The Black Brigade of Cincinnati : martial volunteerism and the quest for African-American citizenship.


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The Black Brigade of Cincinnati was immortalized by black activist Peter H. Clark in 1864 as the “first organization of the colored people of the North actually employed for military purposes.” In the city, free African Americans wanted to volunteer for Union military service. Cincinnati officials, however, met that desire with vicious impressment and forced labor of African Americans in response to an impending Confederate invasion. Reacting quickly, the city’s abolitionists petitioned the Union Army to supersede the order with one allowing the African Americans to organize for the city’s defense. But from this most unlikely of beginnings developed an organization whose positive remembrance had lasting import for black recruitment and claims on American citizenship. Several forces worked in the eventual success of the Black Brigade: alliances with white abolitionists, vibrant African-American political engagement, and a tradition of black martial volunteerism—even prior to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.



American citizenship. Black Brigade of Cincinnati. Religious abolitionism. White abolitionists. Radical republicans. Evangelicalism. Black abolitionists. Martial volunteerism. Slavery. African-American history. Military laborers. Martial law. Impressment. Emancipation Proclamation. Cincinnati, OH. Ohio River Valley. Borderlands. Lower north. Lower midwest. Peter H. Clark. William M. Dickson. Lewis "Lew" Wallace. Powhatan Beaty. American Civil War. Siege of Cincinnati. Defense of Cincinnati. Confederate Heartland Campaign. Kentucky Campaign. 1862. Equal treatment. Equal pay. Racial equality.