Press Release

Historian, Author to Discuss ‘The U.S. Colored Troops and The Civil War’

October 4, 2016 – by Ohio Wesleyan University

John David Smith, Ph.D.

John David Smith, Ph.D., to Speak Oct. 20 at Ohio Wesleyan University

DELAWARE, Ohio – Noted Civil War historian John David Smith, Ph.D., will present “ ‘Every man looked like a soldier’: The U.S. Colored Troops and the Civil War” Oct. 20 at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Smith, the Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, will speak at 7:30 p.m. in Benes Rooms A and B of Ohio Wesleyan’s Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, 40 Rowland Ave., Delaware. His presentation is the 2016 Richard W. Smith Lecture in Civil War History sponsored by the OWU Department of History.

According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, the U.S. Colored Troops made up 10 percent of the Union Army during the Civil War. Of these 179,000 men, nearly 40,000 were killed – with 30,000 deaths stemming from infection or disease.

In addition, National Archives records state, black soldiers “served in artillery and infantry and performed all noncombat support functions that sustain an army, as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly 80 black commissioned officers. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless served as nurses, spies, and scouts.”

In his Ohio Wesleyan presentation, Smith will explore the self-identity of black soldiers amid the full military unit.

Smith earned his doctorate from The University of Kentucky, where he studied southern and Civil War history with Charles P. Roland. Smith has published 29 books, including “Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era”; “Lincoln and the U.S. Colored Troops”; “Soldiering for Freedom: How the Union Army Recruited, Trained, and Deployed the U.S. Colored Troops”; “We Ask Only for Even-Handed Justice: Black Voices from Reconstruction, 1865-1877”; and “Interpreting American History: Reconstruction.” He has received multiple awards, including the Mayflower Society Award for Nonfiction and The Gustavus Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America.

Ohio Wesleyan’s annual Richard W. Smith Lecture is named in honor of Smith, Ph.D., a retired history professor who taught at the university between 1950 and 1986. Past speakers in the series, which began in 2002, have included Pulitzer Prize-winners James M. McPherson, author of “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era,” and Eric Foner, author of “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” Learn more about the OWU Department of History and the annual Smith Lecture at

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers nearly 90 undergraduate majors and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through Ohio Wesleyan’s signature OWU Connection program, students integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the latest President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at