United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Release

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

News Release


IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 694-00
November 14, 2000

18,000 AFRICAN AMERICAN CIVIL WAR SAILORS IDENTIFIED

Approximately 18,000 African American sailors who served in the Civil War have been identified and will be commemorated in a ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., at 10 a.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 17, 2000.

Vice Adm. Edward Moore Jr., the Navy's senior African American flag officer, currently serving as commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific, and National Park Service (NPS) Director Robert Stanton, will join Dr. William Dudley, director of the Naval Historical Center, to mark the formal announcement Friday.

This is nearly twice the number of African American sailors researchers expected to find when their search began. Authorities originally assumed that about 10,000 had participated in the Civil War, but the Naval Historical Center, in conjunction with a Howard University study and the National Park Service, documented an additional 8,000 African American participants.

Over the course of the Civil War, 18,000 African American men, and more than a dozen African American women, served in the U.S. Navy, about 15 percent of the total enlisted force. These sailors served on almost every one of the nearly 700 Navy vessels. Eight African American sailors earned the Medal of Honor for their heroism in battle.

A team of researchers from Howard University's Department of History, headed by Joseph P. Reidy, professor of history and associate dean of the Graduate School, examined hundreds of thousands of pages of naval records housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., for evidence about African American sailors. Advised by a committee of experts in Civil War naval history from the Naval Historical Center, the NPS, the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institution, the researchers systematically pieced together the history of the African American sailors in the Civil War Navy.

The database was compiled from surviving personnel records, rendezvous reports and ship's muster rolls, and then compared with the Navy's Index to Service Histories prepared by the Navy Department during the World War II era. The research continues today as the partners examine pension files in order to supplement this list of names with a more complete record of information about the experience of the naval enlistees and their families throughout the Civil War era.

The sailors' names and military history will be incorporated into the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System Database (CWSS). Personal information, naval service and muster records included in the database are accessible through the Internet at http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/. CWSS is the product of a partnership formed among the Navy, the NPS, and Howard University in 1993.

The CWSS is a cooperative effort by the NPS and several other public and private partners, to computerize information about the Civil War into a database containing basic facts about servicemen who served on both sides during the Civil War. The goal of the CWSS is to increase the American people's understanding of this decisive era in American history by making this information widely accessible. The CWSS will enable the public to make a personal link between themselves and history.

For more information contact Navy Lt. Steven T. Gibson, public affairs officer, Naval Historical Center at (202) 433-0412. For more information on CWSS, visit http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/ . For more information on Naval History, visit http://www.history.navy.mil .