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date: 04 March 2021


  • Gordon Morris Bakken


African Americans soldiers and sailors entered the twentieth century carrying a reputation gained by individual valor and unit bravery. By October 1864 Union forces contained 140 black regiments, and by the end of the Civil War more than 179,000 African American men had served in 449 engagements, 39 of them major battles, and 17 soldiers and 4 sailors had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Black heroism under fire was a fact of military record. This record continued in the late nineteenth century, and the role of African American troops in the Spanish-American War can be understood only in the context of their post–Civil War service.

A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present.

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