The African-American Civil War

1188 Words 5 Pages
To African-Americans, both free and enslaved, the Civil War was not simply a war to determine if “a new nation…dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…[could] long endure.” The war was an outlet for centuries old frustrations and anger. The war nurtured great new hopes and old painful disappointments. It empowered many African-Americans to take a desperately desired modicum of control over their personal lives, the lives of their families, communities and race. In the face of their newfound control, African-Americans were reminded that their societal position had only been slightly elevated; they would continue face generations-old challenges. To African-Americans the war meant more than the right of states to establish …show more content…
Stepping on the battlefield each man was made equal to his opponent; however, that equality was terminated with the conclusion of the battle. The white soldiers on both sides of the conflict, as well as the nation, were not ready to give equal status to their African-American cohorts and opponents. The inequality was present in all aspects of their lives. General Kirby Smith of the Trans Mississippi Department reprimanded and an officer who had shown mercy to African-American soldiers saying the officer and his subordinates should “recognize the propriety of giving no quarter to armed negroes and their officers.” African-American soldiers were five times as likely as white soldiers to die from battle wounds. Unlike their white Union counterparts, African-American soldiers were more likely to die in battle than be wounded. At the Fort Pillow massacre of April 1864 approximately two-thirds of the three hundred African-American soldiers were killed. A naval officer observed the damage noting many dead African-American soldiers had “eyes punched out with bayonets; many of them were shot twice and bayonetted also.” He went on to say that their men, “threw away their guns and cried out that they surrendered; but the rebels kept on shooting them down until they had shot all but a few.” For African-Americans the great equalizer known as the battlefield presented equal …show more content…
To those soldiers the war was an opportunity to sacrifice their lives for a cause greater than themselves and in the process elevate the status of their race. Many used the inequalities of the war, such as unequal pay, to generate public sympathy for their cause and therefore for their race. To African-American soldiers the war was a tool to change the prejudices their race faced. Many “worked harder for his Uncle Sam than [they had] ever done for the master,” forcing fellow and opposing soldiers and ordinary citizens to revaluate their beliefs of what enslaved and freed African-Americans were capable of. African-American soldiers brought into question the foundations of racial inequality and threaten the cultural and economic systems based on that

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