It has been estimated that 200,000 African Americans, including many former slaves fought for the Union Army in the Civil War as part of the United States Colored Troops. The records of these troops are housed in the National Archives in paper format. The records include information on the troops’ names, backgrounds, where they fought, marriages, children, and what happened to them during and after the war.
The National Archives is in the process of posting copies of these records online. A research team led by John Clegg, a doctoral student at New York University is recruiting volunteers to transcribe these records into a searchable database.
“The records of the Union Army are the most comprehensive and detailed source on ordinary African Americans living in the late 19th century,” explains Clegg. “Notably, 72 percent of all African American soldiers were from the South; we thus estimate that the Union Army records contain detailed information on 144,000 men who grew up under the weight of slavery.”
When completed the database will be available to researchers on the website of the African American Civil War Museum.