Union soldiers fought to maintain the union’s leadership position in the United States, and they utilized slavery as an army mobilization tool. The Union knew that the South’s weakness was its reliance on slaves; therefore, if it made it seem like the war was about slavery, slaves would back it. Therefore, blacks were enlisted in the Union army to help the Union win the war against Southerners. However, the Union soldiers did not recognize the black union soldiers as their equals but merely tools to help them win the war. On the other hand, the non-slave holding confederates were made to believe that the Union was fighting slavery so that blacks and Whites could be equals. They were opposed to the idea that their racial and social status was going to be disrupted and so they joined the slaveholding confederates in the war.
There was an unseen divide between the black and white union soldiers with white union soldiers using black soldiers to consolidate the Union’s leadership position while the blacks believed that the civil war would end slavery. Slavery had separated families and relatives among the Black community, and they desired to be free like the Whites. Moreover, they yearned to develop a sense of identity within the community (Glatthaar 70). Black union soldiers would easily follow the orders given to them by their commanders since they believe that they were going to gain property and prestige in the community for their service if they won the war against confederates.
White Union did not join the war because they were against slavery, but because they knew that they could bring down Southern states and assume control if they attacked slavery. Many of the southerners relied on slaves to work on their farms as well as perform domestic chores. As such, the economy of the Southern states would fail if slavery was abolished and the slaves freed (Kingseed 51). The Union found the South’s weak point and exploited it to their advantage. They agreed to enlist black soldiers so that they might be seen as been against slavery, yet they looked down on Blacks. Moreover, the distinction between the White and Black soldiers in the army was another indicator that the Union still held racist opinions towards Black people. In many cases, Black and White union soldiers would fight alongside each other, but they would be placed under different leadership. Besides, the Union promised to pay slaves who escaped and give them freedom papers once they made it to their camps (Blight 132). The large mobilization of black soldiers and the spread of information to slaves on how to attack their masters was an act of selfishness on the Unions part. After liberation from their masters, slaves would have the opportunity to decide to either serve in the army or be kept in places where they would be promised freedom from their masters. Therefore, White Union soldiers and their leaders saw an opportunity to acquire more human labor in their war against southerners, but they placed little value in the lives of the Blacks that they were recruiting to serve in the army.
Confederates fought the Union because they wanted to preserve slavery. As per Sheehna-Deanne, one of the reasons why non-slave holding confederates fought in the civil war was to uphold their place in society (Sheehan-Dean 181). They believed that ending slavery would lead to not only the economic collapse of the Southern states but also the disruption of their social standing. The confederates also believe that they were better than the slaves, and since they thought the freeing of slaves would lead them to be ranked equally, they opposed it. Indeed, the confederates believed that their superiority lied in them being ranked above blacks (Manning). Blacks were deemed as lesser beings since they had been bought and brought to America to work as slaves. As such, the idea that blacks would have the same rights as Whites was against their beliefs and outlook on life, and they were not going to accept it. Therefore, non-slave holding confederate soldiers participated in the civil war to preserve their social status.
Non-slave holding confederate soldiers participated in the war because they wanted to protect their states. The soldiers believed that they first had to protect their families and status and then protect their states, which were under attack by the Union. According to them, a union that was no longer in support of slavery was no longer able to meet their needs (Levine 131). Before the civil war, the Southern nations had seceded from the Union due to differing opinions about slavery. Northerners believed that they could achieve economic independence through industrialization, while Southerners wanted to hold on to slaves, especially due to the help they needed on their farms. The Union was not willing to let these states form a new government; thus wanted to force them to be part of the Union. Non-slave-holding confederate soldiers did not care about slavery since they did not own, but they felt that if the practice of slavery were ended, they would also face economic turmoil (Manning). Individuals who did not hold slaves benefitted from slavery since they could acquire farm goods that had been cultivated and harvested by slaves cheaply. As such, they thought that the growing economic status of the South favored both slaveholding and non-holding individuals. Therefore, they fought to protect the economic stability of their state.
The non-slave holding confederate fought since they did not want to lose their freedom to the Union. The Southern states enjoyed economic freedom; hence, they could sustain themselves as opposed to relying on the Northern States (Sheehan-Dean 18). These soldiers knew that being controlled by the Union meant abiding by its laws and regulations, which were likely to disadvantage them. To them, secession meant that the Southern states could carry on with slavery, and the Union would not have the right to interfere. In such a scenario, the non-confederate soldiers would continue to benefit from slavery without owning slaves.
Union soldiers fought together to end slavery, but their perceptions about African Americans did not change since their intentions were not to free black people but to use them to bring down the confederates. The leaders of the Union knew that abolishing slavery in the Southern states would be the only way to beat confederates and so they enlisted black soldiers to help them win the war. However, the Union held the view that Whites were superior to blacks. On the other hand, non- slaveholding confederates participated in the civil war because they wanted to preserve their racial and social status. Moreover, the non-slave holding soldiers believed that if they won against the Union, they would be able to attain their freedom.
Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001.
Bottom of FormTop of FormGlatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. LSU Press, 2000.
Kingseed, Cole Christian. The American Civil War. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.
Levine, Bruce. Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Manning, Chandra. What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. Vintage, 2008.
Sheehan-Dean, Aaron. Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia. Univ of North Carolina Press, 2007.