Tension between the North and the South grew over the issue of slavery until the South decided to break away from the country, or the Union as it was called. It wasn’t long before the two sides were at war. Enslaved people finally saw the chance to be free.
- Most of the Union troops left the South after it seceded, but a few stayed at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
- In 1861, Rebel troops surrounded the fort, cutting off its supply line. Then the troops fired on the fort for an entire day. No one died that day but the Union troops surrendered and the country was officially at war.
- As Northern troops came to the South, overseers on the plantations told the slaves that the Yankee soldiers were coming to kill them.
- In truth, the Union soldiers were happy to have the help. Many slaves left the plantations and joined the army. At that time, they weren’t allowed to fight — just dig ditches, build camps, and bury the dead.
- But as the war progressed, Abe Lincoln decided to let the blacks fight. After all, it was their freedom on the line. Frederick Douglas met with the president and helped persuade him.
- Black soldiers worked hard, but they were paid less than white soldiers. They were often sent on the most dangerous missions.
- Soon after, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, setting all slaves free. Plantation owners in the Southern states didn’t accept that proclamation but many slaves left anyway, especially after Lincoln promised freedom to all who would fight.
- The war ended two years later. Four million slaves were set free. Imagine how happy they were! Some of the slaves left the plantations immediately; others stayed, trying to figure out what to do next.
- Union troops: Union soldiers fought for the North. They were also called Yankees.
- Rebels: southern soldiers
- Secede: to legally split or withdraw
Watch a video about blacks in the Civil War.