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Free Military School for Applicants for Commands of Colored Troops

Identifier: MSS-4287

Scope and Contents

This collection contains one twelve-page pamphlet titled Free Military School for Applicants for Commands of Colored Troops, No. 1210 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. Established by Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments. John H. Taggart, Late Colonel 12th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserves, Preceptor., published in Philadelphia by King and Baird, Printers, 1863. The pamphlet explains the qualifications—such as physical fitness, education, and knowledge of military principles—that men should have in order to be accepted as commanding officers in the United States Colored Troops. The pamphlet explains that the Free Military School will train applicants in these qualifications, indicating that students may gain practical experience at nearby Camp William Penn, “the largest camp existing for the organization and disciplining of Colored Troops” (p. 7). The back of the pamphlet lists seventy-one members of the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments, including Thomas Webster, chairman, and Caldwalader Biddle, secretary, whose bylines appear on p. 8 of the pamphlet following a section on “the urgent need of officers.”


  • 1863

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections. For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

After President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation took effect in January 1863, the United States government began an official policy of recruiting African Americans to fight as Union soldiers during the ongoing Civil War. These units became known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT). The USCT soldiers had white commanding officers.

In June 1863, a number of Philadelphia citizens asked US Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to authorize the creation of several Black regiments in the state of Pennsylvania. Upon his approval, a committee formed to oversee the recruitment of African American troops, with area businessman Thomas Webster as its chairman. This Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments established a free school in military tactics at its headquarters, No. 1210 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, with the aim of preparing officer candidates for acceptance by the Board for the Examination of Officers of Colored Troops in Washington, DC. The Free Military School opened on December 26, 1863, with two students and one teacher, school preceptor John H. Taggart, who had previously commanded the Twelfth Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserve Division. It operated until September 1864. While it was open, the school helped to raise eleven African American regiments.


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Language of Materials



This collection contains a twelve-page pamphlet from the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments, in Philadelphia, describing the qualifications required of men applying to be officers of African American Union troops during the US Civil War.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The University of Alabama Libraries acquired Free Military School for Applicants for Commands of Colored Troops in 2018.

Related Materials

See: Abraham Barker collection on the Free Military School for the Command of Colored Regiments (Collection 1968), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Processing Information

Processed by Erin Ryan, January 2021.
Guide to the Free Military School for Applicants for Commands of Colored Troops
Erin Ryan
March 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266