African American soldiers were instrumental in the defeat of the Confederacy during the American Civil War

15 Jun

USCT 111


Major Delaney USCTMajor Delaney was the first African American Field Grade officer in the United States Army.
Below are pictures of African American soldier in Cuba, during the Spanish-American war.Liberators_of_Cuba Buffalo soldiers Buffalo soldiers I
,,,,,,,,,,,1883 Buffalo soldiers
After the Civil War ended, for the first time in USA’s history; men of African descent were allowed to stay in the military. Out West they were called “Brunettes“.

The American Civil War

It is unfortunate that an historical event, that is so very important in the history of African Americans, and in which their ancestors played a very significant military role; which led to the defeat of the Confederate States of America; has been so neglected by the majority of African Americans today. 

Not just African Americans, but the majority of all Americans don’t know anything about the American Civil War, other than two things:

1) the North fought against the South,

2) and President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emancipation Proclamation (EP).

Nothing African Americans have done before or after the American Civil War, right up to the present day, is as significant as what their ancestors did during the Civil War.

By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 men of African descent (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy.

Nearly 40,000 African American soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of battle related infections.

Without the participation of African American soldiers and sailor the North most likely would have lost the American Civil War.

 The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation was a strategy of the Civil War 

During the very first year of the war, the recruitment of men to join the army and fight for the Union (North) had dropped.

Many people in the North had expected the war to last only a few weeks.

They were totally unaware of the military strength and determination of the Confederate Army.

When the conflict didn’t end when they thought it should have; their enthusiasm for the war declined.

Many Caucasian men in the North refused to join the military.

This created a serious problem for the Northern military commanders on the battlefields in the South.

They were desperate for new recruits.

A draft law was finally passed almost 2 years after the war began; to help fill the need of the Union Army.

All eligible Caucasian men in the North; would be forced into military service. 

After the draft law was passed; riots took place in many northern cities.

The worse riot took place in New York City. 

The rioters were against the draft and blamed African Americans as the cause of the Civil War. reported on one of these riot:

The New York Draft Riots showed all northern states weren’t anti-slavery.

The German and Irish immigrant communities in New York were targeted by the Democratic, or pro-slavery party.

They told the immigrants that they were being drafted so that African Americans people could stay behind and take their jobs.

As a result, one of the ugliest events in New York City history happened.

African American men, women and children were assaulted and even killed by mobs of immigrants.

(End of report)

People of African descent were robbed, beaten, and killed.

Terror mobs roam the streets looking for people of African descent.

They chased and murdered any person of African descent whom they encountered. Business and orphanages were robbed and burnt. 

new-york-draft riot 1863-300x257  orphan Asylum on 5th avenue burning Orphanage robbed and burnt

(Also from Wikipedia on this brutal riot)

The exact death toll during the New York Draft Riots is unknown, but according to historian James M. McPherson (2001), at least 120 civilians were killed.

Estimates are that at least 2,000 more were injured.

Total property damage was about $1 million. Historian Samuel Morison wrote that the riots were “equivalent to a Confederate victory.

(End of Wikipedia report)


One year later, one of the largest gathering in New York city; was for the: Presentation of The Colors to the 20th United States Colored Troop, March 1864.

I am sure that some of the rioters were also in the crowd.

Edward Lamson Henry - Presentation of the Colors to the 20th US Colored Troops

26th USCT at Rikers


Some of the Northern military commanders stationed in the Confederate States; wanted to use the males slaves who had ran away from servitude.

Many of these runaway slaves were camped around the Yankee (Northerners) bases in the south.

These commanders wanted to use these runaway slaves in some kind of military capacity.

One general in South Carolina; General Rufus Saxton, organized the first regiment of African American men.

They were called the “1st South Carolina Volunteers.”

They were not issued weapons, but they were taught to drill.

It had been reported by those who saw them; that they excelled in the art of drill.

This general who had personally seen African soldiers under the French command outside the USA; wanted to prove that African American men could be excellent soldiers.

Unfortunately he made them wear red trousers; just like he had seen the African soldiers wear.

Many of the men hated it; because they said the “Rebs” could easily spot them during combat.

Since the General had not received approval from Washington DC to organize this regiment, these men never received any pay for their service.

Many in President Lincoln’s administration and his advisers in Washington DC; were against what General Saxton, had done.

He was ordered him to disband the regiment.

Many of President Lincoln’s Cabinet strongly opposed the enlistment of African Americans “contraband” into the Union Army.

They didn’t want to be seen as supporting runaway slaves.

President Lincoln’s Cabinet believed that using slaves to fight; would justify what the South had been saying about him.

That his sole intention for being President of the USA was to destroy slavery.

The politicians also believed that the slaveholders (in Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, Missouri and some Parishes in Louisiana) who were supportive of the North in the war, would change their allegiance to the Confederates; if slaves were used in some military capacity..

Also, to do that would be against the Constitution of the United States.

The government could not confiscate someone else’s property without their permission.


But things became worse for the North on many battle fields.

The Army of the Union was not dominating in the field of battle.

Many of the battles and skirmishes were won by the Confederates. 

Although the draft was in place; the Yankee commanders still suffered from lack of new recruits.

The problem was solved with the argument that the President being the Commander In Chief during a time of war have the power to temporarily go against the Constitution.

That is the primary reason why The Emancipation Proclamation (EP) was drafted.

There was even a Preliminary Warning to the South that an EP was being drafted to free the Confederates’ slaves in September 1862.

The Confederates, were warned that if, they didn’t end their rebellion against the United States of America, then the EP would become a reality.

The EP became effective on January 1, 1863.

The EP gave the commanders in the field the right to forcibly take male slaves from the plantations and used them for whatever military necessity they had. 


Look at what it said about using the ex-slaves:

“And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.” 

The North was desperate for new recruits and the EP solved that problem. 

Many Northern commanders then started raiding slave plantations in the South and enlisted all the able-bodied slaves they could find. 

Many of the slaves were willing to enlist but there were others who didn’t like it.

Many slaves were very loyal to their masters’ family.

We may find this hard to believe because we have only heard about the brutality of American slavery.

Many slaves and their parents before them had spent their whole lives, belonging to the same Caucasian family.

The majority of slave owners were not brutal with their slaves. If they had been; then there would have been many more violent slave revolts in our history. 

Many slaves had emotional attachment to their slave masters and their families.

And many slave masters and their families had also developed an emotional attachment to many of their slaves.

The majority of these Caucasian slave masters and their families, believed in the superiority of the Caucasian race over other races; but nevertheless, they treated their slaves kindly.

Many slaves did not want to join the Union army.

They felt that they were being forced by the Yankees; into replacing one slave master for another.

The Yankee government was now their new master.


Without the use of African American men fighting on the side of the Union; the Confederates would most likely have won the war. 

The United States would have been permanently divided. 

The Confederate States of America would have become a reality.

After the EP was signed the North started a vigorous campaign, to recruit free African Americans men, living in the Northern states and certain Parishes in Louisiana; into the military. 


And free men of African descent in the North responded enthusiastically to joining the military.

Many of the most prominent African American leaders’ sons joined up.

The first regiment from the Northern states was created.

It was called the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Two of Frederick Douglass’ sons were in the 54 Massachusetts Regiment; a fact the movie Glory failed to mention.

The movie Glory was filled with many inaccuracies.

The 54 Mass. Regiment had some of the most intelligent African American soldiers.

It was made up of the sons of many prominent and wealthy African families.The majority of them were well educated.

It was even said by their detractors; that they would not fight as well as the other regiments made up of slaves; because they had never been enslaved.

They would not fight with the same intensity as those who understood by personal knowledge the brutality of a slave’s life.

During the attack on Fort Wagner these naysayers were proved wrong.

The movie Glory; gave the impression that only one person in the regiment was educated and he was shown as a wimp.

The movie also tried to ridicules the members of the 33rd USCT (first called the 1st South Carolina Volunteers).

Colonel Higginson

Read the book “Army Life ion a Black Regiment by Thomas Wentworth Higginson” who was the commander of the 33rd United States Colored Troops; when the 54 Mass. Regiment was stationed in South Carolina.


“The question was often asked, whether the Southern slaves or the Northern free blacks made the best soldiers.

It was a compliment to both classes that each officer usually preferred those whom he had personally commanded.

I preferred those who had been slaves, for their greatest docility (easily trained or taught) and affectionateness, for the powerful stimulus which their new freedom gave, and for the fact that they were fighting, in a manner, for their own homes and firesides.

…………….Inexperienced officers (Caucasians) often assumed that, because these men had been slaves before enlistment, they would bear to be treated as such afterwards.

Experience proved the contrary. The more strongly we marked the difference between slave and the soldier the better for the regiment.

One half of military duty lies in obedience, the other half in self respect. A soldier without self respect is worthless.

……………I had to caution the officers to be more than usually particular in returning the salutations of the men; to be very careful in their dealings with those on picket or guard duty; and on no account to omit the titles of the non-commissioned officers (usually African Americans).

So, in dealing out punishments, we had carefully to avoid all that was brutal and arbitrary, all that savored (reminded of the behaviour) of the overseer.

…………A system of light punishments, rigidly administered according to the prescribed military forms, had more weight with them than any amount of angry severity.

To make them feel as remote as possible from the plantation, this was essential.

By adhering to this, and constantly appealing to their pride as soldiers and their sense of duty, we were able to maintain a high standard of discipline,….,,,”


The entry of African American men to the fight, brought about a change in the spirit of the war. 

The Gettysburg Address referenced to a new birth of freedom for America; was because the people of African descent would be freed from slavery.

The beginning and ending of the Gettysburg Address: 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.……

……that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The freeing of African American slaves are who President Lincoln was primarily referring to in the Gettysburg Address.

The ending of slavery would bring about a new birth of freedom; for all Americans.

Lincoln was saying that once our nation was freed from having slaves; then the whole nation would experience a ‘new birth of freedom.”

The moral stain of slavery would be removed from the United States of America forever. 

As Fredrick Douglass was reported to have said, “It seem like the  All-Mighty Creator was blessing the North to be victorious in their battles after the EP was issued.” 

At first some racist Northern commanders didn’t want African American men under their command; but after they learned of their fighting ability; they couldn’t get enough of them in their regiments. 


Over 40,000 African American soldiers and sailors died fighting for the Union army.

Near the end of the Civil War, the Confederate leaders finally authorized the forming of a regiment of African American soldiers.

However, it was too late.

The Confederate government had rejected doing so earlier.

They believe it would be a contradiction to the statement made by the Vice-President of the Confederate States at the birth of the Confederacy about ‘the superiority of white men over Negroes’.

But in 1864-65 they were desperate. They knew they were going to be defeated.

The men of African descent in the Union army, had been decimating the Confederate soldiers on many battlefields.

Men of African descent from the South, had also fought on many occasions, alongside their slave masters and their fellow Caucasian southerners during the war.

There had always existed a close relationship between many Caucasian slave masters families and some of their African American slaves.

Many of them had played together when they were children.

During the war many would fight if necessary beside their masters who were in the Confederate Army.

That is why it has been recently erroneously reported; that there were regiments of ‘negroes’ fighting for the Confederacy.

They were not part of any military unit.

Just some slaves fighting besides their masters.


Related image


The words and the title of the song  “*John Brown’s Body,” which was a popular song among every African American regiment during the Civil War, was later changed and called “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic. 

The African American soldiers were the only ones who sung this song during the Civil War.

So every time you heard the song The Battle Hymn Of The Republic you should be reminded that your ancestors were the ones who played a significant role in the fight to end slavery in America.

Slavery did not end in the United States of America; just because of the Emancipation proclamation.

When the Northern soldiers march into the Confederate capital in Virginia, near the end of the war; the inhabitants were surprised to see an African American Cavalry regiment among the first to enter. 

Then an African American Infantry entered with a marching  band playing John Brown’s Body and the song Babylon Has Fallen. 

We all need to read about the participation of our ancestors in the Civil War. 

We were not just freed by President Abraham Lincoln signing the EP but because of the courageous fighting ability of our ancestors on many battlefields during the civil War. 

Our ancestors have made more sacrifices for this country than any other Americans.

It is one thing to be a patriot when everyone loves and respect you, and welcome you with open arms.

But to be patriotic, when the majority of your fellow citizens hate you and treat you like garbage; is the greatest mark of a true patriot.

Our patriotism have always been rejected by those who hate us.


Our patriotism and love for the United States of America, should be for OURSELVES; not to show anyone else that we love this country.

We MUST stake our claim for the United States of America.

Our ancestors gave their blood, sweat and tears; for the day when we will have the same rights as every other American citizen.

We need to remember that despite the terrible situation that our ancestors endured during the past centuries here in the so-called ‘New World;’ their achievements are unparalleled by any other group of people in the recent history of the world. 

We need to be inspired by them.

Unfortunately; the majority of our people only know about the bad things (slavery, cruelty, discrimination, lynchings, segregation, lack of civil rights etc. etc.). 

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We hear little about their intelligence (many plantations owed their success to the knowledge of slaves who were farmers in Africa).

We hear little about the men and women who built the White House and the Capitol Building in Washington DC.

We hear little about their loyalty and faithfulness to kind and caring  ‘masters’ and their family.

Slave masters who would not allow anyone to mistreat their ‘slaves. 

We hear little about the numerous cruel slave masters and overseers killed by slaves. 

We hear little about African Americans’ patriotism (they fought in every military conflict in America from the 17th century until the present). 

Many African Americans fought in the American Revolutionary War against Britain.

That war that freed the American colonies from Britain.

During the 17 and 18 century they were also very active in the struggle for the rights of slaves and indentured servants. 

At that time mixed marriages were common between indentured servants from the British Isles and Africans; until, the “rich landowners’ passed laws to stop this unity between the slaves and the indentured servants. 

Over the next centuries many of the children of these marriages (free because the mothers were Caucasians) eventually merged into the Caucasian race (there is a claim that Abraham Lincoln was one of the descendants of these mixed unions). 

It is also a fact that the wife of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis was a woman of African descent. 

Later in the 20th century many prominent Americans were also of African descent. 

These include Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter. 


Former FBI director (for over 27 years) J. Edgar Hoover was also a man of African descent. 


Clarke Gable the actor was also of African descent.

william 'Clark Gable

Above is Jefferson Davis (Confederate State’s first and last President) and his African American wife. Read about it at:

President John Kennedy’s wife Jackie Kennedy was also of African descent.


The American Civil War came to a swift conclusion after African American soldiers entered the war. 

Their courage and fighting ability were well known during and after the war. 

That is the reason why they were allowed to remain as members of the American military (9th and 10th Calvary Regiment and the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiment) after the war and unfortunately; they were sent out west to fight against the Native Americans.

During past military conflicts and wars in the USA; men of African descent were quickly removed from the military after the war was over.

That was the norm after the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

That changed after the Civil War.

My point is that, not all of our history is about weeping and wailing. 

Some of the most courageous and wonderful Human Beings that the world has ever produced; existed among our people. 

We need to study their history and emulate them.

African Americans should stop believing and saying; our ancestors were freed because Abraham Lincoln signed the EP.

Our ancestors were freed from slavery; because they fought on many battlefields and on many battleships to ensure the Confederacy was defeated. 


Charles Trowbridge

by Lt. Colonel C. T. Trowbridge, 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, February 9, 1866

MORRIS ISLAND, S. C., Feb. 9, 1866

General Order
No. 1

        COMRADES: The hour is at hand when we must separate forever, and nothing can take from us the pride we feel, when we look upon the history of the ‘First South Carolina Volunteers,’ the first black regiment that ever bore arms in defense of freedom on the continent of America.

        On the 9th day of May, 1862, at which time there were nearly four millions of your race in bondage, sanctioned by the laws of the land and protected by our flag,–on that day, in the face of the floods of prejudice that well-nigh deluged every avenue to manhood and true liberty, you came forth to do battle for your country and kindred.

        For long and weary months, without pay or even the privilege of being recognized as soldiers, you labored on, only to be disbanded and sent to your homes without even a hope of reward, and when our country, necessitated by the deadly struggle with armed traitors, finally granted you the opportunity again to come forth in defense of the nation’s life, the alacrity with which you responded to the call gave abundant evidence of your readiness to strike a manly blow for the liberty of your race.

And from that little band of hopeful, trusting, and brave men who gathered at Camp Saxton, on Port Royal Island, in the fall of ’62, amidst the terrible prejudices that surrounded us, has grown an army of a hundred and forty thousand black soldiers, whose valor and heroism has won for your race a name which will live as long as the undying pages of history shall endure; and by whose efforts, united with those of the white man, armed rebellion has been conquered, the millions of bondsmen have been emancipated, and the fundamental law of the land has been so altered as to remove forever the possibility of human slavery being established within the borders of redeemed America.

The flag of our fathers, restored to its rightful significance, now floats over every foot of our territory, from Maine to California, and beholds only free men!

The prejudices which formerly existed against you are well-nigh rooted out.

Soldiers, you have done your duty and acquitted yourselves like men who, actuated by such ennobling motives, could not fail; and as the result of your fidelity and obedience you have won your freedom, and oh, how great the reward!

It seems fitting to me that the last hours of our existence as a regiment should be passed amidst the unmarked graves of your comrades, at Fort Wagner.

Near you rest the bones of Colonel Shaw, buried by an enemy’s hand in the same grave with his black soldiers who fell at his side; where in the future your children’s children will come on pilgrimages to do homage to the ashes of those who fell in this glorious struggle.

The flag which was presented to us by the Rev. George B. Cheever and his congregation, of New York city, on the 1st of January, 1863,–the day when Lincoln’s immortal proclamation of freedom was given to the world,–and which you have borne so nobly through the war, is now to be rolled up forever and deposited in our nation’s capital.

And while there it shall rest, with the battles in which you have participated inscribed upon its folds, it will be a source of pride to us all to remember that it has never been disgraced by a cowardly faltering in the hour of danger, or polluted by a traitor’s touch.

Now that you are to lay aside your arms, I adjure you, by the associations and history of the past, and the love you bear for your liberties, to harbor no feelings of hatred toward your former masters, but to seek in the paths of honesty, virtue, sobriety, and industry, and by a willing obedience to the laws of the land, to grow up to the full stature of American citizens.

The church, the school-house, and the right forever to be free are now secured to you, and every prospect before you is full of hope and encouragement.

The nation guarantees to you full protection and justice, and will require from you in return that respect for the laws and orderly deportment which will prove to every one your right to all the privileges of freemen.

To the officers of the regiment I would say, your toils are ended, your mission is fulfilled, and we separate forever.

The fidelity, patience, and patriotism with which you have discharged your duties to your men and to your country entitle you to a far higher tribute than any words of thankfulness which I can give you from the bottom of my heart.

You will find your reward in the proud conviction that the cause for which you have battled so nobly has been crowned with abundant success.

Officers and soldiers of the 33d U. S. Colored Troops, once the First So. Carolina Volunteers, I bid you all farewell!

By order of 

Commanding regiment

1st Lieut. 33d U. S. C. T. and acting adjutant

Source:  Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33rd US Colored Troops, Late 1st SC Volunteers, 

by Susie King Taylor

– Mustering Out of the Service

The majority of Americans have no knowledge of the origin of the song ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

This is one of the more popular version before the song was ‘whitewashed.’ 

“John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave,While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save; But tho he lost his life while struggling for the slave,His soul is marching on. 

 (Chorus) Glory, glory hallelujah. Glory, glory hallelujah. Glory, glory hallelujah. His soul is marching on.

John Brown was a hero, undaunted, true and brave,

And Kansas knows his valor when he fought her rights to save;

Now, tho the grass grows green above his grave,

His soul is marching on.


He captured Harper’s Ferry, with his nineteen men so few,

And frightened “Old Virginny” till she trembled thru and thru;

They hung him for a traitor, they themselves the traitor crew,

But his soul is marching on.


John Brown was John the Baptist of the Christ we are to see,

Christ who of the bondmen shall the Liberator be,

And soon thru out the Sunny South the slaves shall all be free,

For his soul is marching on.


The conflict that he heralded he looks from heaven to view,

On the army of the Union with its flag red, white and blue.

And heaven shall ring with anthems o’er the deed they mean to do,

For his soul is marching on.


Ye soldiers of Freedom, then strike, while strike ye may,

The death blow of oppression in a better time and way,

For the dawn of old John Brown has brightened into day,

And his soul is marching on.


Every time you hear the ‘Battle Hymn of The Republic” think about what you have just read.



Statues in Boston of The 54th Mass Regiment with Colonel Shaw


African American Marines in training during WWII and General Daniel ‘Chappie’ James, the USAF’s first African American 4 star General.

Read about them here:

Cw1CW,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,signlanguageThis drawing and the ones below were done by Frederick Remington. He rode and reported on the Buffalo soldiers.WWII soldiers of African descentdrawings by Frederic Remington



Pictures of Jesse Leroy Brown and his Naval comrades. Read about him at:


1888: A contingent of African Americans or 'buffalo soldiers' of the US army make camp around a small fire during a scouting mission. Original Artwork: Drawing by Frederic Remington. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

1888: A contingent of African Americans or ‘buffalo soldiers’ of the US army make camp around a small fire during a scouting mission. Original Artwork: Drawing by Frederic Remington. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)



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Read also: “The first American hero of WWII was an African American man. Dori Miller”

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One Response to “African American soldiers were instrumental in the defeat of the Confederacy during the American Civil War”

  1. chiniquy September 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    Reblogged this on chiniquy.


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