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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Civil War: African American troops


Sgt. Major Meekins, Co. K, 36th U.S. Colored Troops (WHi-33590)

Wisconsin supplied one unit of black soldiers to the Union Army, Company F of the 29th Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops. Although credited to Wisconsin for recruiting purposes, most of Company F was actually raised in Illinois and Missouri, its soldiers taking the places of white Wisconsin residents who would otherwise have been drafted. Company F of the 29th arrived in Petersburg, Virginia, on July 22, 1864, in the heat of battle; 11 of its 85 men died the first week.

The roster of company F., 29th Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops, is online at Turning Points in Wisconsin History, as is a biography of the commander of the 29th Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops.

In the course of the war, many liberated slaves joined Wisconsin troops in the field and some came north with them when the war ended. In all, 353 black soldiers served in Wisconsin units. Read an interview with one of them, Peter Thomas of Racine, in our Local History & Biography Collection.

Rosters of all Wisconsin units and a summary of what happened to each one during the war are online at Turning Points in Wisconsin History, and you can view pictures of Wisconsin troops at Wisconsin Historical Images.

[Photograph above is from the papers of Thomas S. Johnson of Beaver Dam, Wis., chaplain to the 36th Regt., USCT]

[Source: Turning Points in Wisconsin History]
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