United States Colored Troops in the Civil War

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Civil War, 1861-1865
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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 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.


Colored Troops Division - Selected List


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)

See also:

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.

Related Family History Library Holdings - NARA Microfilm Publications

Related FamilySearch Historical Record Collections


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 Poemhunter.com. (Accessed on 6 Sept. 2011.)

Related Websites

Additional References[edit | edit source]

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