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U.S. Colored Troops

The Colored Troops (USCT) samples are longitudinal, life-cycle samples of African American Civil War veterans. Despite their service in the Union Army, the USCT were not entirely “northern” in the sense that about 75% of the men were former slaves from the South who fled north to join the army or who joined U.S. regiments in captured southern cities.

U.S. Colored Troop records fall into two samples, the Original USCT sample and the Expanded USCT sample. The samples are differentiated because they were collected at different times under different data collection technology and cleaning methodologies. The following table shows the number of recruits and companies in both the Original and Expanded USCT samples:

Recruits Companies
Original USCT 6,187 52
Expanded USCT 15,070 117

To be compatible with the Union Army sample, the USCT sample was restricted to volunteer infantry regiments. However, unlike the Union Army sample, white commissioned officers commanding USCT companies were included in the sample.

As with the UA sample, researchers began by randomly selecting companies from the complete list of USCT regiments and companies found in A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frederick H. Dyer. Researchers extracted names and identifying information from the Regimental Books for those companies until the sample size was reached. Researchers then linked each soldier to his three main types of records: the Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR), Pension (PEN), and Carded Medical Record (CMR). Pension Records additionally contain detailed medical records called Surgeons’ Certificates (SCRTS) which were collected separately from other pension data. Researchers also linked each soldier to U.S. Federal Censuses and added his family members to the data set. Unlike the Union Army sample, Original USCT and Expanded USCT recruits were not automatically searched for in the 1850 and 1860 censuses as many of the black recruits were slaves at the time and therefore not enumerated. Occasionally, researchers located USCT recruits in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses, but generally they were not searched for.

A new data collection screen was created to support collection of the Expanded USCT sample. For the 6,187 soldier Original USCT sample, the recruit’s slave status and ownership information was collected non-systematically in the Screen 1 remarks variable (sc1rmks). When collecting the Original USCT sample, we learned that slave information was available with enough consistency to warrant the creation of individual variables. As a result, the EI project created a customized screen to support the collection of the 15,070 Expanded USCT sample with 19 new slave information variables. These new variables capture information including, but not limited to, the recruit’s slave designation, black enlisted or white officer designation, owner’s name, plantation location, owned from and to date, and the amount paid for the slave.

A unique 10-digit identification number, stored in the variable recidnum, identifies each recruit throughout the separate data sets of the Early Indicators projects.

Data from the Original USCT sample can be downloaded via the Bulk Downloads page by selecting USCT (blacks) from the drop down menus. Expanded USCT sample data can be downloaded via the Bulk Download page by selecting Expanded USCT (blacks) from the drop down menus.

The list of companies in the USCT samples is also available for download.

Codebooks for the USCT and Expanded USCT samples are available through our codebooks page.