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Freedom Fighters
Learn how to research your Civil War ancestors who served in the US Colored Troops.
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.

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