Most of the men of the 35th USCT came from unimaginably bleak and degrading beginnings as they were born into slavery and treated not as human beings, but as property. The polarization between the North and South stretched the United States until it finally broke into the Civil War. In 1862, General Burnside and the Union Army invaded the North Carolina coast and began occupation of the eastern part of the state. The flight to freedom became increasingly attainable to many North Carolina slaves. Even before the official Emancipation Proclamation, many slaves broke the chains of slavery and fled to Union lines into freedom and protection by the Union army. Once there, many of the former slaves began exploring the possibility of aiding the Union cause by fighting with the army. Soon, the 1st North Carolina Colored Volunteers, what would later become the 35th USCT, was officially instated ensuring that the enlistment and training of former slaves to be soldiers in the Union army was well under way. This initial participation in the Union army proved to be exciting, hopeful, and uplifting to a previously oppressed group of men. As their military journey began, these men found themselves in the state of Florida and fighting in the Battle of Olustee and by a majority of accounts, though they lost, they fought bravely and skillfully. Their performance at this battle helped prove their worthiness as Union soldiers and fueled the debate over whether or not they deserved citizenship. This glory for the men in the face of defeat was soon cut short as the rooted discrimination and hostility toward African Americans that were embedded in many of the Confederate soldiers turned into racial atrocities as many wounded African American soldiers were shot on the spot rather than taken prisoners of war. These actions on the part of the Confederate soldiers also reflected the opposition that African Americans would face at the hands of former Confederates through Reconstruction. The men of the 35th USCT went through a remarkable transformation in a short period of time as they left their life in slavery and began a life as Union soldiers putting on a uniform, making money, being opened to new possibilities for social and educational advancements, and fighting for a cause that undermined the institution that previously oppressed them. This journey from slave to soldier and from soldier to possible citizen highlighted the hope of freedom that many of these former slaves felt as the Civil War ended, but the actions against the African American troops on the battlefield at Olustee were an unfortunate reminder to the African Americans that their freedom was not recognized by the white Southerners and this resistance to the freedom of African Americans would continue in the future. Despite the hardships that these men faced during their life – most of them being born into slavery, finding resistance from Northern whites to allowing them to enlist, facing prejudices while in service, and enduring atrocities on the battlefield – the gains that they would be able to make through their journey from slave to soldier would empower them and their race on their journey to citizenship and ultimate equality which would ultimately be a tremendous victory for the brave men of the 35th United States Colored Troops from North Carolina.