Blacks In America`S Wars Essay, Research Paper
Blacks in Americas Wars By the end of the war there was scarcely a battle in which Black troops had not participated. Perhaps their outstanding achievement was the charge of the Third Brigade of the Eighteenth Division on the Confederate fortifications on New Market Heights near Richmond, Virginia. John Hope Franklin estimates that the Black mortality rate in the Army was nearly 40 percent higher than among white soldiers. This was partially due to unfavorable conditions, poor equipment, bad medical care, and the rapidity with which the Blacks were sent into battle. But Black troops were also, as W.E.B. Du Bois pointed out, “repeatedly and deliberately used as shock troops, when there was little or no hope of success.” Blacks also played a conspicuous role in the Union navy during the Civil War. Throughout its history the navy had not barred free Blacks from enlisting. In September 1861, suffering from an acute shortage of manpower, the navy went a step further and adopted a policy of signing up escaped salves as well as free Blacks. Because of the shortage of sailors, which continued throughout the war, the Navy treated Blacks fairly well since it was anxious to recruit them and have the re-enlist. Black seamen comprised one-quarter of the sailors in the Union fleet. Of the 118,044 enlistments during the Civil War, 29,511 were Blacks. Some of the ships in the fleet were manned by predominantly Black crews, and there was scarcely a ship that didn’t have some Afro-American crewmembers. Because of the close quarters on warships, it was never practical to segregate the Blacks with in the crews, the same way the army did in all-Black units, and for that reason the navy was not only integrated as a service, but also was integrated within each ship. On the basis of being American and having a birth right citizenship, he said: “?natural claims upon the country?natural rights, which may, by virtue of unjust laws, be obstructed, never can be annulled?. It is this simple but great principle of primitive rights, that forms the fundamental basis of citizenship in all free countries, and it is upon this principle, that the rights of the colored man in this country to citizenship are fixed.”For Delany, It was in the war record of Blacks that their claims to citizenship were justified. In serving one’s country and fighting its battles there was no responsibility, notes Delany, ‘for which the country owes a greater debt of gratitude.’ In Delany’s words: “love of country, is the first requisition and highest attribute of every citizen and he who voluntarily ventures his own safety for that of his country, is a patriot of the purest character.” Blacks at the start of the twentieth century also attempted to justify their citizenship by recalling the war record of Blacks and in particular their role in the Civil War. Among those writers were Timothy Thomas Fortune and Rev. Hightower Kealing. Fortune was the editor of the New York Age, the influential weekly Black newspaper in the 1880s and 1890s. Kealing was a leading cleric in the African Methodist Episcopal Church of the times in describing the general characteristics of Black people; Kealing also described the conduct of Blacks in the Civil War. They were, he said, ” affectionate and without vindictiveness.” Slaves almost never did physical harm to their owners during the war, despite the fact that many of their masters were in Confederate army and had left the slaves in the care of their wives and old and infirm white men. Their patience, he said, was the marvel of the world and had led many to question their courage until the battles of the Civil War demonstrated that Blacks were as courageous as Whites. T. Thomas Fortune Described the Blacks combat record in the Civil War in these terms: “However he may be lacking in pride of ancestry and race, no one can accuse the Negro of lack of pride of Nation? Indeed, his phases of his pathetic history?. He has given everything to the Republic? What has the Republic given him, but blows and rebuffs and criminal ingratitude. With Civil War over, Black soldiers found that they had achieved the legal status of freemen and the fourteenth and fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution had given them the legal rights of citizenship. Once again, as in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, wartime manpower shortages had forced some kind of tolerance. But with the war over, the need for Black support diminished and with no jobs, no money, and no training, Blacks found that they had exchanged legal slavery for economic slavery. When the government reneged on its promise of forty acres and a mule, Blacks found themselves without the economic resources to begin as small farmers and were forced into the status of agricultural laborers or sharecroppers. Displaced and deserted by the very Union forces they had aided, Blacks found, as Addison Gayel points out, that their fight for liberty was in the finaanalysis no more than a fight for reenslavement, this time by the Black Code laws that swept the South after the abandonment of Reconstruction by the Federal government. When the army was reorganized in 1866 and put on a peacetime basis, six Black regiments were established by law as a part of the regular army and as recognition and reward for valor. By an act of Congress in 1866, four regiments – the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry and the Ninth and Tent Cavalry – were organized as permanent army units and stationed west of the Mississippi River. Most of the officers in these units were white. The best-known graduate of these regiments was Gen. John Pershing, who earned the nickname “Black Jack” because of his service with Black soldiers. The Ninth and Tenth Cavalry were later central units in the campaign to ‘win the West” between 1870 and 1900. These units became known as the “Buffalo Soldiers” and were widely feared by the Indians because of their toughness. Benjamin O. Davis. Sr., who was later to win fame as the first Black general during World War II, began his career with the Buffalo Soldiers.