Black men — both free and enslaved — were called upon to fight in the Civil War which ultimately led to the dismantlement of slavery, that 'peculiar institution.'
As the Civil War dragged on, the state newspapers exaggerated that the percentage of able bodied men in Maryland produced conscriptions (or drafts) where "the proportion of colored persons drawn in [sic] largely excess of whites."
Of the 1,913 local men who faced draft in 1863, only 329 were African American. Just like their free black counterparts, enslaved men were given name recognition in the published draft lists.
Some enslaved men did not wait to be drafted and dictated their own fate. Court records reveal that a few were manumitted or freed by their owners to enlist in the U.S. Army. Freedom papers identified enslaved men such as Robert Oliver Scott of Brookeville as being released from bondage with "freedom to commence"
military duty. Scott ultimately joined the 30th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops, where he saw combat in Virginia and North Carolina. While serving in the South, black soldiers faced racial tension and were referred to as "smoked Yankees"
by local residents.
"I remember when the Yankee and Confederate soldiers both came to Poolesville. Capn Sam White he join the Confederate in Virginia. He come home and say he goin' to take me along back with him for to serve him. But the Yankees came and he left very sudden and leave me behind I was glad I didn't have to go with him.
" Reverend Phillip Johnson, formerly enslaved in Poolesville.
September 14,1937 Oral Interview. Federal Writers Project of WPA. Library of Congress
On July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, which allowed the use of African Americans in federal service. They could not serve in combat, however, until the Emancipation Proclamation as issued on January 1, 1863.