Lieutenant Colonel William N. Reed in the Civil War

Lieutenant Colonel William N. Reed in the Civil War

Lieutenant Colonel William N. Reed in the Civil War

Notwithstanding initiative taken by a few subordinate commanders in 1862, the United States War Department officially began mustering African American servicemen in 1863 after the Emancipation Proclamation. Fearing the consequences of violating social norms at the time, the War Department limited these soldiers to enlisted ranks. The War Department refused to grant commissions to black soldiers as officers of the line (infantry, artillery or cavalry) until the last few months of the war in 1865. Prior to that point, line officers leading segregated units were exclusively white. That did not stop William N. Reed, who mustered into service in June 1863 as the lieutenant colonel of the 1st North Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and was mortally wounded while commanding that regiment at the Battle of Olustee in February 1864.

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Timeline

Developed by a faculty-cadet team as part of the Black History Project at West Point, "Lieutenant Colonel William N. Reed in the Civil War" traces and analyzes Reed’s life and experiences from his birth in St. Croix to his death in an officers’ hospital in Beaufort, South Carolina. The project was completed in spring 2023.