United States Colored Troops in the Civil War

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United States Gotoarrow.png African American Research Gotoarrow.png African American Military Gotoarrow.png U.S. Civil War Gotoarrow.png United States Colored Troops

4th United States Colored Infantry, Company E, about 1864


The United States Army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863. (War Department General Order 143) The enlistment of free blacks and slaves was considered a key to winning the war. Many USCT regiments originated as state militia units before 1863. The regiments included cavalry, artillery and infantry.

Approximately 186,000 African Americans served in the United States Colored Troops volunteer cavalry, artillery,and infantry units during the Civil War.

The service records of the United States Colored Troops are indexed on M589 roll 49 FHL Film: 1276501(96 rolls FHL # 1266617) The service records have not yet been filmed, and are available from the National Archives.

For charts listing microfilmed military records available through the National Archive and Family History Library film numbers: click here.

See: African American Military Records

In searching military or other records for an ancestors name that served with a United States Colored Troop (USCT) abbreviations or marks may be found within the record or following the name that may give clues about their military service.

Some of the abbreviations or marks may include.

  • A.D. = African Descent
  • C.d'A. Corps d'Afrique
  • col.,cold., col. = Colored
  • POC = Person of Color
  • USCA Lt  + U. S. Colored Artillery (Light)
  • USCA Hvy = U.S. Colored Artillery (Heavy)
  • USCC = U.C. Colored Cavalry
  • USCHA = U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery
  • USCI = U.S. Colored Infantry
  • USCLtA = U.S. Colored Light Artillery
  • USCT = U.S. Colored Troops

United States Colored Troops Military Units

Most units were numbered, however, some were named. See the table below for lists of the regiments, battalions, batteries, and unassigned companies.

The information in the lists of United States Colored Troops comes from the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors web site. This web site is searchable by soldier's name.

United States Colored Troops by Number or by Name
Union Units
85th- 138th
State Troops
A to Z

United States Colored Troops by Type of Unit
Union Units
Unassign- ed Units

Regiments of United States Colored Troops

A chronology chart of dates of formation, location, regiment and state is found at the following site by Bennie J. McRae, Jr., Civil War Battles, United States Colored Troops.

Artillery, Cavalry, Infantry regimental histories and roster United States Colored Troops

These Regiment numbers are missing - failed to organize

  • 129th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 130th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 131st Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 132nd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 133rd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
  • 134th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry

Background of the USCT's gives history of the formation of the U.S.C.T.  and their actions in many battles. 

USCT Units serving on the Mississippi River, 1865 this site list regiments, their commanding officers and where the regiment was stationed.

Contraband Camps many men enlised from these camps when recruitment of Colored troops began in1863.  Some of the men were escaped slaves.  There were contraband camps in the following states: Arkansaw, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana,  Maryland, Mississippi, Misouri, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and the District of Colombia.

For list by state see Last Road to Freedom 

See Wikipedia: Contraband (American Civil War)

Service Records

Compiled Service Records

The compiled service records consist of an envelope containing card abstracts taken from muster rolls, returns, pay vouchers, and other records. Service records may provide rank, unit, date of enlistment, length of service, age, place of birth, and date of death.

Note: As of July 2011, both of the above databases are incomplete. A list of regiments included in their databases can be found at Ancestry and Fold3.

For more information see Union Service Records.

United States Colored Troops Prisoners of War

Confederate prisons were located in Andersonville, Georgia; Salisbury, North Carolina; Danville, North Carolina and Libby.

The U.S. Colored Troops at Andersonville Prison. by Bob O'Connor. Infinity Publishing, West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. 2010. FHL Book: 975.8913/A2 M2o (title # 1861140)

1890 Census Veteran Schedules

1890 Census Veterans Schedules - The 'Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War" (NARA M123) are available online for each state.

United States Colored Troops Cemeteries

The following on line site sponsored by the Center for Civil War Research is developing pages to include information on the burial plots of United States Colored Troops in the United States.

Center for Civil War Research, U. S. Colored Troops Burials, has an incomplete list of USCT cemeteries and burial plots across the United States. The page is a work in progress. They would like information about any additional burial places.


Resting Places of United States Colored Civil War Soldiers, Sailors and White Officers; Lest We Forget. Searchable by 32 states. 

USCT buried in the cemeteries and graveyards of Bedford County, Pennsylvania http://bedfordpahistory.com/civilwar/usct.html

Record Group 94, - E651,General Death Registers - Union,- U.S. Colored Troops 1861-1865. Register of Deaths, The National Archives and Record Administration, Washington D.C.

Civil War Sesquicentennial - 150th Anniversary

This site shares news, events and websites for several states about the upcoming commemorations.


Paul Laurence Dunbar was the son of former slaves. His father, Joshua Dunbar, served in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment. Paul wrote a poem about the colored soldiers’ roll in the Civil War. His poem, “The Colored Soldiers” can be found at the site Poemhunter.com. (Accessed on 6 Sept. 2011.)

Additional References

  • Berlin, Ira.Freedom's Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Cornish, Dudley Taylor. The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865. New york: W.W. Norton, 1966.
  • Fleming, Ann Carter,and Ruth Ann Abels Hager. "Slaves, Soldiers, and Citizens: Special Civil War Recruitment Lists,: National Genealogical Society Quarterly vol. 91 (June 2003):139-143.
  • Gladstone, William A. United States Colored Troops, 1863-1867. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Thomas publications, 1990: [Appendix I lists which states furnished men to each U.S. Colored Troop Regiment.]
  • Hansen, Joyce. Between Two Fires: Black Soldiers in the Civil War. New York: F. Watts, 1993.
  • Hargrove, Hondon B. Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland 1988.
  • Hewett, Jamet B., editor. Roster of Union Soldiers, 1861-1865; United States Colored Troops M589-1-M589-49. Wilimington, North Carolina: Broadfoot publishing CO., 1997. FHL Book: 973 M29h
  • McPherson, James M. The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union, New York: Vintage 2003.
  • McRae, Bennie J. Jr. U.S. Colored Troops Archives, available at Hampton University, KWl Marketing 560 West 43rd St. NY, NY. 1036 #41A 1.212.629.3073  kwyerlane@earthlink.net
  • Pendell, Lucille H. and Benthel, Elizaabeth. Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Adjutant General's Office: Records Group 94, No. 17, Washington, DC: Westminster, Maryland: Heritaage Books, 2007.
  • Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Civil War, Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 1989
  • Ross, Joseph B., Comp. Tabular Analysis of the Records of the U.S. Colored Troops and Their Predecessor Units in the National Archives of the United States.Special List No. 33. National Archives and records Service General Services Administration Washington: 1973. FHL Book 973 M2rt Film:1036062 Item 21
  • Secret, Jeanette Braxton. Guide to Tracing Your African American Civil War Ancestor. Bowie Maryland: Heritage Books, 1995. [This is a reference book that includes Special Lists 33. Tabular Analysis of the Records of the U.S. Colored Troops...a National Archives publication - no longer in print].
  • Shaffer, Donald R. After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans, Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2004.
  • Schaffer, Donald R. 'I Do Not Suppose that Uncle Sam Looks at the Skin': African Americans and the Civil War Pension System, 1865-1934.Civil War History 46 (June 2000): 132-142
  • Smith, John David, editor. Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Trudeau, Noah Andre. Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War, 1862-1865, Boston, Massachusetts: Little Brown and Co, 1998.
  • Ash, Stephen V. Firebrand of liberty : The Story of Two Black Regiments That Changed the Course of the Civil War (New York, New York : W.W. Norton, c2008), 282 pages. Book found at FHL 975.7 M2as and Other Libraries