The 102nd United States Colored Troops (102nd U.S.C.T.) first got its start as the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry.  The Governor of Michigan, Austin Blair, received an order from the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, to raise a colored regiment on July 24, 1863.  Part of the order went like this, "You are hereby instructed to raise one Regiment of colored Infantry in the State of Michigan. To these troops no bounty will be paid. They will receive ten dollars per month, with one ration per day, three dollars of which monthly pay will be deducted for clothing, these troops will be commanded by white officers"1

The regiment officially mustered into federal service in Michigan on February 17, 1864 after being organized in Detroit from August 1863 to February 1864.  The regiment left Michigan on March 28, 1864 under the command of Colonel Bennett and headed to Annapolis, Maryland where they joined up with the 9th Army Corp.  They remained in Annapolis until April 15th when they were detached from the 9th Army Corp. and headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  On May 23, 1864, the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry officially changed its designation to the 102nd United States Colored Troops.  After arriving in Hilton Head, the regiment was divided and assigned to picket duty on St. Helena, Jenkins and Hilton Head Islands.  Picket duty lasted for about a month before they were assigned to occupy Fort Royal and construct fortifications there.  They were stationed at the fort until June 15th, when they were transferred to Beaufort on Port Royal Island where they were employed as camp guard and provost duty.

The regiment saw its first fight against the Confederates after they left Port Royal Island in August.  After leaving the island they were sent to Jacksonville, Florida and then Baldwin, Florida, which is where a Confederate cavalry force attacked them on August 11th.  They easily fought off the attackers and thus convinced their officers that they were a worthy fighting regiment.  After being attacked, the 102nd continued marching through Florida to Magnolia, FL where they built more fortifications.  The regiment was eventually transferred back to Beaufort, South Carolina on August 31, 1864 and remained there until January 1865 doing outpost and picket duty on Port Royal, Lady and Coosa Islands.

While stationed at Beaufort, various detachments left and saw some action.  In November 1864, a detachment of 300 men joined a Union action to destroy the Charleston and Savannah Railroad around Pocataligo, South Carolina.  On November 30th a detachment joined General Foster’s column at Boyd’s Landing and engaged with the Confederates at Honey Hill, South Carolina and then again at Tillifinny on December 7th and Devaux Neck on December 9th.

In late January, the entire 102nd U.S.C.T. left Beaufort and headed to Pocataligo, South Carolina where they stayed until the beginning of February.  While there, the regiment often separated into detachments, and as the Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War states, they "made several expeditions in the enemy's country, driving off his cavalry and destroying railroads and building breastworks."  Throughout the month of February, the regiment continually advanced on Charleston, S.C.  The only resistance they met was at Cuckwold’s Creek where they encountered Confederate skirmishers. 

The regiment once again split into two detachments in April after having arrived in Charleston, S.C at the beginning of the month.  One detachment was commanded by Colonel Henry L. Chipman and the other by Major Newman Clark.  Chipman’s detachment marched from Charleston to Nelson’s Ferry.  Along the way they encountered and successfully drove off Confederate cavalry.  Clark’s detachment joined the 54th Massachusetts and with them fought in several skirmishes.

The last and largest battle that the 102nd took part in was at Boykin’s, South Carolina where a force of 200 Confederates attacked the reunited 102nd regiment.  The 102nd inflicted heavy casualties on the Confederates and did not encounter any more Confederates until Confederates approached them under a flag of truce announcing the surrender of Generals Lee and Johnston.  The regiment spent the next five months in Charleston on occupation duty until they were mustered out on September 30, 1865.  They then traveled to Detroit to be paid and disbanded.

Between 1864 and 1865, the 102nd U.S.C.T. saw a total enrollment of 1,446 men.  The 102nd lost 140 men to the war – six were killed in action, five died of wounds and 129 died of disease.  The total casualty rate for the regiment was 9.6%.  Not much is known about the men in the regiment other than that they were from Michigan and were African American, but there are a couple of photographs of soldiers that have survived.

During the war, the 102nd U.S.C.T. were fortunate enough to not become engaged in too many battles.  Even though they didn’t see much fighting doesn’t mean they were not actively involved in the war.  They were very successful in building fortifications and providing guard duty at many locations.  They also often helped destroy supply lines and railroads that were used by the Confederates.  The building and destroying that the 102nd accomplished may not sound like much, but without it the Union would not have been as successful as it was in destroying the Confederates. 

1“African Americans – Buffalo Soldiers – 1st Regiment Michigan Infantry – Colored Troops”.

Archives of Michigan.  “MHAL – Samuel Lett”.  Michigan Historical Center, Department of History, Arts and Libraries.,1607,7-160-15481_19271_19357-161086--,00.html.

The Civil War Archive.  “Union – U.S. Colored Troops Infantry (Part 3)”.

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