TEXT

The Militia Act of 1862

The Militia Act of July 1862 allowed African-American men to serve in the Army.
Author
The 37th Congress of the United States
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concepts 8 and 10.

Chapter 201.– An Act to amend the Act calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections, and repel Invasions, approved February twenty-eight, seventeen hundred and ninety-five, and the Acts amendatory thereof, and for other Purposes

SEC. 12.  And be it further enacted, That the President be, and he is hereby, authorized to receive into the service of the United States, for the purpose of constructing entrenchments, or performing camp service or any other labor, or any military or naval service for which they may be found competent, persons of African descent, and such persons shall be enrolled and organized under such regulations, not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws, as the President may prescribe. 

SEC. 13.  And be it further enacted, That when any man or boy of African descent, who by the laws of any State shall owe service or labor to any person who, during the present rebellion, has levied war or has borne arms against the United States, or adhered to their enemies by giving them aid and comfort, shall render any such service as is provided for in this act, he, his mother and his wife and children, shall forever thereafter be free, any law, usage, or custom whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided, That the mother, wife and children of such man or boy of African descent shall not be made free by the operation of this act except where such mother, wife or children owe service or labor to some person who, during the present rebellion, has borne arms against the United States or adhered to their enemies by giving them aid and comfort. 

SEC. 14.  And be it further enacted, That the expenses incurred to carry this act into effect shall be paid out of the general appropriation for the army and volunteers. 

SEC. 15.  And be it further enacted, That all persons who have been or shall be hereafter enrolled in the service of the United States under this act shall receive the pay and rations now allowed by law to soldiers, according to their respective grades: Provided, That persons of African descent, who under this law shall be employed, shall receive ten dollars per month and one ration, three dollars of which monthly pay may be in clothing. 

APPROVED, July 17, 1862. 

Source
This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from http://www.freedmen.umd.edu/milact.htm.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    What services for the United States does this act allow African Americans to perform?
    Answer
    This act allows them to work for the military or navy by performing manual labor (e.g., dig trenches). It also implies they may serve as soldiers (e.g., “service”), though does not say explicitly.
  2. Question
    What will an African-American man receive for “render[ing] service” to the United States?
    Answer
    He and his family “shall forever thereafter be free.”
  3. Question
    To what enslaved people does this act apply to?
    Answer
    This only applies to those whose state “has levied war or has borne arms against the United States.” Thus, this only applies to those states in rebellion.
  4. Question
    To what enslaved people does this act not apply to?
    Answer
    It does not apply to slave states that remained in the union.
  5. Question
    This act was issued before the Emancipation Proclamation declared enslaved people in the rebelling states were freed. How does this act set the stage for the Proclamation?
    Answer
    It emancipates those who serve in the military and their families if their home state has joined the Confederacy, much like the Emancipation Proclamation. The difference between the two is that the Militia Act requires an African American man serve the United States.
  6. Question
    Though the Militia Act stipulates that the African Americans would receive pay, it was about half of what white soldiers received ($7 versus $13 per month). What does this indicate about how black soldiers were seen?
    Answer
    Though they are allowed to serve in the military and given freedom, they are still not seen as equal to White soldiers.
Reveal Answers
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