Essay on From Oppressed Slaves to Champion Soldiers

This essay has a total of 3744 words and 20 pages.

From Oppressed Slaves to Champion Soldiers

"They [Black soldiers] will turn and run at the first
sight of the enemy!" (Emilio 10) This is just a small example
of the doubt and hatred that was bestowed on the African
American soldiers. However, during the war, they proved
themselves to be brave and courageous men on and off the
battlefield on many occasions. Despite deep prejudices and
harsh criticisms from the white society, these men were true
champions of patriotism. The cause of the Civil War was
tension between the North and the South. The sectional
division between the areas began in colonial times, largely
resulting from geographical differences. The South was
ideal for growing tobacco due to the warm climate and the
fertile soil. Plantations brought in black slaves from Africa
to provide most of the labor required for growing the crop.
In time, other plantation crops such as cotton, sugar cane,
indigo, and sugar beets were to thrive in the South. "By the
onset of the Civil War, 2.4 million slaves were engaged in
cotton production" (Long 16). A rural way of life that
supported an agrian economy based on slave labor was
quickly established in the South. The North, however, was
a cooler, rockier climate that would not support the
development of plantations. As a result, the North's
economy came to depend more on trade and industry than
on agriculture. This economy supported the growth of
cities, although many lived in rural areas during the colonial
period. The sectional division between North and South
had widened enormously by the mid - 1800's. The United
States had expanded all the way to the Pacific Ocean and
was rapidly becoming a major industrial and commercial
nation. However, industry and commerce were centered in
the North. The Northerners welcomed modernization and
the constant changes it brought to their way of life. Their
ideals included hard work, education, economic
independence, and the belief that the community had the
right and responsibility to decide whether an action was
moral or immoral. While Northerners looked forward to a
different and better future, Southerners held the present and
past dear. They enjoyed a prosperous agricultural economy
based on slave labor and wished to keep their old way of
life. By the 1800's, northerners viewed slavery as wrong
and began a movement to end it. Even though an
antislavery minority existed in the South, most Southerners
found slavery to be highly profitable and in time came to
consider it a positive good. Such situations as the
Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act
raised tensions between the North and the South. The
Compromise of 1850 was a group of acts passed by
Congress in the hope of settling the dreaded slavery
question by satisfing both the North and South. The
Compromise allowed slavery to continue where it desired,
but the trading of slaves was prohibited in Washington DC.
New territories would have the choice to decide whether to
permit slavery or not. This act also required that the North
return escaped slaves to their owners. The
Kansas-Nebraska Act dealt with the problem of Slavery in
new territories. This Act allowed slavery in Nebraska and
Kansas. It also provided that when the people of each
territory o! rganized as a state, they could decide by
popular vote whether to permit slavery to continue. The
Dred Scott Decision, where a slave claimed freedom
because he had lived in a free state and territory for some
time, was denied his freedom. The Supreme Court
declared that no black could be a US citizen. The ruling
aroused anger in the North and showed that the conflict
over slavery was beyond judicial solutions. Another
situation was the raid at Harpers Ferry. An abolitionist
named John Brown and his followers attempted to start a
slave rebellion by seizing the federal arsenal in Harpers
Ferry, Va. Brown, however, was captured 28 hours later
by troops under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee.
Brown was convicted of treason and hanged two weeks
later. Many Southerners saw the raid as evidence of a
Northern plot to end slavery by force. During the election
of 1860, Lincoln was chosen by the Republicans as their
party candidate. The Democrats chose Douglas for their
ticket. Lincoln won all electoral votes of every free state
except New Jersey, which awarded him four of its seven
votes. He thus gained a majority of electoral votes and won
the election. However, Lincoln received less than 40 per
cent of the popular vote, almost none of which came from
the South. Southerners feared Lincoln would restrict or end
slavery. Before the 1860 presidential election, Southern
leaders had urged that the South secede from the Union if
Lincoln should win. Many Southerners favored secession
as part of the idea that the states have rights and powers
which the federal government cannot legally deny. The
supporters of states' rights held that the national
government was a league of independent states, any of
which had the right to secede. In December 1860, South
Carolina became the first state to secede. Five other states
- Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana -
followed in January 1861. In February, representatives
from the six states met in Montgomery, Ala., and
established the Confederate States of America. They
elected Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as president and
Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia as vice president. In
March, Texas joined the confederacy. Lincoln was
inaugurated two days later. In his inaugural address,
Lincoln avoided any threat of immediate force against the
South. But he stated that the Union would last forever and
that he would use the nation's full power to hold federal
possessions in the South. One of the possessions, the
military post of Fort Sumter, lay in the harbor of
Charleston, SC. The Confederates fired on the fort on
April 12 and forced its surrender the next day. Following
the firing on Fort Sumter, Fredrick Douglass wrote a fiery
editorial Nemesis: At last our proud Republic is overtaken.
Our National Sin has found us out. The National Head is
bowed down, and our face is mantled with shame and
confusion. No foreign arm is made bare for our
chastisement. No distant monarch, offended at our freedom
and prosperity, has plotted our destruction no envious
tyrant has prepared for our necks his oppressive yoke.
Slavery has done it all. Our enemies are those of our own
household. It is civil war, the worst of all wars, that has
unveiled its savage and wrinkled front among us. During the
last twenty years and more, we have as a nation been
forging a bolt for our own national destruction, collecting
and augmenting the fuel that now threatens to wrap the
nation in its malignant and furious flames. We have sown
the wind, only to reap the whirlwind. Against argument,
against all manner of appeal and remonstrances coming up
from the warm and merciful heart of humanity, we have
gone on like the oppressors of Egypt, hardenin! g our
hearts and increasing the burdens of the American slave,
and strengthening the arm of his guilty master, till now, in
the pride of his giant power, that master is emboldened to
lift rebellious arms against the very majesty of the law, and
defy the power of the Government itself. In vain have we
plunged our souls into new and unfathomed depths of sin,
to conciliate the favor and secure the loyalty of the slave -
holding class. We have hated and persecuted the Negro
we have scourged him out of the temple of justice by the
Dred Scott decision we have shot and hanged his friends at
Harper's Ferry we have enacted laws for his further
degradation, and even to expel him from the borders of
some of our States we have joined in the infernal chase to
hunt him down like a beast, and fling him into the hell of
slavery we have repealed and trampled upon laws designed
to prevent the spread of slavery and in a thousand ways
given to increase the power and ascendancy of slavery !
over all departments of Government and now, as our
reward, this slave-holding power comes with sword, gun,
and cannon to take the life of the nation and overthrow the
great American Government (Long 26). "There is no more
moving and telling an expression of the Black's view of the
Civil War than this" (Long 26). On April 15, Lincoln called
for Union troops to regain the fort. The South regarded the
move as a declaration of war. Virginia, Arkansas, North
Carolina, and Tennessee soon joined the Confederacy.
Virginia had long been undecided about which side to join.
Its decision to join the Confederacy boosted Southern
morale. Richmond, Virginia's capital, became the capital of
the Confederacy in May. It is ironic that only a few days
before Fort Sumter was attacked, Douglass had agreed to
make a trip to Haiti to investigate the possibility of
emigration there by free Blacks at the invitation of the
Haitian government. He had always been a strong foe of
emigration and repatriation schemes, but the increasingly
hostile environments for Blacks in the United States and the
growing power of the slave-holders in the government
worried him into exploring the option of emigration. (Long
27). When the Civil War began, about 22 million people
lived in the North. About 9 million people, including 3.5
million slaves, lived in the South. The North had around 4
million men from 15 through 40 years old - the
approximate age range for combat duty. The South had
only about 1 million white men from 15 through 40. The
north began to use black soldiers in 1863. The South did
not decide to use blacks as soldiers until the closing days of
the war. From the very beginning of the war, it was obvious
that many would lose their lives. As the war progressed,
the death toll drastically increased. At the close of the year
1862, the military situation was discouraging to the
supporters of the Federal Government. We had been
repulsed at Fredericksburg and at Vicksburg, and at
tremendous cost had fought the battle of Stone River.
Some sixty-five thousand troops would be discharged
during the ensuing summer and fall. Volunteering was at a
standstill. On the other hand, the Confederates, having filled
their ranks, were never better fitted for conflict. Politically,
the opposition had grown formidable, while the so-called
"peace- faction" was strong, and active for meditation.
(Emilio 1). It was evident that more and more men would
have to join the draft. But the wives of these soldiers did
not want their husbands running off to war, just to be killed.
More soldiers were need. Lincoln realized this, but did not
want to use black soldiers because he did not want to bring
the issue of slavery into the war. The war had began as an
effort to save the union, and that is how Lincoln wanted to
keep it. When the Confederate batteries fired on Fort
Sumter early on the morning of April 12, 1861,
inaugurating four years of internecine warfare, many
Negroes were eager to wear the Union blue. They found
their services were neither wanted at that time nor
contemplated in the future. (Leckie 3). At this time, most of
the blacks living in the South were slaves and wanted to
fight for the Union cause. "Many slaves saw their way to
freedom in the armies of the North" (Long 26). Early in the
war, Northern blacks who wanted to fight to end slavery
tried to enlist in the Union Army. But the Army rejected
them. Most whites felt the war was a "white man's war."
Others felt that the blacks were not able to fight as well as
the white soldiers. As Northern armies drove into
Confederate territory, slaves flocked to Union camps.
After a period of uncertainty, the Union government
decided to allow them to perform support services for the
Northern war effort. In time, as many as 200,000 blacks
worked for Union armies as cooks, laborers, nurses,
scouts, and spies. Black leaders, such as the former slave
Frederick Douglass of New York, saw the Civil War as a
road to emancipation for the slaves. However, the idea of
emancipation presented problems in the North. For one
thing, the Constitution recognized slavery. In addition, most
Northerners - even though they may have opposed slavery
- were convinced of black inferiority. Many of them feared
the emancipation would cause a mass movement of
Southern blacks into the North, Northerners also worried
about losing the border states loyal to the Union because
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