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Over 20,000 USCT soldiers particpated at Petersburg, VA

U. S. Colored Troop reenactor
Bob O'Connor

Most Civil War buffs know of the involvement of the U. S. Colored Troops at The Crater at Petersburg, VA on July 30, 1864. Historians have documented the fact that U.S.C.T. troops were trained to go into the tunnel the Union dug under the lines and were supposed to lead the assault when the explosion went off, surprising the Confederate troops.

At the last minute, Union officers flinched, pulling the U.S.C.T. men and replacing them with white soldiers who had no idea what to do in the situation. The change in plans resulted in a disaster for the Union, with almost 4,000 casualties as a result on that one day.

What you may not know is the involvement of the black soldiers in the assault on Petersburg, lasting from June 9, 1864 until March 25, 1865. During that time the following U.S.C.T. regiments participated for the Union: 1st U.S.C.T., 4th U.S.C.T., 5th U.S.C.T., 6th U.S.C.T., 7th U.S.C.T., 10th U.S.C.T., 19th U.S.C.T., 22nd U.S.C.T., 23rd U.S.C.T., 27th U.S.C.T., 28th U.S.C.T., 29th U.S.C.T., 30th U.S.C.T., 31st U.S.C.T., 36th U.S.C.T., 39th U.S.C.T., 41st U.S.C.T., 43rd U.S.C.T., 45th U.S.C.T., 116th U.S.C.T. and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry. All told about 21,000 black Union soldiers participated.

Researchers are still compiling casualty figures for the U.S.C.T. at Petersburg, with unsubstantiated estimates of about 3,500 of the 42,000 casualties sustained by the Union army. Casualties mean killed, wounded, missing in action and captured. The Confederates had about 28,000 casualties during the siege.

The siege battles at Petersburg was trench warfare, where the Union attacked a line of Confederate fortifications extending almost 30 miles from Richmond to Petersburg. The war ended shortly after Confederate General Robert E. Lee abandoned his trenches at Petersburg and surrendered soon after due to the loss of almost half his army at Petersburg.

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