BLACK MILITARY UNITS, prohibited by state officials and Ohio's militia law of 1803, served in the
In early 1863, local blacks found a way to serve in the war. Massachusetts had received permission to form black military units and recruited heavily in Ohio. In Feb. 1863, Joseph D. Green organized a military company and in April took about 30 men to Massachusetts to join its 54th and 55th regiments. Another group from Cleveland apparently left for Massachusetts later. In June 1863, Ohio received permission from the secretary of war to organize separate black military units. The first of these was the 127th OVI, which later became the 5th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troop. Clevelanders Gustavus W. Fahrion, Eilery C. Ford, and Frank J. Ford served as captains in the unit, which saw action in North Carolina and Virginia. In January, Ohio organized a second black unit, the 27th USCT; it had 15 officers and 1,423 men when mustered into service.
After the war the state returned to its discriminatory policy of an all-white militia. Local black veterans were denied permission to form volunteer militia companies in 1866. But in 1870, blacks used their votes to win Republican acceptance of black militia service. By 1875 Cleveland blacks had formed 2 militia units: the City Guards and the Barnett Guards. The City Guards were in existence by late 1874, when they held a Christmas festival to raise funds; in Aug. 1875 they celebrated the anniversary of the emancipation of the British West Indies; and in 1876 they joined other local militia in the Washington's Birthday parade and at summer encampments. The Barnett Guards also participated in the summer encampments that year. Such units were expensive to maintain, however, since the burden of buying arms, maintaining armories, and hosting socials rested with the militiamen themselves. By 1877 Cleveland's 2 black militia units had become inactive. After changes in the law made the state and localities partners in sharing militia costs, in 1895 black Clevelanders organized another militia unit, L'Ouverture Rifles, named in honor of the Haitian patriot Toussaint L'Ouverture. With the outbreak of the
Discrimination in the military became apparent again during
Black, Lowell Dwight. The Negro Volunteer Militia Units in the Ohio National Guard, 1870-1954 (1976).