From May 22 to 31, the digital collection of the USCT Service Records will be free on

On May 22, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders 143, establishing a Bureau of Colored Troops in the Adjutant General’s Office to recruit and organize African American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. With this order, all African American regiments were designated as United States Colored Troops (USCT).

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the USCT, and the National Archives is pleased to announce the completion of the USCT Service Records Digitization Project. In partnership with Fold3, the project provides online access to all service records—more than 3.8 million images—of Union volunteers in USCT units.

Remember: All National Archives collections on can always be viewed for free at a computer at any National Archives facility nationwide.

The photo and paperwork above come from the compiled military service records of former slave Edmund Delaney. Read his story on the Prologue blog.