Soldiers of Color

Recruiting of black soldiers was not authorized until 1862 due to President Lincoln’s concerns that this would cause border states to secede. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, to free all slaves in rebellious areas. Black soldiers were actively recruited in the Northern States after that date as regiments were established. The first black regiment that Connecticut authorized was the 29th (Colored) Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, formed in 1863; the regimental roster was completed in January 1864. They fought at Petersburg and Chapin’s Farm, Virginia, and two companies were the first Union infantry into Richmond.

The 30th (Colored) Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was authorized in January 1864, but the critical need for more troops on the front lines resulted in the four companies recruited to be sent to Virginia in June and consolidated into the 31st Regiment United States Colored Troops. On July 30, 1864, they waited in line at Petersburg, Virginia for the explosion of the mine and then attacked through the crater losing 136 officers and men.

Connecticut 29th Colored Regiment
Detail of a photograph of the Connecticut 29th Colored Regiment C.V. Infantry at Beaufort, SC (Library of Congress, Print & Photograph Division)

Black regiments had white officers and were initially paid $7 per month instead of the $13 received by white soldiers. The pay was equalized in 1864.

Mansfield had 8 black soldiers in the 29th (Colored) Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, 2 in the 31st Regiment United States Colored Troops, and one white officer in the 30th (Colored) Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Samuel Burden of Co. K of the 29th was killed in action at Petersburg. There were about 179,000 black soldiers who served in the Union Army by the end of the Civil War, representing 10 % of the total manpower.

Source: Freeman, Elsie, Wynell Burroughs Schamel and Jean West. “The Fight For Equal Rights: A Recruiting Poster for Black Soldiers.” Social Education 56, 2 (February 1992): 118-120. [Revised and updated in 1999 by Budge Weidman]

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