Were money and abusive recruiting practices chiefly responsible for filling USCT ranks?

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Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
I am curious about the motivations among black recruits and their willingness to volunteer.

In Rehearsal for Reconstruction, Willie Rose Lee indicates that at least some of the "recruited" blacks were dragged into the Union Army against their will. Since the book is about plantations worked by free blacks during the Civil War in the South Carolina Sea Islands, I got the impression that freedmen were reluctant to join the Army if they were otherwise gainfully employed. The Sea Islands were exceptional in the sense that free blacks typically lived on the plantations where they worked instead of residing in Contraband Concentration Camps.

Outside of that area, however, Contraband Concentration Camps seem to have been the rule. Unfortunately, the camps were plagued with disease and high mortality. Once blacks left their masters, they had no legal guardian responsible for their welfare. The U. S. Army did little for them. Their experience was—as Lincoln put it—"root hog or die."

Thus, blacks from the Contraband Concentration Camps may have been motivated to join USCT chiefly to avoid starvation, for themselves and their families. Since William Marvel's new book indicates that white Union recruits were chiefly mercenaries, it seems reasonable to suppose that freedmen were even more so.

In his master's thesis on coercion and negative USCT recruitment five years ago Kellen Starmer concluded:
. . . the evidence presented in this thesis illustrate various forms of abuses experienced by African Americans while being recruited into the United States Army. This version of the story is inconsistent with the prevailing literature on blacks’ Civil War experience, which portrays their experience in an overwhelmingly positive light. It is also inconsistent with popular films, such as Glory, which show only eager recruits, proudly lined up to volunteer their service. In reality, in the effort to recruit men into the Army, black men and women experienced many types of unjust treatment, from various sources, throughout the United States, during the Civil War.​
As Starmer notes, his conclusion does not fit the popular narrative from academia, Hollywood and the media.

Can anyone point me to sources that investigate USCT recruiting that do not largely ignore the monetary incentives and enlistment abuses? Thanks.
 
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