EXTRACTS FROM “THE WAR OF THE REBELLION, OFFICIAL RECORDS
OF THE UNION AND CONFEDERATE ARMIES
SERIES III, VOL. V, SERIAL NO. 126”
COLORED MEN AND THEIR RELATION TO THE MILITARY SERVICE, AS ESTABLISHED BY LAWS
AND ORDERS DURING THE LATE WAR, AND THEIR RECRUITMENT AS SOLDIERS
Part IV, Report of Provost-Marshal-General’s Bureau, March 17, 1866.
“At the commencement of the rebellion, April 15, 1861, the Army was composed exclusively of white troops. The regulations of the Army governing the recruiting service (Par. 1299) provided that ‘any free white male person above the age of eighteen’ etc., ‘might be enlisted.’ Negro slavery existed in fifteen states of the Union, and fugitive slaves escaping from one state to another were delivered up on claim of their owners.
“The first legislation of Congress directly affecting colored persons was the act passed March 13, 1862. It prohibited all officers or people in the military or naval service of the United States from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor who escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor was claimed to be due; and provided that any officer found guilty by a court-martial of violating this article should be dismissed from the service.
“This was followed by an act, approved July 17, 1862, the twelfth section of which authorized the President to receive into the service of the United States, for the purpose of constructing intrenchments, or performing camp duty, or any other labor, or any military or naval service for which they were found competent, persons of African descent, and provided that such persons should be enrolled and organized, under such regulations, not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws, as the President may prescribe.
“The fifteenth section directs that—
“All persons who have been or shall be hereafter enrolled in the service of the United States under this act shall receive the pay and rations now allowed by law to soldiers, according to their respective grades: Provided, That persons of African descent, who under this law shall be employed, shall receive ten dollars per month and one ration, three dollars of which monthly pay may be in clothing.
“The amount of pay allowed to infantry soldiers (white) at the passage of this act was $13.00 per month, and an allowance in clothing of $3.50 per month, and one ration each.
“The act entitled, ‘An act to suppress insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purpose,’ approved July 17, 1862, provides that whoever shall commit treason ‘shall suffer death’ and all his slaves be ‘declared free’.
“Section eleven declares—
“That the President of the United States is authorized to employ as many persons of African descent as he may deem necessary and proper for the suppression of this rebellion, and for this purpose he may organize and use them in such manner as he may judge best for the public welfare.
“And by the latter section the authority of the President to receive into the service persons of African descent if extended, giving him authority to employ as many of this class of persons as he might deem necessary for the suppression of the rebellion.
“The pay of this class of persons, as fixed by the twelfth section of the preceding act, was not changed.