More Facts for Black History Month

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Company E, 4th US Colored Infantry, Washington, DC. Photo by William Morris Smith, courtesy of National Library of Congress.

During Black History Month in the USA, it’s a good time to look at how the Emancipation Proclamation allowed liberated slaves to serve in the Union Army.

Eventually, approximately 178,000 black soldiers served in the Civil War, most of them as part of the US Colored Troops (USCT). Some were free blacks, but most were liberated slaves. Twenty-five received the Congressional Medal of Honor – eighteen soldiers and seven sailors.

An overview and documented details are in the 2016 book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico by historian/ educator Michael Hogan. His research and writing to examine the impact of including black soldiers in the Union Army goes further than most historians and textbooks.

Starting with references from works by other historians, Hogan uses archival documents to follow USCT soldiers after the Civil War who became part of the American Legion of Honor recruited by Mexico in late 1865-1866 to help Mexico fight French troops that invaded Mexico in 1861 and installed a puppet monarchy.

Union veterans comprised the officer corps of the Legion, according to Hogan, but many of the rank and file were remnants of the USCT.

“The American Legion of Honor consisted of approximately 3,000 men who served in Mexico from late 1865 through the final siege of Mexico in 1867,” Hogan writes. “There is a gravesite in Mexico City where those who fell in this conflict are interred.”

The US forces in Mexico were relatively small compared to the overall Mexican Army, says Hogan.

“They usually accounted for about 500-1000 in forces of 4,000 or more,” he writes. “However, their cohesiveness, their battle experience, their outstanding leadership, and finally their superior firepower made them a fearsome force.”

Dr. Hogan’s book is in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and in university libraries in the USA and foreign countries. It’s also available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Happy Birthday, President Lincoln!

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Photo courtesy of History.com

February is the month to honor all US presidents, and a good time to learn more about Abraham Lincoln around his birthday February 12.

In US social studies classes, most students are unaware that Lincoln was a strong supporter of Mexico, both before and during the US Civil War. Here are four facts:

  1. As a freshman member of Congress, Lincoln risked his political career by alleging that President Polk misled the Congress about going to war with Mexico in 1846.
  2. Before his inauguration as president, Lincoln offered his friendship to Mexico during a meeting in Springfield, Illinois, with Mexican ambassador Matías Romero, the first foreign envoy to meet with the president-elect.
  3. After French troops drove Mexican President Benito Juárez into exile, Lincoln and his cabinet maintained official neutrality with Mexico to keep France from supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War. However, Lincoln responded to Romero’s pleas for help, and authorized covert aid to Mexico.
  4. After Lincoln’s assassination, continuing US support enabled Mexico to defeat the French forces and end the last empire in North America.

Lincoln’s support for Mexico is detailed in the highly acclaimed book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico by historian/ educator Michael Hogan, which examines archival documents to look at Lincoln as an international statesman and not just an iconic American political figure. The print version is in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and in college and university libraries in the USA and several foreign countries.

Educators in more than 400 schools across the USA already have copies of the eBook version, and many are using it to stimulate classroom discussions. If you know a teacher who might be interested in the book as supplemental classroom material, ask them to send an email request to lamp@lincolnandmexicoproject.org.

For the coming academic year, the Lincoln and Mexico Project is planning a pilot project to distribute free eBook copies to students in selected high schools. Look for details in a future blogpost.

You can learn more details about Lincoln’s support for Mexico by reading this previous LAMP blogpost.