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Enslaved People in the War

These images show some of the many African Americans who fought or worked for the Union Army in the Civil War. As the United States continued to dispossess Native nations of their lands throughout the West, the states where slavery was legal pressed for expanding slavery in new U.S. territories so that they would have the same decision-making power in the Senate. Abraham Lincoln and the Republican party thought that slavery should not expand into the new U.S. territories, but many states disagreed. Just as states had the option to join the United States of America, they believed that they could leave through secession. Others believed that the Union was indivisible.

After Lincoln was elected president, 11 states seceded from the United States because they feared that the federal government would end the expansion of slavery. They formed a new government called the Confederate States of America, and the two sides went to war. Many African Americans fought for the Union Army. Native nations fought on both sides of the war or did not participate. By the end of the war, 179,000 black soldiers fought for the Union army and 19,000 served in the navy.
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