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.
The US Colored Troops (USCT) didn’t come into being until May 22, 1863, when the government gave that designation to all African-American units and created the Bureau of Colored Troops. It was another year before Congress granted those soldiers the same pay as their white comrades.
In all, 18,000 African-Americans served in 163 Union Army units; 18,000 served in the Navy. Learn more about the USCT at the National Archives website.
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