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Interpreting the Evidence

Muster Roll #1269 for Abram Vroman, Civil War, c. 1864

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 - 1877)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    African Americans
    Civil War

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    Capital District
    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Muster Roll #1269 for Abram Vroman, Civil War, c. 1864 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A muster roll for Abram Vroman, a member of the U.S. Colored Troops, Civil War, circa 1864.
Historical Context
This is a muster card for Mr. Abram Vroman, who enlisted in Troy, New York. Mr. Vroman was part of New York’s 31st Colored Infantry. Although he was only a soldier for three months, according to reports of the battle in which he died, he must have died with the utmost honor.

Contrary to popular belief, African Americans had a substantial military history prior to the Civil War. During the Revolutionary War, Crispus Attucks, an African American, was the first casualty at the Boston Massacre. During the Battle of Bunker Hill, African Americans fought unsegregated among fellow Patriots. During the Battle of Rhode Island, African Americans proved their valor again. African Americans demonstrated skill and aptitude during the War of 1812, when the future general U.S. Grant gloriously praised the African American troops.

However, due to social animosity and blame during the Civil War, it took nearly half the war to get any African American Regiment organized. The first record of African American participation was in Cincinnati in 1862. Here, African American volunteers - unarmed, unpaid, and not in uniform - fortified the riverfront in protection against Morgan’s Raiders. In August 1862, the first official African American regiment was formed, the 1st Louisiana Native Guards, also known as Corps D’Afrique. More states enlisted eager African American soldiers, including New York and Massachusetts.

The Battle of Fredericksburg was also called the Battle of the Crater. It lasted one fateful day, July 30, 1864. The 31st New York was part of an All-Colored Division that included nine different regiments. At first, this division was selected to lead the assault at Petersburg. But at the last minute, its orders were altered; it was to go in last. The battle proved disastrous for federal troops. In spite of this, the division charged heroically and suffered massive losses. The 31st Regiment lost 135 men, while the total division lost 1,327 men.

In total, there were 166 different all-African American regiments. These included heavy artillery regiments, cavalry, infantry, and an engineer’s corps. Of these regiments, sixty were sent to battle.  There were 178,975 enlisted African American troops; of these 36,000 died fighting for freedom.

Essential Question
How does war change a society?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the information contained in this document and evaluate the impact of the Civil War on Abram Vroman's life.
Historical Challenges
There are some very-well-known African American regiments of the Civil War. Choose one New York regiment and research its actions. Use the website listed below and others you may find.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: If 36,000 African Americans out of 178,975 total soldiers died, what percentage of African American soldiers died in the Civil War?
Science: What were some common non-combat killers during the Civil War?
English Language Arts: Create a poster recruiting African Americans to the Union cause.