This database contains compiled military service records for United States Colored Troops that volunteered to serve with the Union in the American Civil War. Though some African-American units had been raised and seen fighting prior to this, President Lincoln did not authorize the use of colored troops in combat until 1863, after the Emancipation Proclamation. The Bureau of Colored Troops was established by the United States War Department in May 1863 and was responsible for recruiting African-American soldiers to fight. About 175 regiments composed of 178,000 African-American troops served the Union in the final two years of the Civil War.
This record collection includes these regiments:
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 55th Massachusetts Infantry
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 1st through 5th United States Colored Cavalry, the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, and the 6th United States Colored Cavalry
- Volunteer Union soldiers of artillery units
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 1st United States Colored Infantry, 1st South Carolina Volunteers, and Company A, 1st United States Colored Infantry (1 Year)
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 14th through 19th infantry units
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 2nd through 7th Colored Infantry, including 3rd Tennessee
- Volunteers, 6th Louisiana Infantry, and 7th Louisiana Infantry
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 8th through 13th Infantry Organizations
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 20th through 25th Infantry Organizations
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 26th through 30th Infantry Organizations
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 31st through 35th Infantry Organizations
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 36th through 40th Infantry Organizations
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 41st through 46th Infantry Organizations
- Volunteer Union soldiers of the 47th through 55th Infantry Organizations
All of these units were part of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). The USCT was comprised of:
- 7 numbered cavalry regiments
- 14 numbered artillery regiments
- 144 numbered infantry regiments
- Brigade Bands No. 1 & 2 (Corps d’Afrique and U.S. Colored Troops)
- Powell’s Regiment Colored Infantry
- Southard’s Company Colored Infantry
- Quartermaster Detachment
- Pioneer Corps, 1st Division, 16th Army Corps
- Unassigned Company A Colored Infantry
- Unassigned USCT
The compiled service records include cards that contain information extracted by clerks in the Record and Pension Office of the Adjutant General from muster rolls, regimental returns, descriptive books, and other records. A new card was created each time a soldier’s name appeared on a new document. Compiled service records also contain original documents pertaining to individual soldiers. These documents could include enlistment papers, casualty sheets, death reports, correspondence, and, unique to USCT soldiers, manumission and other slave-related papers. A typical packet for each soldier will include a jacket-envelope that lists his name, rank, unit, and card numbers, followed by the extract cards and original documents. A section called a “bookmark” may also be included. This “bookmark” was used to cross-reference the packet with other related records.
Miscellaneous cards not associated with a packet are also included in this collection. These records were collected with the intent that they would become part of the compiled service records. However, insufficient or contradictory information made it difficult to link these records to a particular soldier.
What information is included in this database?
The amount of information included in this database varies according to the type of records included in each packet. However, when available, you can expect to find the following details:
- name of soldier
- enlistment date
- enlistment location
Additional information about a soldier, such as a physical description, may be found by viewing the associated images.
Some of the above information was taken from:
Publication Details of National Archives Microfilm Publications M1801, M1817-M1824, M1898, and M1992, National Archives, Washington, D.C.