“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or under the earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.” ~Frederick Douglass, April 6, 1863
February is African American History Month, so an image of U.S. Colored Troops seems particularly appropriate this month for the Emerging Civil War Facebook cover photo. This image shows men of the 107th U.S. Colored Infantry. This unit was organized in Louisville, Kentucky between May 3 and September 15, 1864. The unit mustered out of service on November 22, 1866.
When the Civil War began, free black men were not eligible to be Union soldiers. As the war that many initially expected to be brief dragged on, though, the Union’s need for more and more troops became pressing. This need, combined with President Abraham Lincoln’s realization that the nation could never come back together with slavery intact, led him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation established abolition of slavery as one of the Union’s aims in fighting the war but also authorized the recruitment of black men as Union soldiers and sailors. By the time the Civil War ended, nearly 200,000 African American men had served under arms for the North.
Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.