Before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he added a paragraph authorizing the army to recruit black soldiers. Nearly 200,000 men answered the call. Several thousand of them came from Canada.
What compelled these men to leave the relative comfort of their homes to face death on the battlefield, loss of income, and legal sanctions for participating in a foreign war? Drawing on newspapers, autobiographies, and military and census records, Richard Reid pieces together a portrait of a group of men who served the Union in disparate ways – as soldiers, sailors, or doctors – but who all believed that liberty, justice, and equality were worth fighting for.
By bringing the courage and contributions of these men to light, African Canadians in Union Blue opens a window on the changing nature of the Civil War and the ties that held black communities together even as the borders around them shifted or were torn asunder.
1 British North America: Glory Land or the Least-Worst Option?
2 The Black Response: What the Numbers Mean
3 Blacks in the Navy: A Different Military Experience
4 Promises Deferred: In the Army, 1863-64
5 Promises Fulfilled: In the Army, 1864-65
6 Black Doctors: Challenging the Barriers
7 Post-War Life: Continuity and Change
Appendix: Establishing the location of black British North American veterans, 1865-75
Richard M. Reid is a professor emeritus at the University of Guelph and the author of several books on Canadian and American history, including Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era.
Richard M. Reid’s engaging and well-researched examination of the nearly 2,500 African Canadians who served in the Union Army is a must-read for anyone interested in the black experience during the American Civil War… thanks to Reid’s fascinating and important study, the sacrifice, courage, and determination of these African Canadians can now find their proper place in the history of the American Civil War.
~Kevin D. Greene, University of Southern Mississippi, Journal of Military History