United States Colored Troops

By Smith, Brady | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), December 5, 2013 | Go to article overview

United States Colored Troops


Smith, Brady, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


As Pennsylvania continues to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a greater emphasis is being placed on the service of African-American soldiers, a group who not only fought for their country, but also to defeat slavery.

African-Americans were prohibited from serving in the U.S. military for the first two years of the Civil War, but the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 called for them to be enlisted to fight for the Union Army. With that order, more than 180,000 free African-Americans and runaway slaves, including 8,000 from Pennsylvania, formed a force known as the United States Colored Troops.

One of the USCT's most respected soldiers was Pittsburgh native Martin Delany, an abolitionist and the first African-American field officer in the U.S. Army. He attended Jefferson College (now Washington & Jefferson) and served as a doctor, a journalist and an outspoken voice against slavery before joining the army. Delany, who is considered to be the "Father of Black Nationalism," actively recruited African-American troops for the army and received high praise from President Abraham Lincoln.

With leaders such as Delany, the USCT became a critical force for the Union's efforts, comprising 10 percent of the Union Army by the time the Civil War ended. …

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