Americans with African ancestry have served in United States military units since the arrival of the first black slaves in 1619. No war has been fought by the United States in which the African American soldiers did not participate. African Americans fought and served valiantly in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the current War in Iraq.
[[Image:Boston Massacre2.gif|right|490px|African American Crispus Attucks was the first martyr in the Patriot cause at the Boston Massacre in 1770 leading up the the American Revolution.]]
=== Revolutionary War ===
African-Americans, slaves and free blacks, served on both sides during the war. Black soldiers served in northern militias from the outset, but this was forbidden in the South, where slave-owners feared arming slaves. Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued an emancipation proclamation in November 1775, promising freedom to runaway slaves who fought for the British; Sir Henry Clinton issued a similar edict in New York in 1779. Tens of thousands of slaves escaped to the British lines, although possibly as few as 1,000 served under arms. Many of the rest served as orderlies, mechanics, laborers, servants, scouts and guides, although more than half died in smallpox epidemics that swept the British forces, and many were driven out of the British lines when food ran low. Despite Dunmore's promises, the majority were not given their freedom. Many Black Loyalists descendants now live in Canada.
In response, and because of manpower shortages, Washington lifted the ban on black enlistment in the Continental Army in January 1776. All-black units were formed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts; many were slaves promised freedom for serving in lieu of their masters; another all-black unit came from Haiti with French forces. At least 5,000 black soldiers fought as Revolutionaries.
Peter Salem and Salem Poor are the most noted of the American Patriots during this era.
[[Image:Sgt Major Christian Fleetwood.jpg|thumb|right|300px|Sgt. Major Christian Fleetwood, United States Colored Troops (USCT), Medal of Honor recipient, U.S. Civil War.]]
=== Civil War ===
The history of African Americans in the U.S. Civil War is marked by 180,000 African Americans comprising 163 units served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and many more African Americans served in the Union Navy. Both free African Americans and runaway slaves joined the fight. Substantially smaller numbers of blacks are recorded to have served on the Confederate side including two units formed in Richmond, Virginia in 1865, however records are scarce and an exact number is not known.
On July 17, 1862, Congress passed two acts allowing the enlistment of African Americans, but official enrollment occurred only after the September 1862 issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. However, state and local militia units had already begun enlisting blacks, including the Black Brigade of Cincinnati, raised in September to help provide manpower to thwart a feared Confederate raid on Cincinnati.