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  • A New Birth of Freedom: Black Soldiers in the Civil War

    K Company, 54th Massachusetts Infantry reenactors Ray Wozniack, James Hayes, and Bob English describe the difficulties faced by black soldiers and their white officers. First they fought for the right to fight when many whites did not want them to take up arms, and then they fought and died for a cause bigger than themselves.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Why was a regimental flag so important to soldiers?

    2. Why was Sgt. Carney awarded the Congressional Medal Honor?

    3. As a rebel soldier, what would you think about free, African Americans opposing you as Union soldiers on the field of battle?

    Expansion

    1. Discuss why African Americans believed they had to prove themselves and what they wanted to prove by fighting in the Civil War. Come to a class consensus about their success in doing so.

    Vocabulary

    conscription: the draft; a government act requiring men to enlist in the military
    proclamation: a formal announcement (from "proclaim")
    demoralize: to weaken one's spirit
    menial: tasks associated with drudgery; repetitive, dull labor

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Why was a regimental flag so important to soldiers?
    Here, the regimental flag is described as the "soul of the regiment" inscribed with all of the battles that particular unit had fought in. To that degree it represents all of those who have been a part of the unit - both and alive and dead during the current conflict. 

    2. Why was Sgt. Carney awarded the Congressional Medal Honor? 
    Sgt. Carney should heroic valor and courage in the face of enemy fire, taking up the 5th of Massachusetts regimental colors during battle - placing at the top of the wall during a siege, and retrieving them when the unit was pushed back.

    3. As a rebel soldier, what would you think about free, African Americans opposing you as Union soldiers on the field of battle?
    Student answers will vary but inevitably will mention former slaves now able to enact retribution.

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