For African-American researching their family history, the USCT Pension Records can help fill in many of the the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Before requesting a pension file from the National Archives, be aware that there are two types of requests. Form 85-D is a request for the entire pension file (up to 100 pages) and presently costs $80. Form 85-B is a request for a Pension Documents Packet, which contains eight specific documents from the pension file; this costs $30. Whenever possible, especially in the case of former slaves, I encourage people to request the full file (Form 85-D). That being said, obtaining a complete pension file is rather expensive, and many of the documents will seem to be redundant or hold little information of value. You may choose to obtain the smaller and more economical Pension Documents Packet. Although the smaller packet undoubtedly holds significant information, you may be missing some real treasures by not requesting the full file.