United States Colored Troops

Over 180,000 black men fought for the Union army during the Civil War. Most of them served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) which came into existence after the Emancipation Proclamation finally provided presidential endorsement for the much-discussed proposals for arming free blacks and former slaves in what had become the great conflict over slavery. USCT training camps in places such as Camp William Penn, located in historic La Mott (Cheltenham, Pa), provided skills and a new sense of identity to black soldiers, despite unequal pay with white soldiers and other forms of continuing discrimination in a segregated military.  More than 11,000 black soldiers mobilized for service from Camp William Penn. (By Matthew Pinsker)
    Date Event
    U.S. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles authorizes the enlistment of runaway slaves into the naval service
    At Port Royal, South Carolina, the 1st South Carolina Colored Infantry receives its regimental colors
    The Confederate Congress outlines dire consequences for black Union soldiers and their white officers
    Meeting in Washington DC demands protection for black Union prisoners of war
    The Army creates the Bureau of Colored Troops to oversee the creation of African-American regiments
    Afro-Creole Captain Andre Cailloux falls at the head of his troops in the attack on Port Hudson
    African-American troops perform well in the abortive attack on Port Hudson and earn wide praise
    The 54th Massachusetts leaves Boston for active service in South Carolina
    - Harriet Tubman leads an armed raid against Confederate forces in South Carolina
    Black soldiers and naval gunfire drive off a Confederate attack on Union supply lines at Milliken's Bend
    Raiding into Georgia, former "jayhawker" James Montgomery burns the town of Darien
    On Morris Island, South Carolina, Confederate defenders of Fort Wagner beat back a second heavy attack
    The African-American 54th Massachusetts earns fame across the North with its brave attempt to storm Fort Wagner
    Sergeant William H. Carney becomes the first African-American to win the Congressional Medal of Honor
    In New Orleans, leading Creole citizen Captain Andre Cailloux is given a hero's funeral
    General George C. Strong, dead of wounds received at Fort Wagner, is buried at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn
    In the Senate, a Kentucky senator proposes the immediate discharging of all African-American troops
    In Union Square in New York City, the 20th U. S. C. T. receives its colors and departs for New Orleans
    Battle of Fort Pillow
    In Virginia, three soldiers from the same regiment win the Medal of Honor in the attack on New Market Heights
    In Philadelphia, black leaders meet with city transport companies to demand desegregation of their streetcars
    In Philadelphia, the Cooper Shop Volunteer Refreshment Saloon closes its doors
    - In Memphis, serious riots break out as whites kill, rape, and burn in African-American sections of the city
    Two more African-American regiments, the soon to be famous Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, come into being
    In Massachusetts, Republicans win smashing victories in the fall state elections.
    Lieutenant Henry Wilson, only son of U.S. Senator Henry Wilson, dies at his station in Austin, Texas.
    Veterans from across the country meet in Philadelphia at the Colored Soldiers' and Sailors' Convention.
    George Luther Stearns, leading abolitionist and member of "the Secret Six' dies of pneumonia in New York City.
    Date Title
    Recollection by Noah Brooks, April 1863, Army of the Potomac
    New York Times, “Negro Regiments to be Raised,” April 1, 1861
    Cleveland (OH) Herald, “Cannot Be Accepted,” April 22, 1861
    Brigadier General John W. Phelps, Proclamation to "The Loyal Citizens of the Southwest," December 4, 1861
    Abraham Lincoln to Reverdy Johnson, Washington, DC, July 26, 1862
    Abraham Lincoln to John Dix, January 14, 1863
    Entry by Kate Stone, March 22, 1863
    The Retaliatory Act, Confederate Congress, May 1, 1863
    Ulysses S. Grant to Lorenzo Thomas, June 16, 1863
    Boston (MA) Liberator, “Enlistment of Colored Troops,” July 17, 1863
    Edward L. Pierce to John Albion Andrew, July 22, 1863
    Abraham Lincoln to James C. Conkling, August 26, 1863
    Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 11, 1863
    Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, December 8, 1863
    Recollection by Orville Hickman Browning, April 3, 1864, Washington, D.C.
    Abraham Lincoln to Albert G. Hodges, April 4, 1864
    Albert G. Hodges to Abraham Lincoln, April 22, 1864, Frankfort, Kentucky
    John M. Mackenzie to Abraham Lincoln, April 28, 1864, Paducah, Kentucky
    Cleveland (OH) Herald, “Justice to Colored Soldiers,” May 2, 1864
    Benjamin Brown French to Abraham Lincoln, May 5, 1864, Washington, D.C.
    Entry by Kate Stone, September 5, 1864
    Editorial, "Grant's Negro Troops," Chicago Tribune, April 8, 1865
    Andrew Johnson, "Remarks to the First Colored Regiment of the District of Columbia," October 10, 1865, Washington D.C.
    Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Reception of Colored Troops,” November 15, 1865
    Philadelphia (PA) North American, "Reception of Colored Troops," November 15, 1865
    Bangor (ME) Whig and Courier, “Protection of the Freedmen,” November 22, 1865
    Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, "Generals Meade and Butler on Negro Soldiers," November 25, 1865
    New Haven (CT) Palladium, “The Reception,” November 25, 1865
    Charles Jones Jenkins to Andrew Johnson, Milledgeville, Georgia, February 15, 1866
    How to Cite This Page: "United States Colored Troops," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/32496.