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35th USCT: Enslavement to Soldiering and Citizenship

This exhibit looks at the men of the First North Carolina Volunteers, who would later be known as the 35th United States Colored Troops. With the focus on these men and their particular journey through the Civil War period, the goal of this exhibit is to show how, through their flight from slavery to freedom and their subsequent enlistment and service in the Union army, these formerly enslaved men gained personal autonomy and hope, while also contributing to their future argument for citizenship. This exhibit also looks at the negative aspects of their service, which became evident during the Battle of Olustee where racial atrocities, as violence against wounded African American soldiers and their white commanders, took place on the battlefield. Through this lens, this exhibit argues that the events at the Battle of Olustee were a reminder to the men of the 35th USCT that the discrimination they faced prior to service in the army still existed in the minds of many white Southerners and it foreshadowed the struggle they would face during and beyond Reconstruction. This exhibit utilizes both secondary and primary sources to arrive at these conclusions. Secondary sources come from historians in this field of history such as Ira Berlin, Judkin Browning, Joseph Glatthaar, among many others. Primary sources are used in every part of the argument and draw on both African American and white sources. The autobiography of William Henry Singleton, in particular, is an important African American source, though letters and service records of other African Americans are also used. Letter and reports from white commanders such as General Burnside along with newspaper and magazine articles from the time also assist in the argument. Many of the primary sources also come from The Freedman’s Project which is a collection of sources relating to African American soldiers.


Danielle Brinton