Thursday, June 26, 2008
US Colored Troops-True American Heroes
The United States Colored Troops (USCT) were regiments of the United States Army during the American Civil War that were comprised of African-American soldiers mostly former slaves.
The U.S. Congress passed a confiscation act in July 1862 that freed slaves of owners in rebellion against the United States, i.e. those states in the South that had seceded from the Union. Hence, a militia act was passed that empowered the President to use freed slaves in any capacity in the army.
In September 1862 Lincoln issued his preliminary proclamation that all slaves in rebellious states would be free as of January 1. Recruitment of colored regiments began in full force following the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863.
The United States War Department issued General Order Number 143 on May 22, 1863, establishing a "Bureau of Colored Troops" to facilitate the recruitment of African-American soldiers to fight for the Union Army comprised of many regiments, including infantry, cavalry, light artillery, and heavy artillery units.
Former slaves and freed blacks rushed to sign up to secure the promise of freedom and deliverance from the life of bondage and oppression that so many knew. They were recruited from all states of the Union and became known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Approximately 175 regiments of over 178,000 free blacks and freed slaves served during the last two years of the war, and bolstered the Union war effort at a critical time. By war's end, the USCT were approximately a tenth of all Union troops. There were 2,751 USCT combat casualties during the war, and 68,178 losses from all causes.
The reason I am writing about and remembering these brave men is because Ancestry.com has a site that you can search for the names of your ancestors and other relatives who may have served. However, it does not stop there. A lot of the original documents contain personal information like who their former owners were, who to contact in case of an emergency, promotions, whether they were wounded, hospitalized or died. It is a virtual diary of their military experience. As such, I urge you to explore it and see what you come up with.
As mentioned in the title of this blog, these were true American heroes. These men put their lives on the lines not just for themselves but for the millions of other African Americans formerly enslaved and the countless number of future generations of African Americans in this country.
Their contribution to this country has over the years been mimimized, concealed and kept from even their own descendants and relatives. They received few accolades after the war in part due to the fact that many returned home to the bitter South still pining over the loss of the war and to those who did not care to hear about the heroics of blacks responsible for their sudden change in lifestyle. Hence, many former soldiers kept their service under wraps for fear of lynching or worse. Therefore, you would not have seen too many former soldiers marching around town in Union war uniforms or bearing medals. As well, there were no monuments in the South following the war commemorating United States Colored Troops.
As a result, the legacy of who they were and what they did for their country has to a great extent has been lost to even their own descendants and other relatives but
they should be highly regarded, saluted and honored for an eternity for their priceless contribution.
With that said, you can assess the site by going to the Ancestry.com opening page and then viewing all records under "Military Service" in the right sidebar. The database is listed towards the bottom under "U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1861-1865." Once you pull up and view the original document, you can click next at the top and you can view all the records on the individual.
To the US Colored Troops who have all now passed on to Glory-Thank you for your sacrifice and war efforts which have allowed so many to enjoy the freedoms that many of you early on were denied. Thank you for your willingness to lay down your lives for the benefit of countless others. You would be happy to know that your efforts were
not in vain. Many are still reaping the benefits of your selfless acts. May you enjoy the peace and freedom in heaven that you fought so hard to bring about for your fellow brothers and sisters on Earth. Eternally Grateful, Karen Burney