African Americans and the Civil War
Their integral part in the Quest for Freedom
The Civil War set the stage for the United States to fulfill its promise as a land of equality. It was a time of conflict and a time of heroics as men and women of every color united for the cause of freedom. The struggles on the battlefield and away from it laid the groundwork for African Americans to achieve their piece of the "American Dream." Whether as soldiers, freedom-seekers, or abolitionists, African Americans played a vital role in the Civil War. And their story became America's story.
Martin Delany, the first African American field officer in the United States Army during the Civil War. William Goodrich, an African-American entrepreneur, risked his life as well as his business interests to help freedom seekers reach the North. The United States Colored Troops (USCT) were regiments of the United States Army during the American Civil War that were composed of African-American soldiers. USCT regiments fought in all theaters of the war, but mainly served as garrison troops in rear areas.
The most famous USCT action took place at the Battle of the Crater during the Siege of Petersburg, where regiments of USCT suffered heavy casualties attempting to break through Confederate lines. Sergeant Major Christian Fleetwood and Sergeant William Harvey Carney were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions with the 4th USCT in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm in Virginia, and the 54th USCT in the Battle of Fort Wagner respectively. White Americans took up the abolitionist cause as well. Thaddeus Stevens, a congressman, made the abolition of slavery his primary political and personal focus. It was through the collaboration of freedom seekers and freedom fighters that the United States began to push forward in its quest to grant freedom to all.