Early in the Civil War, the Northern or Federal Army was desperate for more men. In his preliminary emancipation proclamation in the fall of 1862, President Lincoln announced that the federal government would enroll African American soldiers as of 1863. By the end of the Civil War there were 166 black units of infantry, cavalry and artillery totaling 185,000 men.
This lithographed poster is one of the best-known of the recruiting posters used to persuade African Americans to join the Northern Army. There are two versions; each has the same image but with different captions. The one held by the Princeton Library has the caption: Come and Join Us Brothers, while the other reads United States Soldiers at Camp “William Penn” Philadelphia. Camp William Penn was just north of Philadelphia and the largest facility for the organization and training of African American soldiers. Special thanks to Phil Lapsansky, Curator of Afro-Americana, at the Library Company of Philadelphia for the note that the original photo from which these posters were made appeared in the Civil War Times in July of 1973 but has since vanished.
For more information about the original photograph and a recent controversy surrounding it, see http://people.virginia.edu/~jh3v/retouchinghistory/essay.html