Smithsonian Magazine

“Fail Now and Our Race Is Doomed”

REMEMBERIN­G THE ROUGHLY 200,000 BLACK AMERICANS WHO FOUGHT FOR THE UNION

- By Courtney Sexton

Y YANKEE ID

Because the Union

Army didn’t issue any identifica­tion tags, many soldiers paid merchants to create them, often from coins. This brass piece belonged b to George W. Washington, W who esca caped slavery and enlisted as a musician at age 16.

UNCOMMON BRAVERY

John Lawson, a free Philadelph­ian, was awarded

the Medal of Honor for his service as a landsman in the Union Navy during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, an important Union victory. An inscriptio­n on the back of this photo notes that, though wounded, Lawson did not retreat.

CALL TO SERVICE

In June 1863, the Union Army authorized recruitmen­t of African Americans, and in speeches and newspapers Frederick Douglass implored his fellow black Americans to enlist. Fifty-three abolitioni­st leaders joined him in signing this broadside.

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