Encyclopedia Of Detroit

First Michigan Colored Regiment

Called the Corps d’Afrique by the Detroit Free Press at the time, the First Michigan Colored Infantry Regiment was formed during the Civil War in February 1863, and later became the 102nd United States Colored Infantry. The regiment was made entirely of volunteers from Canada and Detroit that were formed through the efforts of Detroit’s Black leaders. In all, about 1,400 Black soldiers enlisted and of these, 1,000 had been born in slave states. Raised at Camp Ward, the troops were commanded by White officers, paid no bounty, and allotted ten dollars per month with one ration per day, while three dollars of their monthly pay was deducted for clothing. In 1864, the regiment became the 102nd United States Colored Infantry for the Union Army and saw service in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida during several engagements in the Civil War.

The regiment fought Confederate forces throughout November 1864, engaging at Honey Hill, Tillifany and Deveaux Neck. Their bravery was shown on multiple occasions, such as Gorhamsville, when they repulsed an enemy charge and countercharged, for which they received official commendations from their officers. These officers said that “The artillery from the expedition suffered severely from the enemy’s fire, so many horses being killed that two guns had to be abandoned, but the men of the First hauled them off by hand and they were saved.” Later on, the regiment served in South Carolina. There, in February 1865, they were reunited at Pocatalligo, and launched several expeditions into Confederate territory, destroying railroads and breastworks. Afterwards, the regiment built defenses in Charleston, and was sent to Savannah, Georgia. From there, the regiment divided into two wings, made several raids, and defeated the Confederate forces in every skirmish. It was serving in this capacity that they received the news that Generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston had surrendered.

The regiment was mustered out in Charleston on September 30, 1865 and the troops returned to Detroit. They arrived on October 17 and received pay before the regiment was disbanded.



Photo of the historic marker for the First Michigan Colored Regiment, 1968

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