During the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and part of the

Nineteenth Century the White people of North America used the

Black people of Africa as slaves to benefit their interests. White
people created a climate of superiority of their race over the Black

African race that in some places, still lingers on today. The

American Civil War however, was a key turning point for the

Black African race. Through their actions and the political actions
of President Lincoln and his administration, Black Africans set a
presedent for their freedom, equality and liberation.

A very important aspect of Blacks proving themselves was
that of the Black Man acting as a soldier in the Civil War. During
the Civil War the official decision to use Blacks as soldiers in the

Union Army was a slow gradual process and a series of strategic
political decisions. The actual use of Blacks as soldiers in the

Union Army was completed by a series of actions the Black Man
performed that won him the respect of becoming a soldier. The
two differ in that it was to President Lincoln's benefit to enlist

Blacks as soldiers when he did. Whereas the later was the Black

Man's will to fight for his freedom and prove himself as an equal
human being. However, because the Black population was barred
from entering the army under a 1792 law(4) the Black Man
becoming a soldier was not officially recognized until late 1862.

"There was strong anti-Black prejudice among most people
in the free states, and in the loyal slave states the idea of arming
the Black man was anthema"(1). This statement directly reflects the
generally held fear White people had about putting Blacks on the
fighting line of the armies in the Civil War. Whites felt that the

Civil War was a war started upon the White Man's issues and what
possible reason would the Black Man have for wanting to fight in
this war. On the contrary The Black Man saw The Civil War as an
opportunity to win freedom and gain respect(2). Blacks in the

North who were free from slavery willingly pledged their service
to fight in the Union Army however, their allegiance was denied
by President Lincoln on political grounds. Lincoln realized that
the issue of Black soldiers would be intolerable by the public and
would not be accepted. Initially, the Union Army utilized

Northern Blacks from the free states to relieve Whites from daily
tasks that were essential to maintain the armies, thus freeing up

White soldiers for battle. As the Union Armies began to move
further into Confederate territory however, they encountered many
runaway slave Blacks. These Blacks were the ones that contributed
most to the Union effort. This was true for two reasons.

First, there were many more Blacks in the South compared to the

North, roughly four million compared to two hundred thousand.

Secondly, the Black people in the South had more at stake, once
they left the Confederate side to join The Union there was no
turning back. Not only would they be deemed as trators but
runaways as well and were likely to face death if they where

In the beginning, when Union Armies would encounter
runaway slaves they would either hold them until their owner
retrieved them or they would return these people to the proper

Confederate Officials(1). This became a major burden to the

Union. Many generals did not want to be regarded as "slave
catchers" they realized their duty to be much more. Because of this
obstacle many Commanders enlisted the runaway Blacks for their
services without the consent of the Lincoln Administration. One
instance in particular, a precedent was set that would change the
policy of using Blacks in the Union army. Brig. Gen. Benjamin

Butler had encountered several runaway slaves. When A

Confederate Officer under a flag of truce had come to retrieve the
slaves, Butler refused on the grounds that slaves used by the

Confederate Army during war was no different than the use of
machinery or any other tool to aid in their progress. Therefore, the

Slaves would be considered contraband just as any other tool
would be(2). Shortly after this precedent was set The Lincoln

Administration passed The Confiscation Act which stated that all

Blacks encountered in confederate territory were to be taken in and
used at the Commanders descretion(1). This proved to be a great
help to the Union Army while a huge blow to the Confederates.

The Union was gaining manpower in direct proportion to the

Confederates loosing it. This alone played a huge factor in the
success of the Union Armies.

Eventually the confiscation of southern slaves began to
present a problem for the Union.