Black Union Soldiers from Sandy Spring

During the Civil War, black residents of the Sandy Spring area, both enslaved and free, enlisted in the Union Army and Navy. At first, they were prohibited from joining. However, fifteen months into the conflict, when it became apparent the war would be long and horrendously lethal, Congress declared America’s black population an “indispensable military necessity” to help save the Union and recruitment began.

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In September 1862 the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) was formed, separate, and exclusively black. Black residents of Sandy Spring joined any number of USCT regiments of Maryland, becoming corporals and sergeants; some became “landsmen” in the U.S Navy.

By 1865 over ten percent of the total U.S troops were black – and twenty-five percent of the U.S. Navy. They were over-represented, placed in the front lines in the Virginia campaigns, perishing in the Siege of Petersburg. USCT men carted the dead from the battlefield – and played a decisive role in the fight against slavery.

Many of the black residents of the Sandy Spring area enlisted in 1863-1864 after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued and the War Department publicly authorized the recruiting of African Americans. By the war’s end Lincoln declared, “without the military help of the black freedmen, the war against the South could not have been won.”

Compiled from the records of the Maryland State Archives.

About the map:

Montgomery County was an important Northern stronghold during the Civil War, being the gateway to the Union capital. Thousands of U.S. troops occupied the county from the war’s outset giving rise to the need for accurate maps to guide their movements. This early “Map of Montgomery County, Maryland” was compiled in September 1862 by the U.S. Bureau of Topographical Engineers, based on the “latest authorities,” including Union Army reconnaissance missions undertaken in 1861 and 1862.

Historically Black Communities of Sandy Spring has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

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