Little Known Black History Fact: Black Civil War Soldiers

According to the most recent data numbers, African-Americans make up roughly 17 percent of today’s military but their contribution to this nation’s military is significant. Black soldiers have been under employ by the nation in every major American war, although in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was done by coercion, force and desperation.

A persistent myth suggests Black soldiers who fought for the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War did so willingly. The inverse was said of the Union Army and Navy forces, although in fairness those soldiers were composed of free men or former slaves who liberated themselves from bondage. While President Abraham Lincoln relented to the will of the North to end slavery as a practice, the deeply embedded racism remained.

White Union military officers were resistant to arming Black soldiers as many of them felt that their Black counterparts were only fit to be servants. This attitude was also common in the South but with an even more insidious bent as those Black soldiers were relegated to menial tasks as they were still enslaved. The Confederacy’s riches were built upon the backs of slaves and it was not going to easily accept defeat.

Black fighters in the North and South fought under the impression that they were doing so to gain their freedom and that of their people, but many were re-enslaved due to Jim Crow and other discriminatory policies. Black Confederate soldiers were seen as vital to a southern victory, but it was only when the Confederacy began to lose that white officers armed Black soldiers. Even then, their weapons were locked away at night out of fear they would use them on their masters.

None of the Confederate Black soldiers saw Civil War combat. Black Union soldiers saw action but were not involved in many of the major campaigns.

PHOTO: Public Domain

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