African American Troops in the Civil War
The American Civil War lasted from 1861 through 1865 and was a turning point in the history of the United States. Over 180,000 African Americans fought in this war, on both sides of the battle. They were instrumental in the Northern Victory over the Confederacy.
The life of a colored soldier was not an easy one. The treatment of most colored soldiers was sub-standard, and they often bore the brunt of ridicule and violence. Although they fought as equals, they were not treated the same as the white soldiers. They were paid less than white soldiers, only making $7.00 a month, compared to the $10.00 a month that the other soldiers were receiving. African American units were given the most dangerous and least desirable missions, resulting in a higher percentage of colored soldiers being killed or injured. The total number of African American soldiers who died during the Civil War was around 37,000.
This did not stop the all-black troops from claiming major victories during their fight for freedom. The most celebrated unit during the Civil War was the 54th Massachusetts. They were involved in the Attack at Fort Wagner, and the Battle of Ulustee. The unit was recognized by Congress for their bravery, and William Carney, a member of the unit, became the first black American to receive the Medal of Honor.
African American troops in the Civil War were fighting for more than the preservation of the Union. They were fighting for their freedom and for equality. Although it would take more than 100 years before their dream of equality would be realized, the African Americans who fought in the Civil War took a huge step in the right direction through their service to the country.
Documents and Photographs
William H. Carney – First Black US Soldier to receive the Medal of Honor
Civil War History