The ACWM Presents the Pop-Up Exhibition
On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln’s Final Emancipation Proclamation authorized “persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States.” As a result, the regiments of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) were formed, and the fight to save the Union also became their fight for citizenship. During the last two years of the war, these regiments led by white officers, fought in numerous actions, and major battles. More than 185,000 men served in the USCT by the war’s end, making up about 10% of the Union Army.
The artifacts featured in Beyond Valor have never been on display, and are either directly connected to the regiments involved in the Battle of Forks Road or are items that were typically used by USCT soldiers. Objects directly associated with USCT soldiers are exceedingly rare.
Beyond Valor is a result of a collaboration with the Cameron Art Museum (CAM) Boundless art installation and the call for descendants of the 1st, 5th, 10th, 27th, and 37th USCT who fought in the Battle of Forks Road in February of 1865, where the CAM stands today. At this intersection of art and history, the Museum highlights the stories that embody the bravery and agency of the United States Colored Troops.
United States Colored Troops Digital Series
To further illustrate the intersection between art and history, the ACWM will be producing a digital series about the United States Colored Troops to continue the conversation about their contributions during the Civil War and to American history.
Our first installment of the digital series will focus on the “Boundless” sculpture at Cameron Art Museum. This documentary will (1) demonstrate the historical connection between our institutions, (2) emphasize the significance of USCT descendant stories, and (3) educate viewers about the courage and determination of the United States Colored Troops during a tumultuous period in American history. Stay tuned to our YouTube Channel for updates!
A special thank you to Cameron Art Museum for inspiring our pop-up exhibition Beyond Valor and for collaborating with us to share these important stories. Be sure to visit ACWM-Tredegar and Cameron Art Museum this summer and prepare to be inspired by the stories and motivations of the USCT who fought for their freedom–Beyond Valor.
Boundless x Cameron Art Museum
Behind the Scenes | Beyond Valor
Interview with Open Source RVA
“On this jazzy, star-spangled edition of Open Source RVA, Dina Weinstein talks about the new exhibit and documentary, “Beyond Valor,” with filmmakers and staff from the American Civil War Museum, Aliyah Harrison, Oliver Mendoza and John Dixon. “Beyond Valor” explores the history of the U.S. Colored Troops. Listen to Open Source RVA every Friday at noon on WRIR 97.3 FM and wrir.org.”
Shop “Beyond Valor”
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Unveiling the Untold: USCT & Their Legacies
More About our Partnership with
Cameron Art Museum’s mission for their Boundless art installation is to invite descendants of the 1st, 5th, 10th, 27th, and 37th USCT who fought in the Battle of Forks Road in February of 1865, where the Cameron Art Museum stands today, to learn more about their connections to these individuals and their contributions to our country’s history. In support, the ACWM will be hosting a “Call for Descendants” page with the list of soldiers, and feature artifacts from these regiments at our Tredegar site designed to honor USCT soldiers and their descendants. At this intersection of art and history, our museums aim to highlight the stories that embody the bravery and agency of the United States Colored Troops.
Learn More About USCT
Who were the United States Colored Troops?
The United States Colored Troops (USCT) were a collection of racially segregated US Army military units that served during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
When the American Civil War began, some African-American men wanted to join the fight; however, neither the United States nor the Confederate States would accept them as soldiers. Although African-American men were not allowed in the military, they were a critical workforce behind-the-scenes. In the South, enslaved people were forced to dig trenches, build fortifications, work in hospitals and factories, and serve as teamsters (wagon drivers). As the United States Army occupied areas of the South, they began to employ the formerly enslaved to do similar types of work.
Who served in the United States Colored Troops?
In July of 1862, Congress granted the first official authorization of African-Americans in the military. Five Regiments were formed. One of these was the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. After the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, the United States Colored Troops (USCTs) were formed, and the 1st South Carolina Volunteers became the 33rd USCTs.
Black men, from a wide range of backgrounds and ages, comprised the more than 185,000 individuals that served in USCT regiments. For instance, some soldiers were formerly bondsmen from Confederate states, while others (who were freeborn) came from free states and even internationally (including Canada).
In all, the United States Colored Troops fought in 39 major engagements and 410 lesser actions. Sixteen men who served in the USCTs received the Medal of Honor for courage and bravery under fire.
What was the reality of service like for the United States Colored Troops?
Acceptance did not come easily for African-American soldiers. Subject to constant discrimination, they were segregated from White soldiers, paid less, and were given the most menial and laborious tasks such as constructing fortifications, building roads, and collecting firewood.
Commanded by White officers, these soldiers were treated like laborers and suffered the prejudice of Northern White soldiers. Blamed by some soldiers as being the cause of the war, African-American troops weathered dangers from both friend and foe. As the USCTs were given the chance to fight and gained more combat experience, White troops began to respect their bravery and valor.