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Civil War and Reconstruction
African-American Soldiers During the Civil War

Address by Daniel Ullmann

In October 1862, Daniel Ullmann, a white officer, met with President Abraham Lincoln. During the meeting, Ullmann attempted to persuade the President to arm and enlist freed slaves into the Union Army. Later, at Lincoln's direction, Ullman organized and armed freed slaves in Louisiana. The following excerpts, from African American Perspectives, 1818-1907, are taken from a speech given by Ullmann in 1868. Why did Ullmann think it was a good idea to enlist the freed slaves into the Union Army? What important qualities does Ullmann think African-American troops possess?

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Comrades, Ladies And Gentlemen: In the summer of 1862, during the operations of the "Army of Virginia," in the Piedmont region, having been prostrated by typhoid fever, as the choice of evils, I was left behind, by the surgeons, to the tender mercies of the Rebels, and was, of course, quickly taken prisoner. Favored with a strong constitution, I survived both the fever and Libby prison. On being paroled, still exceedingly feeble, I returned from Richmond to Washington, on the 10th of October, 1862. I considered it my duty to call immediately on the President. I was received by Mr. Lincoln in his usually kind manner, and at his request, gave to him an account of my sickness and improvement. I found him more serious and depressed than I recollect to have seen him at any other time. . . .

Perceiving that the mind of the President was pre-occupied, I soon took my leave, and returned to the Hotel. About seven o'clock of the evening of the same day, I was roused by a knock at my door, and a voice saying, "a message from the President." Of course, I immediately repaired to the "White House," and found Mr. Lincoln waiting for me. He said that he had sent for me, because he had not been satisfied with our interview in the morning,--that he was so much engrossed at that time with other matters that he had not appreciated what I had said, and desired me to enter more into detail as to what I had heard and observed of the effect of his proclamation. I did so. He catechised me closely. My statements appeared to impress him deeply. After I had finished, I took the liberty of saying, "Mr. President, from what I have heard in Washington to-day, there seem to be doubts as to the issuing of the proclamation of Freedom on the first of January. Subtile and powerful combinations are organizing, I understand, to influence your action in the premises." . . . He took my hand, and assured me, that unless the rebellion should collapse, the Proclamation would be issued. I then said: Now, Mr. President, let me go further. . . . You arm the Blacks, and enlist them into the armies of the United States." The President interrupted me. "That cannot be done," he said, "It would drive many of our friends from us. The people are not prepared for it." My answer was, "I am by no means sure of that, Mr. President . . . He listened to me with that sympathetic expression, which was one of his marked characteristics, and allowed me in a conversation which consumed sometime, to urge these points: That to arm the Blacks was;

1. The most direct way to crush the Rebellion.

2. The surest path to the extinction of slavery.

3. The most feasible mode of bringing home to the slaves that he really intended to free them.

4. That John Quincy Adams had in his admirable arguments on the admission of Texas, shown that it was clearly within the warpower; and that it was a mode of greatly reducing the expenses of the war; especially as now it was difficult to raise troops, except by a draft, or by offering ruinous bounties. That I felt sure that thus, without the expenditure of a dollar in bounties, we could enlist from 200,000 to 400,000 faithful and loyal soldiers.

5. The mode designated by Providence to redeem, regenerate and elevate a race. . . .

Immediately after the issuing of the Proclamation of Freedom, on the 1st of January 1863, the President directed the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, to order me to raise and organize Regiments of colored troops in the Department of the Gulf. My duty was to initiate and supervise the recruiting and officering Regiments, of which the privates and non-commissioned officers should be Blacks--freemen or freedom,--and to command them. . . .

I shall, doubtless, be expected to answer the questions, so often put, "What sort of soldiers do Blacks make?" . . .

Now, I have commanded colored Regiments, as good troops as need be, and I have commanded some, indifferent, and some very inferior. In their abnormal state, they require good officers more than other soldiers. I have seen colored Regiments--weak, disorganized, inefficient--which stripped of their miserable officers, and placed in the hands of men, who both knew their duty and discharged it, were raised speedily to a high degree of discipline and effectiveness. The privates of the Colored Troops were pretty uniformly reported to me to be sober, docile, subordinate, obedient, attentive, and, as soldiers, enthusiastic. As sentinels, and on general picket duty, they have no superiors. On a march, it was generally necessary to check them. Their powers of endurance, none will question. As to their fighting qualities, it is surprising that doubts were so extensively entertained, when we have the well-known record of the testimony as to their bravery and good conduct, of so experienced a judge of what constitutes a soldier as Andrew Jackson. . . . The self-denying good temper of these troops, their knowledge of localities, their prompt obedience, their soldier-like power of endurance, and above all, their firm, unflinching, never-varying friendship, were invaluable. There never was a scintilla of evidence that there was any foundation for the stupendous deception attempted, with unblushing effrontery, to be palmed off on mankind, that the slaves were contended with their condition. On the contrary, we found that a knowledge of the causes and character of the war was not only almost universal among them, but was also remarkably clear and accurate, and they never failed to hail our advent with enthusiastic.
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