Black Soldiers in the Union Army 1862–65

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Map Code: Ax01987

On 17 July 1862, the US Congress reversed the 1792 Federal law that banned black men from the US military. Called the ‘Second Confiscation and Militia Act’, it was followed by an energetic recruitment campaign, with the first black regiments filled by volunteers from Massachusetts, Tennessee and South Carolina. Initially, recruitment was slow, but after the black leader, Frederick Douglass, made a speech claiming that a black soldier ‘earned the right to citizenship’, the number of black recruits swelled. Most of the recruits came from the Confederate states in the South, but there were also over 10,000 from Missouri and 20,133 from Kentucky, both border states. Many black soldiers endured prejudice from white Federal soldiers. By the end of the Civil War over 10 per cent of the Union Army comprised black men and of the 179,000 who served, 40,000 died in combat or from disease. When the war ended in 1865, 16 black soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for valour.

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