Civil War, Participation and Recruitment of Black Troops In
- John David Smith
Frederick Douglass considered the Civil War to be both a millennial event and a regenerative force in American life. He believed that a redeeming God would use the war as a crucible to free the South's 4 million slaves. After years of personal and collective protest against slavery, Douglass framed the war's meaning—its suffering and its mandate—in apocalyptic terms.
Central to Douglass's understanding of the war was his vision of free blacks and former slaves' fighting to free their slave brethren. In May 1861 he clamored for “carrying the war into Africa [the South]”; he declared, “Let the slaves and free colored people be called into service, and formed into a liberating army.” In January 1862, while waiting impatiently for the government to free and arm the slaves, Douglass remarked, “Slavery has been, and is yet the shield and helmet of this accursed rebellion.” President Abraham Lincoln listened ...
A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895.