As Americans look back on their past and reflect the American Civil War , which was waged from April 12, 1861 to April 9, 1865, and think about the destruction, they also think about how the great struggle resulted to the end of slavery and the loss of life . The Americans remember the valiant young men in navy and blue uniforms who went to fight for the faction they felt loyalty towards; however, Americans remember mostly the faces of white people. The people of America and particularly the writers of history have intentionally forgotten African-American soldiers who battled alongside the white soldiers, which are so highly appraised by the country (Morris, 2011).
The African-American soldiers contributed immensely throughout the Civil War and therefore, their role in the Civil War should be acknowledged by the people of America as well as historians. The African-Americans served as laborers, cooks, craftsmen, and soldiers for the Union so that to make significant contribution to the war, which served as a catalyst to their freedom, however, that is only one half of the story. There were other African-Americans who fought and worked just hard on the side of Confederacy as the white soldiers. Therefore, it is evident that the African-Americans, who participated in the Civil War, contributed significantly to the war that resulted to the end of slavery in the history of America (Gero, 2009).
The thesis of the paper is that one hundred and fifty years after the start of the Civil War, majority of Americans reflect about the war from many different perspectives. Nevertheless, the contribution of African-American Soldiers to the Civil War is seldom incorporated on the pages of American history.
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Contributions of African-Americans to the American Civil War
Civil War history is frequently presented in aspects of white Northern soldiers fighting alongside white Southern ones, with African-Americans just on the sides waiting for their fate as it was decided. Indeed, this is far from the reality. What might come as a shock to some is the truth that both the Confederates and the Union brought African-American troops to the battleground. Prior to the Civil War, which began in 1861, there were an approximately four million slaves in the United States, and an estimated 500,000 free African-Americans. Jointly they encompassed approximately14 % of the nation’s population (Morris, 2011).
Out of these 4.5 million, about 180,000 African Americans served in almost 163 units of the Union army and thousands more of them served in the Navy. Nonetheless, whilst only 1% of all African Americans in the United States lived in the North, freedmen and slaves only started serving the Confederate Army in 1865, and did so to a lesser extent than in the North. It was the beloved General Robert E. Lee who persuaded the Confederate Congress to start recruiting black soldiers to participate in the Civil War. The legislation needed the approval of the master and his slaves, and would grant them the rights of a freeman after the end of the Civil War. A month later, the order was given; Virginia was only capable to congregate forty or fifty recruits (Gero, 2009).
From the beginning of the Civil War in America, many freed black men and slaves needed whatsoever they could to assist the Union become victorious in the war. Although Lincoln did not issue the Emancipation Proclamation decree until September 22, 1962, freed black men and slaves perceived the Civil War as a way to the abolition of slavery and to the risk of not being captured and compelled into servitude. As the Union soldiers passed through the South, “both the Northern public and the freed slaves themselves demanded that the direct beneficiaries of freedom join the battle against the slaveholder’s rebellion.” This clearly indicates how African Americans did not need to be given freedom; however, they needed to be given the chance to offer a suitable contribution to their rebellion. To actually become a part of the cause, the African Americans needed to become soldiers of the Union Army. The challenge with the participation in the army was not something that they can be allowed to do since the Union Army and the state officials had opposing opinions regarding the issue. Debates were waged between the members of national government and the Union for and the issue was eventually settled (Morris, 2011).
African Americans provided an immense support to the Union from the very the start of the Civil War. Prior to recruitment, African Americans were considered as contrabandists, whose property was to be burgled just like other materials and supplies, by the defeating Union troops. Contrabands were used to assist in building roads and forts, harvesting crops, and performing other camp duties that were mandated by the authorities. Nevertheless, they were not permitted to carry any weapons, since they believed that this would likely to empower them against their counterparts. The Union military forces used African Americans during the entire war as laborers for both the navy and army and as ordinary crewmembers of the navy. It was not until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued that slaves were capable to legitimately join the Union military (Gero, 2009).
Others thought that African American army would not fight well and they also believed that the African American soldiers were not brave enough as compared to the white soldiers, so the African American soldiers were given menial jobs. While in the army they undertook the roles of cooks, they also took care of animals, cleaned latrines, dug trenches, ship bunkers, and performed any other basic jobs that were perceived to be not worthy of the white soldiers. The policy in this scenario pointed the long held stereotype that “blacks could better withstand the rigors of labor under the hot tropical sun” (Brown, 2007).
Some of the African Americans supported and volunteered to the Confederacy during the Civil War, though they had been taken as a subpar race and they lived in a state of awareness of the risks that were subjected to them by the war. There are many reasons why the African Americans volunteered to offer their services during the Civil War, which posed a lot of dangers. Freed African American men, who were property owners as well as slaves, felt the Northern attack threatened their culture and they needed to prove their neighbors that they also were patriotic people from the South (Morris, 2011).
African Americans contributed significantly to the Civil war, thus they need to be appraised in the history. By 1865, 186,000 African Americans provided their services to the US army. Over 65,000 African Americans offered their services to the side of the Confederates. But both sides perceived them as mediocre. Nevertheless, neither side was on top of sending African American armies into the war in order to advance their military position. African American armies were discriminated against by both sides. They didn’t have the same wages as the white soldiers who were paid better, and some white soldiers really turned African Americans over to slaveholders so that they could receive bounties. They did not obtain equivalent amount of money for re-recruitment, if they received any. Another evident dissimilarity was that African Americans did not receive similar quality of medical treatment as white soldiers.
Doctors would ignore wounded African American soldiers to attend to white soldiers first. This last inequity is one of the reasons for the greater proportion of African American causalities. In addition, African Americans provided services in segregated units. They did not provide their services together with white soldiers, however in units that were managed by white commanders. Although they encountered a lot of discrimination and unjust treatment, African Americans were not stopped from being recruited into the army (Brown, 2007).
Therefore, it can be argued that the African Americans played a primary role in the civil war that lastly saw the emancipation of many people from the bondage of slavery. The African American soldiers who provided their services to the Union were given an opportunity to serve as their own emancipators. They were given real jobs, which were paid, so they could buy some for their family members or so they could liberate them from slavery. African Americans perceived this as the best probable chance to lastly shed the responsibility as modest individuals and establish themselves as individuals that were creditable and who deserved respect.
Soldiers serving on the side of the Confederates were slightly more complex to understand (Morris, 2011). These soldiers served out of a sense of devotion to their masters and to their Southern homeland. The African American Confederates perceived Union soldiers as Northern attackers, who would muddle up their serene lives. Some individuals battled since they had a belief that situations ought to be the way they were supposed to be and should not be changed. In spite of their position for fighting, they were courageous in their unending attempts to fight for their goals.
Whatsoever the perspective for their participation in the war, African Americans provided both sides with outstanding service that resulted to the end of slavery. Whether they were participating in the war for freedom or fighting to protect their way of life, they fought conceitedly and courageously. They were able to go beyond the limits of some of their earlier responsibilities in the war, which comprised of unskilled laborer and that of a poor unintelligent fool who could not reason for himself. African Americans` participation was significant for both sides in the American Civil War, because their service was outstanding despite not being acknowledged in history (Gero, 2009).
How African American’s influenced the course of the war
The American Civil War had great influence on the lives of the millions of black Americans and other minority groups who had been discriminated in America. The war was an opportunity for the African Americans to liberate themselves from all forms of oppression, such as political and socio-economic oppressions, which had undermined their freedom. The war was a transformative period in the African-American history. What began as an apparently distant aspect, the conflict soon emerged an occasion for the social-economic and political prospect of black people who had been oppressed in all spheres of life. The war unswervingly impacted all African Americans, female and male, southerner and northerner, soldiers and civilians.
Migration, racial violence, military service, and political protest integrated to make the war times one of the most vibrant periods of the African-American experience, which led to liberation of many African-Americans who had been oppressed by the white people. African Americans during the war demanded their rights as American citizens, challenged the limits of American democracy, and declared their civilization in different ways, both understated and remarkable. Identifying the importance of the war, it is necessary to develop a full appreciation of contemporary African-American history and the endless efforts of black people to get freedom (Brown, 2007).
The war enabled the African political leaders to participate in the war and at the same advocate their freedom while in the army. The political leaders fought strongly to ensure that the African Americans are recruited in the army, participating in the war. They believed that this will give them an opportunity to fight for their people. The war and the forces of patriotism tested the efficiency of black political leaders. Several important African Americans worked intimately with the government during the war both to enhance black support for the war and to deal with issues such as segmentation, lynching, and discrimination against armies that aggravated African American dissent. Emmett Scott, the personal secretary for Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute, was charged with the responsibility to resolve issues associated with African Americans and the war (Gero, 2009).
The war also influenced and inspired African Americans to fight overseas to redeem themselves from the oppressive forces. The war most unswervingly influenced those African Americans called to labor and fight in the army abroad. More than 200,000 African American soldiers crossed the Atlantic Ocean and provided their military services in such nations as France. The greater part of the soldiers worked in service units, generally featured as the Service of Supply (SOS). They dug ditches, transported supplies, cleaned latrines, cleared garbage, and buried rotting corpses. The biggest number of African-American SOS soldiers offered their services as stevedores, working on the docks of Brest, Bordeaux, St. Nazaire, and other French port cities to unload and load vital supplies. "I don't want to stagger under heavy boxes," one stevedore uttered. "I want a gun on my shoulder and the opportunity to go to the front." It was hard work, ended worse by racial discrimination, but nonetheless necessary for the accomplishment of the war effort. These soldiers, fighting overseas, were compelled by the oppressive forces that undermined their efforts (Morris, 2011).
The way the African Americans reacted to the postwar renaissance of white superiority clearly shows the depths to which the war needs and expectations for democracy influenced their political and racial awareness. The war impacted many African Americans and increased dedication to fight white racial violence. At the same period, the contributions of the armies, and African-American people contributed to the effort to fight against the racial arrogance. Therefore, the war allowed the African Americans to fight from within, so they could influence the changes they needed to see, since many Africans had been forced into slavery and they were suffering under the hands of the white people who used them to get free labor (Brown, 2007).
The American civil war brought about incredible changes for African Americans, who participated in the war as soldiers, and their place in American society. The Great Migration during the war changed the demographics of African American communities in the South and North. The war endeavor permitted black men and women to affirm their citizenship, hold the government responsible, and dispute racial injustice in the society. Military involvement was able to bring thousands of hundreds of black men into the army, enabled them to access new people and new lands, and permitted them to struggle for their country.
African American people staked assert to democracy as exceedingly individual yet profoundly political principle and claimed that the country should live up to it. American Civil War represents a turning point and transformative moment in the African American history, the one that influenced the course of the black experience in the 20th century. Therefore, through the African American participation in the American Civil War the course of their emancipation was influenced as at the end of the war they were freed from the slavery. The war period also saw the African American population being enabled to access social-economic aspects of life without such a boundary as racial decimation and other oppressive forces had been overcome during the war.
The Legacy of the African American Soldiers during the War
In most cases the achievements and contributions of the black people during the Civil War throughout the American history have been ignored in the traditional history materials, particularly in America. The African American people played a central role of black soldiers in securing conquest for the Union in the Civil War, which resulted to preserving the United States, which later resulted to making the nation powerful globally in fighting the element of racism. Black people, who had been taken as disempowered chattel, undertook a winning troop, assisting in the liberation of more than four million slaves (Morris, 2011).
African Americans had to conquer several hurdles during the Civil War to join the Union Army. One of the obstacles was a rule, which dates back to the late 1700s, that prohibited blacks to take part in the U.S. Army. The primary black volunteers were rejected by white military authorities, who considered the black people in the community as irredeemable, negligent and child-like barbarians, unhealthy to be soldiers and serve the nation’s army. Finally, the Union Army allowed African Americans soldiers to serve, however under demeaning conditions. The first African American troops were compelled to offer their military and other services in secluded battalions under the white commanding authorities. The federal government tried to pay African American troops inferior wages, and they were forced to deliberate forms of discrimination and mistreatment on campgrounds (Brown, 2007).
Regardless of discrimination and hardship, the loyalty and persistence of African American soldiers supported their worth on the combat zone; their input in the war was unwillingly extolled even by their Confederate opponents. One such faction of African American soldiers was the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the earliest all-black brigade hired in the North. The Union triumph contributed to the endorsement of the 13th amendment in 1865 which formally and legally ended the slavery in the United States, and the 14th amendment honored African American population equal protection as provided by the law and the right to have political office, and the 15th amendment gave African American people the right to vote in all the positions as provided in the country’s constitution. These Civil War amendments developed a new order by acknowledging almost 4.5 million African Americans as national citizens and voters.
It is evident that the African-Americans contributed immensely to the American Civil War (1861-1865). However, in most cases their contributions and accomplishments during the Civil War have been ignored in traditional history materials, particularly in America. Historians, including Kenneth C. Davis, agree that “The Civil War never really ended.” In his book, “Don’t Know Much about the Civil War,” Davis says that our country’s “racial chasm is the most pernicious legacy of America’s slave past and the Civil War.” Davis accepts that the primary step towards healing the wounds, wreaked by racism and slavery, is to appreciate the group (Morris, 2011).
At the present, there is a need for Black History Month as a commemoration of African Americans` contributions and achievements to America. However, why must we think of African American history only for one month yet there are twelve months in a year? African Americans’ accomplishments and contributions to the fabric of America are continuous. Americans has demonstrated much progress in defeating racism by bringing into power the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama. However African Americans should not become satisfied in their unending mission for equal opportunity beyond the limits of status, race, and class; Black History Month is an ideal reminder. Finally, the paper has adequately indicated that the African Americans have not been rewarded for their immense contributions in the civil, particularly the history of the country