The Fall of Fort Fisher and the United States Colored Troops

 

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina’s black history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit from our state’s African American’s past. From January 15 to February 22, 1865, Union army and naval forces engaged in the successful effort to capture Fort Fisher and take Wilmington, the South’s last significant blockade running port. Several regiments of United States Colored Troops (USCT) took part, and fought with conspicuous gallantry. Former slaves and free blacks from across the nation served under white officers. One of the black units—the 37th colored regiment—came from coastal North Carolina and included men from Bladen, Brunswick and New Hanover Counties. Though casualty figures for the colored units engaged in the taking of Fort Fisher were very low since most were only involved in the campaign’s final stages, they faced a determined enemy and potential execution if they were captured. Several captured Confederate officers were asked whether they killed black prisoners, and the officers replied that if the blacks were free men they would be allowed to live, but if they were former slaves and could be identified as such they were treated as criminals and killed. Graves of members of the United States Colored Troops can still be seen today at the Wilmington National Cemetery near downtown.

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