Black People and White Soldiers Essay

Submitted By toyab2k11
Words: 1984
Pages: 8

The Negro in the Regular Army In this historical essay, written by Oswald Garrison Villard, it talks about how former black slaves and freedmen joined the army with no experience. After the first war in 1863, there was a loss of 54th Massachusetts colonel, Robert Shaw, it was then established that Negros would fight in the army. Under Federal government, there was more than 150 United States Colored Troop. Having to raise a regiment, or army unit, with black former slaves, stirred up a lot of comments from the North because of the race. I found it puzzling that the Negroes, which were newly, released slaves, had to join the military and all of the officers associated with the war department knew they didn’t have any experience. In the text, Lieutenant Grote Hutchenson stated: “They had no independence, no self reliance, not a thought except for the present, and were filled with superstitions.” Not only did they not have any knowledge about fighting in the military, the men didn’t have an education and only one of them were able to write well enough to be ranked as sergeant-major. Lieutenant Hutchenson also stated that the total lack of education among the men necessitated an enormous amount of writing. I found it odd that the Negroes had to take an examination to be ranked when the Federal government and the War Department knew that they were former slaves and weren’t educated. Fifteen of the men failed the examination and they were discharged after entering because of the lack of studies. The war department believed that just because they weren’t educated enough they wouldn’t have been able to handle being an officer. In the text it was stated that "If the position of a white officer is a difficult one, that of the colored officer is still more so." The War Department failed to appoint colored soldiers that wanted to be ranked nor did they give them the recognition they fought for and deserved. The former slaves were eager to learn about fighting in the army; their eagerness to learn showed the same trait which distinguishes today’s black regiments—loyalty to their officers, sobriety and courage, and pride. Whites referred to the Negroes in the army as “natural cowardice”, which means the lack of bravery. They wanted to prove that they were wise and brave enough to fight in wars without whites seeing them as uneducated, cowards; they also wanted to gain respect from the whites. Even though the freed slaves were allowed to fight in the army, they weren’t treated equally. Whites would sleep in comfortable logs while the blacks found a spot on the side of the road to sleep after a long day of fighting. Blacks would also face a penalty by being hanged if they were caught with a woman. The Negro soldiers also had a bad gambling propensity and it was out of control; failure to act honorably to a comrade would lead to fighting until the Negroes were well disciplined. When they were drafted into the army by the war department they had to follow a different procedure from the white soldiers. In the book “The Unknown Soldier”, Barbeau stated: Although there were no specific segregation provisions outlined in the draft legislation, blacks were told to tear off one corner of their registration cards so they could easily be identified and inducted separately. (Barbeau) The former slaves worked almost twenty-four hours a day during the World War I; they were responsible for digging trenches and burying soldiers that were killed, and clearing all of the weapons that weren’t any good from the battlefield after a fight was over. Despite all the hard work they provided, African American received the worst treatment of all the troops serving in the war. “Blacks in the armed forces traditionally lived separately from the whites, bled and died separately.” (Astor 1) Although the Negroes weren’t treated fair in the army, they still had a good humor because they faced twelve hours of fighting in the war and lived. They