Black Brigade of Cincinnati

By Ben Baughman, History Curator

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In August of 1862, Cincinnati, Ohio, came under the threat of attack by Confederate forces stationed in Kentucky. Needing labor, Cincinnati Mayor George Hatch ordered the police department to forcibly round up African American men living in the city.  On September 2nd, approximately 400 Black men were removed from their homes and workplaces and marched across the Ohio River to work as laborers and servants for the U.S. Army. 

Upon learning of the harsh treatment of these “volunteers,” General Lew Wallace, the U.S. military commander in charge of the Cincinnati area, persuaded city officials to allow the men to return to their homes.  The following day, upon being granted the option to serve, more than 700 African American men voluntarily chose to join in the war effort as legitimate soldiers.  Naming themselves the “Black Brigade,” the unit spent the following weeks building fortifications, digging rifle pits, and aiding in the protection of their city.  The first U.S. military unit of African American soldiers to serve in the Civil War, the Black Brigade of Cincinnati carried this national flag in September of 1862.  

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