The Recruiting Process Begins

The civil war had a different meaning to African-Americans across the nation. For example, Fredrick Douglass felt the war allowed him to release most of his hatred towards the South and to its slaveholders. During many of his recruitment speeches, Douglass told the crowd, "Retribution," is what the blacks, "owe to the slaveholders." (#1, p.160) Douglass felt the war had now given the blacks their chance to earn of freedom. "Now the government had given the authority to the black man," he also stated, "to shoulder a musket and go down and kill white rebels."(#1, p.160)

Frederick Douglass

 It was clear too many fighting the war that victory and freedom are won by vengeful ways. Many blacks were hopeful that by joining the army this would be a step towards citizenship and equality. Blacks were obviously very eager to get into a soldier’s uniform.

As early as 1861 the idea of using African Americans as soldiers first surfaced. It was assumed that colored troops would present the North with an advantage the South could never hope for. Surprising, black had already been apart of military action even before the President Lincoln gave the order. In Kansas James H. Lane was rallying colored troops where most of these troops were fugitive slaves from the South? David Hunter recruited colored troops approximately the same time he issued his emancipation order in May of 1862 (mentioned earlier). Before he was able to use these troops Lincoln’s cautiousness would slow the process considerably(#4, p. 136). Eventually Hunter received the order to disband the regiment. It was not until 1863 till the War Department decided to officially recruit black troops into the army. Authorization was given to all Northern governors to begin the recruitment process. Governor John Andrew quickly organized the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment(#5, p. 231). This regiment was the first northern colored regiment. The rest of the northern states swiftly followed suit and formed their own colored regiments as well. Frederick Douglass commented on the rapid growth of colored enlistments by stating, "Once you let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder…there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States." (#4, p. 138) It was a great honor for many blacks to join the Union Army in the war against the Confederates.

Another step towards recruiting colored troops was the creation of the Bureau of Colored Troops in May 1863. Implemented by the War Department the Bureau provided organization and direction, which aided in efficiently recruiting soldiers. The Bureau of Colored Troops positioned field officers strategically throughout the Border States to serve as recruiters. They collected nearly 21,000 volunteers by 1863 and recruited almost 15,000 out of the Mississippi Valley area(#5, p. 259).