America’s Painful, Historic Contempt for Black Soldiers
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The presence of African American soldiers on the battlefields afforded them opportunities to win glory and acceptance, but also exposed them to racially motivated violence. When the United States Congress first authorized black military service in the summer of 1862, the Confederate War Department responded with General Order No. 60, issued on August 21, 1862. The order indicated that the Confederacy would not treat black men as soldiers, but would instead view them as slaves in a state of insurrection, making them liable to execution or sale into slavery. White officers captured while leading or training black troops would be tried for a felony, for which they could receive the death penalty. Confederate president and the Confederate Congress ratified these policies in subsequent pronouncements. On July 30, 1863, the Lincoln administration ordered retaliation for the mistreatment of black prisoners, pledging to execute one prisoner of war for every member of the USCT sentenced to death, and to put captured Confederates to hard labor for any black soldier sold into slavery. In 1864, the Confederate government's refusal to exchange black prisoners led to a breakdown in the practice of parole and exchange for white prisoners of war.
Yes, There Were Black Confederates. Here’s Why
USCT regiments were also present in the final campaigns of the war. In December 1864, the Union army organized the all-black Twenty-fifth Corps under General Godfrey Weitzel, which took part in the amphibious assault on Fort Fisher off Wilmington, North Carolina, one of the last ports to be seized by Union troops. In the West, black soldiers fought at the Battle of Nashville in December 1864 and assisted in the capture of Mobile, Alabama, in 1865. The 21st USCT and elements of the 54th Massachusetts were among the first soldiers to enter Charleston, South Carolina, early in 1865, and, after the evacuation of Richmond in April 1865, the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry and Weitzel's Twenty-fifth Corps joined lead elements in taking possession of .