Prior to the Civil War, it was not allowed to have African Americans in the military, but some were accepted into the Navy. It was thought that they had neither the courage or the discipline to make good soldiers and follow orders.
In the beginning the Union had man-power problems and with the draft riots and the initial victories of the Confederacy posed a huge problem.
African Americans were considered as a last result. On January 1, 1863, the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation was released, and the war changed from a political one to save the Union, to a moral one to free the slaves.
African Americans were allowed to join the military but under special conditions. Each unit was to be commanded by white men. All facilities were to be segregated including hospitals (9) and cemeteries.
Eventually, some 170,000 men joined the ranks and served in the field. Most regiments were raised in the North, but many were organized when Confederate territory was captured and newly freed slaves were organized into regiments.
In Kane County, Illinois, there were 40 African American veterans. As in most areas, monuments and publications contained the names of white veterans, while the African American names were missing. One exception was in Batavia, Illinois where a small stone marker listed a dozen names. This book is the only reference to these brave men. Only about a dozen were from the area but comrades in the field returned with them and made their mark as full-fledged citizens of the area from Elgin south to St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia and Aurora.
Hazards in combat was expected but disease was a bigger killer. The 29th United States Colored Infantry lost 43 in battle but lost 188 to sickness.