From 1863 black Americans could join the Union Army, reversing legislation that prohibited them from bearing arms. By the conclusion of the Civil War, 208,000 of the total Union fighting force were black, constituting 10 per cent of the total number. Over the course of the war more than 40,000 black soldiers died, either in combat or of disease. Significant numbers of black soldiers were recruited from the Deep South; the Second Regiment, Louisiana Native Guards, were the first black soldiers to fight in the Civil War. By the end of the war, black soldiers had served in 175 black regiments, which all fought for the Union cause. It is thought that these soldiers are a major reason for the South losing the war because not only did they fight their enslavers, but they also withheld their labour.
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