Ethnicity, Race, and the Military

Photo of African American soldier

Racial and ethnic groups played an important role in both armies during the Civil War. Many black soldiers fought for the North, enraging Southerners on the battlefield. Hispanic soldiers fought on both sides. American Indians acted as scouts and guides, hoping to regain land and freedom if they aided the victors.

Unfortunately, it would be decades before significant numbers of Americans recognized the considerable contributions of ethnic groups that had suffered chronic discrimination and a racial group that had been alternately enslaved, segregated, or ignored for more than 200 years.

Showing results 6-10 of 14

  • Fort Scott National Historic Site

    Forgotten Warriors

    Painting of Creek Chief Opotheyehala

    During the Civil War, Native Americans that enlisted in the United States Army found themselves the subject of discrimination. Yet through bravery, pride, and determination these individuals not only fought to earn the respect of their white compatriots, but to protect their homeland. Read more

  • Fort Smith National Historic Site

    Fort Smith's United States Colored Troops

    Presentation of colors to the 20th United States Colored Infantry

    Although African-Americans served in every previous American war, it was through the decisions of specific commanders. In a controversial move, the War Department called for all Union commanders to receive black soldiers into the Union forces. This official action led to the formation of the 11th Regiment United States Colored Troops, among others, in the fall of 1863. Read more

  • Painting of the Battle of Glorieta Pass

    The Civil War was an American epic and an American tragedy. The bloodiest war in United States history claimed the lives of more than 620,000 Americans. Hispanics were very much a part of this conflict. They knew hardship, fear, death, and destruction. They experienced victory and defeat. Some performed acts of spectacular gallantry. Others provided steady service that attracted little comment or notice. Read more

  • Recruiting Poster for the 69th New York, comprised entirely of Irish Americans

    Although many Irishmen were found throughout the Union, and to a lesser degree, Confederate forces, numerous specifically "Irish" regiments and companies enabled new immigrants to join comrades with a similar background. Most famous was the Irish Brigade of the Army of the Potomac, particularly distinguished for hard fighting at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. Read more

  • Photo of three African American boys in a Union army camp

    For thousands of African Americans during the Civil War, Washington, D.C. was a beacon of freedom - and a place where they could work to assist the war effort. There they found themselves digging fortifications, driving wagons, or cooking, but as free men and women selling their services, many for the first time in their lives. Read more

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