Congress legislates equal pay to Black soldiers

Private Ray
Wed, 1864-06-15

*On this date in 1864, Congress passed the enrollment Act that authorized equal pay for Black soldiers.

During the Civil War, African-Americans formed 166 regiments and fought almost 500 battles. In so doing they earned 23 Congressional Medals of Honor. Despite these achievements, they suffered from discrimination and prejudice. In early June 1864, Private Sylvester Ray of the 2nd U.S. Colored Cavalry was recommended for trial because he refused to accept pay inferior to that of white soldiers. First Lieutenant Edwin Hughes of the 2nd U.S. Colored Cavalry recorded private Ray as stating, "None of us will sign again for seven dollars a month."

At first they were paid only $7 per month plus $3 clothing allowance as compared to $13 allowed for a white private. Some generals, such as William T. Sherman, did not want the Blacks in their army, but most Union officers reported that black men made good soldiers who were highly motivated, did not get drunk, obeyed their officers, and rarely deserted.

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