COLORED MEN AND THEIR RELATION TO THE MILITARY SERVICE, AS ESTABLISHED BY LAWS AND ORDERS DURING THE LATE WAR, AND THEIR RECRUITMENT AS SOLDIERS
ORDERS, REPORTS, AND RETURNS OF THE UNION AUTHORITIES FROM MAY 1, 1865, TO THE
-- Series III -- Volume V -- S# 126
At the commencement of the rebellion, April 15,
1861, the Army was composed exclusively of white troops. The regulations of the
Army governing the recruiting service (par. 1299) provided that "any free
white male person above the age of eighteen," &c., "might be
enlisted." Negro slavery existed in fifteen States of the Union, and
fugitive slaves escaping from one State to another were delivered up on claim of
The first legislation by Congress directly
affecting colored persons was the act approved March 13, 1862.(a) It
prohibited all officers or persons in the military or naval service of the
United States from employing any of the forces under their respective commands
for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor who escaped from
any persons to whom such service or labor was claimed to be duo, and provided
that any officer found guilty by a court-martial of violating this article
should be dismissed from the service.
This was followed by an act, a approved July 17,
1862, the twelfth section of which authorized the President to receive into the
service of the United States, for the purpose of constructing intrenchments, or
performing camp duty, or any other labor, or any military or naval service for
which they were found competent, persons of African descent, and provided that
such persons should be enrolled and organized, under such regulations, not
inconsistent with the Constitution and laws, as the President might prescribe.
The thirteenth section of this act directs--
That when any man or
boy of African descent, who by the laws of any State shall owe service or labor
to any person who during the present rebellion has levied war, or has borne arms
against the United States, or adhered to their enemies by giving them aid and
comfort, shall render any such service as is provided for in this act, he, his
mother, and his wife and children, shall forever thereafter be free, any law,
usage, or custom whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided, That
the mother, wife, and children of such man or boy of African descent shall not
be made free by the operation of this act, except where such mother, wife, or
children owe service or labor to some person who during the present rebellion
has borne arms against the United States, or adhered to their enemies by giving
them aid and comfort.
The fourteenth section provides that "the
expenses incurred to carry this act into effect shall be paid out of the general
appropriation for the Army and volunteers."
The fifteenth section directs that--
All persons who have
been or who shall be hereafter enrolled in the service of the United States
under this act shall receive the pay and rations now allowed by law to soldiers,
according to their respective grades: Provided, That persons of African
descent, who under this law shall be employed, shall receive ten dollars per
month and one ration, three dollars of which monthly pay may be in clothing.
The amount of pay allowed to infantry soldiers
(white) at the passage of this act was $13 per month, and an allowance in
clothing of $3.50 per month, and one ration each.
The act entitled "An act to suppress
insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the
property of rebels, and for other purposes," approved July 17, 1869,(a)
provides that whoever shall commit treason "shall suffer death" and
all his slaves be "declared free."
Section 9 provides--
That all slaves of
persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the Government of
the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping
from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the Army; and all slaves
captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of
the Government of the United States, and all slaves of such persons found on
[or] being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterward occupied by
the forces of the United States shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be
forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.
Section 10 provides--
That no slave
escaping into any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, from any other
State, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty,
except for crime, or some offense against the laws, unless the person claiming
said fugitive shall first make oath that the person to whom the labor or service
of such fugitive is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has not borne
arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given
aid and comfort thereto; and no person engaged in the military or naval service
of the United States shall, under any pretense whatever, assume to decide on the
validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person,
or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from
Section 11 declares--
That the President
of the United States is authorized to employ as many persons of African descent
as he may deem necessary and proper for the suppression of this rebellion, and
for this purpose he may organize and use them in such manner as he may judge
best for the public welfare.
And by the latter section the authority of the
President to receive into the service persons of African descent is extended,
giving him authority to employ as many of this class of persons as he might deem
necessary for the suppression of the rebellion.
The pay of this class of persons, as fixed by the
twelfth section of the preceding act, was not changed.
Section 12 declares--
That the President
of the United States is hereby authorized to make provision for the
transportation, colonization, and settlement, in some tropical country beyond
the limits of the United States, of such persons of the African race, made free
by the provisions of this act, as may be willing to emigrate, having first
obtained the consent of the government of said country to their protection and
settlement within the same, with all the rights and privileges of freemen.
Under the authority conferred by the two preceding
acts of Congress the President, on the 22d day of July, issued the following
First. Ordered, "That military commanders
within the States of Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama,
Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas, in an orderly manner, seize and use
any property, real or personal, which may be necessary or convenient for their
several commands as supplies, or for other military purposes; and that while
property may be destroyed for proper military objects, none shall be destroyed
in wantonness or malice."
Second. "That military and naval commanders
shall employ as laborers, within and from said States, so many persons of
African descent as can be advantageously used for military and naval purposes,
giving them reasonable wages for their labor."
Third. "That as to both property and persons
of African descent, accounts shall be kept sufficiently accurate and in detail
to show quantities and amounts, and from whom both property and such persons
shall have come, as a basis upon which compensation can be made in proper cases;
and the several departments of this government shall attend to and perform their
appropriate parts toward the execution of these orders."
On the 22d day of September, 1862, the President
issued a proclamation(a) announcing:
First. "That it was his purpose, upon the next
meeting of Congress, to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure
tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all slave States,
so called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United
States, and which States may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may
voluntarily adopt, immediate or gradual abolishment of slavery within their
Second. "That the effort to colonize persons
of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent or elsewhere, with
the previously obtained consent of the governments existing there, should be
Third. "That on the first day of January
following all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a
State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States,
should be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive government of
the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will
recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts
to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their
Fourth. "That the Executive would, on the
first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation designate the States and parts
of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, should then be in
rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people
thereof, should on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of
the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of
the qualified voters of such State should have participated, should, in the
absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that
such State and the people thereof were not then in rebellion against the United
On the 1st day of January, 1863, the immortal
decree of emancipation a proclaimed freedom to the blacks of all the States
declared in rebellion, with the exception of certain parishes in Louisiana.
By an act approved March 3, 1863, it is provided as
That cooks shall be
detailed, in turn, from the privates of each company of troops in the service of
the United States, at the rate of one cook for each company numbering less than
thirty men, and two cooks for each company numbering over thirty men, who shall
serve ten days each.
That the President
of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause to be enlisted,
for each cook, two under-cooks of African descent, who shall receive for their
full compensation ten dollars per month and one ration per day, three dollars of
said monthly pay being in clothing.
On the 30th of July, 1863, the President ordered as
The act of February 24, 1864, (a) amendatory
of the enrollment act, section 24, provided--
That all able-bodied
male colored persons between the ages of twenty and forty-five years, resident
in the United States, shall be enrolled according to the provisions of this act,
and of the act to which this is an amendment, and form part of the national
forces; and when a slave of a loyal master shall be drafted and mustered into
the service of the United States, his master shall have a certificate thereof,
and thereupon such slave shall be free; and the bounty of one hundred dollars,
now payable by law for each drafted man, shall be paid to the person to whom
such drafted person was owing service or labor at the time of his muster into
the service of the United States. The Secretary of War shall appoint a
commission in each of the slave States represented in Congress, charged to award
each loyal person to whom a colored volunteer may owe service a just
compensation, not exceeding three hundred dollars, for each such colored
volunteer, payable out of the fund derived from commutations, and every such
colored volunteer on being mustered into service shall be free. And in all cases
where men of color have been heretofore enlisted, or have volunteered in the
military service of the United States, all the provisions of this act, so far as
the payment of bounty and compensation are provided, shall be equally applicable
as to those who may be hereafter recruited. But men of color, drafted or
enlisted, or who may volunteer into the military service, while they shall be
credited on the quotas of the several States, or subdivisions of States, wherein
they are respectively drafted, enlisted, or shall volunteer, shall not be
assigned as State troops, but shall be mustered into regiments or companies as
United States colored troops.
It will be observed that the able-bodied male
colored persons were thenceforward to form part of the national forces. But it
was provided, in the case of a slave being drafted, that the $100 bounty then
allowed to drafted men should be paid to his master; and where a slave entered
the service as a volunteer, instead of receiving the bounty which was allowed to
other recruits, the master was entitled to receive a compensation from the
Government, not to exceed $300. It was further provided that men of color
drafted or enlisted should "be credited upon the quotas of the several
States or subdivisions of States."
A fair construction of this statute authorizes the
payment of $100 bounty to free colored men who might be drafted; and in lieu of
bounty to the slave it gave him his freedom, while his master, if loyal,
received a compensation for the loss of his services.
Up to this time and until the passage of the act
entitled "An act making appropriations for the support of the Army for the
year ending the thirtieth day of June, eighteen hundred and sixty-five, and for
other purposes," approved June 15, 1864,a there was no law providing for
the payment of bounty to colored volunteers, either free or slave, and the pay
of colored troops still remained at $10 per month, as fixed by the act of July
The act just cited provides--
That all persons of
color who have been or may be mustered into the military service of the United
States shall receive the same uniform, clothing, arms, equipments,
equipage, rations, medical and hospital attendance, pay and emoluments, other
than bounty, as other soldiers of the regular or volunteer forces of the United
States of like arm of the service, from and after the first day of January,
eighteen hundred and sixty-four; and that every person of color who shall
hereafter be mustered into the service shall receive such sums in bounty as the
President shall order in the different States and parts of the United States,
not exceeding one hundred dollars.
This section placed colored troops on an equal
footing with white troops in all respects touching pay and allowances, but
withheld the bounty as hitherto, except in such amount as the President might
order, not to exceed $100.
The third section provided--
That all persons
enlisted and mustered into service as volunteers under the call, dated October
seventeen, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, for three hundred thousand
volunteers, who were at the time of enlistment actually enrolled and subject to
draft in the State in which they volunteered, shall receive from the United
States the same amount of bounty without regard to color.
This section was practically inoperative for the
reason that but few colored persons were enrolled, drafted, or credited on the
call of October 17, 1863. The law directing the enrollment of colored men was
not passed until February 24, 1864, and the colored men raised by draft or
voluntary enlistment prior to this date were credited to the call of February 1,
1864 (which was being filled when the law directing the enrollment and draft of
colored men was passed), and to the subsequent calls.
The fourth section provided--
That all persons of
color who were free on the nineteenth day of April, eighteen hundred and
sixty-one, and who have been enlisted and mustered into the military service of
the United States, shall, from the time of their enlistment, be entitled to
receive the pay, bounty, and clothing allowed to such persons by the laws
existing at the time of their enlistment. And the Attorney-General of the United
States is hereby authorized to determine any question of law arising under this
provision. And if the Attorney-General aforesaid shall determine that any of
such enlisted persons are entitled to receive any pay, bounty, or clothing, in
addition to what they have already received, the Secretary of War shall make all
In conformity with this section the Secretary of
War ordered as follows:(*)
An act approved July 4, 1864,(a) provided--
That the President
of the United States may, at his discretion, at any time hereafter, call for any
number of men as volunteers, for the respective terms of one, two, and three
years, for military service; and any such volunteer, or, in case of draft, as
hereinafter provided, any substitute, shall be credited to the town, township,
ward of a city, precinct, or election district, or of a county not so
subdivided, toward the quota of which he may have volunteered or engaged as a
substitute; and every volunteer who is accepted and mustered into the service
for a term of one year, unless sooner discharged, shall receive and be paid by
the United States a bounty of one hundred dollars; and if for a term of two
years, unless sooner discharged, a bounty of two hundred dollars; and if for a
term of three years, unless sooner discharged, a bounty of three hundred
dollars, one-third of which bounty shall be paid to the soldier at the time of
his being mustered into the service, one-third at the expiration of one-half of
his term of service, and one-third at the expiration of his term of service. And
in case of his death while in service, the residue of his bounty unpaid shall be
paid to his widow, if he shall have left a widow; if not, to his children; or if
there be none, to his mother, if she be a widow.
This section authorized the payment of like bounty
to all persons enlisting, omitting the distinction hitherto observed in regard
to colored troops, and was evidently intended to allow the same amount to both
classes, and bounties were paid accordingly.
Section 3 provides "That it shall be lawful
for the Executive of any of the States to send recruiting agents into any of the
States declared to be in rebellion, except the States of Arkansas, Tennessee,
and Louisiana, to recruit volunteers under any call under the provisions of this
act, who shall be credited to the State and to the respective subdivisions
thereof, which may procure the enlistment," but was repealed by the act of
March 3, 1865.(a)
Section 14 of an act approved July 4, 1864,
That the widows and
children of colored soldiers who have been, or who may be hereafter, killed, or
who have died or may hereafter die of wounds received in battle, or who have
died or may hereafter die of disease contracted in the military service of the
United States, and in the line of duty, shall be entitled to receive the
pensions now provided by law, without other proof of marriage than that the
parties had habitually recognized each other as man and wife, and lived together
as such for a definite period next preceding the soldier's enlistment, not less
than two years, to be shown by the affidavits of credible witnesses: Provided,
however, That such widow and children are free persons: Provided further, That
if such parties resided in any State in which their marriage may have been
legally solemnized the usual evidence shall be required.
Section 5 of an act approved March 3, 1865,(a)
That all persons of
color who were enlisted and mustered into the military service of the United
States in South Carolina, by and under the direction of Major-General Hunter and
Brigadier-General Saxton, in pursuance of the authority from the Secretary of
War, dated August twenty-fifth, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, "that the
persons so received into service, and their officers, to be entitled to and
receive the same pay and rations as are allowed by law to other volunteers in
the service "--and in every case where it shall be made to appear to the
satisfaction of the Secretary of War that any regiment of colored troops has
been mustered into the service of the United States, under any assurance by the
President or the Secretary of War, that the non-commissioned officers and
privates of such regiment should be paid the same as other troops of the same
arm of the service--shall from the date of their enlistment, receive the same
pay and allowances as are allowed by law to other volunteers in the military
service; and the Secretary of War shall make all necessary regulations to cause
payment to be made in accordance herewith.
Section 22 provided--
That the third
section of the act entitled "An act [further] to regulate and provide for
the enrolling and calling out the national forces, and for other purposes,"
approved July fourth, eighteen hundred and sixty-four, be, and the same is
The foregoing embraces the entire legislation and
the most important Executive orders touching the relation of colored men to the
The classes of colored persons who received bounty
under the foregoing laws and the amounts respectively paid to them are shown by
the following order of the Paymaster-General, viz:
Washington, D.C., May 26, 1865.
TO COLORED TROOPS.
1. All persons of
color who have been enlisted and mustered into the service of the United States,
and are mustered on the rolls as "free on or before April 19, 1861,"
are entitled to bounty as follows, viz:
If enlisted prior to
October 24, 1863, $100.
If enlisted in an
old organization after October 24, 1863, and prior to April 1, 1864, $300.
If enlisted in a new
organization after December 24, 1863, and prior to April 1, 1864, $300.
If enlisted between
April 1, 1864, and July 17, 1864, inclusive, $100.
2. All persons of
color enlisted and mustered into service under the President's call for 300,000
volunteers, dated October 17, 1863, who were at the time of enlistment enrolled
and subject to draft in the State where enlisted, are entitled to bounty as
Enlisted in any
organization of colored troops between October 17 and October 24, 1863, $100.
Enlisted in an old
organization after October 24, 1863, and prior to April 1, 1864, $300.
Enlisted in a new
organization after December 24, 1863, and prior to April 1, 1864, $300.
Remark to be entered
on the muster-roll: "Enrolled and subject to draft in the ---- enrollment
district of the State of ---- at time of enlistment."
3. All enlistments
of colored men after July 18, 1864, for one, two, or three years, entitle them
to bounty of $100, $200, and $300, respectively.
4. Colored soldiers
who have been, or hereafter shall be, discharged by reason of wounds received in
battle, on skirmish or picket, or in action, or in the line of duty, and who are
otherwise entitled under existing laws to bounty, are entitled to receive the
same bounty as if they had served out the full term of enlistment.
5. All persons of
color drafted under the act of March 3, 1863, and prior to September 5, 1864,
and their substitutes, are entitled to a bounty of $100, provided they serve two
full years. They have also the same pay and allowance as white soldiers.
6. Under section 2,
act of June 15, 1864, no bounty was ordered by the President for persons of
color who should enlist between that date and July 19, 1864, unless free April
7. For colored
persons, when discharged, the final papers should contain the same data for
bounty as was required to elucidate their claims upon the muster-rolls.
Paymasters, when they can consistently do so, should aid in conveying
information on this point to all interested.
B. W. BRICE,
The following brief outline of the recruitment of
colored persons is taken mainly from the reports and records of the Bureau for
Colored Troops, and is inserted here in connection with the foregoing
recapitulation of the laws and orders on the subject.
The acceptance of colored men as soldiers in the
service of the United States began in Louisiana by the muster in, on the 27th of
September, 1862, of the First Louisiana Native Guards, subsequently designated
Seventy-third Regiment U.S. Colored Troops.
Four other regiments were raised in that military
department and mustered in prior to March 7, 1863, two of them before the 1st of
The efforts made in the early summer of 1862 to
raise colored troops in South Carolina did not result in the muster of an
organization until January 31, 1863, when the First South Carolina Volunteers,
subsequently designated Thirty-third U.S. Colored Troops, was mustered into the
service as soldiers. Three other regiments were mustered in in that department
prior to July 1, 1863.
In April, 1863, a regiment was completed in Kansas,
called the First Kansas Volunteers, subsequently designated Seventy-ninth U.S.
Colored Troops. Another regiment then in process of organization was some time
Early in the spring of 1863 the organization of
colored troops was commenced in the Mississippi Valley under the personal
supervision of the Adjutant-General of the Army. His first regiment was mustered
into service on the 1st of May, 1863, as the First Arkansas Volunteers of
African Descent, afterward designated Forty-sixth
Regiment U.S. Colored Troops. Five other regiments raised in like manner
were mustered in prior to June 30, 1863.
The Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Regiments of
Massachusetts Volunteers were colored troops. They were organized in
Massachusetts, and were mustered into service between March 30 and June 22,
1863. They were organized, officered, &c., by the State authorities, like
other regiments of volunteers, and so continued until mustered out.
The foregoing colored troops were raised prior to
the commencement of the operations of the Bureau for Colored Troops, which was
created by General Orders, No. 143,(a) dated May 29, 1863.
Under the immediate supervision of that Bureau, a
regiment designated the First U.S. Colored Troops was mustered into service in
the District of Columbia on the 30th of June, 1863, and simultaneously with this
a regiment was mustered in in North Carolina.
At this period, June, 1863, the recruitment of
colored troops was going on all over the country, and so continued until stopped
by orders on April 29, 1865, in consequence of no more troops being required.
With the exception of the two Massachusetts
regiments above mentioned, the military organizations composed of colored men
were mustered directly into the service of the United States, and were organized
and officered by officers acting under the authority of the United States, and
not of any particular State.
Since March 27, 1865, all appointments of officers
for these troops have been made exclusively by the War Department, and after an
examination by a board of officers. Prior to that time the Adjutant-General of
the Army, in the Mississippi Valley, made appointments, in the name of the
Secretary of War, to the regiments which he organized; and department commanders
made, subject to the approval of the President, provisional appointments to the
regiments organized by them.
The recruitment of men of color by draft and
substitution was exclusively under the control of this Bureau, but their
recruitment as volunteers was mainly under the Bureau for Colored Troops,
especially established for that purpose. To present together the entire results
of these operations, which, however, were produced in the main by the action of
the Bureau for Colored Troops, the following extract is made from the report of
the chief of that Bureau:
On the 15th of July,
1865, the date on which the last organization of colored troops was mustered in,
the service of the United States 120 regiments of infantry, numbering in the
regiments of heavy artillery
companies of light artillery
regiments of cavalry
The foregoing is the largest number of colored
troops in service at any one time during the war.
The entire number of troops commissioned and
enlisted in this branch of the service during the war is 186,017.(b)
The States in which this force was recruited or
drafted are as follows, viz:
Recruiting of men in States in
rebellion to be credited to loyal States.
section 3 of the act approved July 4, 1864.)
The law authorizing recruiting in the rebel States
was published on the 6th of July, 1864; on the 9th regulations to carry it into
effect were issued. Every facility which the War Department could control was
afforded to make the law effective for raising troops. The results were as
number of recruiting agents appointed by Governors of loyal States to recruit in
number of recruits credited through these agents
These recruits are embraced in the preceding
enumeration of volunteers mustered into service. They were credited to the
States by whose agents they were obtained.
The authority granted under this act was repealed
by section 22, act of March 3, 1865, and on the 8th of March(a) a
circular was issued from this office announcing the fact for the information and
guidance of all concerned.
No material advantage to the service resulted from this undertaking. All, or nearly all, of the recruits to be had in the rebel States were being obtained through the proper military officers and agents of the War Department. Without increasing the number of men enlisted, the law enabled States in the North to lay claim to credits for the men enlisted in the South, and thus reduce their quota for draft. To obtain these credits local bounties were lavishly provided. They were unnecessary, and did not have the effect of increasing the number of recruits obtained, but in many instances enriched bounty brokers and corrupted military officers.
TO "FREEDOM FIGHTERS"