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United States Colored Troops Ensemble


The United States Colored Troops Ensemble, founded in 2017, is an a cappella vocal ensemble performing songs and stories from the Civil War era, in authentic period uniforms. It is a cooperative musical organization designed to research, preserve, perform, and educate the public about the lives and songs of the United States Colored Troops. It is also part of the performing and fundraising arm of the Weyanoke Association for Red-Black History & Culture.

During the Civil War, Fort Monroe, now a National Monument, was the only Union fort in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. It became a bastion of freedom after three enslaved Africans, Frank Baker, Shepard Mallory and James Townsend, escaped to the fort in 1861. They were granted asylum by the commanding general, Benjamin Franklin Butler, who considered them Contraband of War and refused to send them back. This led to the War Department policy that any enslaved Africans who escaped to safety behind Union lines were to be given the same designation.

Many historians believe that Butler’s Contraband Decision led directly to President Lincoln’s issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Subsequently the War Department established the Bureau of Colored Troops, that eventually created 175 regiments of United States Colored Troops. At least two of those regiments, the USCT 2nd Cavalry and 2nd Infantry regiments, were formed at Fort Monroe, also known as “Freedom’s Fort”.

The Ensemble is available for bookings. Use the Contact information under the "More" link above.

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