Black Troops: Review Background Information

As 1862 draws to a tumultuous close, I am considering including a provision in the Emancipation Proclamation allowing blacks to serve in the Union army. This is something I have publicly opposed until now. Would Northern voters and soldiers, many of whom have not yet embraced the idea of emancipation itself, be willing to accept black enlistments, too? I fear not, though there is increasingly more to be said in its favor.

The many Southern slaves escaping to Union lines could help strike a heavy blow against the rebellion, and Military service will prepare them for the responsibilities of freedom. Besides, the Union army needs men. Repeated calls for volunteers have gone unanswered, and the prospect of forced military service is unsettling the home front.

Name of Person 1

Frederick Douglass

A former slave and leader of the abolitionist movement. Through his speeches and published writings, he was a strong advocate for any serious emancipation efforts. During the war, he also played an important role in recruiting black soldiers to fight in the Union army. Later, Douglass would emerge as perhaps the nineteenth century’s most eloquent advocate for civil rights.

Name of Person 1

William Dennison

Lawyer, banker, governor of Ohio, member of Lincoln’s cabinet. A strong opponent of slavery, he nonetheless rebuffed a company of students at Ohio’s black Wilbeforce College when they offered themselves as a unit. He later helped recruit black troops in Ohio. Lincoln appointed him Postmaster General in 1864.

Enlist Black Troops

“Once you let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.”

Do Not Enlist Black Troops

“This is a white man’s government; that white men are able to defend and protect... To enlist a negro soldier would be to drive every white man out of the service.”

So those are my choices: Include a provision in the Emancipation Proclamation that authorizes the use of black soldiers, even though it would alarm many whites, or continue to fight the war without the benefit of black troops. What should I do?