African American Heritage

American Slavery, Military Records

The following is information found in the records of the National Archives and Records Administration. It identifies the record group and series, with brief descriptions and locations. It does not provide actual documents. Some of the records are microfilmed, and have been noted.

For further insight, see Walter B. Hill Jr.'s Prologue article on this topic.

RG 45 Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library

The Navy Department Library was established by order of President John Adams, March 31, 1800. By General Order 292, Navy Department, March 23, 1882, the Naval Records Collection was begun when the Navy Department Library was placed in the newly created Office of Naval Intelligence. The staff engaged in this task was designated the Naval War Records Office and was known collectively with the library as the Office of Library and Naval War Records. In the early 1900s the Office began to collect some of the older records of the bureaus of the Navy Department and records relating to naval personnel and operations during the American Revolution. In 1915 the Office was named the Office of Naval Records and Library. It retained this name until 1946 when the Office was combined with the Office of Naval History.

LOC: RG 45 is located at Archives I, Washington, DC.
  1. Miscellaneous Letters Received, 1801-84, 811 vols.
    Interspersed throughout this series are letters relating to the slave trade and the colonization of African Americans in Africa, letters from the American Colonization Society, and Navy agents.
  2. Letters to Officers, 1798 - 1886, 96 vols.
    Series of letters to officers, ships of war, contains letters and instructions from the Secretary of Navy to Officers of the African Squadron, 1863 - 61.
  3. Letters from Captains, 1805-61, 1866-85, 413 vols.
    Report by Capt. William M. Glendy, "U.S.S. Saratoga", that the revival of the slave trade was occurring under the American flag.
  4. Letters from Federal Executive Agents, May 1837 - Dec 1886, 131 vols.
    Letters from Treasury and State Departments regarding the seizure of vessels suspected of engaging in the slave trade.
  5. Letters from the Attorney General, June 1807- Nov 1825, 1 vol.
    Replies to questions submitted by the Secy. of Navy on such subjects as the capture of slave vessels on the coast of Georgia, 1818; the authority given to the President by the Act of March 3, 1819, relating to the slave trade; and the application for money for the support of captured Africans in Savannah.
  6. Letters Sent Relating to Liberia, 1820-58, 1 vol.
    Communications to agents appointed under the act of March 3, 1819, prohibiting the slave trade; to U.S. deputy marshals and district attorneys, relating mainly to the slave trade and recaptured Africans.
  7. Confidential Letters Sent, 1843 - 1879, 5 vols.
    Contain copies of letters sent by Secretary of Navy to officers of the African Squadron and to U.S. forces in the Mediterranean.
  8. African Squadron Letters, 1843 - 61, 13 vols.
    Letters from commanding officers of the Squadron, reports of officers of vessels in the Squadron, correspondence with British and other naval officers on the African coast, and with Liberian and other officials along the African coast.
  9. Logs, Journals, and Diaries of Officers of the U.S. Navy at Sea, March 1776 - June 1908, 234 vols.
    Many of the volumes are personal accounts and records of activities, observations, and experiences of naval officers and were not intended for official Navy use. Many volumes contains accounts of U.S. Navy personnel serving in the African Squadron
RG 94 Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's - 1917

Established in the War Department to provide administrative and support services, and maintain personnel records. Recorded, authenticated, and communicated orders, instructions, and regulation. Issued commissions and consolidated and maintained the returns of the army and militia. Managed the recruiting service, and ,maintained the noncurrent records of the War Department. These records are located at the downtown Washington, DC facility.

American Freedmens Inquiry Commission.

Government commission established after the Emancipation Proclamation to determine the conditions of the freed slaves and recommend the measures necessary to give practical effect to their freedom. Records contain correspondence including the Commission's survey sent to government and hospital administrators in the U.S. and Canada on the numbers and conditions of freedmen in their jurisdiction; responses received; various drafts of the Commission's report; other reports on the health and living conditions of ex-slaves, including testimonies at hearings. There is a name and subject index.