Chuck Veit on “African-Americans in the Union Navy”
For those familiar with the story of African-American regiments in the Army during the American Civil War, the history of black sailors in the Union Navy offers a surprising and refreshing contrast. United States Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles mandated that all enlisted men be treated fairly no matter the color of their skin, and enforced this order throughout all aspects of naval life. “The Navy has not been in the habit of examining a seaman’s complexion before shipping him; ‘Can you fight?’ is the only question.” This is a much-overlooked aspect of the black contribution to the Northern war effort, and deserves to be better known. Navy history offers the only period example of integrated service by men of many races and backgrounds.
Chuck Veit is the author of original research books, including A Dog Before a Soldier: Almost-lost Episodes in the Navy’s Civil War; Sea Miner: Major E. B. Hunt’s Rocket Torpedo; Natural Genius: Brutus de Villeroi and the U.S. Navy’s First Submarine; and two books focusing on the salvage exploits of Massachusetts native, John E. Gowen: Raising Missouri and The Yankee Expedition to Sebastopol. Sea Miner claimed the 2016 award for Narrative Non-fiction from the Independent Publishers of New England, and Yankee Expedition won awards in both the Perennial Seller category and Book of the Year in 2017.
Chuck is President of the Navy & Marine Living History Association and is a frequent speaker on 19th century naval topics at area historical societies and Civil War roundtables, as well as at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. Other venues have included the NOAA Maritime Heritage Education Conference, Mariners’ Museum Civil War Navy Conference, and the Naval Order of the United States in St. Petersburg, FL.