Black Troops in Civil War

LOUDONVILLE -- The Cleo Redd Fisher Museum's Speaker Series continues this month with a look at the role of black troops during the American Civil War, with "Black Men in Blue: The Civil War, Ohioans, and the United States Colored Troops."

The United States Colored Troops were the embodiment of Frederick Douglass’s belief that “he who would be free must himself strike the blow."

Approximately 180,000 men -- many who had formerly been enslaved -- volunteered to fight in the Union army; nearly 40,000 gave their lives for the cause. With every engagement they fought in, African-Americans time and again proved their mettle. At Port Hudson in Louisiana, Fort Wagner in South Carolina, Chaffin's Farm in Virginia, and elsewhere, USCT units displayed courage under fire and won glory on the field of battle.

By the end of the war, African-Americans accounted for 10 percent of the Union army. The USCT were a watershed in American history, and one of the first major strides toward equal civil rights.

Kelly D. Mezurek, a professor of history at Walsh University and one of the state's leading experts on the USCT, will join the museum for the evening to focus on the Ohio black community's response to the national conflict, the wartime participation of free black men, and the impact of their service on white Ohioans.

Special attention will be provided to the 5th and 27th United States Colored Troops. Her book, For their Own Cause: The 27th United States Colored Troops (The Kent State University Press, 2016), is a 2017 Ohioana Book Award Finalist in nonfiction. Mezurek’s essay, “‘De Bottom Rail's on Top Now’: Black Union Guards and Confederate Prisoners of War,” was included in Crossing the Deadlines: Civil War Prisons Reconsidered, a collection edited by Michael P. Gray.

Mezurek is on the advisory board for the Emerging Civil War Book Series with the Southern Illinois University Press, serves on the executive board of the Ohio Academy of History, and was a representative on the Ohio Civil War 150 Advisory Committee.

The program, Black Men in Blue, will be held on Monday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. in the meeting hall of the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum (203 E. Main Street, Loudonville). This program is free and open to the public and is made possible in part by the Ohio Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information on Black Men in Blue, or other upcoming events, visit

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