who was in charge of an attack outside of Beaufort, South Carolina, in the year 1863. These Black Dispatches were recognized by most if not all the Union as being extremely valuable, even the Confederacy thought so.
In this essay, I have shown the role and significance of African-American soldiers in the civil war. I have given multiple examples and shown from multiple perspectives and how African-Americans were viewed from both the Union and the Confederate side. I started by explaining how the Confederate views them, which was by not allowing them to bear arms, and were usually brought for the sole purpose being used to tend to their master’s camp. I then proceeded to explain how they were viewed in the Union’s point of view, which at the start of the war they were not allowed to enlist, but later on, through the Emancipation Proclamation, they were eventually allowed to be freed if their master was fighting in the Civil War. Finally, I spoke about other roles they had in the war. This included talking about them being used as extremely valuable spies, their other jobs in the war, and how escaped slaves were viewed as Contraband. This is how my essay does its job at showing how African-Americans served in the civil war on both sides, also because of this they faced discrimination and in many ways affected one of the most devastating conflicts in American history.
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