Monday, March 1, 2010

Freedom Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Many slaves who found their freedom soon discovered that the promised land really didn't exist. They were shunned in the north by other minorities, who feared that blacks would take away their jobs. The freedmen were discriminated against at every turn, including those who enlisted in the Union army.

Typical pay for a white soldier was $13 a month, while blacks only received $11 a month, and had $3 a month taken out of their wages for uniforms. Most black soldiers were put to work digging ditches, cooking, or tending to livestock. In other words, they were the grunt labor. Black soldiers received one ration a day, whereas white soldiers received full rations.

White soldiers commonly razed and tormented their black counterparts. They were encouraged to join black regiments in order to achieve self-promotion. Many white soldiers received rapid advancement while enlisted as officers of black regiments. Although the 54th Massachusetts is a famous example of a black regiment, most did not serve combat duty. By 1865, of the one million soldiers serving in the Union army, 15% were black.

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