Where Did The USCT Soldiers Go After The War?

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
For the black enlisted men of the USCT who were from the South (i.e. seceded states) where did they go after the war? Did they mostly try to return to the area where they had previously been enslaved or to other parts of the South? o the North, the West, or Canada?

I know the short answer is "all of the above." I mean was one of those options more prevalent than the others?

Were there any USCT veterans communities formed? A town that wasn't just predominantly black, but that the adult male settlers were predominately USCT veterans.

Were the USCT celebrated and honored in postbellum black communities? Or did the experience of Reconstruction sour African Americans to the point that they themselves felt the USCT was no longer something worth celebrating?

So far as I know, the USCT veterans seem, to my limited knowledge, to have been a non-factor after the war. Contrast that to the GAR which was an active fraternal organization. There were white Union veteran towns in the South like Lynn Haven and St. Cloud, Florida.

Yes, Jim Crow, SCV, UDC, etc wanted to ignore or at least marginalize the USCT. I'm trying to understand whether it was more than just that. Did demographics, migration patterns, or other factors affect the memory of the USCT?
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Did not most states allow USCT veterans to be GAR members?

Good question. It looks like USCT could join the GAR, but the GAR - at least in some states - had separate chapters for black and white.

I did a search and turned up a book The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic by Barbara Gannon (UNC Press, 2011). Has anyone read it?
 

Yulie

Corporal
Joined
Jul 31, 2008
Location
Directly North of the Canadian Border
I am hard pressed to contribute anything substantial to address your questions. There were certainly excessive discriminatory circumstances that compromised the livelihoods of black veterans. However, I have yet to see any research pinpointing the origins of the 200,000 plus African American soldiers and where they resided from Reconstruction to Jim Crow. There are individual analysis of certain units. One sees -- and people assume -- that the majority had southern origins both prior to and after the war. That's an assumption based on 1860s and 1870s census records. Like white veterans, if they could they migrated where there were opportunities. There were willful and forceful migrations. The Exoduster Movement of the late-1870s caused a great shift in the African American population to the west. It was not a complete draining of African Americans from the south. Entire black settlements and educational institutions were established that were prosperous. An example is Lincoln University (fka Lincoln Institute) in Jefferson City, Missouri which was established by USCT veterans and continued its financial support through Reconstruction and Jim Crow.

I have four USCT ancestors, all brothers from a plantation at Pleasant Site, Franklin County, Alabama. One died during the war. The remaining three did not return to the plantation. One lived in eastern Arkansas; another lived in Middle Tennessee then moved to eastern Arkansas; the last lived in Northwestern Alabama. There is no evidence yet that they were GARs. They were active in the CME Church.
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
Depending on how much time and effort you want to expend, I'd suggest the 1890 Veterans Census would shed some light on the issue.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Another perspective is to look at where they're buried.

This virtual graveyard has about 3% of the total USCT headcount, but has four white officers on the first page alone - so probably would wind up being statistically insignificant and more likely that any research would add to this (rather than helping answer your questions).

https://www.findagrave.com/virtual-cemetery/743195?page=3#sr-19330465
A few years ago, I learned that three brothers from my area (northeastern NJ) had all joined the same USCT regiment. They had all lived in this county, working for long-time NJ families on local farms. They joined in 1865 as the war was coming to a close and their regiment was dissolved later that year.

The reason I learned about them is that all three must have returned here after the war. All three are buried in the cemetery of a church in Park Ridge, NJ.
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
A few years ago, I learned that three brothers from my area (northeastern NJ) had all joined the same USCT regiment. They had all lived in this county, working for long-time NJ families on local farms. They joined in 1865 as the war was coming to a close and their regiment was dissolved later that year.

The reason I learned about them is that all three must have returned here after the war. All three are buried in the cemetery of a church in Park Ridge, NJ.
Are they in the list I linked?
 

CCMDCSA

Sergeant
Joined
May 20, 2018
Location
Silver run Md carroll county
There is a town on the eastern shore of Maryland in talbot County called Unionville from what I understand 18 veteran union soldiers of the USCT bought land from a quaker family and created the town which grew to 49 black families of former slaves and black union veterans
I would imagine this wasn't the only community like this in post civil war southern states but it's the only I have heard of
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Near the end of the ACW, General Thomas ordered the creation of what became the template for National Cemeteries at what is now Stones River NB. Chaplin Captain William Earnshaw was tasked with building that cemetery. The central circular drive with a flag pole, stone wall surround & other features of Earnshaw’s design was adopted for future National Cemeteries.

The starting point for the unprecedented cemetery was the small plot where the U.S. Regulars had interred their comrades after the Battle of Stones River. It was on the high ground between the Nashville Pike & the Nashville & Chattanooga RR. Proximity to the RR was important because Earnshaw was tasked with gathering up Union dead from as far as 70 miles away. The 111th USCT Infantry Regiment was guarding that stretch of the N&CRR. They became Earnshaw‘s workforce.

In Gilphin-Faust’s best selling, ‘This Republic of Suffering.’ she makes considerable reference to the cultural & practical challenge Earnshaw & the 111th faced. For the over all cultural context & evolution of death, dying & burial customs of the ACW, there is no better reference than that book. Remarkably, it is an undeniably good read.

After the close of the war, the 111th & other USCT units in Middle TN mustered out. There was still plenty of work to be done at the cemetery a few miles from the courthouse square in Murfreesboro. Pre-war that town was 50-50 enslaved & free, so there was an existing black community. For example, the Zion AME church that still stands a block from the square, was owned by the by the congregation of enslaved parishioners. It is still active today. Just down the pike toward Nashville, a black family of slave holders owned what is now Long Hunter State Park. The men who were working on the cemetery joined that existing community & purchased land surrounding the cemetery.

Thus the Cemetery Community was founded. A school & churches were soon built. Emblematic of that transformation from being property to becoming property owners was Sgt. William Holland of the 111th USCT. After the war, he became the first groundskeeper of the National Cemetery. He purchased a plot of land adjacent to the Hazen Brigade Monument on the southeast edge of the cemetery where he built a house & raised a family.

When his time drew near, it was naturally assumed that Holland would wish to join many of his comrades from the 111th that had been interred within the walls of National Cemetery. No, was his reply. Sgt. Holland & his son’s US veteran’s headstones stand together are on what had been his own land. The property is now part of Stones River NB & markers tell Sgt. Holland’s story.

The Cemetery Community has, in recent decades, been the subject of study. Living historians in uniform from the park joined the congregation of several churches that occupy their original site to celebrate the 150th of the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. The creation of the community & its history is a regular feature of Stones River NB programs.

For extensive references, Google ‘Cemetery Community Stones River NB history.’ The National Park & Middle Tennessee State University resources include photos of the early phases of construction. In one of those 19th Century I can’t believe what I am looking at images, a Flintstones sized stone roller drawn by several spans of mules was used to flatten out the grounds of the cemetery.

As part of the project to bring the Cemetery Community story to light & incorporate it into Stones River NB/ Cemetery programs, local descendants of the 111th USCT founders were reached out to. There is now an active group that celebrates & preserves that remarkable history.

In Nashville the area adjacent to Fort Negley became a vibrant community populated by USCT veterans & their families during the war. Archeological investigation of the site which is near the present day Adventure Science Museum is ongoing. Like a number of historic downtown neighborhoods, construction of an interstate hwy obliterated much of area.
 
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Viper21

Brigadier General
Moderator
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Location
Rockbridge County, Virginia
For the black enlisted men of the USCT who were from the South (i.e. seceded states) where did they go after the war? Did they mostly try to return to the area where they had previously been enslaved or to other parts of the South? o the North, the West, or Canada?
Some went on to slaughter Indians as Buffalo Soldiers.
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Some went on to slaughter Indians as Buffalo Soldiers.

There were 178,000 USCT. There were only a few thousand Buffalo Soldiers.

It does raise a tangential question: did Buffalo Soldiers usually settle in the West after their service or somewhere else?
 

lupaglupa

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Forum Host
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Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
I think, if the data were gatherable, a fascinating study would be looking at whether post-War settlement patterns for USCT soldiers from the South differed from other emancipated persons from the area. Did service in the Army change their ideas about their lives post War?
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
When the Civil War ended, the Union army was rapidly reduced in size from about 2 million men to about 125,000 men by the end of 1865. These 125,000 men were spread across the south and frontier.

A disproportionate number of the remaining soldiers were black. This was due to a simple reason that most USCT regiments formed in 1863 and signed on for 3 years, meaning they still had a year of service left at the end of the war.

Many USCT regiments wound up serving out the remainder of their time in Texas before mustering out in 1866.

After the war, much of the growing leadership within the black community drew from those with experience: ministers, teachers, skilled workers, and army veterans. Eric Foner writes in Forever Free that, "Service in the Union army offered access to education ('the cartridge box and spelling book are attached to the same belt,' wrote one observer) and established men as community leaders, opening a door to political advancement. Out of the army came many of the leaders of the Reconstruction era. At least 130 former Union soldiers served in political office after the Civil War. They included Martin F. Becker, a veteran of both the army and navy, who held a number of positions in South Carolina; Josiah T. Walls, later a congressman from Florida; and Prince Rivers, a slave coachman who ran away 1862 to enlist in Higginson's South Carolina regiment and later won election in the state legislature."

Martin-Becker-185x300.gif

Martin Becker

Walls_josiah.jpg

Josiah T. Walls


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Prince Rivers

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Black Soldier reading in Atlanta, Fall 1864

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Members of the "Corps D'Afrique" pose with textbooks in front of their school, Port Hudson, Louisiana

Source:
Troubled Refuge by Chandra Manning
Forever Free by Eric Foner
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
https://www.utrgv.edu/civilwar-trail/civil-war-trail/colored-troops/index.htm

According to this source about 16,000 USCT veterans of the 25th Corps redeployed from Virginia to Texas in April-May 1865. It states:
"By May 1865, nearly 16,000 USCT veterans of the 25th Corps arrived at Brazos Santiago from City Point, Virginia, and were quickly dispersed to Forts Brown at Brownsville, Ringgold Barracks at Rio Grande City, Fort McIntosh at Laredo, and Fort Duncan at Eagle Pass, as well as to smaller posts where they were assigned to prevent former Confederates from establishing their defeated government and army in Mexico. Later, the USCT, along with their successors the 'buffalo soldiers'—as they were called by Plains Indians—patrolled the border to stop ongoing violence in Mexico from spilling into the United States, and to discourage bandits and Indians from attacking civilian communities."

I'm not sure how realistic the threat of Confederates fleeing to Mexico was in light of the ongoing conflict with France. In fact, in my eyes, it makes more sense to me that the redeployment was a measure towards deterring the French from pursuing their overseas empire in North America. The US refused to recognize the Second Mexican Empire and at the conclusion of the US Civil War seems to have more actively begun supporting Mexican forces fighting the French, prompting the beginning of the French withdrawal in 1866. The last USCT regiment - the 117th USCT - left Texas in July 1867, one month after the execution of Emperor Maximilian I and the collapse of the Second Mexican Empire.
 
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