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During the war in November 1863, President Lincoln gave the famous Gettysburg Address speech at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The main point in his speech was about segregation of the blacks “our country was founded on freedom and equality” (Johnson 144). By the time the war came to an end, both African Americans and the white Americans had participated to save the union and stop slavery, and both losing a great number in the war. However, there has been a question of whether there was a connection between the recruitment of African Americans to fight in the Union Army and the overall message of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address or whether the two developments were completely separate.
When the war began in 1861, black units were not used in combat as extensively as they might have been due to prejudice against them. There was fear that the blacks were not as competent enough as the white soldiers and their first recruitment came in 1862 (James 118). It was found necessary to have the blacks also join the war due to the declining number of white volunteers, and the increasingly pressing personnel needs of the Union Army which pushed the Government to reconsider the ban. The African American soldiers were referred to as the United States colored troops. Concerns over the response of white soldiers and officers, as well as the effectiveness of a colored fighting force were raised (James165). Another major fear of recruiting the Blacks in the army was the fear of response of the Border States Border States withdrawing membership from the states, “The Lincoln administration wrestled with the idea of authorizing the recruitment of black troops” (Johnson 120). Since the government had called out people to volunteer in the army, they were afraid that should the blacks be introduced in to the army, the officers who had volunteered would withdraw and this would be a setback in the war. Even after recruitment of the blacks to the army in 1863, they were discriminated against with lower payments as compared to their counterparts. Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg rose the declaration of Independence, mentioned its principles of liberty and equality, and he talked of "a new birth of freedom" for the country (Johnson 46). In his brief address, he went ahead to reshape the aims of the war for the American people transforming it from a war for Union to that for freedom. Having advocated for freedom from slavery, winning the war meant an end to the vice thereby freedom. It is important to note that the black troops faced greater peril than white troops when captured by the Confederate Army. In 1863 the Confederate Congress threatened to punish severely officers of black troops and to enslave black soldiers. As a result, President Lincoln issued General Order 233, threatening retaliation on Confederate prisoners of war (POWs) for any mistreatment of black troops. The South feared Lincoln’s reign which also contributed to the war when he took power. With these facts put down, we can conclude that Lincoln had sincerely advocated for equality. According to the revised official data by James, “African American soldiers comprised 10% of the entire Union Army (James 42). Of the approximately 180,000 United States Colored troops, and over 36,000 died, or 20.5% (James 32). In other words, the mortality rate amongst the United States Colored Troops in the Civil War was thirty-five percent greater than that among other troops” (James 72). These figures support Lincolns administration against
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