Fighting For Freedom: African Americans During the Civil War

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27th United States Colored Troops Camp 27th United States Colored Troops, made up of soldiers from Ohio, camped outside of Petersburg, Virginia, ca. 1863-1865 Item Link

The 27th United States Colored Infantry was Ohio's second African American regiment. The regiment was organized at Camp Delaware on January 16th, 1864. The regiment served until the end of the Civil War and was then mustered out September 21, 1865.

Not much has been recorded of the 27th USCI history, but many of the regiment's veterans wrote about their experience including Reverend James H. Payne. Payne left Kentucky for Lima, Ohio to enlist in the 27th USCI in 1864. While he was there he became a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Below Sgt. Payne recounts his experience on August 12, 1864 at the "Battle of Crater" and his frustration at the white regiments for not taking up the battle with the Colored Troops:

 ...(T)wo regiments [the 43rd USCI and 27th USCI] drove the enemy from their breastworks, and took possession of the blown up fort; but while they did, all the white soldiers lay in their pits and did nothing to support our men in the struggle; they lay as if there was nothing for them to do for one hour after the explosion took place...How easily Petersburg could have been taken on the 30th of July, had the white soldiers and their commanders done their duty! But prejudiced against colored troops prevented them...I can only conclude that our men fell unnecessarily in the battle on the 30th. In their retreat, they received the cross-fire of the enemy, and no small number were killed by our own artillery.

Such was the terrible fate of the day. Time will tell who was in the fault, and who made the great blunder in the battle of the 30th of July.

Among the captured was my brother-in-law, William Johnson of Upper Sandusky, Ohio...but, I can only give him up into the hand of God, who knows just how to deal with his case. If he is murdered by the rebels all is right, his blood will speak for the cause in which he fell...(1)

1. Redkey, Edwin S. A Grand Army of Black Men. Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 113-115

To find out more about the 27th U.S.C.I. visit