Making History: Maj. Martin R. Delany

 

Major Martin Robison Delany

 

In 1863 after Abraham Lincoln called for a military draft, Martin Delany began recruiting black men for the Union Army. His efforts in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and later Ohio raised thousands of enlistees, many of whom joined the newly formed United States Colored Troops. He wrote to the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, requesting that he make efforts “to command all of the effective black men as Agents of the United States,” but the request was ignored.

In 1865 Delany was given permission to talk with President Lincoln and proposed a corps of black men led by black officers who could serve to win over Southern blacks. Although a similar appeal by Frederick Douglass had already been rejected, Lincoln was impressed by Delany and described him as “a most extraordinary and intelligent man.”

Delany was commissioned as a major a few weeks later, becoming the first black line field officer in the U.S. Army and achieving the highest rank an African American would reach during the Civil War. After the war, he remained with the Army and served under General Rufus Saxton in the 52nd U.S. Colored Troops.

To learn more about African Americans and their contribution to the U.S. Army, visit : http://www.army.mil/africanamericans/.