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tv   The Civil War African Americans the Union Army  CSPAN  June 16, 2021 8:42am-9:22am EDT

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on what legal grounds could refugees become free or even be permitted to enlist in the army. by 1862, lincoln inched closer to black enlistment but remained tethered to one obstacle, border states. he submitted a resolution that questioned the authority upon which hunter made the decision to mobilize black soldiers. secretary of war stanton clarified that he had not authorized such measures. with no support, hunter disbanded the troops. lincoln regarded the measure premature and recorded the following explanation, quote, to recruiting free negroes, no objection. to recruiting of disloyal
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owners, no objection. to recruiting slaves of loyal owners without consent, objection, unless the necessity is urgent. indeed, several months after he made the statement, he drafted the preliminary proclamation which did not include any -- lincoln understood that the largest of americans were not ready to accept the idea of a black union soldier despite the country's long history of employing black soldiers. at the same time he called upon the expertise of the russian revolutionary to explore the legal basis upon which the american military would conduct the war which subsequently addressed such issues. known as the first modern codification of the rules of warfare, the government adopted rules known as the lieber code. although the lieber code was approved in the spring of 1863,
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he formulated these ideas before lincoln drafted emancipation proclamation. lieber wrote that, quote, slavery exists by municipal law, not by the law of nature. and men, by nature, are free and that slavery belongs to the municipal law where it exists. the laws of war meant that the war demanded such reasoning. municipal law falls from them like scales. men stand opposed to one another in war simply as men under the laws in usages of war which is a branch of international will you. the origins of this natural law argument can be found in the writings of abolitionists decades prior to war. halleck argued it does not belong to the military to decide
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upon the relation between master and slave. no fugitive slaves will be admitted within our lines. the orders recognized african-americans on the basis of natural law which affirmed their humanity as opposed to to the principle that foregrounded slave law. lieber made an argument that established the legal framework for how congress and the president would address the status of enslaved and free african-americans under martial law. confederate secretary of war charged that lieber's orders were designed to subvert the social system and domestic relations of the negro slaves and to add to the calamities of war. it became clear that lieber's rule supported the actions of union officers like fremont, butler, hunter and phelps. fremont issued a decree early in the war and butler used language to deprive confederates of slave
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labor. he stated that slavery and martial law in a free country are all together incompatible. they were justified in their actions now that lincoln adopted lieber's code and issued the emancipation proclamation. before lincoln signed off on lieber's orders, he deliberated the prospect of black enlistment with caution and issued orders that either authorized emancipation or the military services of african-americans. black men were deployed in the wars prior to the civil war. the civil war, however, involved a more expansive discussion of both liberty and citizenship. lincoln knew this as well arguing that, quote, negroes like other people act upon motives. why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them. if they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive and the promise being made it must be kept. the final draft enlisted
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african-american soldiers. where he defended the exclusion of black troops, he shared his support after the proclamation. they were mustered in on may 28th of 1863. they joined the first north carolina color regiment which became known as the united states color troops. as the war intensified throughout the south, african-american enlistment signified a turning point where the aspirations of black men converged with national interests. for black men, the privilege of american freedom factored into their military aspirations. but historians have oversimplified their motivations for enlistment. one historian argued that black soldiers cared little about the fate of the nation's republican military heritage or long-cherished citizen soldier ideas. it began with freedom and ended there. but one soldier remarked, quote, if we fight to maintain a
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republic government, we want republic privileges. for this soldier, the integrity of the republic experiment rested on whether or not african-americans could realize its principles. he stated further that, quote, we do not covet your wives nor your daughters, nor the position of political orator. all we ask is the proper enjoyment of the rights of citizenship and a knowledge share in our noble birthplace. indeed, another soldier understood the broader ramifications of the war offering it is notice merely that i am grateful for the protection and citizenship that i may hope for, but i recognize in the stability of this government a source of strength to other nations. while this government stands, there is hope for the most abject, disabled and help less of mankind. black soldiers were politicized in ways we have yet to fully explore. we might realize that freedom was the starting point from which they understood the meaning of enlistment.
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military service was one of the highest expressions of citizenship. in his attempt to enlist in the war, frederick douglass declared, you are an american citizen and you have hither too expressed in various ways not only your willingness but your desire to fulfill any and every obligation which the relationship of citizenship imposes. military service in particular was a hallmark of civic virtue. douglass spent decades and that it qualified people for membership in the affairs of the republic. for 19th century americans not captured the essence of personal sacrifice than military service and he believed that it would ignite an important debate about citizenship with black soldiers in mind. singleton, charlie, and samuel williams understood the myriad
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ways that service might alter the legal and social status of enslaved people without hearing his words or lieber's arguments about the natural law. decades after the war, single ton offered, quote, i wore the uniform of those men in blue. he pinned those words with great pride and conviction at a time when the gains of reconstruction were diminished by jim crow violence. throughout his lifetime, that uniform served as both a symbol of promise and devastation. the black soldiers in the western theater represented an array of experiences but each of them served with a measured hope and genuine concern for liberty and citizenship on the basis of equality. [ applause ] questions? yes.
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>> i have a couple questions. the singleton memoir sounds fascinating and it's -- i don't think well known by historians. can you tell us a little bit more about single ton, his life, when the memoir was published, the kinds of things it covers and where we can access it. >> singleton's memoir was published a couple decades after the 20th century. so i think it was 1922 it was published. and singleton is interesting because he begins his memoir in slavery in talking about his own resistance. he ran away from his master several times before he finally came -- actually returned to his original slave owner but had experience kind of hiding out and really understanding the landscape and reading that memoir kind of illuminates in a experience in ways that i think we have yet to really appreciate in the context of war and what that offers the union military.
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it also helps us see that in these little pockets throughout the war where there are concentrations of refugees that the people who really come forward are the people who have long been engaged in some sort of rebellious activity, extra legal activity or resistance activity, right and they're ready for this moment. i think they kind of hope against hope that something will happen in their favor. they don't think it's inevitable that they will be received into the army. but something about their history tells us that they think it's worth a try. they keep coming back. with single ton, he keeps running away throughout his life and you can see he's kind of the perfect candidate for reconnaissance work for the union military.
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>> black military service for the united states and within that tradition is black service in the u.s. navy which was continuous. i was hoping you could address kind of the role of black sailors during the war and their self-perception. >> absolutely. wells, he actually is authorized to bring in to use black labor in ways that are kind of ambiguous, that can allude to both service and -- to working as servants but also military service specifically. and that happens, actually, pretty early on in the war around 1861 you begin to see that correspondence between the secretary of war. and so there's a way in which they're permitted to kind of blur those lines a little bit and so they're incredibly important. i think it's also interesting that in the language, in that
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correspondence they're referred to as boys. you can employ a colored boy, right, to come work on the ships and assist the navy. so there's still that hesitance to formally acknowledge the actual military work that they perform and that isn't always disclosed in that correspondence. so it's hard to engage. but they are incredibly significant and they get a ahead start before people like singleton and the other people in this paper do. [ inaudible question ] >> understood that national law was enforced by reciprocity. and so when the south condemned the north and put people like
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hunter on the list of folks to hang, what did the north do in response to this? did they put southern officers on the list, anything like that? >> well, i think they kept prisoners of war just like every one else would during that time. and particularly at point lookout in maryland you see that when soldiers are -- when black soldiers are formally enlisted, that it's the black soldiers that are actually kind of guarding and in charge of these confederate prisoners of war and so you see some sense of retribution in that sense, but that's much later in the war. but at this point particular that this paper speaks to, black soldiers aren't formally enlisted yet. these are all about sort of
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these -- these sort of start-up moments where black refugees are trying to create their own military units and make the case for their formal enlistment. and what that tells us too is that, you know, just like lincoln said, white folks in the north were not ready for black soldiers at that particular moment. so black soldiers in themselves are trying to convince northerners that they should be in the military, that they should be allowed to serve in the military. i don't think that there's this sort of quick instinct or impulse to defend the actions of phelps and hunter in the same ways that we might see later on in the war. >> the total aspect of black soldiers serving for the union, how many total served by the end of the war. i've heard it something on the
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order of 200,000 -- >> around 200,000. >> and do you feel in your studies that it affected maybe not the outcome, but the timing of the outcome of the war. >> that's a really provocative question. [ laughter ] but i absolutely think that it shaped the outcome of the war. i think the emancipation proclamation in general shaped the outcome of the war, not just in terms of the service of black soldiers, but also the use of labor -- the black labor as contraband and these contraband camps, labor camps that are also really kind of maintaining the agriculture, what's left of the agricultural economy in the south as well. also had a very crippling effect on the confederacy in its resources. but absolutely, i do think that
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black soldiers made an impact. i don't know if necessarily they were the reason why the war concluded when it did. but i do think that there's something to be said of, you know -- for uprooting the entire labor force, the majority of the labor force of the south as very crippling to the confederacy. one more question. >> thank you for your talk. i liked when you talked about complicating the motivations for enlisting. i was wondering, i know congress passes laws that allows for the freedom of the families. does traditional masculinity as the role of providing for your family, if that comes into the
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equation. >> motivations for black soldiers to fight? >> those type of ideas to come in. >> i think -- i think that in a sense that being able to provide for one's family is absolutely tied to their desire to serve. i think wanting to secure freedom and this idea of hoping to have a permit freedom that's reassured just like the soldier i quoted at the end. a certificate of my freedom. they really just want the basic right of any citizen and i think when you think about citizenship, it's also the right to have patriarchy. it's the right to be the provider of your home. and the freedman's bureau does a really interesting -- does really interesting work in making sure that happens in that way. and so when they're placing women in jobs, they're trying to
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make sure that it doesn't conflict with the interest of the general family and black men are very -- very keen on making sure that their children are protected from the orphans courts, right, that they're keeping their family together, right? and so i think that that sort of gendered idea is absolutely a motivation, but it doesn't quite emerge in the record as much until we begin to see the freedman's bureau records and we get into the internal dynamics of what the families look like for refugees. [ applause ] ♪♪
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♪♪ treasury secretary janet yellen testifies today about the president's 2022 budget request before the senate finance committee. live coverage begins at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span3, online at or listen live on the c-span radio app. each night this week we're showing american history tv programs normally seen on the weekends on c-span3. tonight, a look at women's roles during world war ii. purchase college history professor lisa keller talks about how the influx of women joining the workforce changed
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traditional expectations and provided the initial spark for the women's movement. tonight on c-span3. over 1 million african-americans served in the armed forces during world war ii. up next, "washington post" writer deneen brown and lynn williams discuss the challenges they faced. they argue that while fighting fascism overseas, they had to battle with racism at home. this event was given at the united states holocaust museum. >> welcome to the museum's facebook live series. i'm your host, edna friedberg. in each episode, we explore a different aspect of holocaust history and its connections to its, our relevance to our world today. here in the united states, february is black history month and to commemorate this special


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