UNITED STATES COLORED TROOPS
Updated: November 26, 2006
SOURCE: National Archives and Records Administration
Approximately 160 regiments and 10 batteries of light artillery organized in the Confederate States by the Union Army or as state militia in the North and redesignated as United States Colored Troops after the establishment of the Bureau of Colored Troops on May 22, 1863. NOTE: The 29th Connecticut Infantry Regiment, 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment maintained State designations throughout the war.
Between 178,000 and 200,000 Black enlisted and White officers served under the Bureau of Colored Troops which was established by General Order No. 143 on May 22, 1863.
Approximately 94,000 men were ex-slaves from states that had seceded from the Union. Approximately 44,000 were ex-slaves or freemen from the border states, and the remainder were recruited from the northern states and the Colorado Territory, many who were ex-slaves that went north on the Underground Railroad.
Charles Tyler Trowbridge was said to have been the first person to enlist Colored soldiers in the Union Army. He did so in the Spring of 1862 while serving on the staff of General David Hunter, during the organizing of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. The unit was not mustered into the Union Army and was disbanded in August 1862, except for one company, and was re-organized later in the Fall of 1862.
The Cincinnati Black Brigade was organized in September 1862. The men served in three regiment for three weeks. Unarmed and without uniforms, the men built roads and fortifications in Northern Kentucky.
The Louisiana Native Guards were the first black soldiers to be officially mustered into the Union Army.
First engagement against the Confederates occurred on October 27 - 29, 1862 at Island Mound, Missouri by the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Regiment before being mustered into service. The regiment was organized in August 1862, mustered into service January 13, 1863, and later redesignated the 79th United States Colored Infantry Regiment. Most of the enlisted men were ex-slaves from Arkansas and Missouri.
The second engagement involved the 1st South Carolina Colored Volunteers at Township, Florida on January 26, 1863.
The largest number of regiments were organized in the following States: Louisiana - 36 regiments (approximately); Kentucky - 21 regiments; Tennessee - 18 regiments; and Mississippi - 11 regiments.
The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was mustered into service on May 13, 1863, approximately eight months after muster in of the Louisiana Native Guards.
Numerous men from the Midwest and border states along with ex-slaves from the south traveled great distances to enlist and serve with the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments, and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment.
Eight regiments from Louisiana fought at Port Hudson, Louisiana from May 22 to July 8, 1863.
The 9th Louisiana Volunteers, 11th Louisiana Volunteers and the 1st Mississippi Volunteers suffered extremely heavy losses during the Battle of Milliken's Bend, Louisiana, June 5 thru 7, 1863. (The units were redesignated respectively the 5th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment, 49th and 51st U.S. Colored Infantry Regiments.)
One of the most significant engagements in the West occurred on July 17, 1863 during the Battle of Honey Springs, Indian Territory. The approximately 3,000 Union force included the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Regiment, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Indian Home Guard Regiments, and white State Militia units against approximately 6,000 mostly Texas Confederates. Other American Indian units also fought with the Confederates. The Confederate forces were defeated.
The Union forces were defeated during the Battle of Olustee, Florida on February 20, 1864. Heavy losses were suffered by the 8th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, 35th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.
Over 10,000 U.S. Colored Troops were recruited and trained at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. Thousands of ex-slaves gained their freedom at the camp and the Union Army established a refugee camp for these individuals throughout the war.
Twenty-two regiments of U.S. Colored Troops participated in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia from June 15, 1864 to April 2, 1865.
Thirteen U. S. Colored Infantry along with white units engaged the enemy at Chapin's (Chaffin's) Farm, Virginia on September 29 and 30, 1864. Thirteen members on the U. S. Colored Infantry Regiments were awarded the Medal of Honor.
The 5th United States Colored Cavalry Regiment suffered losses of 114 enlisted and 4 officers during the Battle of Saltville, Virginia on October 2, 1864.
The 3rd United States Colored Cavalry Regiment (organized in Memphis and northern Mississippi as the 1st Mississippi Colored Cavalry) participated in the second Grierson Raid from Memphis, Tennessee to Vicksburg, Mississippi commencing on December 21, 1864 and ending on January 13, 1865. Brigadier General Benjamin H. Grierson led three Brigades on this successful expedition.
Harriet Tubman, a nurse, spy and scout, formerly a conductor on the Underground Railroad has been described as "the head of the intelligence service in the Department of the South" and as "the only American woman to lead troops black or white on the field of battle." The South Carolina raid under the command of Colonel James Montgomery and led by Harriet Tubman destroyed millions of dollars worth of commissary stores and cotton... and freed over 800 slaves and confiscated thousands of dollars worth of property.
Eleven regiments of United States Colored Troops (8 from Louisiana, 1 from Mississippi, 1 from Missouri, and 1 organized in Louisiana and Mississippi) fought in the Mobile, Alabama Campaign (Battle of Fort Blakely) from March 31 to April 9, 1865. Two of the regiments served in an engineer brigade under the headquarters command
Orders was issued on December 3, 1864 authorizing the formation of the Twenty-Fifth United States Army Corps. The Corps was the first and only Army Corps in the history of the country made up almost entirely of black infantry regiments, 30 U.S. Colored Infantry Regiments. In addition, 2 U. S. Colored Cavalry Regiments and a Battery of U. S. Colored Light Artillery was assigned to the Corps.
On April 9, 1865, three U. S. Colored Infantry Regiments from the Twenty-Fifth United States Army Corps (29th, 31st, and 116th) were positioned along the advance line of 17 Union regiments that moved from the west towards Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia to prevent the Confederate forces from escaping westward. Three other U. S. Colored Infantry Regiments (8th, 41st, and 45th) also assigned to the Corps were positioned in the rear.
Thirty-six Blacks with the Confederates, mostly slaves were paroled at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
The 62nd U. S. Colored Infantry Regiment (Missouri) participated in the last major engagement of the Civil War at Palmetto Ranch, Texas on May 15, 1865, over a month after General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia.
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