In the months after this fort was built, thousands of men from Middle Tennessee joined eight new federal infantry regiments. Black men in blue coats guarded the railroad that fed Fortress Rosecrans, and helped garrison Nashville and Chattanooga.
By the end of the Civil War, 150 black regiments - called the United States Colored Troops - made up 10 percent of the U.S. Army. Their death toll was high. From 1863-1865, one third of U.S.C.T. volunteers died while in military service.
Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U-S, let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.
From the first shots in 1861 up to mid-1863, Union and Confederate leaders both saw men of color mainly as a pool of labor available to support the war effort. Black men built many fortifications - like the earthen walls where you now stand - for North and South.
(Captions for portraits in the lower center):
Tennessean Hubbard Pryor just before his November 1864 enlistment.
Private Pryor, 44th Regiment, United States Colored Troops.