On Thursday, February 24th, at 1:00 pm the Southwest Mississippi Center for Culture and Learning presented “From Slavery to Freedom: The Story of the Natchez U.S. Colored Troops” in the Biotechnology Auditorium at Alcorn State University (ASU). The event featured three speakers, Robert Pernell, Deborah Fountain, and Barney Schoby telling the story of the Natchez U.S. Colored Troops.
The story of the troops began on January 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring all persons held as slaves in rebellious states free. It also announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy. By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men, which made up 10 percent of the Union Army, served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and approximately 19,000 black men served in the U.S. Navy. Within four months on May 22, 1863, General Order 143 was issued, officially creating the U.S. Colored Troops.
Later, on July 4, 1863, the siege of Vicksburg failed which gave the Union Army control of the Mississippi River. On July 13th, the Union troops arrived in Natchez and established the Union Army headquarters at the Rosalie Mansion. By August of 1863, more U.S. Colored Troops began residing in Natchez. A large number of black men that enlisted were from Natchez or had left plantations in surrounding areas such as Franklin County, Jefferson County, Wilkinson County, etc. During the Fall of 1863, the soldiers began working on the construction of a fortification named for General James Birdseye McPherson.
During the Civil War, there were over 3,000 colored troop soldiers who served in the six regiments at Fort McPherson. These regiments included the sixth U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, 58th U.S. Colored Infantry, 70th U.S. Colored Infantry, 71st U.S. Colored Infantry, 63rd U.S. Colored Infantry, and the 64th U.S. Colored Infantry.
All speakers are actively involved in working towards creating a monument in Natchez, Mississippi to honor the U.S. Colored Troops that went from slavery to freedom. Led by Chairman Robert Pernell, the Natchez U.S. Colored Troops Monument Committee was created to honor and bear the names of more than 3,000 African American men who served with the U.S. Colored Troops at Fort McPherson in Natchez. The monument will also bear the names of troops that were born in Natchez that served in the Navy. One can get involved in the creation of the monument by serving on one of a subcommittees or contributing financially. The Natchez U.S. Colored Troops Monument Committee is comprised of volunteers that serve on five subcommittees: history and research, monument design, marketing/public relations, site, and finance/fundraising.
For more information on the Natchez U.S. Colored Troops or the monument project, visit natchezusctmonument.com. To determine your relationship to the troops, one can visit https://www.nps.gov.civilwar/search-soldiers.htm or https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-sailors.htm.