Free African-Americans and
runaway slaves had already seen Civil War action when President Lincoln
authorized black troops in the Emancipation Proclamation Jan. 1, 1863.
At least three African-American Union regiments had been raised in New
Orleans; they later became part of the Corps d'Afrique. In fall 1862,
the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry fought at Island Mound, Mo., and three
companies of the 1st South Carolina Infantry (African Descent) had
joined coastal expeditions.
Early in 1863, Massachusetts
organized the first black regiment in the North. That July 18, the
state's 54th Infantry led an assault on Fort Wagner, SC, a drama made
famous in the 1989 movie Glory.