Before the Buffalo Soldiers

From the American Revolution to the present day, African Americans have fought for the United States. It wasn’t until 1866 that African Americans had the opportunity to enter the ranks of the Regular Army. Until that time, they were only able to fight for liberty during war.

African American men, both enslaved and free, fought in the Continental Army and state militias mostly in integrated units during the American Revolution. In the War of 1812, Black soldiers served in integrated and segregated units. Two battalions of “Free Men of Color” fought under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. During the Civil War, enslaved African Americans self-emancipated to Union lines. Approximately 200,000 African Americans, 100,000 of whom were formerly enslaved, served in the Union Army. Thirty-eight thousand made the ultimate sacrifice, dying in service to the United States.
colored drawing of African American man in Revolutionary War uniform
African Americans in the Revolution

During the American Revolution African American men, both enslaved and free fought in the Continental Army. Learn more here

Color painting of African American man in militia uniform of the War of 1812.
African Americans in the War of 1812

African Americans played an important role in the War of 1812. They participated in the Battle of Baltimore and the Battle of New Orleans.

Black and white photo of African American brothers in Union army uniforms staring at the camera
African Americans in the Civil War

By the end of the Civil War, roughly 200,000 African American men served as soldiers in the Army. Nearly 38,000 of them died in service.

Last updated: August 24, 2022

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