Fighting for Freedom: United States Colored Troops from Maryland 


The history of the United States Colored Troops remains a fascinating topic as their contributions in the Civil War marked a turning point within the country. Without their service the Union may have faltered in their movement against the Confederacy. After the first two years of the war, President Abraham Lincoln enacted the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, thus paving the way for colored recruits to join the United States Army. It was in 1863 that the federal government began actively pursuing the recruitment of free and enslaved African-Americans. Lincoln stated that emancipation was a military necessity, absolutely essential to the preservation of the Union. We must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued. The slaves were undeniably an element of strength to those who had their service, and we must decide whether that element should be with us or against us.  In the fall of 1863, the War Department authorized the systematic enlistment of slave men in Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware, including slaves owned by loyal masters.  According to General Order 329, it promised freedom to the recruits and compensation to loyal owners.  This act, along with the military conscription act of 1863, allowed for the emancipation of slaves. It was overwhelmingly answered by thousands of African-Americans who seized the opportunity to join the war.

Research completed with funding from U.S. Department of Education grant, compiled at Legacy of Slavery in Maryland website.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 - 1877)

STANDARD 2: The course and character of the Civil War and its effects on the American people.

STANDARD 2A: The student understands how the resources of the Union and Confederacy affected the course of the war.

7-12: Compare the human resources of the Union and the Confederacy at the beginning of the Civil War and assess the tactical advantages of each side

5-12: Identify the turning points of the war and evaluate how political, military, and diplomatic leadership affected the outcome of the conflict.5-12: Evaluate provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln's reasons for issuing it, and its significance.

STANDARD 2B: The student understands the social experience of the war on the battlefield and homefront.

7-12: Compare the motives for fighting and the daily life experiences of Confederate with those of white and African American Union soldiers.

5-12: Compare the human and material costs of the war in the North and South and assess the degree to which the war reunited the nation.
Standard 3: How various reconstruction plans succeeded or failed. Standard 3C: The student understands the successes and failures of Reconstruction in the South, North, and West.

7-12: Analyze how the Civil War and Reconstruction changed men’s and women’s roles and status in the North, South, and West.

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Civil War Muster Roll for 7th Regiment, mainly comprised of former slaves from Maryland's Eastern Shore.
    NOTES: The muster rolls list the soldier's name, rank, age, when and where enrolled, enrolling officer, when and where mustered, mustering officer, period mustered for, name of paymaster, last date paid, and remarks, etc. The remarks field typically denotes deaths, transfers, and desertions.
    SOURCE: Adjutant General (Muster Rolls) 1863-1866, U.S. Colored Troops, 7th Regiment [MSA S936-47].
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, MD
  2. DESCRIPTION: Civil War Bounty Roll for 7th Regiment, USCT, including former slaves from Queen Anne's, Worcester, and Talbot counties.
    SOURCE: Comptroller of the Treasury (Bounty Rolls), Slaves and Owners by USCT Regiment, Page 148 [MSA S 629].
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  3. DESCRIPTION: Affidavit of Asbury Hughes, alias George Alfred
    SOURCE: U.S. Colored Troops Pension File Collection, MSA SC 4126, John Chase, Box 7, Folder 110
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  4. DESCRIPTION: United States Colored Troops Pension File of John Johnson
    NOTES: Affidavit from his wife Harriet Johnson (p. 2 of letter), Widow’s Claim for Pension, Widow’s Pension, Medical Report
    REPRODUCTIONS: Maryland State Archives
    SOURCE: U.S. Colored Troops Pension File Collection, MSA SC 4126, Box 24, Folder 518.
    REPOSITORY: National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. and Maryland State Archives.
  5. DESCRIPTION: Slave Statistics of Pritchett Meredith
    SOURCE: Dorchester County Commissioner of Slave Statistics (Slave Statistics)
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  6. DESCRIPTION: Manumission of John T. Anderson by William H. Higgins
    SOURCE: Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court (Land Records), Liber SED 1, Folio 230 [MSA C1427-6].
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  7. DESCRIPTION: Talbot County Assessment Record for Edward Dorham, USCT Soldier
    NOTES: Edward Dorham’s father, Belfast was listed on the 1832 assessment record as being the slave of Edward S. Winder. Edward S. Winder’s daughter, Elizabeth J. Winder was the owner of Edward Dorham. The 1840 assessment record lists Edward as being an infant, which would coincide with him being around the age of 23 when he enlisted in Company A of the 7th U.S. Colored Troops regiment in 1863. Edward Dorham was valued at $5.
    SOURCE: Talbot County Board of County Commissioners (Assessment Record, Slaves), 1840, Election District 1, Slave owner: Mrs. E. Winder, Page 72-73, MSA C1836-2.
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  8. DESCRIPTION: “Excitement Among the Colored People - Slave Prisons Visited by the Military Authorities” in the Baltimore Sun
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: July 28, 1863.
    SOURCE: Baltimore Sun from NewsBank: Selected America’s Historical Newspapers
    REPOSITORY: Enoch Pratt Free Library, Database
  9. DESCRIPTION: “Assault on Negro Troops” in the Baltimore Daily Gazette
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: February 27 1864.
    SOURCE: Baltimore Daily Gazette, 1862-1865 [MSA SC 2959]
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  10. DESCRIPTION: Death Record for Charles Weeks, USCT Soldier
    NOTES: Death Records can show important information such as date of death, cause of death, occupation, residence, names of parents, place of burial, etc.
    SOURCE: BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH DEPARTMENT BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS (Death Record) [MSA CM1132-83]. Charles Weeks, May 24, 1904, Certificate Number B 69,130.
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  11. DESCRIPTION: U.S. Colored Troops Service Record for Horace Gibson
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 21, 1863.
    NOTES: The service record lists the company, regiment, age, height, weight, county born, occupation, date of enlistment, when and where enlisted, enlisting officer, remarks, etc. The remarks section typically lists battles fought in, wounds received (if any), and promotions. Available at
    SOURCE: National Archives and Records Administration. U.S., Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1861-1865, Infantry, 7th United States Colored Infantry, Horace Gibson, Page 287.
    REPOSITORY: National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
  12. DESCRIPTION: 1870 U.S. Federal Census Record  for Dorchester County, Maryland
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: August 29, 1870.
    NOTES: Census record for Robert Bennett displaying his occupation as “Disable Soldier.”
    SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) 1870. Dorchester County. Cambridge District. Film Reel SCM 7250. Census Page 22. MSA SM61-269.
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  13. DESCRIPTION: 1890 U.S. Federal Census for Maryland, John C. Kineyea, USCT Soldier
    NOTES: The 1890 Census for Maryland is a Veteran’s Schedule listing Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Widows, etc.
    SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, BA) 1890. Baltimore. Enumeration District 183. Film Reel SCM 26-2. Census Page 1. Image Number 408. MSA SM61-352.
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  14. DESCRIPTION: Marriage Record for James Taylor, USCT Soldier
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: June 20, 1867.
    NOTES: James Taylor marries Mary E. Clayton on June 20, 1867. Marriage record filed on October 16, 1867.
    SOURCE: QUEEN ANNE'S COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Marriage Record) 1866-1886. James Taylor to Mary E. Clayton. MSA T1703-1.
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  15. DESCRIPTION: Land Record for Thomas J. Woolford (Grantee), USCT Soldier
    NOTES: Thomas J. Woolford purchases parcel of land called “Belfield” for $300. The land amount is “eleven acres and three quarters of an acre of land.”
    SOURCE: Dorchester County Circuit Court (Land Records) Thomas J. Woolford and his wife Martha Catharine Woolford from George R. Brown and others. CL 9, Pages 634-636. [MSA CE 47-21].
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  16. DESCRIPTION: Land Record for Thomas J. Woolford (Grantor), USCT Soldier
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: June 20, 1887.
    NOTES: Thomas J. Woolford and his wife sell roughly 7 acres to James Bantom for the sum of $18 on June 20, 1887.  According to census documents, neither Thomas J. Woolford or his wife could write and the land document shows them both leaving their “marks” as their signatures.
    SOURCE: Dorchester County Circuit Court (Land Records) Thomas J. Woolford and his wife Martha Catharine Woolford to James Bantom. CL 9, Pages 735-736. [MSA CE 47-21].
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives
  17. DESCRIPTION: Google Earth File for Charles Bennett, USCT Soldier - "Charles Bennett, Journey from Slavery to Freedom" KMZ File
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: June 26, 2012.
    NOTES: Charles Bennett’s journey from slavery to freedom displayed through historical maps depicting his life as he fought for the cause of freedom.
    SOURCE: Google Earth, "Charles Bennett, Journey from slavery to freedom,” KMZ File. Map: Queen Anne’s County. Simon J. Martenet, Martenet's Atlas of Maryland, 1865, Huntingfield Collection, MSA SC 1339-1-75
    REPOSITORY FOR MAP: Maryland State Archives
  18. DESCRIPTION: Google Earth File Historical Maps and USCT Soldiers from Five Counties on Maryland's Eastern Shore
    NOTES: Displaying historical maps of five Eastern Shore counties, which was the place of origin for the soldiers studied.
    SOURCE: Google Earth, Historical Maps and USCT Soldiers from Five Counties (Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, and Talbot) on Maryland's Eastern Shore, KMZ File. Maps: Caroline County. Dorchester County. Kent County. Queen Anne’s County. Talbot County. Simon J. Martenet, Martenet's Atlas of Maryland, 1865, Huntingfield Collection, MSA SC 1339-1-75
    REPOSITORY FOR MAPS: Maryland State Archives
  19. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, Robert Riley, Former Slave and USCT Veteran
    SOURCE: Carolyn C. Williams Collection of Robert Riley Papers. Photographs of Robert Riley [MSA SC 3836].
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

See Also:

Additional Media Resources

"Victors, not Victims" The USCT Role in the American Civil War, from the Civil War Preservation Trust.

Additional Instructional Resources

The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War from the National Archives. Teaching activities, historical documents, and photographs explore the issues of emancipation and military service.

Civil War Defenses of Washington, Themed Resources from the National Park Service. Primary sources, teaching activities, and associated field trips to NPS sites.

United States Colored Troops Lesson Plan from the Civil War Trust.

Secondary Resources

Berlin, Ira, et al., eds. Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, Series II: The Black Military Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

C. J. M. Record of the Services of the Seventh Regiment, U. S. Colored Troops. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971 [1878].

Callum, Agnes Kane. Colored Volunteers of Maryland, Civil War: 7th Regiment United States Colored Troops 1863-1866. Baltimore, MD: Mullac Publishers, 1990.

Callum, Agnes Kane. Colored Volunteers of Maryland, Bounty Records of 9th Regiment United States Colored Troops 1863-1866. Baltimore, MD: Mullac Publishers, 1998.

Chester, Thomas Morris. Thomas Morris Chester, Black Civil War Correspondent: His Dispatches from the Virginia Front. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

Cornish, Dudley Taylor. The Sable Arm: Black Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1987 [1956].

Gladstone, William A. United States Colored Troops, 1863-1867. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1990.

Gladstone, William A. Men of Color. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1992.

McPherson, James M. The Negro’s Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted During the War for the Union. New York: Pantheon Books, 1965.

Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Civil War. New York: Da Capo Press, 1988 [1953].

Ravanbakhsh, Heather. “African American Military Records.” The Archivist’s Bulldog, Vol. 10 No. 19, Newsletter of the Maryland State Archives, October 15, 1996.

Redkey, Edwin S., ed. A Grand Army of Black Men: Letters from African-American Soldiers in the Union Army, 1861-1865. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Regosin, Elizabeth A. and Donald R. Shaffer, eds. Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files. New York and London: New York University Press, 2008.

Taylor, Susie King. 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. New York: M.Wiener Publishers, 1988.

Westwood, Howard C. Black Troops, White Commanders, and Freedmen during the Civil War. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992.

Williams, George W. A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1888.

Wilmer, L. Allison, J. H. Jarrett, and Geo. W. F. Vernon. History and Roster of Maryland Volunteers, War of 1861-65. Vol. 2. Baltimore, MD: Guggenheimer, Weil & Co., 1899.

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20408

African American Civil War Memorial & Museum
1925 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20001

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Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by David Armenti and Tanner Sparks.


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