West Virginia University Historical Review


As with most researchable source material, the voices of minorities and marginalized groups are often unavailable, nonexistent, or heavily obscured by the voices of their more privileged counterparts. The Civil War, for instance, is studied through a predominantly white lens, despite the importance of African American soldiers, civilians, and enslaved individuals enveloped in this conflict. This paper aims to analyze the African American perspective on the Civil War (1861-1865) and early antebellum period through the words of these individuals and the experiences of David Demus, an infantryman in the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, and his family. Utilizing correspondence, letters, military and pension records, and individual black testimonials, the following is an attempt to more fully understand life on both the battlefield and home front for African Americans during an era plagued by war, slavery, and systematic racism, as well as how these individuals ultimately contributed to the evolution of societal ideals and behaviors within the scope of race, still pertinent today.

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