African Americans in the Civil War

"Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship." – Frederick Douglass

By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 African American men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 African American soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in artillery, cavalry, and infantry units. They also performed all noncombatant support functions that sustain an army, as well. African American carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly 80 African American commissioned officers.

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        Last updated: December 21, 2022

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