The primary mission of this project is to provide edited transcripts of pension documents related to the United States Colored Troops at no cost to the general public.
The documents will be presented here in their original form, word for word, with as little editorial intervention as possible. It is my hope that this will allow the soldiers and their dependents to speak to their own experiences completely absent the imposition of any unintentional bias.
Who is behind this work?
As of 2021, this project is not led by any academic, non-profit, or governmental authority; it is strictly a personal project conducted by someone who chooses to remain anonymous for the time being. What I will tell you is this: I am a professional historian, employed by a state government and charged with the preparation and digital publication of a long-standing editorial project. I have a master’s degree in history from a state university with the specialization of interpreting the Civil War for a modern, public audience.
In the course of my graduate work, during the Civil War sesquicentennial particularly, I was alarmed by the underrepresentation of black voices and experiences in Civil War commemoration. Out of this experience came my interest in launching a project focused solely on bringing to the public what is perhaps the most valuable collection of first-hand sources relating to the service of Black Americans during the Civil War: the pension files of the United States Colored Troops. And so I created this project.
Beyond this, I do not wish to identify myself further. I have no interest in using this project as some kind of attempt to make a name for myself within my professional field, and so my name is withheld. I have chosen to pursue this work simply and literally because I saw that it needed to be done, and that my privilege as a white person has allowed me the opportunity to attain the skill sets and training necessary to launch this project. I personally fund the server needs, the theming needs, and the domain registration required by this project; I believe in the usefulness and timeliness, the value of this work that much.
The transcriptions provided here are of original pension file documents available on Fold3.com, a pay-for-access research resource that specializes in providing digital access to military records. Users of this site, usctpensions.com, will not find digital images of the original files here. If you would like to access the originals, you have two options: 1) subscribe to Fold3 to view them digitally, or 2) order a copy of the original file from the National Archives and Records Administration.
Currently, as of November 2020, the pension files available on Fold3.com consist primarily of those filed by widows (both Black and White) who lost their husbands during the war. They have digitized more than 2.1 million records from this collection to date. If you'd like to learn more about their work as it pertains to pension files, please visit their project page.Another source of digitized files this project will pull from is the National Archives and Records Administration. I haven't yet found a clear, intuitive way to navigate through the archives to the pension file collections other than to search for the record group to see what's been digitized. For every transcribed document that references the National Archives digital collection, I will provide a link straight to the source so you can see the originals.
Citing this Project
I absolutely encourage scholars, genealogists, and researchers to take the information provided here and use it as you see fit. All I ask in return is that you reference this project so that others can find it also. That’s it.