On April 6, 1863 Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas made a speech at Fort Curtis seeking to enlist former slaves into the U.S. Army. The next day, hundreds of black men joined the 1st Arkansas Infantry (African Descent). Later designated U.S. Colored Troops, these soldiers took an active role in winning freedom for Arkansas slaves. The 54th, 57th, and part of the 69th U.S.C.T. were raised from Phillips County men. U.S.C.T. were in Helena from April 1863 until war’s end. The U.S.C.T. faced hardship and prejudice but fought well and received distinction.