Voices of the Civil War Episode 14, Detroit Draft Riot, highlights a major riot within Detroit, Michigan, as one of many riots across the country, in response to the Enrollment Act of Conscription. Similar to the riot in New York, the Detroit riot was in response to race and class tension surrounding the issues of slavery, draft exemption, and employment. On March 6, 1863 white Detroiters used the trial of William Faulkner as a catalyst to destroy property within black neighborhoods.
Image Credit: Detroit Public Library
Episode 15 focuses on the life and career of Alexander Thomas Augusta, the first of only eight black physicians commissioned into the Union Army. Major Augusta served in the 7th U.S. Colored Troops and later worked as the surgeon-in-chief at the Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Image Credit: Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HUA
On May 22, 1863, the United States War Department established the Bureau of Colored Troops to organize and handle the enlistment of black troops into the Union Army. Colored infantries were formed all across the country. On May 23, 1864, the First Michigan Colored Volunteer Infantry was re-designated the 102nd Regiment United States Colored Troops. The 102nd fought throughout South Carolina, eastern Georgia, and Florida during the Civil War.
Image Credit: State Archives of Michigan
In Episode 17, Combahee River Raid, we look at the events of June 2, 1863, when Union Colonel James Montgomery led the 2nd South Carolina Colored Infantry Regiment and the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery up the Combahee River, to raid Confederate outposts and rice plantations. Harriet Tubman worked with Colonel Montgomery to plan the raid and scout the Combahee River for mines. The aftermath of this successful raid greatly reduced Confederate supplies, established a Union blockade on the river and freed nearly 700 enslaved men and women.
Image Credit: Harper's Weekly
The New York City Draft Riot, similar to the Detroit Draft Riot, was caused by the exemption clause of the Enrollment Act of Conscription and racial tensions between African Americans and white citizens. On July 13, 1863, rioters gathered outside of the Provost Marshal office, attacking the officers, setting fire to the building, and eventually burning down the entire block. African Americans throughout the city were beaten, tortured, and even killed. The riot ended on July 16, 1863 after 105 people died and at least 11 black men were lynched.
Image Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Divisions, [LC-USZ62-47037]
On August 9, 1863, Frederick Douglass met with President Abraham Lincoln to discuss the fair treatment and equal pay of African American soldiers within the Union Army. Although African American soldiers had proven themselves in battle, recruitment declined as black soldiers still faced racial discrimination and prejudice. Douglass expressed three specific grievances directly to President Lincoln and Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, in an effort to improve the treatment of African American soldiers.
Image Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-DIG-highsm-09902]
More than 180,000 African American soldiers served in the Union Army during the Civil War and of these, sixteen earned the Medal of Honor. Soldiers like Sergeant William H. Carney, Private James Daniel Gardner, Corporal Miles James, Thomas R. Hawkins and Christian Fleetwood were awarded for personal acts of valor that were above and beyond the call of duty. Fourteen of the sixteen Medals of Honor awarded were given away for actions at the Battle of New Market Heights, where over 50 percent of the black troops were killed, wounded, or captured.
Image Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-DIG-ppmsca-08997]
The women's rights movement in America was directly influenced by the work of the abolitionist movement. By 1863, the abolitionist and women's rights advocate Sojourner Truth had spent more than twenty years speaking out against slavery. She was a remarkable case, but the Civil War saw many female heroes. During the war, American women threw themselves into public life with an enthusiasm born out of a sense of duty.
Image Credit: New York Public Library
On November 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, just 272 words, lasting 3 minutes. The location of the Gettysburg Address had its own special resonance for African-Americans. Since the eighteenth century, the town of Gettysburg had maintained a small, vibrant African-American community. But during the Battle of Gettysburg, the two armies damaged or destroyed much of the property belonging to African-Americans, and many of the black residents who fled the town did not return. Though no one could mistake the meaning of the “new birth of freedom”, the Gettysburg Address remained silent about the fate of African-Americans. The “great task” mentioned by Lincoln was not emancipation, but the preservation of self-government. Though words cannot end a war or bind up a nation’s wounds, the Gettysburg Address lives on as perhaps the most significant speech in American history. Image Credit: Courtesy of Special Collections/Musselman Lib...
In December 1863, a lifelong slave named Robert Smalls became the first black captain of a United States vessel. From that point onward, he would earn $150 per month, making him one of the war’s highest paid black soldiers. But Smalls’ most memorable accomplishment came a year earlier, in one of the most audacious acts of the Civil War. Image Credit: From the Collections of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History