Destruction of Narratives
African Americans have been part of the United States military since the colonies first sought freedom from the British Empire. (“Segregation — Fort Belvoir Housing History”) During the war, African American troops also faced a different kind of battle: a battle against discrimination in pay, promotions, and medical care. Despite promises of equal treatment, Blacks were put in separate regiments commanded by white officers. (Mintz, S., & McNeil, S.,2021) There were reports of black soldiers receiving old Civil War uniforms and being forced to sleep outside in pitched tents instead of warmer, sturdier barracks, and these incidents occurred even when they were integrated into fairly progressive camps. Black soldiers were often treated badly and sometimes went for long periods without proper clothing. There were also reports of blacks receiving old Civil War uniforms and being forced to sleep outside in pitched tents instead of warmer, sturdier barracks (Bryan, Jami L). These Black soldiers received less pay than white soldiers, inferior benefits, and poorer food and equipment. While a white private was paid $13 a month plus a $3.50 clothing allowance, blacks received just $10 a month, out of which $3 was deducted for clothing. Furthermore, black soldiers were not provided with the enlistment bonuses commonly given to white soldiers, and, until the end of the war, the federal government refused to commission black officers. (Mintz, S., & McNeil, S.,2021)
In 1863, from Morris Island, S.C., Corporal Gooding, a Black Civil War Soldier wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, the original of which is held in the National Archives. His letters were published in the local paper in the months that followed. As Gooding explained in his letter, he and the other black soldiers with whom he served received $3 less per pay period than white soldiers did. Even so, after a few months, he was captured and taken to the prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville. While he was there, Congress in fact equalized pay for black Union troops, just as he has asked but sadly, Gooding died a prisoner just weeks later (Rothman, Lily, 2018).