Fighting on Two Fronts

A discussion of African-American participation during the Civil War.

This paper discusses African-American recruitment into the Union Army due to a shortage in soldiers. The African-Americans were freed from slavery and enrolled into the Army. Black troops faced greater danger than white troops when captured by the Confederate Army. They faced racial discrimination throughout both the South and the North. Segregated units were formed with black enlisted men commanded by white officers and black non-commissioned officers. After white military leaders saw the bravery of the black soldiers during the Battle at Fort Wagner, it led to the fighting reputation and spirit of the blacks.
“Emancipation and military service for blacks were key issues from the start of the Civil War. When Fort Sumter was fired upon, free black men tried to enlist in U.S. military units. They were turned away because “a Federal law dating from 1792 barred Negroes from bearing arms for the U.S. Army.” (National Archives and Records Administration -NARA). By mid 1862, the increasing numbers of former slaves, the decreasing numbers of white volunteers into the military and the needs of the Union Army pushed the federal government into passing the Second Confiscation and Militia Act. This law freed slaves who had masters serving in the Confederate Army. Slavery was then abolished in the territories of the U.S. and on July 22, President Abraham Lincoln presented to Congress a preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. From then on, black recruitment into the Union Army was pursued. Volunteers from South Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts were the first authorized black regiments.”