Black British North American Sailors in the Civil War

Richard Reid
2011 The Northern Mariner  
Pendant la guerre civile américaine, presque trois cents cinquante jeunes hommes de couleur venant des cinq colonies qui composaient l'Amérique du Nord britannique se sont portés volontaires dans la marine de l'Union. Cet article examine leur participation dans la guerre pour comprendre leurs identités sociales et leurs motivations pour s'enrôler. Une discussion de qui étaient ces hommes, comment et où ils se sont enrôlés, et l'autonomie qu'ils ont démontrée en choisissant leur service non
more » ... ment parle à la nature des communautés noires en Amérique du Nord britannique mais également à la nature évolutive de la guerre navale. On 16 May 1861, just one month after the fall of Fort Sumter and the start of the American Civil War, John Anderson, a twenty-one year old "mulatto" from Nova Scotia, enlisted in the Union navy at a rendezvous station in New York City. Although Anderson gave his occupation as "none," he was rated as "ordinary seaman" indicating that he had extensive previous maritime experience. He signed on for three years although there is no record of the ship or ships on which he served. 1 Indeed little more is known of John Anderson but then that is not remarkable. Very little is known or has been written of the hundreds of blacks from British North America who served in the Union navy during the Civil War. The best general or regional studies of Canadian involvement in the Civil War, such as Robin Winks' Canada and the United States: The Civil War Years or Greg Marquis' In Armageddon's Shadow, give little more than brief anecdotes of black involvement in the war, especially in the naval war. 2 None attempt, in any systematic way, to measure the number of men who volunteered. This article begins to outline how extensive was the involvement of black sailors who left their various provinces to fight in the Union navy. A discussion of who these men were, how and where they joined, and the personal control that they displayed in selecting their service not only speaks to the nature of the black communities in British North America but also to the changing nature of the naval war.
doi:10.25071/2561-5467.307 fatcat:uzzo3k75jjefxhfz2nuwcft3pu