Monday, February 7, 2011

Identifying the Headstones of US Colored Troops

Headstone of Black Civil War Union Soldier
Photo taken by Tonia Holleman

In a recent post I shared information on the need to honor US Colored Troops---black Union soldiers that go unnoticed and their graves remain undecorated every national holiday that passes. In many cases, the families have died or descendants have simply moved out of the area.

But in more cases, many are not familiar with Civil War headstones and how to determine whether a soldier served with black regiments.A good resource is the Department of Veteran's Affairs website. However it is important to get a good image in one's mind of the design of Civil War veteran's stones.

The original Civil War headstones consist of raised letters inside of a recessed shield. The stones of Black Union Soldiers Consisted of the following abbreviations:

U.S. Cld Inf - United States Colored Infantry
U.S. Cld. HA - United States Colored Heavy Artillery
U.S. Cld. LA - United States Colored Light Artillery
U.S. Cld. Cav - United States Colored Cavalry
U.S. Cld. Troops - United States Colored Troops
U.S.C.T. - United States Colored Troops

Note that the shield is recessed and the letters are raised.
This  soldier served in the 57th U.S. Colored Infantry
Photo taken by Tonia Holleman

In many cases such as the image above, the soldier's unit is reflected with the letters U.S. Cld. Inf. ---meaning United States Colored Infantry.

In some cases the stone will say U. S. Colored Troops, instead of Infantry:

This image bears the designation U.S. Cld. Troops
Photo by Tonia Holleman

When a soldier served in an artillery such as Light or Heavy Artillery, it was reflected on his stone as well.

Thomas Conner's stone reflects his position as a Bugler for the 
2nd US Colored Light Artillery
Photo taken by Tonia Holleman

Adam Westfield was a 1st Sgt 
in the 1st US Colored Heavy Artillery
Photo: Tonia Holleman

In some cases when the soldier died the unit was not always represented on his stone and it was simply noted that the soldier had served with the US Colored Troops.

Headstone of Henry Laton. No regiment was listed on his headstone.
However, Henry  Laton enlisted with the 2nd Kansas Colored which was later
re-designated as the 83rd US Colored Infantry
Photo: Tonia Holleman

Like the soldier above it is also common to find a soldier who was buried with simply the USCT designation on the headstone.  In such cases one has to research the roster of Union Soldiers to determine the regiment.

This soldier has a generic U.S.C.T. designation on his headstone.
There were 77 soldiers in the Union Army with the name of Thomas Chambers. 
(Of the 77 soldiers, 4 of them were part of the U.S. Colored Troops)
Photo: Tonia Holleman

Today many are discovering that their ancestors served with the United States Colored Troops. New stones can be ordered from the Veteran's Administration.  The stones created today by the Veteran's Administration resemble the old Civil War markers, with the shield, however, the letters are not raised and the shield is not recessed.

This stone for John Tuckington, is a stone created in recent  years.
John Tuckington 's name is engraved as is his regiment.  On this new stone
the letters are engraved and painted a darker color, and the shield is not recessed.
Photo: Tonia Holleman

All of these stones are official headstones of US Colored Troops. Many are buried in National Cemeteries, however, there are so many more who are buried in civilian cemeteries, around the country with loved ones as well. 

Look for them, research their lives and tell their stories. 
Perhaps those long forgotten soldiers, can have a flag placed at their graves on the next national holiday.

We owe these men, these freedom fighters, so much and it is our duty to honor them. 


  1. Thanks for posting this. These soldiers need to be honored, and I am glad you are helping us to see them and remember them as people - fathers, brothers, sons - who gave so much.

    I hope in a heaven where I will one day be able to thank them personally for the great work they accomplished. For now, I hope their families can accept my gratitude for what they did. And I hope our country can realize how much we owe them, and that we will also remember how terrible a war is and how much these men sacrificed to make us a more perfect union.

    We have come far, yet have much farther to go. And so much of the journey was accomplished through their efforts.

  2. mtsidad,

    I like what you said---someday being able to thank them personally for their work. Amen to that!

  3. This is good informaton on types of USCT headstones. You've got me hooked on USCTs and I am learning so much.

  4. Hi

    This is a great site, and wonderful information.
    I found it by looking for a Roster for the 63rd
    Infantry. U. S. Col'd Troops, and Cato Walker. His name is posted on the monument in Washington. Don't know where he buried, but searching.
    Rose in Chicago

  5. Hello Rose, Thanks for visiting the blog.Do ou now when your ancestor died and whether he received a Civil War Pension or not? Sometimes you get burial information from a pension file. Have you had a chance to check on the pension index?

  6. Hello Rose, I have checked and it appears t hat your ancestor did file for and receive a pension. A file awaits you at the National Archives in Washington DC.