USCT PENSION FILESHonoring those who served
The United States Colored Troops
As Bernice Bennett notes in her article USCT Pension Files: A Rich Resource for African American Genealogy, pension files can reveal many biographical details about ancestors who served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Because events in USCT veterans’ lives before the Civil War were seldom recorded in the documentary record, veterans had to go to great lengths to prove their identity, their service in the Civil War, their dates of marriage, names and ages of children, and other biographical details that had to be documented in order for them to draw a military pension.
This frequently meant gathering the testimony of others who witnessed their marriage, the death of a spouse, the births of their children or other life events. Veterans often relied upon the testimony of others who served in the same regiment and company to help them prove their identity and service.
The testimony of supporting witnesses revealed much about the military veteran applying for a pension. Along the way, witnesses also revealed a lot about their own lives and families.
Here, we gather the pension files that tell the stories of those who served in the United States Colored Troops.
We are profoundly grateful to our advisory board members Bernice Bennett and Angela Y. Walton Raji for their guidance at every phase of this project. No words are sufficient to thank our incredible volunteer Alana Thevenet, who has carefully abstracted all of the pension files in this collection.
Documenting Ancestors Who Served
in the United States Colored Troops (USCT)
Featured Pension File: USCT Pension File of Caesar Cohen, Great Great Grandfather of Michelle Robinson Obama, Georgetown SC
Company A, 128th United States Colored Troops
Featured Pension File: Bram Strobard, Beaufort, SC
Company C, 33rd USCT
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Biographical Summary Adam Fields was born enslaved about 1 January or March 1842 at Ladies Island, Beaufort County, SC. His father was Tony Fields and his mother was Charlotte Fields. He was enslaved by John Reynolds, as were his parents. [Another records shows his...read more
I put my age at 58 but I do not know the year of my birth, though I have always been told I was born on the 2nd day of March. I was born on Binden plantation, ½ miles from Pocotaligo, S.C. I was born the slave of Ben Martin and I never belonged to any other person. He lived on Binden plantation.read more
Corbner Blake (aka Cubner Francis) was born about 1823 on the Combahee, Beaufort County, SC His father’s name was Hector Blake and his mother was Peggie. Both of his parents were enslaved by Walter Blake. He worked as a bricklayer and plasterer before the war. After the war, he also farmed. He had three children before the war. While on duty in Florida on or about the winter of 1862-1863, was disabled by rheumatism. He lived with his wife, Julia, and they were both enslaved by Walter Blake on the Combahee River in Colleton County, South Carolina. They were married about 1866 (another account states about 1855) by Daniel Blake in Beaufort, SC. They had four children and three had died by the time of his deposition on 26 June 1902. One daughter, Phillis, married William Gillison. Julia died in October of 1907. On 24 April, 1908, Corbner married Hannah Frances. Blake died on 24 August 1908. After his death, Hannah filed for a widow’s pension.read more
Chisolm, March. USCT Pension File Abstract, G 34th USCT, Born on Cypress Plantation of William C. Heyward, Combahee River, Colleton, SC
March Chisolm was born at Cypress Plantation on the Combahee River in Colleton County, SC. He was enslaved by William C. Heyward of Cypress Plantation. He married Clarander Osburne on or about 17 September 1856. The Reverend Peter White officiated at the wedding. Molcey Chisolm, daughter of March and Clarander Chisolm, was born about 1860. Dianna Simmons was the midwife at her birth. March Chisolm died at Cypress Plantation 15 September 1869 or 10 October 1868. Molcey was about 8 years old when her father died.read more
Jack Akins (aka Aiken, Akin) was born about 1848 at Combahee, Colleton County, SC. He resided at Clay Hall Plantation in Beaufort County, SC. He was a farmer. His first marriage was to Jennie Green (aka Jeanie, Janny) who died shortly after the war at the White Oak place in Beaufort County, SC about 24 January 1881. They had a child named Osbery Aiken who was born about July 1871.read more
USCT Pension File of Caesar Cohen, Great Great Grandfather of Michelle Robinson Obama, Georgetown SC
Biographical Summary Caesar Cohen, the paternal great great grandfather of Michelle Robinson Obama, married Tira Devoe at the Weymouth Plantation of Ralph Stead Izard in Georgetown, South Carolina in 1858. Tony Izard officiated the wedding ceremony. Together, Caesar...read more
Your USCT Veteran Ancestor:
Share Their Story Here
Do you have an ancestor who served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT)? Would you like to share their story in our archive? You can choose to archive your story on this website, only in the onsite Center for Family History collection, or both.
Please use the form below to share your ancestor’s story. You may type their story into the text box provided, or upload a story you have already written by selecting the file you wish to upload. Thank you for sharing the story of your USCT veteran ancestor!
We’re Gathering Digital USCT Pension Files
Have your ordered digital copies of USCT pension files for your ancestors? Would you like to contribute them to this growing digital archive? Please use the form below to contribute your file. We will cherish and gratefully acknowledge your contribution.