Black Soldiers and Sailors during the Civil War : Selected Materials & Links

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Approximately 200,000 men of color would serve in the Union Army or Union Navy during the Civil War. Some of the men were free black men from Northern states; some were former enslaved men from the states which seceded from the United States of America. Because the area around Port Royal and St. Helena Sounds was occupied by the Federal government so early in the Civil War, three of the four regiments of USCT soldiers raised in South Carolina were organized here. The list of materials below provide a starting point to learn more about the individual Black soldiers and sailors and their contributions to the war effort.

Compiled by Grace Morris Cordial, MLS, SL, CA, Beaufort District Collection Manager, Beaufort County Library (SC). The Beaufort District Collection is the special local history collection and archives unit of the Beaufort County Library (SC). (Originally posted 24 February 2012; Latest update: 15 July 2015) All links active on 15 July 2015.

Online Resources:

The Civil War Trust has a United States Colored Troops hub at http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/usct/usct-united-states-colored.html. Among the offerings are primary source materials, articles, a slideshow, and a quiz about actions in which the men of the USCT participated.

“The Civil War Archive: Union Regimental Index, United States Colored Troops” at http://www.civilwararchive.com/unioncol.htm.

“Men of Color: To Arms! To Arms!” by Elizabeth Berlin Taylor for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/african-americans-and-emancipation/resources/%E2%80%9Cmen-color-arms-arms%E2%80%9D. (Please note: You will be asked to registrate for free account.)

“Soldiers on Review, South Carolina,” [1864]. Shows black troops at attention, white officers aligned in front.
REF 973.7 DYE Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frederick H. Dyer. (3 vols.) (BEA, HHI) Also available online at http://www.civilwararchive.com/regim.htm

973.7 WAR The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (130 vols.) (BDC, BLU) Also available online at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/browse.monographs/waro.html.

The New South, a Civil War era newspaper published here from 1862-1866 is available online at http://www.sc.edu/library/digital/collections/newsouth.html.

Beaufort County Library website pages on Robert Smalls, a local African-American Civil War naval hero are found at:

National Park Service, Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/. Read the “History of African Americans in the Civil War” at http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/history/aa_history.htm.

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, the Navy has posted an online brochure “Blacks in Blue Jackets: African Americans in the Civil War” at http://www.scribd.com/doc/38189408/Civil-War-Navy-Sesquicentennial-African-American-Sailor-Brochure

“Black Men in Navy Blue During the Civil War,” an article originally published in the National Archives Prologue Magazine, is a very good introduction to what life was like for black sailors in the Union Navy. Go to http://www.navyandmarine.org/ondeck/1862blackinblue.htm.

“The African American Experience In Ohio, 1850-1920” found at http://dbs.ohiohistory.org/africanam/ allows searches on “African American soldiers” and keyword “Civil War” which brings up some good digital images of individual soldiers, most of whom had direct connections with the State of Ohio.

“The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship” found at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/. Select “The Civil War” section and read “Soldiers and Missionaries” and “Fighting for Freedom.” An added benefit of this site is a digital image of a photograph of black soldiers in Beaufort.

“The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War Preserving the Legacy of the United States Colored Troops” by Budge Weidman is found at http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/blacks-civil-war/article.html. This site is part of the “Teaching With Documents” series offered to the schools by the National Archives.

“First to Serve” found at http://www.nps.gov/fosc/historyculture/firsttoserve.htm states: “During the Civil War, Kansas was the first state to officially recruit and train military units comprised of black soldiers.” For more about the Kansas Colored Troops, please see this site: http://www.kshs.org/p/online-exhibits-keep-the-flag-to-the-front-part-4/10654.

“Valley of the Shadow” project found at http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/ contains limited information about USCT. Select the “The War Years,” and then “Images.” Enter the term “African Americans” in the Subject drop down box to access 71 images, some of which were taken in our area. A notable person, Maj. Martin Delaney, is shown. He was the first Black Officer in the Union Army. He served with the 55 th Massachusetts which was based here for a time during the Civil War.

The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the first military unit consisting of black soldiers to be raised in the North during the Civil War. The Massachusetts Historical Society launched a website displaying some of their archival holdings of photographs, broadsides, and manuscripts relating to the 54th MASS at http://www.masshist.org/online/54thregiment/essay.php?entry_id=528.

“American Memory, Library of Congress” found at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html is a treasure trove of information but you have to play with the database to get the best results. Appropriate databases to search are “Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, contained within Civil War Images ~ Multiformat ~ 1861-1865 , Civil War Maps in the Hotchkiss Map collection and the “Civil War Maps, 1861-1865” digital exhibit; and the Brady Studio and Others photographic collection.

“Photographs of African Americans During the Civil War: A List of Images in the Civil War Photograph Collection” can be accessed through the Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress through the portal found at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/081_cwaf2.html.

The Library of Congress highlights images, maps, and other resources on African-Americans at http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/index.html. Of particular interest are the recently arrived images of African-American soldiers and sailors as found in the Liljenquist Collection of Civil War portraits. The portal for the Liljenquist Collection is found at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/caption/captionliljenquist.htmlhttp://www.loc.gov/rr/print/caption/captionliljenquist.html.

Explore the Historical Division of the United States Navy webpages beginning with “African Americans in the Navy” at http://www.history.navy.mil/special%20Highlights/AfricanAmerican/African-hist.htm.  Search on “Robert Smalls”to locate  images relating to one of the most significant of Beaufort’s native sons.

Angela Y. Walton-Raji writes a blog entitled “The USCT Chronicle: Telling African American Civil War Stores, of Soldiers, Civilians, Contrabands, First Days of Freedom, and the Events that led to Freedom” at http://usctchronicle.blogspot.com/.

You can check out these materials from Beaufort County Library:

The branch libraries in Beaufort (BEA), Bluffton (BLU), and Hilton Head (HHI) have particularly strong collections of printed materials on the Civil War and the African American soldiers, sailors, and civilians who served. PLEASE ask for help locating these and many other relevant materials about the role of African-Americans in the Union military during the Civil War.

B GOULD Diary of a contraband : the Civil War passage of a Black sailor [edited by] William B. Gould IV. (BEA, BLU, HHI)

B MCCLINE Slavery in the Clover Bottoms: John McCline’s narrative of his life during slavery and the Civil War. (BLU, LOB)

B SHAW Blue-eyed child of fortune: the Civil War letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. (BDC, HHI)

B SMALLS Congressman Robert Smalls [DVD]: a patriot’s journey from slavery to Capitol Hill narrated by Sean Patrick Thomas; written and directed by Adrena Ifill. (BDC, BEA, BLU, HHI, LOB)

371.1 JOU The journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké edited by Brenda Stevenson. (BDC, HHI) You can read Journals of Charlotte Forten, edited by Ray Allen Billington, 1953 online at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.$b92760

973.7 CIV The Civil War [DVD] Produced by Greystone Communications, Inc. for The History Channel. Jim Lindsay, Narrator. (BLU, HHI)

973.7 CIV Civil War journal [DVD]: the conflict begins. History TV Network presentation; produced by Greystone Communications, Inc. in association with A & E Networks. Danny Glover, Narrator. (HHI)

973.7 FRE Freedom’s journey: African American voices of the Civil War edited by Donald Yacovone. (BLU)

973.7 HAW A woman doctor’s Civil War : Esther Hill Hawks’ diary edited with foreword and afterword by Gerald Schwartz. (BDC, BEA, HHI)

973.7 HIG The complete Civil War journal and selected letters of Thomas Wentworth Higginson edited by Christopher Looby. (BDC, HHI, LOB)

973.7 MCP For cause and comrades: why men fought in the Civil War by James M. McPherson. (BEA, BLU, HHI)

REF 973.7 SOU South Carolina African-Americans in the Civil War: two sides to a story, compiler and author, Roberta V.H. Copp; editing, Judith M. Brimelow. (BLU)

973.7 TRU Like men of war : Black troops in the Civil War, 1862-1865 by Noah Andre Trudeau. (BLU, HHI)

973.7 WAS Eagles on their buttons: a Black infantry regiment in the Civil War by Versalle F. Washington. (HHI, STH)

973.7415 ASH Firebrand of liberty: the story of two Black regiments that changed the course of the Civil War by Stephen V. Ash. (ALL)

973.7415 COR The sable arm: Black troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865 by Dudley Taylor Cornish. (BLU)

973.7415 FOR Forgotten Confederates : an anthology about Black southerners compiled & edited by Charles Kelly Barrow, J.H. Segars & R.B. Rosenburg. (BDC, BEA)

973.7415 GLA Forged in battle: the Civil War alliance of Black soldiers and white officers by Joseph T. Glatthaar. (BDC, BEA, HHI)

REF 973.7415 GRE Swamp angels: a biographical study of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment: true facts about the black defenders of the Civil War by Robert Ewell Greene. (BDC, HHI)

973.7415 MAS [DVD] The Massachusetts 54th [DVD]: colored infantry by Jacqueline Shearer. (HHI)

973.7415 WAR The slaves’ war: the Civil War in the words of former slaves by Andrew Ward. (BEA, BLU, HHI)

973.742 HIG Army life in a Black regiment by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. (BDC, BEA, HHI)

Come to the BDC Research Room to see these items:

B DELANY Life and public services of Martin R. Delany [Excerpt photocopied from book]: Sub-assistant Commissioner Bureau Relief of Refugees, Freedmen, and of Abandoned lands, and Late Major 104th U.S. Colored Troops by Frank A. Rollin. (BDC)

B SHAW Blue-eyed child of fortune: the Civil War letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. (BDC, HHI)

B SMALLS Congressman Robert Smalls [DVD]: a patriot’s journey from slavery to Capitol Hill narrated by Sean Patrick Thomas; written and directed by Adrena Ifill. (ALL)

SC 306.3621 HUN South Carolina Volunteers [Pamphlet Articles] : Letter from the Secretary of War, in answer to a resolution of the House of June 8, 1862, transmitting correspondence of Major General Hunter, in relation to arming South Carolina volunteers: fugitive slaves : July 2, 1862. (BDC)

SC 371.1 JOU The journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké edited by Brenda Stevenson. (BDC, HHI)

SC 973.7 BRO Desperate deliverance : the story of African Americans in the Civil War by Robert Broadwater; edited by Patricia Mitchell [and] Judy Gowan. (BDC)

SC 973.7 HAW A woman doctor’s Civil War: Esther Hill Hawks’ diary edited with foreword and afterword by Gerald Schwartz. (BDC, BEA, HHI)

SC 973.7 HEL South Carolina’s African American Confederate pensioners, 1923-1925 by Alexia Jones Helsley. (BDC)

SC 973.7 HIG The complete Civil War journal and selected letters of Thomas Wentworth Higginson edited by Christopher Looby. (BDC, HHI, LOB)

SC 973.7 OFF Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion (25 vols.) (BDC)

SC 973.7 ROS The roster of Union soldiers, 1861-1865. United States Colored troops edited by Janet B. Hewett (BDC)

SC 973.7 SUP Supplement to the Official records of the Union and Confederate Armies edited by Janet Hewett. (BDC)

SC 973.7 TAY A Black woman’s Civil War memoirs: reminiscences of my life in camp with the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, late 1st South Carolina Volunteers by Susie King Taylor. (BDC)

SC 973.7 WAR The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (130 vols.) (BDC, BLU) Also available online at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/browse.monographs/waro.html.

SC 973.7415 ASH Firebrand of liberty: the story of two Black regiments that changed the course of the Civil War by Stephen V. Ash. (ALL)

SC 973.7415 FOR Forgotten Confederates : an anthology about Black southerners compiled & edited by Charles Kelly Barrow, J.H. Segars & R.B. Rosenburg. (BDC, BEA)

SC 973.7415 FUL Men of Color, To Arms!: Vermont African-Americans in the Civil War by James Fuller. (BDC)

SC 973.7415 GLA Forged in battle: the Civil War alliance of Black soldiers and white officers by Joseph T. Glatthaar. (BDC, BEA, HHI)

SC 973.7415 GOO On the altar of freedom: a black soldier’s Civil War letters from the front by James Henry Gooding. (BDC)

SC 973.7415 GOU 104th infantry regiment-USCT, Colored Civil War soldiers from South Carolina by J. Raymond Gourdin. (BDC)

SC 973.7415 GRE Swamp angels: a biographical study of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment: true facts about the black defenders of the Civil War by Robert Ewell Greene. (BDC, HHI)

SC 973.7415 HUM Intensely human : the health of the Black soldier in the American Civil War by Margaret Humphreys. (BDC)

SC 973.7415 WES Black troops, white commanders, and freedmen during the Civil War byHoward C. Westwood; with a foreword by John Y. Simon. (BDC)

SC 973.74157 MCR Nineteenth century freedom fighters: the 1st South Carolina Volunteers by Bennie J. McRae Jr., Curtis M. Miller, Cheryl Trowbridge-Miller (BDC)

SC 973.742 HIG Army life in a Black regiment by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. (BDC, BEA, HHI)

SC 973.896 KIN Wounds that Bind: A Comparative Study of the Role played by Civil War veterans of African descent in community formation in Massachusetts and South Carolina, 1865-1915 by Lisa Yolande King. (BDC)

Records on Microfilm

NEWSPAPERS

New South, Free South, Palmetto Herald, 1862-1866 (BDC, BEA, HHI) Please note: The New South, 1862-1866 is available online at http://www.sc.edu/library/digital/collections/newsouth.html.

Beaufort Republican, 1871-1873(BDC, BEA)

Port Royal Commercial and Beaufort County Republican, 1873 -1874 (BDC, BEA)

Palmetto Post, 1882-1906 (BDC, BEA, HHI)

LAND RECORDS

Index to and Heads of Family Land Certificates, 1863-1872 (BDC, HHI)

Tax Sale Certificates, 1864 (BDC, HHI)

Land Sale Certificates, 1869-1870; 1875-1876 (BDC, HHI)

VOTER REGISTRATION

Abstract of Voter Registrations reported to the Military Government, 1868 (BDC)

CENSUS RECORDS

1890 Federal Census of Union Veterans and Widows (BDC, HHI)

1790 – 1880, 1900 – 1930 Federal Census for Beaufort County. (BDC, HHI) Also available electronically in all branch libraries through Ancestry Library Edition database.

1870, 1880, 1900-1930 Federal Census for Hampton County. (BDC, HHI) Also available electronically in all branch libraries through Ancestry Library Edition database.

1910-1930 Federal Census for Jasper County. (BDC, HHI) Also available electronically in all branch libraries through Ancestry Library Edition database.

Suggested Subscription Databases in the Beaufort County Library

Please note: (Valid Beaufort County Library card and Password May Be Required)

History Reference Center database

Biography in Context, Academic Search Premier, StudySC, and Historic American Newspapers databases are particularly helpful when learning more about key figures and military actions during the Civil War era, including the role of the members of the USCT.

ANCESTRY LIBRARY EDITION

Ancestry Library Edition is available on the library’s Internet stations located in each of our branch libraries. We cannot provide home access.  To get the most out of the experience, come prepared with a list of USCT or Civil War Sailor ancestors to research. Go to the Ancestry Database Card Catalog search search, type in “Civil War” as keyword and filter the location to the “United States.” (This eliminates records to civil wars in other countries). You will get a listing of 155 databases inside ALE about Civil War soldiers, sailors, and civilians. Here you will find links to key series:US Civil War Soldiers, 1861 – 1865; US Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles; Civil War Pension Index; Civil War Prisoner of War records; US, Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1861 – 1865; US Navy Pension Index, 1861 – 1910; the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1861 – 1865,and the African American Photo Collection, 1850 -2000 among others.

Ancestry Library Edition also offers a version of the National Park Service’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System database. Ancestry Library Edition calls its versions the U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [database collection]. This database tells the researcher whether a specific African-American is included in the African American Civil War Memorial and if so, the soldier’s name and plaque number.

Ancestry Library Edition is the largest online genealogy resource available with over 10,000 complete databases, and more than 4 billion names. The database includes census data; maps; military records and slave stories. New content is added regularly.

Suggested USCT and Civil War Web Sites on the Net

025.06 THO The Civil War on the Web: A Guide to the Very Best Sites by William G. Thomas and Alice E. Carter (BEA, HHI). This book offers valuable suggestions for the Civil War researcher. Chapter 5 evaluates web sites about “The Experience of the U.S. Colored Troops. Part II recommends specific topical sites that are well organized and updated regularly.

Suggested Sources for Images and Maps of the Civil War

We have a number of digital images imbedded within our Library’s website that our customers can view and photocopy for educational use. Note: If you should choose to download our images, please attribute us with the phrase “Image courtesy of Beaufort County Library.” When an image used is credited in this fashion, it increases public awareness of the Beaufort County Library, the Beaufort District Collection, and the contribution that archival and historical collections make to community life throughout our nation.

SCIway hosts a number of online maps on its site found at http://www.sciway.net/hist/maps/ including:

LEGEND TO MATERIALS LOCATION

BDC = Beaufort District Collection; BEA= Beaufort Branch; BLU = Bluffton Branch; HHI = Hilton Head Branch; LOB = Lobeco Branch; STH = St. Helena Branch; ALL = Each of our locations has a copy.

Note: Current hours and branch locations are posted on the Beaufort County Library’s (SC) website.