Blacks have always volunteered to defend their country during the time of war, and this includes the Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
          During the Civil War both North and South turned away Blacks because of prejudice and the belief by both sides that the war would end soon. Not until July 17, 1862 were blacks officially authorized to defend their country. They were paid $10 a month of which $3 could be in clothing; however, Whites were paid $13 per month plus an extra $3.50 in clothing allowance for the same work and responsibility. This was not corrected until March 1865, when both Blacks and Whites were paid equally.
          Five ‘Colored Regiments” existed prior to the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.  These 5 initial regiments were later expanded and called the “U.S. Colored Troops”.  Eventually Blacks would serve in 135 infantry regiments, six cavalry regiments, 12 regiments of heavy artillery and 10 batteries of light artillery. They fought in 39 major battles of the Civil War and 410 lesser engagements.
          My Great Grandfather, Spencer Rivers, was born as a slave in Sussex County, Virginia about 1839. He made his way out of Virginia and slavery to join the Army of the United States at Ellicott's Mills, Maryland on 9/26/1864.
          Spencer became a soldier in the 9th Regiment U.S. Colored Troops, Company “C” under the command of a White officer by the name of Captain Haskel M. Phelps.
          Company “C” was mustered into U.S. Service at Benedict, Maryland on the 11th of November 1863. As part of the regiment, Company “C” participated in its first battle engagement at John’s Island.
          At the battle of Deep Bottom, Virginia, August 16, 1864, Captain Edwin Post was killed. Also, a number of the enlisted men were either killed or wounded.
          Captain Haskel M. Phelps took command of the company on November 27, 1864 and retained command until January 31, 1866 when he was killed by a steamboat explosion on the Ohio River, while on leave of absence. First Lieutenant Henry Duhrssen, of Company “A”, took command of Company “C” on February 12, 1866.
          The regiment as a whole was engaged in 6 major battles, of which a total of 13 Black men died as a member of Company “C”. While the company was located at Brownsville, Texas, from 1865-1866, a total of 11 men died from “Cholera”.
          Spencer Rivers can indeed be considered a hero, fighting for his freedom from slavery, and the future freedom of his family.
          Spencer Rivers was finally discharged from Company “C” and the U.S. Colored Army on 9/29/1865 at Brownsville, Texas.