Colored Troops in Battle

Approximately 180,000 African-Americans compromising 163 units served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Black troops were assorted in many ways, which included heavy and light artillery groups, cavalry, infantry, and engineers. Mainly white officers with the aid of few noncommissioned black officers led these troops. To separate them from their fellow white soldiers they were officially labeled "United States Colored Troops"(#3, p. 231).

Blacks performed all sorts of services in the Army. Most colored regiments originally formed raiding parties and were often sent through confederate lines to attack forts and destroy supplies. Because of their vast knowledge of the Southern territory these troops were also selected to be spies and scouts.

Colored regiments were very eager to get to the battlefield; obviously it was very frustrating for many to be assigned to physical labor. In October 1862, the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers were the first to see action when they fought Confederates at the battle of Island Mound, Missouri. By mid-August 1863, nearly 14 black regiments were in the field and ready for action(#5, p. 259). The battle of Port Hudson allowed the black soldiers another opportunity to show their determination. Though the battle was failure for the Union black regiments continued to gain respect. General James Blunt, who led his 1st Kansas troops commented on his troops, "I never saw such fighting as was done by the Negro regiment…the question that Negroes will fight is settled; besides they make better soldiers in every respect than any troops I have ever had under my command." (#3, p. 232) Black regiments continued to be part of every major battle between 1864-65 with the exception of Sherman’s attack of Georgia.