|In April 1861 the free
blacks of New Orleans, Louisiana, began organizing a Native Guard battalion
with officers of their own race. The state government approved this action
and commissioned the black officers. The commanding general of the white and
black troops sent a telegram to Confederate authorities in November 1861
because he was "elated at the success of being first to place negroes in
the field together with white troops…." Since their first duty was to
defend New Orleans, the Native Guards refused to serve elsewhere for the
Confederacy once Union forces captured the city. Many of the men later fought
for the Union.
|In May 1862 Major
General David C. Hunter pioneered the recruiting of blacks by organizing the
1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry at Beaufort. The War Department
disrupted this effort until the end of August 1862. Although not officially
called to active duty until January 31, 1863, Company A of Hunter’s 1st South
Carolina was unofficially the very first unit of former slaves permitted to
join the Union Army. It was re-designated the 33rd Regiment of the U.S.
Colored Troops (USCT) in February 1864. It mustered out in January 1866.
|In September 1861the
Secretary of the Navy authorized the enlistment of African Americans into the
|"Negroes were readily
accepted all along the coast on board the war vessels, it being no departure
from the regular and established practice in the service." By the end of
the Civil War about 8% of Union sailors were African Americans.