Americans In Civil War
The foundation for black participation in the Civil War began more than a
hundred years before the outbreak of the war. Blacks in America had been in
bondage since early colonial times. In 1776, when Jefferson proclaimed
mankind’s inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,
the institution of slavery had become firmly established in America. Blacks
worked in the tobacco fields of Virginia, in the rice fields of South Carolina,
and toiled in small farms and shops in the North. Foner and Mahoney report in A

House Divided, America in the Age of Lincoln that, "In 1776, slaves composed
forty percent of the population of the colonies from Maryland south to Georgia,
but well below ten percent in the colonies to the North." The invention of the
cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 provided a demand for cotton thus increasing
the demand for slaves. By the 1800’s slavery was an institution throughout the

South, an institution in which slaves had few rights, and could be sold or
leased by their owners. They lacked any voice in the government and lived a life
of hardship. Considering these circumstances, the slave population never
abandoned the desire for freedom or the determination to resist control by the
slave owners. The slave\'s reaction to this desire and determination resulted in
outright rebellion and individual acts of defiance. However, historians place
the strongest reaction in the enlisting of blacks in the war itself. Batty in

The Divided Union: The Story of the Great American War, 1861-65, concur with

Foner and Mahoney about the importance of outright rebellion in their analysis
of the Nat Turner Rebellion, which took place in 1831. This revolt demonstrated
that not all slaves were willing to accept this "institution of slavery"
passively. Foner and Mahoney note that the significance of this uprising is
found in its aftermath because of the numerous reports of "insubordinate"
behavior by slaves. 8 Individual acts of defiance ranged from the use of the

Underground Railroad - a secret, organized network of people who helped fugitive
slaves reach the Northern states and Canada - to the daily resistance or silent
sabotage found on the plantations. Stokesbury acknowledges in, A Short History
of the Civil War, the existence of the Underground Railroad but disagrees with
other historians as to its importance. He notes that it never became as well
organized or as successful as the South believed. Even with the groundwork
having been laid for resistance, the prevalent racial climate in America in 1860
found it unthinkable that blacks would bear arms against white Americans.

However, by 1865 these black soldiers had proven their value. Wilson writes in
great detail describing the struggles and achievements of the black soldiers in
his book The Black Phalanx. McPherson discusses in The Negro’s Civil War that
widespread opposition to the use of blacks as soldiers prevailed among northern
whites. Whereas McPherson relates the events cumulating in the passage of two
laws that aided black enlistment, Wilson focuses on the actual enlistment. He
notes that the first regiment of free blacks came into service at New Orleans in

September 1862 through the efforts of Butler. Wilson credits Butler’s three
regiments of blacks as the first officially mustered into Union ranks. North

Carolina and Kansas also organized additional black units where minor skirmishes
proved to be successful. Wilson also notes that "Kansas has ... the honor of
being the first State in the Union to begin the organization of Negroes as
soldiers for the Federal army." McPherson believes that up to this point

President Lincoln had opposed the idea of blacks fighting for the Union but
after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that slaves
in states still in rebellion on January 1, 1863, "shall be then, thence
forward, and forever free," he reversed his 8 thinking. At the end of the

Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln announced that the freed blacks "would be
received into the armed service of the United States...." Lincoln planned to
tap into a new source of fighting individuals, "...the great available and as
yet unavailed of, force for the restoration of the Union.". Lincoln thought
this would both weaken the enemy and strengthen the Union. The recruitment of
the blacks took laborers from the South and placed "these men in the Union
army in places which otherwise must be filled with so many white men." Lincoln
also felt that seeing the blacks fighting against the Confederacy would have a
psychological effect upon the South. With the Emancipation Proclamation of

January 1, 1863, freeing the slaves, the North began recruiting black soldiers
but, as reported