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Honoring 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: James Walker aka James Mikell, Edisto Island, SC

Company K, 135th 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


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Washington, Simon. USCT Pension File Abstract, Company G 34th USCT, Combahee, Colleton, SC

Simon Washington was born about 1845 on Newport Plantation on the Combahee River in Beaufort County, SC. His parents were Thomas Washington and Daphne. His brother Uriah Washington was raised on the same plantation. Simon was enslaved by William Middleton. He was married to Rachael/Rachel Grant at Combahee, Beaufort County, SC in March 1873. Rachel was also enslaved by William Middleton and was raised at Newport Plantation. Her parents were John Grant and Mollie. Together, Simon and Rachel had 11 children.

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Middleton, Adam. USCT Pension File Abstract, Company G, 34th USCT, Colleton, South Carolina

Adam Middleton was born about 1845 in Charleston, SC. He married Rose [or Rosa] Harrison on the Watson plantation about 4 December 1867. Neither had been married before. Reverend Anthony Allston performed the marriage ceremony. Adam and Rose had the following children: Isaac, born 17 September 1873; Daniel, born 14 March 1875; Mathew Tolbert, born 8 February 1877; Doctor William, born 5 November 1878; George Oliver, born 7 December 1880.

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Perkins, James. USCT Pension File Abstract, K 35th USCT, Round O and Jacksonboro, SC

James Perkins was born about 12 June 1840 at or near Pactolus, NC. His mother was Glora Perkins. James married Betsey Singleton about 1 March 1868. He died 20 May 1925 at Round, SC.

We previously wrote about James Perkins on the Lowcountry Africana website when we discovered a handwritten letter by him in Freedmen’s Bureau records. Please see the post “Letter Wriiten by Freedman James Perkins, Jacksonboro, SC, 1870.”

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Blake, Corbner. Pension File Abstract, Company F, 34th USCT, Seabrook, Beaufort, SC

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. 

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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.

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Aiken, Jack. USCT Pension File Abstract, Company G, 34th USCT, Green Pond, Colleton County, SC

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.

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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! 

Share Your USCT Veteran Ancestor Story

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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.

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