The Gettysburg battle was a kind of war fought between July 1 and July 3 in the year 1863. It is regarded as the most significant American Civil War engagement. The battle took place on the farms that were mostly owned by local farmers (Ryan, 2017). More than fifty thousand men died during the war. General Robert E. Lee led his army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania in the later days of June 1863. This happened after they considerably emerged victorious over the Union Force at Chancellorsville. The advancing confederates on 1 July 1863 conflicted with the Army of the union at the Potomac in Gettysburg crossroad town under the orders of General George G. Meade. The quick learning of union advance by Lee made him begin the process of consolidating his different columns. The absence of Jeb Stuart who was the commander of Confederate Cavalry made Lee unaware of the understanding of the position and strength of the union. Jeb Stuart was instead foraging missions and riding over the northern countryside. The lack of knowledge on the situation and power on the union is what triggered and led to the first Gettysburg war on July 1, 1863. The Gettysburg war ended the black slavery in the north and also transformed the entire state of Gettysburg town. Racism and slavery were, however, quite evident in the war. Black men were the ones who were put on the war front and were the ones who succumbed to the war the most. In this article, we will look at the issue of racism experienced among the black community which was quite evident in the Gettysburg battle.
Though hard to believe or comprehend, the Gettysburg civil war was not originally meant to be a war to free African American slaves. During the early years of the war, President Abraham Lincoln vowed not to impose any abolitionist goals or demands on the south (Chase, 2015). He was objectified to keep Border States like Maryland and Kentucky loyal to the needs of the union, and he believed that explicitly making the war all about slavery would make this effort very difficult. It was therefore not until 22 September 1862 that the president proposed freeing the slaves. However, even then, he only gave a provisional declaration to liberate and emancipate slaves in certain parts of the south where he held no authority (Chase, 2015). This was because the war had escalated in violence and hatred; it became quite evident that the south was not going to give up fighting and to peacefully rejoin the union. After the union won the Antietam battle, Lincoln ordered that slaves be emancipated in all the areas of the Confederacy that refused to pledge loyalty to the Union by the start of 1863. On that said date, he issued his famous Emancipation declaration that demanded the freedom of slaves in those parts of the south that refused allegiance to the Union. However, the proclamation by President Lincoln was far limited in many ways. It did not free slaves in Loyal Border States, and it made a pass to those regions of the Confederacy that were already under the control of the union (Chase, 2015. The proclamation however altered the war’s character in many fundamental ways.
Following the New Year’s Day of 1863, for the north, the war became a movement that purposed to free the slaves as well as to put an end to the Southern Aristocracy. Each move by the Northern troop was aimed towards slave freedom, and each captured farm and town assisted in emancipating the slaves ( Donald, 2015)What had started as a war to gather together and confine rebellious states ended up becoming a vast crusade fighting for liberty and freedom of slaves. The war also became a fight to the death because the south was aware that losing the battle would mean an end to their life as it had been before the war. Additionally, President Lincoln provisions for African American soldiers to participate in the fight through the Confederacy did not do the same up until the very last month of the war and promised to shoot down any runaway soldiers that would be captured (Feagin, 2014). This threat did not, however, deter over twenty thousand Black soldiers from participating in the Union Army during the war. During this, over thirty-eight thousand Black men were killed. This is a clear indication that racism was evident in the war. Black men being put on the war receiving threats of being shot down when they fail to participate in the war subdued them from participating in the battle even against their own will.
The most popular Black unit was referred to as the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, and it was led by a Robert Gould Shaw who was a white colonel. White officers were the ones in charge of directing all the black units as well as the Shaw’s group. Most of the Black units were pressured in to performing menial duties to support White Units, and until the middle of the war, these Blacks were paid lower wages than their White counterparts or sometimes they never even got paid (Hummel, 2013). Despite this bias and prejudice experienced by the Blacks, the units fought bravely and emerged triumphant in many battles. By the time the war was ending, at least 200,000 Black men had fought for the union. By the end of the war, approximately 38, 000 Black troops had been killed mainly due to diseases-this being a mortality rate of 25% (Feagin, 2014). This rate was 35% higher than the mortality rate of White troops indicating that the Blacks were being mistreated, especially considering that they were not allowed to participate in the war until 18 months after the war began. Two gross examples of Black troops mistreatment and abuse occurred at Fort Pillow in 1864. Confederate troops were found to have been killing Black forces even after they had surrendered and the Battle of the Crater, where thousands of Black troops were found to have been killed after being commanded to charge in to a crater where hundreds of union soldiers had already been killed.
Even though the North participated in the war with the aim of ending slavery, the public opinion was not all one-sided. There still existed an excellent racism deal in the North, and it often led to a series of severe violence attacks (Hummel, 2013). The most famous incident was the draft riots in New York after the start of conscription in 1863. With the fear and insecurity that a freed Black population would rid them of their jobs, many working-class people, especially the Irish began to resent the war, thus rebelling against the freedom draft. The riots that broke out were as a result of many things including the decision to allow rich people to pay their way out of participating in the war. However, racism lay at the center of all this.
Groups of Irish workers and people sought of Black people living near them and viciously attacked them. African Americans were indiscriminately lynched and beaten. The Colored Orphan Asylum was burned to the ground, although the children had already fled. Protestant churches were also attacked, as well as the offices of Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune (a pro-Lincoln newspaper) (Bonilla-Silva, 2017). The rioting lasted four days, and local police could not control it. More than 200 men, women, and children got killed before union soldiers from Gettysburg intervened to stop the mayhem. Although the war put an end to slavery, it did not stop the racism and prejudice faced by the Blacks in parts of the North and the South (Bonilla-Silva, 2017). During the same month as the Battle of Gettysburg that changed the wave of the war, more riots were conducted by Irish Catholics who had been influenced by the Copperheads to believe that the war was a move to benefit the Blacks (Bonilla-Silva, 2017). The Irish were similarly facing oppression and prejudice at the hands of Protestants from the North who were mainly of English descent.
The Civil War or the Battle of Gettysburg did not end the question of racism in America, if it is anything to go by, it merely reborn it in different and new forms. Many Black men had fought for the Confederacy and the Union, and their heroic acts and bravery made some Europeans change their initial perceptions about Blacks. President Lincoln’s sentiments and views show that the attitude about Blacks had changed.
When the war began, Lincoln did not see Blacks as fit enough to fight to preserve the Union’s honor, but as the war continued, though hesitantly, he appreciated the need for Black troops, and later on he applauded them for their bravery and selfless contributions towards the war. Even General Robert E. Lee believed that the Confederates needed armed Blacks and he welcomed them in to the army ranks of Northern Virginia (Donald, 2015). Lincoln was in support of the idea that Black soldiers should receive the vote after the war, though he unfortunately never lived long enough to see this plan realized (Chase, 2015). He is considered by most to be the “last casualty of the war” as he was assassinated by a southern racist called John Wilkes Booth in 1865 while attending a theater play at Washington DC’s Ford’s theater.
In conclusion, in as much as the battle was significant in US history, the blacks suffered during the war. Their rights were infringed; they were paid minimal wages and were affected by various diseases. Their mortality rates compared to the mortality rates of the whites was way higher. Gettysburg battle however, is considered the bloodiest kind of battle that was ever fought in the American ground. It left more than ten thousand confederate troops and unions’ dead and a huge number of them hurt. Blacks were not viewed as competent enough to participate in the war before it started and preserve the rights of the union because they were viewed as inferior and oppressed. African Americans were subjected to lynching and were beaten and viciously attacked. All these are evidences pointing that racism was rather evident and rampant during the time of the war and the war did not stop the case of racism in America.
Bonilla-Silva, E. (2017). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America. Rowman & Littlefield.
Chase, S. P. (2015). Inside Lincoln’s Cabinet; The Civil War Diaries Of Salmon P. Chase. Pickle Partners Publishing.
Donald, D. H. (2015). Why the North Won the Civil War. Pickle Partners Publishing.
Feagin, J. R. (2014). Racist America: Roots, current realities, and future reparations. Routledge.
Hummel, J. (2013). Emancipating slaves, enslaving free men: a history of the American Gettysburg civil war. Open court.
Ryan, S. L. (2017). Farms at Gettysburg. University of Maryland, Baltimore County.