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Related Categories: U.S. | Racial Justice
California United States Colored Troops Help Save the Union
by Edited by Michael Harris
Rev. Thomas Starr King helped keep the thin margin of Union California vs Confederate California. US Colored Troops from California helped preserve the Union and begin the ending of legal slavery in America. Today, we honor National Buffalo Soldiers Day and share our unique California Journey from Slavery to Freedom.
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The United States Colored Troops (USCT) was the designation given to the approximately 175 regiments of that served during the Civil War.

The troops were primarily people of African Descent, however Indigenous Nations, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islanders were all included within the ranks, as well.

By the end of the war, nearly a tenth of the entire Union Army consisted of members of the USCT.

These regiments were the precursors for the now-famous Buffalo Soldiers and officially served in the US Army following the conclusion of the Civil War.

Before January 1, 1863, when Presidential Executive Order, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, President Abraham Lincoln was cautious about the recruitment of men African Descent into the Union Army, due to politics and prejudice throughout the North, especially among Democrats loyal to the Union who resided in Border States that continues to allow African servitude.

Once January 1, 1863 came the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, including full-scale recruitment of men who answered to previous condition of servitude.

In May 1863, the United States War Department created the Bureau of Colored Troops, and the USCT was officially established.

The USCT consisted of 135 regiments of infantry soldiers, six regiments of cavalry, one regiment of light artillery, and 13 regiments of heavy artillery.

An additional nineteen thousand men of African Descent served in the United States Navy.

Furthermore, thousands of African women, who were not allowed to formally enlist, worked for the military as cooks, spies, nurses, and scouts; the most famous of these women was Harriet Tubman.

The United States Colored Troops fought in every major military campaign and battle the Union Army was involved in during the last two years of the Civil War.

These included three of the most costly battles of the entire war, the Battle of Nashville, the Battle of Chickamauga, both in Tennessee and the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia.

Throughout the war, the USCT suffered a total of 68,178 casualties while contributing to the Union victory.

Moreover, members of the USCT received numerous awards and commendations from the United States Government, including a total of eighteen Congressional Medals of Honor, the highest award a member of the armed forces can receive.

Racial discrimination, which was ever-present infiltrated the ranks of the Army and Navy.

All of the Colored Troops were led by white officers, some of whom were not happy with their assignment.

For some time, Colored Troops, who were asked to perform the same duties as their white compatriots, earned a net pay of $7 a month, while whites earned $13.

This was the case from 1863 until mid-1864 when Congress passed a law requiring equal pay to those in the military, regardless of race, along with retroactive payments to those who had been discriminated against.

United States Colored Troops prisoners of war were given much harsher treatment by the Confederacy than white soldiers captives.

In the fall of 1865, several months after the Civil War ended, the USCT was disbanded, as were the vast majority of troops who fought in the war.

President Lincoln himself was quoted as saying, “Without the military help of the Colored Troops, the war against the South could not have been won.”

The legacy of the USCT resides in the U.S. 9th and 10th Cavalry, as well as the 24th and 25th Infantry, regiments of African American troops known as the Buffalo Soldiers who served in the West in the post-Civil War period.
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