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NP: June 20, 1864 Philadelphia Inquirer: The Standing of Black Troops


The Army Appropriation bill, which has just been adopted by Congress [on June 15, 1864], is interesting, because it disposes of the vexed question of the status of the colored troops1.  From the synopsis of the bill, which has been published, we draw the following conclusions:

First.  That all colored men who have volunteered under the call of October 17, 1863, for three hundred thousand volunteers, are to receive the same amounts of bounty, pay and allowances as white volunteers, provided they were actually enrolled and subject to draft.  If they were not enrolled they get the full pay and allowances, but no bounty.  They must also have volunteered in the State in which they were subject to be drafted.  If they have volunteered to fill up the quotas of other States, they lose the bounty.  So also if they have gone as substitutes for others, in which case they are not to be considered volunteers.

Second.  All colored men who were free on the 19th of April, 1861, who have since been mustered into the service of the United States, are entitled to the pay, bounty and clothing allowed to such colored persons by the laws existing at the time of their enlistment.  What privileges these laws extended to them, seems to be uncertain, and the Attorney-General of the United States is to determine all questions of law arising under this provision of the new act of Congress.  If the colored persons to whom this part of the act refers have already received pay, bounty, and clothing, the Attorney-General is to decide whether they are to receive more, and if so, how much.

Third.  All colored persons not embraced in the classes mentioned above, who were mustered into the service of the United States before January 1, 1864, are to receive the same clothing, rations, equipments, allowances, and pay, as white soldiers, but no bounty.

Fourth.  All colored persons mustered into service since January 1, 1864, or hereafter to be mustered into service, are to receive full pay and allowances, and such bounty as the President may offer in the different States and parts of the United States, not exceeding one hundred dollars to each man.  Under this provision, we should suppose that the President might discriminate between the bounties to be paid to colored men in the free States and in the slave States, and between the sums promised to freemen, and those who before the proclamation of emancipation, were slaves.

These provisions, so far as they relate to future recruits, will give satisfaction2, but they leave the question of the bounty to be paid, or whether any is due to the early colored volunteers still unsettled.  The Attorney-General will no doubt give a calm and earnest consideration to the question, and decide it without reference to expediency or personal hardship.3

SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Although I am by no means an expert on this subject, I will say that anyone who has watched the movie Glory will understand how unfair it was to ask Black men to fight and risk being killed or wounded for less pay than White men, to be given inferior clothing and equipment, and to be asked to eat less nutritious food.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: Considering the important role the African-American soldiers of the United States Colored Troops were about to play in the Siege of Petersburg, this bill was timely in its passing.
  3. “The Standing of Colored Troops.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), June 20, 1864, p. 4, col. 2
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