“It was useless to talk any more about negro courage. The men fought like tigers, each and every one of them” (Ford 7). For centuries, African-Americans were thought of as man and women who could not survive without a master. When they were allowed to fight, many still thought that African-Americans were not as brave as a white soldier. Likewise, they thought that African-Americans did not know anything about war, but after many struggles to prove themselves they did. In fact, many white people saw that they were exactly like everyone else.
African-Americans played a vital role in the North winning The Civil War even though they were treated dreadfully beforehand, they were underestimated, and they were treated unfairly. When slavery started, there was both African-American slave and white slaves. Slavery was brought to America in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia (“Slavery in America”). In addition to a few African-American slaves during the 17th centuries, many white men and women were slaves (Moore). Moreover, white slaves were treated worse the African-American slaves.
When slavery started white slaves who were working off debts were treated brutally, because when their debt was paid off they were no longer a slave. On the other hand, African-American slaves were treated a bit better, because to the master the slave was theirs forever unlike white slaves (Moore). Another interesting fact about slavery is, most African-American slaves were already slaves in Africa. Though, in Africa slavery was never as brutal as in the United States (“The Brutality”). Although there were many white slaves, they did not have to serve til they hit puberty. (“The Brutality”).
Although the start of slavery is very interesting, how slavery survived for so long is as interesting. One of the ways that slavery lasted so long was the masters made the slaves dependent on them. To gain dominance, masters did not allow slaves to learn how to read or write. Not being able to read or write made it almost impossible for a slave to live without the master(“Slavery in the United States”). To a slave owner in the south, they believed that without them African-Americans could not survive. This made it right in the eyes of many southerners (“Slavery in the United”).
Soon, slavery was almost extinct, because the farming land was overused and crops were growing slower than normal. Unfortunately, the Cotton Gin was made and the cotton market boomed. The need for slaves grew back stronger than ever (“Slavery in the United”). Brutality grew and slaves started to rebel against the masters. Some ways that they rebelled was faking illnesses, having a lot of people slow down the work, sabotage equipment, and on occasions, slaves burned buildings down and killed masters (“Slavery in the United”). Another way that masters made sure that slavery stayed alive was encouraging marriage.
Though slaves were “married”, there was never any official documents or any way to show that they were married. They also encouraged slaves to have big families, so that they could break the families up and sell the kids/husbands/wives to different owners (“Slavery in the United”). Another way that slavery lasted so long, was the brutality that masters showed. When slavery started many slaves were branded as a way of showing who owned them, but by the 19th-century branding was a form of punishment that was commonly used (Moore). A common form of punishment was whipping.
During slavery, whipping was so common that people started businesses that personally whipped someone’s slave for money. Many times after a slave was whipped white people rubbed red pepper and turpentine(an oil distilled from gum turpentine) into the cuts (Moore). One type of punishment that was not the most common, but still happened was burning. If a slave was thought to have partaken in an uprising, the master burned the slave at the stake (Moore). Many slaves who resisted were lynched or had body parts, such as hands, arms, legs, cut off.
A master could lynch a slave anytime he wanted, even though the slave did nothing. One of the most horrendous punishments that slaves went through was sexual assault. It did not matter if it was a male or a female, and many times families were forced to watch the loved ones get sexually assaulted (Moore). All in all, slavery was started before the colonies were made, was continued by masters and the cotton gin, and horrendous punishments were given to slaves. Standing up and fighting for freedom was hard for the African-Americans, yet they fought with pride.
When the war started, it was thought to be a white man only fight. This made it difficult for African-Americans to do anything but stand by and watch the fight (“Black Troops” 1:40). One of the most important documents that helped slaves to be free and help in the army was the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863. The purpose of the Proclamation was to set free slaves in the South or any state that did not want to join the Union again (Baumann ). After the Proclamation was signed, the reason for war took a drastic turn.
The Civil War was now about freedom of slaves, and having a joined Union once again (Ford). Both The Confiscation Act and the Militia Act of July 17 made it possible for African-Americans to join the Union war effort. The Confiscation Act stated that any slave who made it to the Union was considered a free man/woman. Another thing that is stated was that all freedmen were eligible to fight in the war. The Militia Act, on the other hand, gave the president the power to accept any person of African-American descendant into any branch of the military (“Black Troops” 1:40 ).
During the Civil War, the South forced African-American slaves to fight, while the North did not allow free men to fight til after the Emancipation Proclamation. In the South, many slaves were forced to serve for the Confederate armies by their masters. Many of the women were forced to cook and clean for the forces, while the men were forced to do hard work. This work included digging trenches and cutting wood and other tedious work (“Black Troops” 1:43). In addition to the South forcing slaves to work for armies, they also allowed slaves to sign up for the army.
This, however, did not work well for the South. Only forty to fifty African-Americans signed up to fight willingly (“The Importance”). However, in the North, they did not have any trouble getting African-Americans to sign up to fight. Walking and riding trains, men came from the North, the South, and some even came from Canada (Baumann 7). Assigned in 1893, Camp Meigs was the official boot camp were African-American former slaves went and trained to march in time and work as a team. In one week, over seventy-two men came willingly to Camp Meigs to join the Army (Baumann 7,12).
As a reward for their hard work, they were given uniforms and weapons (Baumann 12). Soon after, the first official African-American Regiment to join the Union Army was formed; led by Major General Benjamin F. Butler. After watching the regiment train, Butler stated “. . . My drill master could teach a regiment of negroes that much of the art of war sooner than he could have taught the same number of students from Harvard or Yale. ” The African-Americans had more to fight for than any white soldier, and it showed in how hard they trained and fought (“The Color”).
Bravery was one thing that no African-American was missing. In October 1862, the United States Colored Troop fought their first battle against the Confederate forces at Island Mound in Missouri. The fight on Island Mound was the first opportunity for the African-Americans to prove themselves to the white people in America (“United States”). Although the fight on Island Mound was an important battle, so was the attack on Fort Wagner. During the battle, many men were fatally wounded or killed, but this did not deter them.
The regiment marched on into battle, thus proving their courage (Baumann 18). Some other places that the United States Colored Troops showed courage was, Port Hudson; Louisiana, and Chaffin’s Farm; Virginia (“United States”). One of the most famous regiments was the fifty-fourth Massachusetts regiment. On July 18 the regiment attacked a Confederate base, where commander Colonel Shaw was fatally shot and died. Even with no commander, the regiment fought with bravery and courage. Another thing that happened during the battle was, the flag bearer was shot.
Sergeant William Carney caught the flag right before it hit the ground. At the end of the battle, the 54th regiment failed, yet the flag never touched the ground, and they never gave up (Baumann 19 and 41). The African-American regiments showed great courage where many failed too. During The Civil War, African-American regiments were mistreated in many ways. When African-American Troops were first formed, many commanders did not believe in their regiments. Since not many commanders believed in their regiments, they forced them to do a small task on base (“Black Troops” 1:41).
Some jobs that African-American soldiers were forced to do on base was, dig trenches, build roads, and unload heavy supplies (Ford 34). The War Department saw this less than equal treatment and tried to help. In June 1864 the War Department set rules in place that were to make sure that all soldiers were being treated the same. This, however, did not work seeing as all commanders ignored the rules (Ford 35). Thus the treatment in general of African-American soldiers was not fair. African-American soldiers worked long hours and got little pay.
The African-American soldiers were forced to work eight to ten hours each day, while white soldiers rested (Ford 37). Because of this, their uniforms were worn-out. Another consequence to the soldiers working all day was, their guns were dirty and not taken care of (Ford 38). During The Civil War white soldiers were paid thirteen dollars plus three dollars and fifty cents for cloths. On the other hand, African-American soldiers were paid ten dollars and three dollars was taken from them for clothing. Along with the unequal pay, African-American soldiers were not given any financial pay (“Black Troops” 1: 41).
African-American soldiers were forced to work long hours and were paid unequally, yet they fought bravely for the Union. African-American soldiers put their life on the line by fighting for the Union. When an African-American soldier was captured in battle or found and captured, they were treated as if they were an escaped slave. This lead to many brutal beatings and other torturing events. If caught, the person who caught the soldier got the choice of either killing the man or selling him into slavery. An African-American soldier who was caught was either shot in a field or the capture sold them back into slavery.
This made a difficult struggle for many slaves who wanted to help but was afraid of the consequences (“Black Troops” 1:42). Many African-American soldiers were mistreated in different ways. Although it was a struggle for African American soldiers, we can thank them for the victory that they helped win for the Union. During the time of slavery, they were treated unfairly and were never gave them a reason to help. During the war, they fought gallantly for the freedom of their people and helped the Union win. Although it was a big step for African-Americans to be soldiers, they were still mistreated.