Black American Patriots American Outfitters

During the Civil War, many Black Americans, whether enslaved, escaped, or born free, valiantly fought in the war effort to end slavery. Their heroic and legendary contributions helped shape the future course of American history.

From its founding in 1828 until 1860, the anti-abolitionist Democrat Party dominated American politics. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 by antislavery activists. It swiftly established itself as the Democratic Party's primary rival. 

Many notable events occurred in the years preceding the Civil War, which divided the northern and southern states. However, it is widely believed that the most significant event was the 1848 lawsuit filed by a slave named Dred Scott and his wife Harriet in St. Louis Circuit Court after their owner, John Emerson, relocated with them to Missouri.

Dred Scott v. Sandford 1857

Dred Scott v. Sandford 

Dred Scott and his wife claimed to be free because they now lived in the territory of Missouri where slavery was illegal. This resulted in an 11-year judicial battle that became one of the most contentious Supreme Court rulings ever delivered.

In the Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) decision, the Supreme Court concluded by a 7-2 majority that the Missouri Compromise (1820), which proclaimed all territory north of latitude 36°30′ and west of Missouri to be free, was unconstitutional. Paradoxically, it is the institution of slavery that should have been declared unconstitutional. Dred Scott would remain a slave because the court ruled that property fell outside the purview of liberty.

All seven judges who voted in favor of the ruling were Democrats. The two justices who opposed the decision were both Republicans.

On November 6, 1860, three years after the Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States of America. Lincoln defeated Democrat John Breckinridge to become the country's first "Republican" president.

Following his election, numerous Democrat states seceded from the Union, believing that the Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling would eventually be overturned as the abolitionist movement gained momentum. This set the stage for what became an unavoidable Civil War. 


Confederate soldiers fire on Fort Sumter

After decades of rising tensions between northern and southern states over slavery, America erupted into a Civil War. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina's Charleston Harbor.

The Confederate artillery battered Fort Sumter, the only Union stronghold in South Carolina. Major Robert Anderson of the Union Army surrendered Fort Sumter to General Beauregard's Confederate soldiers after two days of relentless cannon fire.

The Confederate States of America had successfully launched their first significant offensive against the Union. Fort Sumter is recognized as the location where the Civil War began. 

 Frederick Douglass Patriot American Outfitters Blog Photo Black History

American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman

Frederick Douglass, a self-educated slave who escaped in 1838, was one of the most famous Black men in the United States—a prominent voice for freedom, human rights and social reform. Douglass also served as one of President Lincoln's advisors throughout the Civil War.

At the start of the war, Lincoln stated unequivocally that preserving the Republic was his top priority. For this reason, he was initially reluctant to allow Black slaves to serve in the military out of concern that it might cause other states to secede..

Douglass, however, was not happy with the notion that if the Confederate army was defeated, slaves would simply be handed freedom. He was insistent that they be allowed to join and contribute to the victorious cause in order to bring the war to a successful and righteous conclusion. Douglass had significant influence on Lincoln, convincing him that complete abolition and Black slave participation in the Union Army were critical to winning the war.

Two of his sons, Charles and Lewis, were among the first to join in the storied 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the second Black American regiment to see heavy action in the war. According to Douglass, wearing a military uniform is a powerful declaration of someone's entitlement to freedom and full civil rights. "With an eagle perched on his button, a musket slung over his shoulder, and bullets stuffed into his pockets, no force on earth could deny that a man has earned the right to be a citizen of the United States," said Douglass. 

Douglass rose to prominence as the highest-ranking Black official of his day during the Reconstruction period that followed the Civil War.

Harriet Tubman American Patriot Civil War Union Army Spy

Union Army Spy and Military Leader

Harriet Tubman, best known for her courageous actions as a "conductor" along the Underground Railroad's meticulously planned passageways and network of safe houses, which enabled hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children to flee north to freedom, also served as a spy and expedition leader for the Union Army when the Civil War broke out in 1861.

In 1863, she spearheaded a military operation using intelligence gathered from slaves. Tubman led 150 union soldiers on three government gunboats up the Combahee River in South Carolina with the objective of launching a surprise attack on well-known secessionists' plantations. The strike resulted in extensive escapes, as well as plantation burning and pillaging. They freed about 700 slaves along the way. The operation's success dealt a significant military and psychological blow to the Condeferacy. Over 100 freed Black men enlisted in the Union Army on that day.

After the successful assault, Tubman carried out numerous additional expeditions. She oversaw reconnaissance and espionage activities to find and map Confederate mines, supply points, and troops while posing as a field worker behind enemy lines. Remarking on Tubman's accomplishments, the Army Colonel to whom she reported expressed his glowing praise for her achievements, stating that "her services are invaluable" and "her intelligence-gathering abilities were far superior to anyone else."

Alexander Augusta Photos Civil War


The U.S. Army’s First Black Physician

Alexander Augusta, the son of free African American parents from Baltimore, traveled to Canada to pursue his medical degree after being denied admission to medical school in the United States. He went on to become the medical director of the Toronto City Hospital.

At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, Alexander wrote Lincoln a letter volunteering his services as a surgeon. He received a commission to Major in the 7th U.S. Colored Infantry, becoming the Army's first Black military physician out of eight in the Union Army—and its highest-ranking Black American officer. 

He was awarded a promotion to lieutenant colonel in March 1865. When he died in 1890, he was the first Black officer to be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.

William Harvey Carney  Medal of Honor


The courageous American Civil War soldier who, in the heat of battle, would not allow the flag to fall.

Sergeant William Harvey Carney was born in Norfolk City on February 29, 1840 to William and Nancy Ann Carney. According to some reports, after the master's death, his family was granted their freedom and traveled to New Bedford, Massachusetts.

In March 1863, after volunteering in the Black militia in New Bedford, William joined the historic 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first Black-only battalions in American history.

His battalion faced its greatest challenge just months after he enlisted. On July 18, 1863, the 54th launched an assault on Fort Wagner, a Confederate stronghold in South Carolina. As gunfire rained down from the fort, Carney and the 54th's 600 soldiers continued to advance. When Carney observed a bullet pierce the unit's color guard, he lunged forward to catch the American flag before it fell to the ground.

Carney weaved across the raging battlefield, flag in hand. He took cover when he found himself alone with advancing Confederate troops on the march. As he rose up to gain a better view of his surroundings, he felt the impact of a bullet. A few seconds later, the impact of a second.

Carney afterwards recalled in his account of what had occurred, "The bullets were swarming around me like mosquitos." "I was shot, but I didn't let the bullets stop me; I kept going."

According to The Liberator's account of the events on the battlefield, Carney staggered ahead, wounded and bloodied, "pressing a wound with one hand while holding up our nation's flag with the other." When a fellow Union soldier volunteered to carry the flag for him, he refused to give it up.

William Harvey Carney American Hero

Carney is reported to have returned to his unit and hoisted the flag before collapse, sobbing "Boys, I did nothing but my duty, our beloved flag never touched the ground."

For his actions that day, Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor. He went on to become known as one of the great military heroes to serve his country and the fight for freedom.

General Lee Surrender 1865 Civil War


Trapped near Appomattox Court House, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, triggering the surrender of all other Confederate forces.

Twenty-six Black Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, including eight sailors from the Union Navy, fifteen soldiers from the United States Colored Troops, and three soldiers from other Union Army units.

Over 460,000 men were wounded in the fighting, and an estimated 650,000 soldiers lost their lives—more than in all of the World Wars combined. Approximately one in four soldiers that went to war never returned home. The American Civil War is the deadliest conflict in American history.

The 13th Amendment, ratified by a Republican Congress in 1865, abolished slavery in every state, and the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, defined all persons born in the United States as "citizens," mandated due process of law, and guaranteed equal protection to all people.

Civil War Blog

First Black American elected to the U.S. Senate

On February 25, 1870, the Senate Chamber erupted in applause when the Senator-elect Hiram Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, entered the Chamber to take the oath of office.

Despite fierce opposition from Democrats over Revels' eligibility to be a US senator, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed Revels' nomination by a vote of 48 to 8. Revels, a school teacher and a preacher, became the first Black-American elected to the United States Senate.

Revels served as a Union army chaplain during the Civil War. Ironically, he would be filling the seat previously occupied by Democrat Jefferson Davis. Davis had abandoned his senate seat to serve as president of the Confederate States of America.

Revels left Washington after a brief time in the senate to become the president of Alcorn University, the United States' first land grant school for Black Americans. He died on January 16, 1901, while attending a church conference in Aberdeen, Mississippi.

American Civil War Black History

Adonis Shifflett
Black American Patriots of the Civil War

Reference: (October 31, 2023) Editors
Román, I. (February 2, 2023) Civil War History
Kaleena Fraga (February 22, 2022) Saving the Flag in Fort Wagner
John V. Quarstein (February 18, 2021) African American US Medal Of Honor Recipients During The Civil War
Carol Swain ( The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party
National Archives (November 2023) Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) (June 27, 2023) Missouri Compromise
Senate Historical Office (February 25, 2020) First African American Senator
Heather Thomas / Library of Congress (February 18, 2020) Hiram Revels: First African American Senator