In November 1863 Sgt. William Walker of the 3rd South Carolina Volunteers led a group of men to lay down their arms in Jacksonville, Florida, and resign from the Army in protest, arguing that they had been promised equal treatment when they enlisted. Walker’s case prompted increased public discussion of the issue, and in December Secretary of War Edwin Stanton asked that the pay of all soldiers be equalized. The families of black soldiers suffered as opposition and long debates in Congress delayed the action. In February 1864 Sergeant Walker was court-martialed and shot for mutiny.
Finally, in June 1864 Congress passed legislation giving black soldiers equal pay, retroactive to January 1, 1864, for all soldiers and to the time of enlistment for those who had been free men when they joined.
Produced by George Alger