Delany spent the last few months of the Civil War continuing his recruiting activities. After the North defeated the South to end the Civil War in the spring of 1865, he became a military aide to the Freedmen's Bureau. This organization was charged with helping former slaves secure education, employment, and other assistance. Leaving his family in Wilberforce, Ohio, he traveled to South Carolina to begin his new duties.
Delany devoted a great deal of time and effort to his new job. But his calls for black self-reliance sometimes clashed with government policies, so he became a controversial figure within the Bureau. He and many other officers assigned to the Freedmen's Bureau were discharged from the army in the summer of 1868. Around this same time, Congress adopted the Fourteenth Amendment, which gave blacks the legal status of citizens for the first time in the nation's history.
Delany remained in South Carolina during the 1870s, where controversy continued to follow him. He continued to urge black Americans to take pride in their ancestry, and remained a leading defender of Africa's proud history and future potential. But he also allied himself with the Southern Democrats, who had been fiercely proslavery before and during the Civil War.
Delany joined with the Democrats because he thought that Republicans were no longer making much of an effort to secure civil rights for blacks. He believed that Southern blacks had a better chance of improving their lives if they
In February 1865, Martin Delany was commissioned (given official rank) as the first black field officer in U.S. history. The following letter, written by U.S. secretary of war Edwin M. Stanton (1814-1869), formally announced this historic appointment:
The Secretary of War of the United States of America
To all who shall see these presents, Greetings;
Know ye, that, reposing [having] special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor [courage or bravery], fidelity [faithfulness to duty], and abilities of MARTIN R. DELANY, the President does hereby appoint him Major, in the One Hundred and Fourth Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, in the service of the United States, to rank as such from the day of his muster [enlistment or entrance] into service, by the duly appointed commissary [officer] of musters, for the command to which said regiment belongs.
He is therefore carefully and diligently [with dedication] to discharge the duty of Major by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And I do strictly charge, and require, all officers and soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders as Major. And he is to observe and follow such orders
and directions, from time to time, as he shall receive from me or the future Secretary of War, or other superior officers set over him, according to the rules and discipline of war. This appointment to continue in force during the pleasure of the President for the time being.
Given under my hand at the War Department, in the City of Washington, D.C., this twenty-sixth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty five.
cooperated with the Democratic Party, which was dominant throughout the South. His alliance with the Democrats, however, drew heavy criticism from other members of South Carolina's black community. Delany ran for political office on several occasions during this decade, but each effort ended in defeat. In the early 1880s, he resumed his medical practice, rejoining his family in Wilberforce, Ohio, in 1884. He died one year later.
Was this article helpful?