African American Roles in the Civil War - Intro

In actual numbers, African American soldiers comprised 10% (180,000) of the entire Union Army. Losses among African Americans were high, and from all reported casualties, approximately one-third of all African Americans enrolled in the military lost their lives during the Civil War. African American soldiers participated in every major campaign of 1864-1865 except Sherman's invasion of Georgia. The year 1864 was especially eventful for African American troops. The black warriors were not initially allowed to participate in the war, leaving them with two separate battles to fight.
A famous book written by Richard L. Fuchs about the massacre at Fort Pillow

Background Info

The north and south both initially agreed not to let the African American slaves to fight in fear of powering them. The union and confederacy both felt that the slaves had the whites outnumbered and would rebel. Abraham Lincoln continued stressing the point that the war was over succession not slavery. However, all the slaves from both the north and south both knew what the war was really about; slavery. All the African Americans wanted to fight for their freedom and for what they believed in. The Union tried to persuade Lincoln to allow black soldiers but he remained hesitant for a while still not sure about the empowering of the slaves idea. Eventually Lincoln passed the "Emancipation Proclamation" which declared freedom of all slaves. Benjamin Butler was the first General to lead an all black regiment followed by more in the Massachusetts 54th regiment. The large addition of black soldiers for the Union greatly boosted the army. The extra 180,000 men were the necessary reinforcements that lead to a Northern victory.

Massacre at Fort Pillow

In April 1864, the Union garrison at Fort Pillow, a Confederate-built earthen fortification and a Union-built inner redoubt, overlooking the Mississippi River about forty river miles above Memphis, comprised 295 white Tennessee troops and 262 U.S.A. Colored Troops, all under the command of Major Lionel F. Booth. Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked the fort on April 12 with a cavalry division of approximately 2,500 men. Forrest seized the older outworks, with high knolls commanding the Union position, to surround Booth's force. The massacre ended in a brutal Confederate victory.

African American soldiers memorial in Washington D.C.

Major battle and Cash Earnings

The most widely known battle fought by African Americans was the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, by the 54th Massachusetts on July 18, 1863. The 54th volunteered to lead the assault on the strongly-fortified Confederate positions. The soldiers of the 54th scaled the fort's parapet, and were only driven back after brutal hand-to-hand combat.

According to the Militia Act of 1862, soldiers of African descent were to receive $10.00 a month, plus a clothing allowance of $3.50. Many regiments struggled for equal pay, some refusing any money until June 15, 1864, when Congress granted equal pay for all black soldiers

Emancipation Proclamation

The full written Emancipation Proclamation document

The Emancipation Proclamation is made up of two executive orders issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The first one, made on September 22, 1862, declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. The second order, passed on January 1, 1863, named ten specific states where it would apply. Lincoln issued the Executive Order by his authority as "Commander in Chief" of the Army and Navy" under Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution.

Important Black Soldiers

Holland, Milton Murry
Rank and organization: Sergeant Major, 5th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Chapins Farm, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at: Athens, Ohio. Born: 1844, Austin, Tex. Date of issue: 6 April 1865. Citation: Took command of Company C, after all the officers had been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.
Hawkins, Thomas R.

Rank and organization: Sergeant Major, 6th U.S. Colored Troops. Place and date: At Chapins Farm, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at: Philadelphia, Pa. Birth: Cincinnati, Ohio. Date of issue: 8 February 1870. Citation: Rescue of regimental colors.

54th Massachusetts Regiment

The Massachusetts 54th regiment fighting at Fort Wagner

Before Union forces could capture Charleston, South Carolina, they first had to take Fort Wagner, a Confederate stronghold guarding the entrance to the harbor. So shorts after 6 at night on July 18, 1863, Union Colonel Robert Shaw readied 600 men of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment for an assault on the fort. Shaw was a 25 year old and was white, as were all his officers. The men of the regiment were all black.

The 54th would spearhead a three-pronged attack aimed at capturing the necklace of heavily fortified islands that dotted Charleston harbor. If they could take Fort Wagner, the Federals would launch a major assault on nearby Fort Sumter. From there, it would only be a matter of time before Charleston fell. But capturing Fort Wagner would be no easy task.



"History of African Americans in the Civil War." Our Shared Heritage. Oct. 2008. National Park Service. 18 May 2009 <>.

"The Battle of Fort Pillow." Forrest of Fort Pillow. Nov. 2004. Official Records. 19 May 2009 <>

"The Emancipation Proclamation." Featured Documents. May. 2009. National Archives and Records Administration. 17. May 2009 <> "54th Regiment Marches Through Boston." Teachers Features. Sept. 2006. Mass Moments. 18. May 2009 <>