Missouri Digital Heritage :: Education :: United States Colored Troops :: Missouri's African American Troops

Missouri State Archives
United States Colored Troops in Missouri:
Finding African American History at the Missouri State Archives

Missouri's African American Troops

There were seven African American regiments enrolled in Missouri. These soldiers fought in battles in Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama.

The first black regiment from Missouri was recruited in June 1863 at Schofield Barracks in St. Louis. More than 300 men enlisted. The regiment was called the First Regiment of Missouri Colored Infantry. It later became the 62 nd U.S. Regiment of Colored Infantry. Over 3,700 Missouri African Americans enrolled in the army in 1864. Most black soldiers served in the U.S. Army. But there was one African American unit in Missouri's state militia. It was from Hannibal and had nearly 100 members.

Not everyone in Missouri liked having African American soldiers. Some slave owners were upset at losing slaves, which they regarded as property. Other citizens worried that the slaves who did not serve in the army would rebel and cause trouble. Some groups of Confederate bushwhackers tried to frighten African Americans away from recruiting stations. None of this stopped black Missourians from serving as soldiers, though. It is estimated that nearly 8,400 African American soldiers enrolled in Missouri regiments. Even more African American Missourians enrolled in out-of-state units.

Many of the black soldiers knew that serving in the military gave them a chance to be free. They knew that freedom also meant responsibility as a citizen and a new beginning for their families. A certain group of soldiers in the 62 nd United States Colored Infantry took their new responsibility seriously. They knew that education was necessary to being successful in many aspects of their lives.

The soldiers from the 62 nd wanted to help provide education for Missouri's African American citizens. Some of the soldiers had learned to read and write while they served in the military. They wanted to continue to learn once the war was over. So they decided to raise money and start a school for all Missouri's freed men and women. Together with soldiers from the 65 th Infantry, the 62nd raised over $5000 to start a school. In 1866, in a log cabin outside of Jefferson City, a school called Lincoln Institute was created. Today that school is called Lincoln University.