Soon after the fall of Fort Sumter, the Navy Department realized that the fleet's rapid wartime expansion would require thousands of sailors, and it sent navy recruiters out to recruiting stations, called rendezvous, in large eastern cities and small coastal and river towns to lure men into the service. Only about 300 African American men reported to these stations, and by the end of 1861 they accounted for only about six percent of Union Navy crews. These numbers soon grew, however. According to Howard University's Black Sailors Project, 18,000 African American men (and 11 women) served in the Union Navy over the course of the Civil War. African American sailors constituted about 20 percent of the enlisted force, nearly double the proportion of black soldiers who served in the Union Army during the war. The largest number of black men joining the Union Navy listed their place of origin as either Maryland or Virginia.
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