University of Tennessee Students Creating Digital Archive of Records of Black Civil War Troops

For the past four years, students at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have been transcribing more than 2,100 pages of handwritten documents from the Civil War era. The goal is to create a digital archive of the history of the 1st U.S. Colored Troops (Heavy Artillery) that was formed in Knoxville in 1864 after Union troops secured the area.

More than 180,000 Black troops served in the Union Army during the Civil War and 1,100 of them were in the Knoxville regiment. More than three fourths of the Black troops were former slaves.

All of the records of the regiments are contained in six leather-bound volumes in the National Archives. The records contain the soldier’s names, home towns, ages, professions, and other data. The pages were photographed by the East Tennessee Civil War Alliance and students are transcribing them into digital format at the university library.

When the transcribing is completed later this year, a searchable digital archive will be created.

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