Resistance to Recruitment

Recruitment of blacks in the Union army was such a bold, radical step horrified many conservatives. The army found employment for thousands of African-Americans as laborers on fortifications, trenches, roads, and railroads. Wages were poor, the work was tedious, and conditions were sometimes dangerous. Most people usually hated military physical labor, and when volunteers were too few, the army forced the required numbers into service. Nothing would ever come easy to the freed black man. Nearly 200,000 Southern Blacks were employed in this way during the war(#5, p.256). Manual labor was acceptable, but the idea of giving a weapon and a uniform to black man was very unsettling for some white Americans. Many reasons were given in favor of not having colored troops: some felt it would only increase the brutality of the war, while others believed colored troops would only give the South more incentive to fight and others did not like the idea of the black man being perceived as a fighting man. Finally the biggest fear of the North was that the admittance of blacks into the army would only threaten the racial superiority whites have felt for so long.