African-Americans at the Siege
Serving the Confederacy
Once the siege began in June 1864, African-Americans continued working for the Confederacy. In September 1864, General Lee asked for an additional 2,000 blacks to be added to his labor force. In March 1865, with the serious loss of white manpower in the army, the Southern army called for 40,000 slaves to become an armed force in the Confederacy. A notice in the April 1, 1865, Petersburg Daily Express, called for black recruits with the statement, "To the slaves is offered freedom and undisturbed residences at their old homes in the Confederacy after the war. Not freedom of sufferance, but honorable and selfwon by the gallantry and devotion which grateful countrymen will never cease to remember and reward." It is not known how many responded to this challenge. The war ended before any major contribution could be made.
Serving the Union: U.S. Colored Troops in the Siege
In December 1864, all the United States Colored Troops around Petersburg were incorporated into three divisions and became the XXV Corps of the Army of the James. It was the largest black force assembled during the war and varied between 9,000 to 16,000 men. Overall, in fighting associated with the Petersburg Campaign USCTs would participate in 6 major engagements and earn 15 of the 16 total Medals of Honor awarded African-American soldiers in the Civil War with 14 recipients earning their medals of honor at the Battle of New Market Heights in Richmond.
At City Point
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Did You Know?
The 4th Division of the Union 9th Corps lost 209 men killed and wounded at the Battle of the Crater. Poplar Grove National Cemetery is the resting spot for 331 United States Colored Troops. Most of these men are unidentified burials from the Crater battlefield. (Petersburg Nat'l Battlefield)