The Blacks in the Civil War
For the beginning, in the middle and in the ending of the Civil War in the United States, the Black Americans were central as soldier and civilian. At first, people tried hard to get around this fact. Even President Abraham Lincoln administration sent Black volunteers home with an understanding that the war was a ‘‘White man’s war”. The policy was eventually changed not because of humanitarianism but because of the Confederation’s battlefield brilliance. The South brought the North to a realization that it was in a real brawl that it needed all the weapons it could lay hands on.
The First Louisiana Native Guards became the first Black regiment to receive official recognition from the government. The Union brass had initially prevented the Blacks from seeing action in the war. Colonel Robert Shaw and his men of the Massachusetts 54th had to overcome fear, mockery and racism before they were allowed to fight. By the end of 1863, many thousands Blacks found employment in the Union Army. There were some 50, 000 Black soldiers in the ranks. Although Black soldiers were promised $13 a month, they were insulted with an offer of $7 a month. Black soldiers and sailors became indispensable elements in a war that could not have been won without their help. The triumph of the Union forces was due to a number of factors, including Northern technology and the spirit of the age. But the most preeminent factor was the contribution of slaves and freedmen who provided the margin of difference that turned the tide against the Confederate forces in 1864 and 1865. According to official records, there were 185, 000 Black soldiers in the Union Army. Their mortality rate was disproportionately high, 21% of the total number of Black soldiers. Equally visible and heroic were the sailors in the Union Navy. One out of every four Union sailors was black, they served on Union ships as coal heavers, stewards, boatswains, firemen and gunners. In addition the North was forwarded by more than 200,000 civilians, mostly freed slaves. They served as spies and scouts. The most remarkable of all Union spies was a woman named Harriet Tubman. She organized slave intelligence networks behind enemy lines and led scouting raids. With the defeat of Confederate forces, the Black South exploded in a series of Jubilees that continued until the winter of 1865. But without the means to realize their freedom, most freedmen were driven back to the plantation by hunger and violence. The Civil War was the bloodiest in U.S. history. More Americans died fighting each other than died in all its other wars.