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Quick Facts

African Americans in the Armed Forces Timeline

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1775-1781; 1812-1814

African American soldiers serve in the United States Armed Forces against Great Britain.

1861

April - The Civil War begins; free African Americans in the North trying to enlist in the Union Army are turned away.

1862

April 16 - Congress abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia.

September 22 - Abraham Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the territory then in active rebellion against the government.

October 29 - African American soldiers skirmish with Confederates at Island Mound, Missouri.

1863

January 1 - Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect.

May 21 - July 9 - Eight African American regiments take part in the Battle of Port Hudson.

May 22 - War Department General Order 143 establishes the United States Colored Troops.

July 1 - First Kansas Colored Volunteers fight in the Battle of Cabin Creek.

July 18 - 54th Massachusetts assaults Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina; Sgt. William Carney becomes the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor.

December - Robert Smalls, a former slave from Charleston, becomes the first and only African American to be commissioned captain in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.

1864

April 12 - Fort Pillow massacre in western Tennessee.

June 15 - Congress passes a bill authorizing equal pay, equipment, arms and healthcare for African American troops.

September 29 - Battle of Chaffin's Farm, Virginia. Fourteen U.S.C.T. earn the Medal of Honor.

1865

February 1 - Abraham Lincoln signs the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the United States.

June 19 - Enslaved African Americans in Texas are the last to learn of their emancipation. The day is celebrated thereafter as 'Juneteenth.'