The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

“The issues of emancipation and military service were intertwined from the onset of the Civil war. News from Fort Sumter set off a rush by free Black men to enlist in U.S. military units. they were turned away, however, because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred Negros from bearing arms for the U.S. army… By mid-1862, however, the escalating number of former slaves (contrabands), the declining number of white volunteers, and the increasingly pressing personnel needs of the Union Army pushed the Government into reconsidering the ban.”

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