Initially fearful of allowing black troops in battle, the Union army employed them as laborers, construction workers and guards. U.S.C.T. regiments supervised black women and children crowded not disease-ridden camps outside Tennessee cities. They garrisoned forts and built fortifications in Tennessee, north Alabama and north Georgia, and guarded prisoners of war. The U.S.C.T. guarded railroads from guerrilla raids; this duty in fact, introduced Tennessee black troops to combat.
Nearly 24,000 men of color served in the Union army stationed in Tennessee and suffered almost 4,500 casualties. They persisted against ideas of inferiority professed by Southerners as well as some white Union commanders. Black troops feared mistreatment, or even death, if captured and proved to themselves and their white commanders that they were fighters. Their role in Tennessee during the Civil War should be recognized as indispensable.