There was a pretty good turnout at Bull Run Library last night as I presented on the decisive role the United States Colored Troops played ending the Civil War.
The power of white supremacy and racism after the war manifested itself as soon as the victory parades on May 23rd and 24th. Although both the Army of the Potomac and Sherman’s rangy veterans who marched through Georgia and on through South and North Carolina included a number of colored divisions, not one soldier dressed in a Union blue uniform marched down Pennsylvania Avenue either day, thanks to the virulent racism of War Democrat Andrew Johnson.
The sheer numbers of black soldiers are astounding, The total number is generally given as 180,000, but estimates go as high as 209,000. In addition, 20,000 African Americans served aboard ships in the Union Navy, roughly one-third of the total, making the Navy’s blockade extremely effective. The 175 infantry, cavalry, artillery or engineer regiments exceeded the total force that Confederates had in the field in the last two years of the war and represented a greater force than either the Army of the Potomac or the armies Sherman commanded in the western theatre.
Despite this, their sacrifice and accomplishments were completely erased from public consciousness within two decades. Outside of Civil War historians, no one today would know that a single black soldier shouldered a musket and fixed bayonet to defend his country if it had not been for the movie “Glory.”
This is historical amnesia and blindness!!
The myth of black Confederate soldiers began to be spun in the 1970s in a misguided effort to make the Confederate cause seem more respectable. Aligned with the absurd claim that the war was not about slavery, it was supposed to bolster Lost Cause “respectability.” In fact, the Confederate Congress and Jeff Davis approved black soldiers out of desperation three weeks before Appomattox. “Black Confederates” is lipstick on a pig!
All of this does make history far from boring…