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United States Colored Troops in the Civil War

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4th United States Colored Infantry, Company E, about 1864

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The United States Army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863. (War Department General Order 143) The enlistment of free blacks and slaves was considered a key to winning the war. Many USCT regiments originated as state militia units before 1863. The regiments included cavalry, artillery and infantry.

Approximately 186,000 African Americans served in the United States Colored Troops volunteer cavalry, artillery,and infantry units during the Civil War.

The service records of the United States Colored Troops are indexed on M589 roll 49 FHL Film: 1276501(96 rolls FHL # 1266617) The service records have not yet been filmed, and are available from the National Archives.

For charts listing microfilmed military records available through the National Archive and Family History Library film numbers: click here.

See William A Dobak.Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867. Washington,D.C.: Center of Military History. United States Army, 2011 See: African American Military Records

Related Websites

In searching military or other records for an ancestors name that served with a United States Colored Troop (USCT) abbreviations or marks may be found within the record or following the name that may give clues about their military service.

Some of the abbreviations or marks may include.

  • A.D. = African Descent
  • C.d'A. Corps d'Afrique
  • col.,cold., col. = Colored
  • POC = Person of Color
  • USCA Lt  + U. S. Colored Artillery (Light)
  • USCA Hvy = U.S. Colored Artillery (Heavy)
  • USCC = U.C. Colored Cavalry
  • USCHA = U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery
  • USCI = U.S. Colored Infantry
  • USCLtA = U.S. Colored Light Artillery
  • USCT = U.S. Colored Troops

Civil War and Military Terminology[edit | edit source]

  • Enlistment: date joining a state Regiment
  • Muster: date Regiment accepted in to Federal Service
  • Discharge: date the soldier left the service but the Regiment was still active
  • Muster Out: date Regiment released from active service
  • Company: about 100 men Usually commanded by a Major or Captain
    • Leadership: 1 Captain, 1 First Lieutenant, 1 Second Lieutenant, 1 First Sergeant, 4 Sergeants, 8 Corporals, 2 Musicians, 1 Wagoner, and 64 Privates - minimum; 83 Privates - maximum [1]
  • Regiment: about 10 Companies (1,000 men ) Usually commanded by a Major or Captain
    • Leadership: 1 Colonel, 1 Lieutenant Colonel, 1 Major, 1 Adjutant (Lt), 1 Quartermaster (Lt) 1 Surgeon, 2 Assistant Surgeons, 1 Chaplin, 1 Sergeant Major, 1 Quartermaster Sergt., 1 Commissary Sergt., 1 Hospital Stewart, and 1 Principal Musician [2]
  • Brigade: two or more Regiments (2,000 men or more) Usually commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel
  • Division: two or more Brigades (4,000 men or more)
  • Corps: two or more Divisions (8,000 men or more)
  • Army: two or more Corps. Usually commanded by a General
    • Army of the Cumberland, Army of Georgia, Army of the Gulf, Army of the James, Army of the Mississippi, Army of the Ohio, Army of the Potomac, Army of the Shenandoah, Army of the Tennessee, and Army of Virginia

United States Colored Troops Military Units[edit | edit source]

Most units were numbered, however, some were named. See the table below for lists of the regiments, battalions, batteries, and unassigned companies.

The information in the lists of United States Colored Troops comes from the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors web site. This web site is searchable by soldier's name.

United States Colored Troops by Number or by Name
Union Units

United States Colored Troops by Type of Unit
Union Units

Regiments of United States Colored Troops[edit | edit source]

A chronology chart of dates of formation, location, regiment and state is found at the following site by Bennie J. McRae, Jr., Civil War Battles, United States Colored Troops.

Artillery, Cavalry, Infantry regimental histories and roster United States Colored Troops

These Regiment numbers are missing - failed to organize

  • 129th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 130th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 131st Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 132nd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 133rd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 134th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry

Background of the USCT's gives history of the formation of the U.S.C.T. and their actions in many battles.

USCT Units serving on the Mississippi River, 1865 this site list regiments, their commanding officers and where the regiment was stationed.

Compiled Records Showing Service of Military Units in Volunteer Union Organizations. National Archives MIcrofim Publication M594. 225 rolls. Note: Rolls 204-217 United States Colored Troops FHL film 1488656 - 1488669

Training Camps[edit | edit source]

Contraband Camps[edit | edit source]

Contraband Camps many men enlisted from these camps when recruitment of Colored troops began in1863. Some of the men were escaped slaves. There were contraband camps in the following states: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and the District of Colombia.

The web site Last Road to Freedom has information on America's Civil War contraband Camps.

See Wikipedia: Contraband (American Civil War)

Service Records[edit | edit source]

Compiled Service Records

The compiled service records consist of an envelope containing card abstracts taken from muster rolls, returns, pay vouchers, and other records. Service records may provide rank, unit, date of enlistment, length of service, age, place of birth, and date of death.

Note: As of July 2011, both of the above databases are incomplete. A list of regiments included in their databases can be found at Ancestry and Fold3.

For more information see Union Service Records.

Pension Records[edit | edit source]

United States Colored Troops Prisoners of War[edit | edit source]

Confederate prisons were located in Andersonville, Georgia; Salisbury, North Carolina; Danville, North Carolina and Libby.

The U.S. Colored Troops at Andersonville Prison. by Bob O'Connor. Infinity Publishing, West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. 2010. FHL Book: 975.8913/A2 M2o (title # 1861140)

Slave Claims Commission, 1867[edit | edit source]

National Archives Catalog

1890 Census Veteran Schedules[edit | edit source]

1890 Census Veterans Schedules - The 'Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War" (NARA M123) are available online for each state.

United States Colored Troops Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Civil War Sesquicentennial - 150th Anniversary[edit | edit source]

This site shares news, events and websites for several states about the upcoming commemorations.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was the son of former slaves. His father, Joshua Dunbar, served in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment. Paul wrote a poem about the colored soldiers’ roll in the Civil War. His poem, “The Colored Soldiers” can be found at the site (Accessed on 6 Sept. 2011.)

Additional References[edit | edit source]

  • Berlin, Ira.Freedom's Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. FHL 973 M2bL
  • Cornish, Dudley Taylor. The Sable Arm: Black Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865. Lawrence,Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 1987. FHL 973 M2cor
  • Dollarhide, William. Genealogical Resources of the Civil War Era: Online and published Military or Civilian Names Lists, 1861-1869. and Post-War Veterans Lists. Bountiful, Utah: Family Roots publishing Co., 2009. FHL Collection WorldCat
  • Fleming, Ann Carter,and Ruth Ann Abels Hager. "Slaves, Soldiers, and Citizens: Special Civil War Recruitment Lists,: National Genealogical Society Quarterly vol. 91 (June 2003):139-143.
  • Gladstone, William A. United States Colored Troops, 1863-1867. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Thomas publications, 1990: [Appendix I lists which states furnished men to each U.S. Colored Troop Regiment.]
  • Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: the Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. New Yourk: FreePress, 1990. WorldCat
  • Hager, Ruth Ann (Ables) and Ann Carter Fleming.Slaves, Soldiers, and Citizens: Special Civil War Recruitment Lists, National Genealogical Society Quarterly 91 (June 2003)
  • Hansen, Joyce. Between Two Fires: Black Soldiers in the Civil War. New York: F. Watts, 1993.
  • Hargrove, Hondon B. Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland 1988.FHL 973 H2har
  • Hewett, Janet B., editor. Roster of Union Soldiers, 1861-1865; United States Colored Troops M589-1-M589-49. Wilimington, North Carolina: Broadfoot publishing CO., 1997. FHL Book: 973 M29h
  • Hewett, Janet B. Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Part II, Record of Events. Wilmington, N.C.: Broadfoot Publishing, 1998.
  • WorldCat  FHL book 973 M29u
  • McConnell, Roland C. The Corps d' Afrique: A Chapter in the Development of the Black Soldier in the U.S. Military Establishment. Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. 12 # 1 & 2 (Spring and Summer 1991): 43-56.
  • McPherson, James M. The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union, New York: Vintage 2003.
  • McPherson, James M.The Atlas of the Civil War. Sevenoaks, United Kingdom: Pepperbox Press, 2010 FHL Collection WorldCat
  • McRae, Bennie J. Jr. U.S. Colored Troops Archives, available at Hampton University, KWl Marketing 560 West 43rd St. NY, NY. 1036 #41A
  • Moebs, Thomas Truxtun. Black Soldiers Black Sailors Black Ink: Research Guide on African-American in U.S. Military History, 1526-1900. FHL book 973 M2mt
  • Pendell, Lucille H. and Benthel, Elizabeth. Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Adjutant General's Office: Records Group 94, No. 17, Washington, DC: Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books, 2007.
  • Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Civil War, Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 1989. FHL 973 M2q
  • Ross, Joseph B., Comp. Tabular Analysis of the Records of the U.S. Colored Troops and Their Predecessor Units in the National Archives of the United States. Special List No. 33. National Archives and records Service General Services Administration Washington: 1973. FHL Book 973 M2rt Film:1036062 Item 21
  • Secret, Jeanette Braxton. Guide to Tracing Your African American Civil War Ancestor. Bowie Maryland: Heritage Books, 1995. [This is a reference book that includes Special Lists 33. Tabular Analysis of the Records of the U.S. Colored Troops...a National Archives publication - no longer in print].
  • Shaffer, Donald R. After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans, Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2004.
  • Schaffer, Donald R. 'I Do Not Suppose that Uncle Sam Looks at the Skin': African Americans and the Civil War Pension System, 1865-1934.Civil War History 46 (June 2000): 132-142
  • Smith, John David, editor. Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Trudeau, Noah Andre. Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War, 1862-1865, Boston, Massachusetts: Little Brown and Co, 1998.
  • Wagner, Margaret E.The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War. New York, NY: Little, Brown and CO., Hachette Book Group, 2011.
  • Wagner, Margaret E. Gary W. Gallagher and Paul Finkelman.T'he Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2002

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Hargrove, Hondon B. Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Jefferson, NC:McFarland and Co., Inc. c1988
  2. Hargrove, Hondon B. Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Jefferson, NC:McFarland and Co., Inc. c1988