On the Battlefield: Records of Soldiers, Veterans, and Refugees
Prior to emancipation, Black soldiers served both voluntarily and involuntarily in conflicts in what is now the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.
Enslaved and free men took part in military conflicts including colonial wars (1609–1775), the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), the War of 1812 (1812–1815), and the Civil War (1861–1865). Later, free Black soldiers—most of whom were descended from enslaved people—participated in the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902). This project will rely not just on the rich records created for soldiers, but also for veterans and wartime refugees.
Examples of records:
Military records (muster rolls, pay rolls, drafts, enlistment records, etc.)
Veteran records (pension records, bounty land warrants, veteran headstone inscription records, etc.)
Documentation from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands—more commonly known as “the Freedmen’s Bureau”
Check this space for future updates!
- Black Loyalist Directory, 1783-1788
- Massachusetts 5th Calvary Regimental Information (Index-Only)
- Massachusetts 54th Regimental Information (Index-Only)
- Massachusetts 55th Regimental Information (Index-Only)
- 1st Kansan Colored Volunteer Regiment
Ancestor Spotlight: Dr. Theodore J Becker and Martin F Becker
From their birth in the Dutch Colony of Suriname, to their service in two different Massachusetts regiments, to their influential careers in medicine and politics, follow the story of two brothers who volunteered their skills during the Civil War.
Search a list of 18,000 Black sailors who served in the Civil War
From Our Collections
A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Service by the U.S. Census Bureau
The Black loyalist directory : African Americans in exile after the American Revolution, edited with an introduction by Graham Russell Hodges; transcript and index by Susan Hawkes Cook
Black Loyalists: southern settlers of Nova Scotia's first free black communities by Ruth Holmes Whitehead.
Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian patriots in the Revolutionary War: a guide to service, sources and studies, edited by Eric G. Grundset; researched by Briana L. Diaz, Hollis L. Gentry, and Jean D. Strahan
Massachusetts officers and soldiers in the French and Indian Wars, 1755-1756, edited by K. David Goss, David Zarowin.
Massachusetts soldiers and sailors of the Revolutionary War compiled by the Massachusetts Office of the Secretary of State
Practicing medicine in a black regiment : the Civil War diary of Burt G. Wilder, 55th Massachusetts, edited by Richard M. Reid
On the altar of freedom : a black soldier's Civil War letters from the front by James Henry Gooding, edited by Virginia Matzke Adams