How People of Color Served in the Civil War

Left and right photographs by Paul Duran. Center photograph by Teresa Stong. Used with permission.

They were called "people of color," and a glance at their clothing would immediately identify wearers as bonded (dressed either as house servants or field hands), or free (dressed in the attire of 'free people"). Nevertheless, all "people of color" during the Civil War years had an interest in the outcome of the war.

Hundreds of thousands from both groups gave service to the Union during the four-year conflict. On Saturday, a group of African-American Civil War reenactors will appear on stage in a program under the ball tent at Olustee. They will tell about how "people of color" participated in the greatest single event in America history.

The theme of the program is How "People of Color" served in the Civil War. All in attendance at the program will see and hear facts concerning both military and non-combative service.

Well known historical personages, who will be be represented by living historians, include Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, but many others whose names are much less known will be presented. The audience will hear interesting stories about the service of slaves as spies, guides, scouts, nurses, etc. In addition, courageous feats of several characters will be presented, such as the service of Robert Small, who delivered a Confederate gunboat filled with ammunition to a Union fleet. The program includes a brief description of the Battle of Olustee and the involvement of the three black units that fought in it: the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry, the Eighth United States Colored Troops, and the Thirty-fifth United States Colored Troops.

A highlight of the program will be the closing remarks of abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass, portrayed by John H. Anderson, Jr. Listen to one of his presentations at the Filling the Gap Web site.

This program, presented annually at the Reenactment of the Olustee Battle, has been acclaimed as an entertaining and informative presentation on the service of black Americans in the Civil War.

For further details, contact Mrs. Mary Fears at

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