Accidental Discovery of Black Soldiers Role in the Civil War Sparks Excitement in North Carolina
Over 150 years later, a lost piece of American Civil War history has been found that challenges the accuracy of historians and highlights the existence of a forgotten U.S. Colored Troop based in North Carolina—the 135th U.S. Colored Troop (USCT).
Amy and Jay Bauer, historical preservationists in Goldsboro, North Carolina, attended a history talk at the Wayne County Public Library in 2014. There, they learned of a rumor that Goldsboro was home to a union troop at the tail end of the Civil War called the 135th USCT. Simple curiosity compelled them to research the topic, but soon after discovering the 135th written in pension records at the National Archives, the Bauers realized they uncovered lost history.
“After three years of research, we’ve visited many of the gravesites, traveled to the Library of Congress in D.C. six times, and tracked down several living descendants of these brave and honorable men,” Amy said. She went on to say it was difficult to receive callbacks from historians. “Even when finally getting them on the phone, it wasn’t easy to convince them we proved the existence of a USCT that history completely left out.”
Hari Jones, professional Civil War historian and author, explains why this discovery has not been easy to accept for many experts. “This story means that the narrative promoted by scholars who have claimed there were no African American officers, no African American field grade officers, no African Americans in regiments other than USCT regiments, no USCT regiments marched in the Grand Review, and at least a dozen other false statements must be jettisoned for a new narrative inclusive of the many facts discovered by lay historians and genealogists.”
To build interest in North Carolina about the true role of black soldiers who fought in the Civil War, a research commission was organized in Goldsboro, NC by Amy and Jay Bauer. Its members include many of the living descendants of the 135th troops, along with prominent Civil War historians, such as Earl Ijames from the North Carolina Museum of History, UNC’s Dr. Reginald Hildebrand, Dr. Ben Speller from NCCU, and Dr. Malcom Beech from Washington D.C. The commission has gained strong support from the local and state community and has plans for a Civil War living history weekend on April 6-8, 2018 in Goldsboro, NC.
General William T. Sherman’s March-to-the-Sea, along with his March through the Carolinas, required the manpower to move more than 60,000 troops, consisting of ten miles of supply wagon’s, artillery, and ambulances. To accomplish this amazing logistical feat, General Sherman employed liberated slaves, and in March 1865, the 135th USCT was formed The 135th USCT consisted of 220 North Carolinians from Wayne, Lenoir, Johnson, Duplin, and Green Counties
“They had this opportunity, and they decided to be a part of the success of people coming out of slavery,” said Deborah Jones, and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. and descendant of a 135th USCT soldier.