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Tag: USCT

The 150th Anniversary of the United States Colored Troops

Today’s blog post comes from archives specialist Jackie Budell.

On May 22, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders 143, establishing a Bureau of Colored Troops in the Adjutant General’s Office to recruit and organize African American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. With this order, all African American regiments were designated as United States Colored Troops (USCT).

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the USCT, and the National Archives is pleased to announce the completion of the USCT Service Records Digitization Project. In partnership with Fold3, the project provides online access to all service records—more than 3.8 million images—of Union volunteers in USCT units.

From May 22 to 31, the digital collection will be free on www.Fold3.com. (All National Archives collections on Fold3.com can always be viewed for free at any National Archives facility nationwide.)

This rare photograph of Edmund Delaney was found in his compiled military service records when the file was being digitized.

Compiled military service records (CMSRs) are part of Record Group 94, the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office. They contain card abstracts of entries related to an individual soldier such as muster rolls and regimental returns.

Many CMSRs also contain original documents called “personal papers,” which are especially valuable to researchers looking for documentation on former slaves. These papers include enlistment papers, correspondence, orders, prisoner-of-war memorandums, … [ Read all ]

Emancipation Proclamation: A Letter Home

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Envelop containing a letter from Samuel Cabble to his wife and mother, 06/1863; Compiled Military Service Record of Samuel Cabble of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, ca. 1861–ca. 1865; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, 1890–1912; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762–1984, Record Group 94 (National Archives Identifier 5757351)

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation brought freedom to the slaves in the Confederacy. By the war’s end, the U.S. Colored Troops Bureau had recruited hundreds of thousands of black soldiers, who fought for both their own and others’ freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation meant that their military victories resulted in the liberation of others.

Samuel Cabble served in the Massachusetts 55th Infantry. In a letter to his mother and his wife, Leah, Cabble expressed his desire to see his wife freed from slavery:

…though great is the present national difficulties yet I look foward to a brighter day When i shall have the opertunity of seeing you in the full enjoyment of freedom I would like to no if you are still in slavery if you are it will not be long before we shall have crushed the system that now opreses you for in the course of three months

[ Read all ]

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 ]