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Dear Ms. Halsey,
Thank you for contacting the History Hub with your question.
African Americans that served during the Civil War as part of the United States Colored Troops do have Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR), unlike African Americans who served in the regular Army from 1866-1890. The CMSR for the soldier will have basic information about the individual’s time in service, so it’s recommended as a good starting point for researchers. Because that information can tell you which specific unit he fought in, that will also help lead you to what his unit did during the war. To find out how to request the CMSR, please follow this link.
You already know that his widow applied for a pension after the war, so another step to try and find out more information would be to look at the pension files. Those files are part of the microfilm collection T288: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. These records can be accessed on Ancestry.com for a fee, or you can go to this link and scroll all the way down to the bottom to find facilities across the country that have access to this collection. Pension records often contain more personal information than what would be found in the CMSR.
I’m not sure how far along you are in your research journey, but some excellent resources to reference include this link to National Archives Civil War research resources, and this link to the article “Black Soldiers in the Civil War” by Budge Weidman. Both offer some really great tips for researching Civil War references, particularly as they relate to the USCT. We wish you luck on your journey, and if you have any other questions please write to us again. Thank you for contacting the History Hub.