The Second Confiscation and Militia Act of July 1862 authorized the recruitment of black troops to the Union Army. By the end of the war, they comprised 10 per cent of its total strength, and their mortality rate at over 20 per cent would be significantly higher than white troops despite a shorter period of involvement. Initially, there was resistance to using African Americans on the front line, deploying them instead as ‘diggers and drudges’. Their rates of pay and allowances remained lower than those of white troops. However, their performance under fire gradually overcame residual prejudice. At Fort Wagner, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry volunteered to storm the fortifications: similar heroism was displayed at New Market Heights. After the capture of Fort Pillow (April 1864), Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest was accused a perpetrating a massacre of black defenders. Twenty-five black soldiers received Congressional Medals of Honour for their actions during the war.
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