In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared that all slaves in Confederate-controlled areas were free. He also called for black volunteers to enlist in the Union Army. The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to slaves living in border states, or parts of the Confederacy occupied by Union troops, but it did suggest that the abolition of slavery was a primary objective in the Civil War.
Public reaction to Lincoln's decree was split. The Confederate song, " Lines on the Proclamation Issued by the Tyrant Lincoln" declares,
"We have read the tyrant's order, / And the signet to the rule. / And thought the kingly jester meant / To make an April fool."
Meanwhile, songs such as " I Am Fighting for the Nigger" and "The Black Regiment" (published by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments) offer different opinions regarding the merits of black soldiers.
I calculate of niggers we soon shall have our fill,
With Abe's proclamation and the nigger army bill.
Who would not be a soldier for the Union to fight?
For, Abe's made the nigger the equal of the white....
Guard well the Constitution, the Government and laws:
To every act of Congress don't forget to give applause:
And, when you meet the Rebels, be sure, and drive 'em back:
No matter if you do enslave the white man, you liberate the black.
From "I Am Fighting for the Nigger."
"Freedom!" their battle-cry--
"Freedom! or leave to die!"
Ah! and they meant the word,
Not as with us ' tis heard,....
Scourges and shackles strong
Never shall do them wrong.
O, to the living few,
Soldiers, be just and true!
Hail them as comrades tried;
Fight with them side by side;
Never, in field or tent,
Scorn the black regiment!
From "The Black Regiment."
- Why do you think that Lincoln chose to free only those slaves held in areas that remained loyal to the Confederacy?
- Do you think that the Proclamation appeared to favor black soldiers at the expense of white members of the Union Army? Why or why not?
- Do you think that songs such as "I Am Fighting for the Nigger" reflected the sentiments of many white soldiers?
- What do you think were the political consequences of Lincoln's decree?
- Why do you think that songs such as " The Black Regiment" were published by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments? Do you think that they would have been effective in recruiting black soldiers or in combatting low morale in the Union Army?