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Tag: US Colored Troops

Emancipation Proclamation: Creation of the United States Colored Troops

Image: Page 1 of War Department General Order 143 Ordering the Creation of the U.S. Colored Troops, 05/22/1863; Orders and Circulars, 1797–1910; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762–1984, Record Group 94; National Archives (National Archives Identifier 4662603)

The issues of freedom for the slaves and military service were intertwined from the beginning of the Civil War. News from Fort Sumter had set off a rush by free black men to enlist in military units. They were turned away, however, because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred them from bearing arms for the U.S. Army (although they had served in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812).

The Lincoln administration thought about authorizing the recruitment of black troops before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, but they were worried that doing so would prompt the border states to secede.

Nevertheless, the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, did include mention of military service, although Lincoln did not call slaves and free blacks to serve as combatant troops in the war. Lincoln wrote, ”And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable conditions, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.”

This statement directly applied to slaves in … [ Read all ]