African-American contrabands dressed in old Union uniforms worked as teamsters, managing the mule and horse pulled wagons for the Union Army of the James 1864-65.jpg

UNPAID LABOR Shaped America's Military Success

In 1775, George Washington became the General of the Continental Army; the army that fought Great Britain in the Revolutionary War. He didn’t want Unpaid Laborers to be soldiers. The British Army said that they would free any Unpaid Laborer that would join them.

The British offer forced Washington’s hand because of the threat of an armed uprising by freed Unpaid Laborers. And then there was the problem of not having enough white recruits. This forced America to make the same offer as the British had made to Unpaid Laborers, and General Washington changed his mind. He would say, “We must use the Negroes or run the risk of losing the war...”  The Continental Army was America's most racially integrated army until the Vietnam War.

In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln, believing that the United states could lose the Civil War, decided to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. A proclamation says what is going to happen. The Proclamation said that Unpaid Laborers held by the Confederates were free, and could join the Union army. It was a military step he had to take. While it freed absolutely no one (Unpaid Laborers in states loyal to the U.S. remained enslaved) it encouraged Unpaid Laborers to leave their masters and fight for their freedom in the U.S. military. More than 200,000 enlisted in the Army and the Navy. Their contribution helped the United States to win the Civil War.

The Emancipation Proclamation accomplished three (3) major military objectives:

  1. It created a reason for 180,000 Unpaid Laborers to become soldiers in the United States Army

  2. It reduced the South’s labor force

  3. It stopped France and Great Britain from joining forces with the South. France and Great Britain were the most powerful countries in the world back then!