29th Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops

Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters US, let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.

Frederick Douglass

By General Order No. 143 on May 23, 1863, the United States War Department established the Bureau of Colored Troops for the enlistment of blacks in the Union Army.  Several volunteer regiments of blacks predated the creation of the United States Colored Troops, but most blacks who served in the Union army did so as part of the United States Colored Troops.  By the end of the war some 178,000 blacks had volunteered to serve, and they made up 10% of the Union army, forming 135 infantry regiments, 6 regiments of cavalry, 1 light artillery regiment, 13 heavy artillery regiments and one independent artillery battery.

One of the infantry regiments was raised in Illinois, the 29th Infantry regiment.  The regiment entered into service at Quincy, Illinois on April 24, 1864.  On May 24, 1864 it arrived in Virginia, and served at Alexandria as part of the Washington defenses until June 15, 1864.

Attached to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, Ninth Corp until September 1864, and then the 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, Ninth Corp until December 1864, the regiment participated in the following engagements:   the Battle of the Crater, Weldon Railroad, Poplar Grove Church and Boydton Plank Road.

In December 1864 it was transferred to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 25th Corps and served on the Bermuda Hundred Front near Richmond.  The regiment took part in the Appomattox campaign at the close of the War.  After the fighting ended in Virginia, the regiment saw duty in Texas on the Rio Grande as part of the United States’ reminder to Napoleon III that it was time for him to withdraw French forces from Mexico.  The regiment was mustered out of service on November 6, 1865.  The regiment sustained fatalities of 3 officers and 43 enlisted men killed in battle and 188 deaths from disease.

Published in: on November 29, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. I just watched the magnificent 2009 Disney movie The Princess and the Frog, in which the protagonist’s father is a black man who dies in France in World War One (or so it is hinted). I realized that I never heard anything about black soldiers in the Great War. I heard plenty about “colored” soldiers in the Civil War, and quite a bit (including memories in Italy) about American blacks in WWII, but nothing about WWI. Could you do a feature about them? And how did the fact that the Commander-in-Chief was the worst racist in American history affect them?

  2. Blacks served en masse in the American Expeditionary Force Fabio with hundreds of them serving as officers. The Army was segregated and blacks often found themselves in labor battalions doing construction work or menial tasks. However, two black divisions were formed, the 92nd and the 93rd, and they saw combat on the Western front.

    I will eventually do a post on this subject and probably a series of posts.

    The fact that Wilson was a racist probably had little impact on the service of black troops. World War I was at the near nadir of race relations in this country and the racism against blacks was virulent. Frankly, considering that background, I am surprised that blacks got the opportunities to serve that they did, especially as commissioned officers in large numbers for the first time in American military history.

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