Photograph of a band of colored troops

107th Colored Troops (USA), Ft. Woodbury, Arlington County, Virginia, Nov. 1, 1865.

New York Public Library

United States Colored Troops

The Role of African Americans in the U.S. Army

United States Colored Troops (USCT) were the embodiment of Frederick Douglass’s belief that “he who would be free must himself strike the blow."  179,000 men – many who were former slaves – volunteered to fight in the Union army; nearly 37,000 gave their lives for the cause. With every engagement they fought in, the USCT time and again proved their mettle.   At Port Hudson in Louisiana, Fort Wagner in South Carolina, Spotsylvania, New Market Heights and Wilson's Wharf in Virginia, and elsewhere, USCT units displayed courage under fire and won glory on the field of battle.  By the end of the war, African-Americans accounted for 10 percent of the Union army. The USCT were a watershed in American history, and one of the first major strides toward equal civil rights.

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