Civil War, United States Colored Troop  - U.S.C.T


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Who were the United States Colored Troop U.S.C.T.

The United States Colored Troops made up over ten percent of the Union or Northern Army even though they were prohibited from joining until July 1862, fifteen months into the war. They comprised twenty-five percent of the Union navy. Yet, only one percent of the Northern population was African American. Clearly overrepresented in the military, African Americans played a decisive role in the Civil War.

In July of 1862, Congress passed the Militia Act of 1862. It had become an “indispensable military necessity” to call on America’s African descent population to help save the Union. A few weeks after President Lincoln signed the legislation on July 17, 1862, free men of color joined volunteer regiments in Illinois and New York. Such men would go on to fight in some of the most noted campaigns and battles of the war to include, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.

On September 27, 1862, the first regiment to become a United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiment was officially brought into the Union army. All the captains and lieutenants in this Louisiana regiment were men of African descent. The regiment was immediately assigned combat duties, and it captured Donaldsonville, Louisiana on October 27, 1862. Before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, two more African descent regiments from Kansas and South Carolina would demonstrate their prowess in combat.

After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, the War Department publicly authorized the recruiting of African Americans. The first regiment raised with such authority was the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. (Leading many to report that it was the first African descent regiment.) By the end of 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant viewed the African descent population armed with the Proclamation as a “powerful ally.”

Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act into law on April 16, 1862. The bill immediately freed enslaved people in the district and compensated former slave owners who were loyal to the Union up to $300 for each freeperson, according to the U.S. Senate Historical Office — just under $8,886 per person in 2023.

Source: African American Civil War Memorial and Museum



Number of Enlisted of U.S.C.T. by State

The 209,145 names are drawn from official records of the Bureau of US Colored Troops (USCT) at the National Archives and engraved on the Wall of Honor of the African American Civil War Memorial, Washington, D.C. Following are the numbers of enlistees attributed to the states in which they enlisted:

Alabama - 4,969

Connecticut - 1,764

Florida - 1,044

Indiana - 1,537

Kentucky - 23,703

Maryland - 8,718

Mississippi - 17,869

New York - 4,125

Pennsylvania - 8,612

Tennessee - 20,133

Other States and Areas - 35,786

Arkansas - 5,526

Delaware - 954

Georgia - 3,486

Iowa - 440

Louisiana - 24,052

Massachusetts - 3,966

Missouri - 8,344

North Carolina - 5,035

Rhode Island - 1,837

Virginia - 5,919

California - 1,918

District of Columbia - 3,269

Illinois - 1,811

Kansas - 2,080

Maine - 104

Michigan - 1,387

New Jersey - 1,185

Ohio - 5,092

South Carolina - 5,462

Wisconsin - 165

Call for Transcribers of United States Colored Troops Documents

African American Civil War Soldiers  - 40,000 records already transcribed

Fold3  - Locating United States Color Troops 1st-138th Regiment


Finding U.S.C.T. on Fold3

National Archives Catalog

Colored Troops Division,1863-1888. Adjutant General's Office  

United States Colored Troops Prisoners of War

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

The U.S. Colored Troops at Andersonville Prison: Author - Bob O'Connor

National Archives Catalog - Slave Claims Commission

Colored Troops Division, 1863-1888 Adjutant General's Office

FamilySearch Catalog - NARA Microfilm Publications

FamilySearch Historical Records

United States Colored Troops Cemeteries - United States Colored Troops

Additional Records

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