After President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, blacks rushed to join up to help the North win the war.
A total of 178,985 fought in the war; 37,000 were killed in action and seventeen black soldiers and sailors were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery in the United States.
The South refused to enlist blacks into the Confederate army until March 1865. Recognizing that the South was losing the war, Confederate president Jefferson Davis finally agreed that slaves should be recruited as soldiers. But it was too late, and in April the South surrendered.
The 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, led by Sergeant William H. Carney, showed valor and heroism when they attacked Fort Wayne in South Carolina, 1863.