Secession and Civil War

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How did African Americans shape the course and consequences of the Civil War from 1861 to 1870?

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African Americans played a major role in the rationale for the war and the debates on its causes. The South left the Union in order to preserve what it considered its right to own African American slaves. The war in the North shifted from being a war to restore the Union to being a war to free the slaves. This was quite controversial and led to draft riots, most notably in New York in July 1863, when soldiers were brought in to restore order. The fight to end slavery also brought a moralistic tone to the Union's cause, and it served as a factor in Britain and France not backing the Confederacy openly even though both nations were reliant on Southern cotton for their textile mills before the war.

African Americans were quite instrumental during the Civil War. Union generals such as Benjamin Butler confiscated them and put them to work as enemy contraband. Lincoln used African American soldiers led by white officers starting in 1863. This was quite controversial in the South, as the...

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