Black Soldiers in the Civil War

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Approximately 186000 Negroes became federal soldiers. They served under white officers and often suffered discrimination in such matters as pay and bounties. But they proved courageous fighters in several of the battles in which they participated.

Confederate officials were shortsighted in failing to use slaves as soldiers. Many confederate leaders feared an uprising once the Negroes were given arms. Others opposed the use of slaves on grounds that the Negroes were ill-prepared for such high responsibility. Not until March 1865 did the confederate government authorize the recruitment of 200000 negroes as soldiers. A few all-black units were mustered into the southern service, but none was sent into combat.

For the many slaves who wanted to fight, there was still no opportunity. Alexander Hamilton, who was then an aide de camp to washtington, strongly disagreed with this practice. Manpower was needed and that was all there was to it, he felt. He remarked at that time, The contempt we have been taught to entertain for the blacks makes us fancy the things that are founded neither in reason or experience. Eventually most of the northern colonies and some of the southern colonies enlisted negroes, both free and slave. The majority of them, however, were from the north. There wer only a few separate negro fighting units. Two negro companies were formed in Massachusetts. One was aunder the command of a negro, captain Middletown. Negroes were in practically every mili5tary action between 1775 and 1781.

In the war of 1812 negroes joined with other Americans in the defencse of our young nation. Navy captain oliver h. perry gave unstinted praise to the negro members of his crew. A negro seaman, john Johnson, was praised by his captain asw a man who…… ought to be registerd in the book of fame, and remembererd with reverence as long as bravery is considered a virtue. In the battle of chalmetts plains, commonly known as the battle of new Orleans,...
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