Marquett Milton, a Civil War reenactor, stands watch at the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, DC. He is portraying a member of the United States Colored Troops, which was a part of the Union army during the Civil War. He is wearing a skyblue greatcoat, which was used during the winter months. Milton is also a volunteer at the African American Civil War Museum, which is across the street from the Memorial.
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the (final version) of the Emancipation Proclamation, a copy of the document was on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, from December 30, 2012, through January 1, 2013.
A group of Civil War re-enactors stood guard over the document for this photograph at the National Archives Facebook page. The re-enactors are from B Company, 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, US Colored Troops.
Previously unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters
Source: Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-36454
In May 2011, I posted a blog entry featuring the above photograph, which is from the Library of Congress. The photo shows a soldier in uniform, a wife in dress and hat, and two daughters wearing matching coats and hats. More details can be found at the Library of Congress record for the photo, which is here.
The Library of Congress description for the photo lists the soldier and family as “Unidentified.” But thanks to research whose results were published in the November 2012 issue of Kentucky Explorer Magazine, it is believd that the photo depicts Sergeant Samuel Smith of the 119th US Colored Infantry, his wife Molle and their daughters Mary and Maggie. Sergeant Smith enlisted at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. More details about the Smiths are provided by Angela Y. Walton-Raji at her blog The USCT Chronicle.
Thanks to Kentucky Explorer Magazine and Angela Y. Walton-Raji/The USCT Chronicle for providing this information!
PS, I met Angela Y. Walton-Raji several weeks ago during a visit to the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, DC. It was a brief meeting, but it was fun to talk to a fellow blogger. I wish her well on her labor of love.
African American Union Soldier with Pistol, circa Civil War era (1860s). It was very common for Civil War soldiers to take pictures with their firearms. Source: Library of Congress; Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-11298; see more information about the photo here.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
- Second Amendment to the US Constitution
“The great object is, that every man be armed. [...] Every one who is able may have a gun.”
- Patrick Henry
“[if negroes were] entitled to the privileges and immunities of [white] citizens, …it would give persons of the Negro race… the right… to keep and bear arms wherever they want… inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the state…”
- Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, in the 1857 Dred Scott decision
“Remember that the musket – the United States musket with its bayonet of steel – is better than all mere parchment guarantees of liberty. In your hands that musket means liberty; and should your constitutional rights at the close of this war be denied, which in the nature of things, it cannot be, your brethren are safe while you have a Constitution which proclaims your right to keep and bear arms.”
- Frederick Douglass, in an 1863 recruitment speech imploring black to join the Union army during the Civil War
The current debate about gun control, spurred by the Newtown Tragedy, causes me to reflect on the history of firearms access for African Americans. This history does not paint a pretty picture, but it adds a new perspective on our discussion of the right to bear arms.
A review of the history indicates that for over two centuries, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the national, state, and local governments have been engaged in a project to limit African Americans’ access to guns. This project was not conducted in secret; the people involved made it unequivocally clear that they did not want people of African descent to have firearms. Blacks with guns were seen as a threat to the safety, politics, and domination of the white majority, and the law was used to remove that threat. For African Americans, “gun control” has almost always been synonymous with “keep African Americans from getting guns.”
Now wait! I’m not taking any position (in this post, anyway) regarding gun access policy. I hope that no one who reads this piece will assume that I am advocating a particular viewpoint concerning gun rights and gun control issues.
What I do want to do, is provide an abridged and selective timeline of African Americans’ experience with bearing arms. There is so much to this story, it’s impossible to contain it all within one blog post – and this post is somewhat lengthy as it is. But for those who are not familiar with the subject, this will be informative and useful.
There is a sadly ironic, perhaps tragic aspect to this history. Guns have become the scourge of the urban landscape. So-called “black on black” crime has become endemic in certain communities, and guns are an unfortunate aspect of this. During the slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, laws left blacks relatively defenseless against a tide of racial terrorism; African Americans were outmanned and outgunned. But now many black communities are awash in guns, and instead of firearms being used for self-defense, they are being used for self-destruction. Sometimes the arc of history bends in the wrong direction.
For more information on this subject, two good “starter” pieces on this topic are here and here. A useful book on the subject is Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, 1866-1876 by Stephen P. Halbrook. But there are many other journal articles, books, and other references that are availble via Internet search for those who want to really get in depth on this subject.
I will begin at the middle of the 18th century, and go forward to the 21st century.
1779 During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress – which represents American colonists seeking independence from Britain – offers slave masters in South Carolina and Georgia $1,000 for each slave they provide to the Continental army. However, the legislatures of both states refused the offer. Apparently, the risk of arming slaves, who might want or demand freedom in exchange for their service, is more threatening than the British Army.
1792 Congress passes the Militia Acts, which limit service in militias to free white males. This restriction is prompted in part by fears that, as in the case of the Haitian slave revolt, free blacks will unite with slaves and use their guns and military training to mount an armed insurrection against slaveholders. The measures are interpreted as meaning that blacks cannot join the United States army.
1811 Hundreds of slaves, armed with guns, knives, and axes, become part of the largest slave rebellion on American soil, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The importance of taking arms is noted in the book American Uprising: American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen,
Baptized with the blood of his former master, Charles (the leader of the slave rebellion) and his men broke into the stores in the basement (of his master’s) mansion, taking muskets and militia uniforms, stockpiled in case of domestic insurrection. Many of the slaves had learned to shoot muskets in African civil wars, while others would fight mor efeectively with tha cane knives and axes they weilded in the hot Louisiana sun. As his men gathered weapons and shoved ammunition in bags, Charles and several of his fellow slaves cast off the distictive cheap cotton slave clothes and put on the (master’s) uniforms.
Unfortunately for the slaves, their revolt was beaten back by the superior force of local authorities, and they suffered a horrible punishment after the smoke cleared.
1831 Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The rebels kill over 50 white people, the highest number of fatalities caused by slave uprisings in the South. The rebellion was put down within a few days, but Turner survived in hiding for over two months.
After the rebellion, legislatures in the slave states passed new laws prohibiting the education of slaves and free blacks, restricting rights of assembly and other civil rights for free blacks, and requiring white ministers to be present at black worship services.
1831 Three states – Florida, Maryland and Virginia – enact laws which ban black ownership of guns.
One of the most popular entries on this blog is the list of monuments to African American soldiers who served in the Civil War. FYI, I have made some updates to that entry.
I have noted the existence of monuments in Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York and Virginia. Except for the monument in Portsmouth, Virginia, I have not done a ‘write-up’ of these monuments in my updated blog entry, but I have added links where the monuments are pictured or described. I have also listed several memorials and markers that, while not fitting my description of a monument, are nonetheless noteworthy objects that should be recognized.
Monument to New York’s 26th Regiment US Colored Infantry outside St. James AME Zion Church in Ithaca, NY. Source: “Rikers Island’s 26th U.S. Colored Troops on parade” at http://www.correctionhistory.org
In the original version of my blog entry, I stated that
I would only add that it is disappointing that it seems there is no USCT (United States Colored Troops) monument in the state of Louisiana. Records indicate that 24,000 of the USCT came from that state; no other state supplied more colored troops to the Union army. It would be great to see some action taken in the future to create a monument in honor of the service of that state’s African descent soldiers. (I am sure that there are at least one or two memorial markers to African descent troops in the state, although I haven’t come up with any yet from my review.)
I was pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong about this. There is in fact a monument in Donaldsonville, Louisiana which honors black troops who helped to defend Fort Butler against a Confederate attack in June, 1863. The monument sits next to a memorial to Confederate soldiers who participated in the Battle of Fort Butler. Donaldsonville is about 40 miles from Baton Rouge and 70 miles from New Orleans.
Union Monument at Fort Butler, Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Source: Redbird’s Markers at dualsportridersoflouisiana.com
If anyone knows of monuments to Civil War era black soldiers which I have not identified, please respond to this post, and I will update the list as time allows. I appreciate those of you who have helped me make what I believe is the definitive list of monuments to these men.
Ronald Coddington has produced the third book in his “Faces of the Civil War” series. His books feature photographs of civil war soldiers, and provide an annotation about them – for example, soldier name, background, war experience, and post-war experience. His latest work is African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album.
African American Faces is notable for its exhibition of a large photographic record of “colored” Civil War participants. Over 75 African Americans are pictured and discussed. Most are Union soldiers, such as Sargent Major Lewis Henry Douglass, the son of Frederick Douglass, who served in the famous Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry; and Major Martin Delaney, the black activist, newspaper publisher, and soldier recruiter who was the highest ranking African descent field officer in the Union at the end of the War. But several non-Union soldiers are included, such as Confederate slave Silas Chandler; Robert Holloway, the personal servant of Union Colonel Ambrose Burnside who was captured at the First Battle of Bull Run; South Carolinian Robert Smalls, who became famous for leading a group of slaves out of Charleston harbor and into freedom on a stolen steamboat; and Navy seamen.
The brief biography that accompanies each photograph serves to “flesh out” each of these men, and helps us understand that for African Americans, this was not merely a war for Union or Southern independence, but rather, was a struggle for freedom, equality and dignity.
And this is a book about men; all the subjects noted are male. If I could have given one suggestion to the author it would have been to include Harriet Tubman in the book. Tubman, a noted conductor of the Underground Railroad helped to lead a union raid in South Carolina to disrupt Southern supply lines and free local area slaves. This story would have made for an interesting complement to the others in the book.
African American Faces is written to be accessible to a large group of readers, and would be a welcome addition to middle school libraries and above, as well as being a fine addition to any personal library. As an elementary and high school student in the 1960s and early 1970s, I never saw an image of a black civil war soldier, nor did I hear anything mentioned about them. Coddington’s book further illustrates that there is a rich record from which to draw concerning this previously (and some say currently) neglected aspect of the Civil War.
Last year, I posted a blog entry about conflicts between African Americans and Irish Americans during the Civil War. It’s an interesting read that can be found here.
This is an excerpt from that blog post:
- During the antebellum and Civil War eras, free negroes and Irish immigrants often had a strained relationship. Both were subject to racial or ethnic bias by the white Protestant majority (anti-immigrant bigots were called “Nativists”), and were considered the “bottom rungs” of American society. (Blacks were on the very bottom.) Given their lowly status, blacks and Irish often competed for low-wage jobs, and the stress of that competition led to outright hostility… or worse.
Tensions between the two groups were further inflamed by heated and hateful rhetoric from the Copperhead faction of the Democratic Party, to which most Irish Americans were aligned. These Democrats argued that the emancipationist policies of President Lincoln and the Republican Party would cause a “stampede” of freed blacks to the North that would undercut and devalue white labor.
The Democrats also argued that it was unacceptable for whites to fight and die to free black slaves. That argument was echoed even by the Irish religious leader New York Archbishop John Hughes. As noted by historian James McPherson in his book Battle Cry of Freedom, Hughes stated that “we Catholics, and a vast majority of our brave troops in the field, have not the slightest idea of carrying on a war that costs so much blood and treasure just to gratify a clique of Abolitionists.
Negro G.A.R. veterans parading, New York City, May 30, 1912
Source: Library of Congress; Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-132913; see more information about the photo here.
This is a photograph of black Civil War veterans, and family and friends, marching in a Grand Army of the Republic parade in New York in the early twentieth century. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was an organization of United States (Union) veterans of the Civil War, including men from the Army, Navy, Marines and Revenue Cutter Service. Wikipedia discusses the GAR:
After the end of American Civil War, organizations were formed for veterans to network and maintain connections with each other. Many of the veterans used their shared experiences as a basis for fellowship. Groups of men began joining together, first for camaraderie and later for political power. Emerging as most influential among the various organizations was the Grand Army of the Republic, founded on April 6, 1866, on the principles of “Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty,” in Decatur, Illinois, by Benjamin F. Stephenson.
The GAR initially grew and prospered as a de facto political arm of the Republican Party during the heated political contests of the Reconstruction era. The commemoration of Union veterans, black and white, immediately became entwined with partisan politics. The GAR promoted voting rights for black veterans, as many veterans recognized their demonstrated patriotism. Black veterans, who enthusiastically embraced the message of equality, shunned black veterans’ organizations in preference for racially inclusive groups. But when the Republican Party’s commitment to reform in the South gradually decreased, the GAR’s mission became ill-defined and the organization floundered. The GAR almost disappeared in the early 1870s, and many divisions ceased to exist.
In the 1880s, the organization revived under new leadership that provided a platform for renewed growth, by advocating federal pensions for veterans. As the organization revived, black veterans joined in significant numbers and organized local posts. The national organization, however, failed to press the case for pensions for black soldiers.
I recently purchased The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic, by Barbara Gannon. Like so many books I don’t have time to read, this might sit on my shelf for a while. But it promises to offer some interesting insights into race relations and the GAR. This is from a description of the book:
In the years after the Civil War, black and white Union soldiers who survived the horrific struggle joined the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)–the Union army’s largest veterans’ organization. In this thoroughly researched and groundbreaking study, Barbara Gannon chronicles black and white veterans’ efforts to create and sustain the nation’s first interracial organization.
According to the conventional view, the freedoms and interests of African American veterans were not defended by white Union veterans after the war, despite the shared tradition of sacrifice among both black and white soldiers. In The Won Cause, however, Gannon challenges this scholarship, arguing that although black veterans still suffered under the contemporary racial mores, the GAR honored its black members in many instances and ascribed them a greater equality than previous studies have shown. Using evidence of integrated posts and veterans’ thoughts on their comradeship and the cause, Gannon reveals that white veterans embraced black veterans because their membership in the GAR demonstrated that their wartime suffering created a transcendent bond–comradeship–that overcame even the most pernicious social barrier–race-based separation.
By upholding a more inclusive memory of a war fought for liberty as well as union, the GAR’s “Won Cause” challenged the Lost Cause version of Civil War memory.
Main statue for the Soldiers’ Memorial at Lincoln University, Missouri
Source: Lincoln University, Missouri
Deprived of freedom and citizenship rights, thousands of black men from Missouri joined the Union army, determined to fight for emancipation and equality. Deprived of an education, the Missouri men of the 62nd and 65th United States Colored Infantry took another determined, but unprecedented action: in 1866, they pooled their money to fund the first and only school established by soldiers of African descent.
Liberty and learning were indeed precious commodities for Missouri African Americans at the start of the Civil War. In 1860, 118,500 blacks lived in the state, with 115,000 in slavery, and just 3,500 free. In 1847 the Missouri General Assembly passed a law forbidding blacks, slave or free, to be taught to read or write. As noted in the book Missouri’s Black Heritage, “this was a reflection of a slaveholder’s fear that literacy might lead to (a slave) rebellion.” This “Black Code” prohibition taught Missouri blacks a lesson they would not forget: education was a force for their liberation and uplift.
The legacy left by the 62nd and 65th United States Colored Infantry (USCI) – which is now called Lincoln University – commemorates those men in a monument that sits on the University’s campus. What follows is a brief summary of how this came to be.
Missouri African Americans and the Civil War
When the Civil War began, Missouri was a slave state that remained loyal to the Union. (Although it’s more correct to say that the state had large pro-Union and pro-seccession/Confederate factions, with the Union faction and military able to maintain control of the state government.) In order to keep the support of Missouri and other Border slave states (Delaware, Kentucky, and Maryland), the United States government initially declared that it would not disturb slavery where it stood. Of note: in August 1861, the abolitionist Union General John C. Frémont, as part of his martial law policy to defend the state, declared that bondsmen of disloyal slave-owners in Missouri were free. In September 1861, President Abraham Lincoln told Frémont to rescind the order, saying it lacked congressional and executive authorization.
But as the war wore on, military necessity determined that the Union would accept, and even seek, the support of African Americans, even in states with loyal slaveholders like Missouri. By 1864, Union enlistment and recruitment was expanded to include slaves in the Border states; army enlistment automatically freed the former slaves. As noted by Aaron Astor in his essay Black Soldiers and White Violence in Kentucky and Missouri (from the book The Great Task Remaining Before Us: Reconstruction as America’s Continuing Civil War),
By January 15, 1864, dozens of slaves enlisted in central Missouri’s slave-rich Howard County alone. By the end of February, more than 3,700 African Americans enlisted in Missouri, with central Missouri’s Little Dixie producing a significant portion… in Missouri, 39 percent (of military-age African Americans) joined the Union army… these numbers downplay the total of black recruits in the western border states, as many joined in neighboring free states. It is very likely that a significant percentage of the 2,080 African Americans credited to Kansas actually came from Missouri. (Editor’s note: Kansas had less than 700 African American residents in 1860, according to the US Census.)
In the rolls of the United States Colored Troops, Missouri is credited with providing 8,344 soldiers. As mentioned earlier, it’s very likely that many Missouri blacks enlisted in nearby Kansas, and some were probably members of the famous First Kansas Colored Infantry.
According to the site Missouri Digital Heritage, “the first black regiment from Missouri was recruited in June 1863 at Schofield Barracks in St. Louis. More than 300 men enlisted. The regiment was called the First Regiment of Missouri Colored Infantry. It later became the 62nd U.S. Regiment of Colored Infantry.” Sometime after, the 2nd Missouri Colored Infantry was formed; it was renamed the 65th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. Other black Missouri regiments are noted in this post at The USCT Chronicle.
The History of Lincoln University, née Lincoln Institute
After the war, soldiers from the 62nd and 65th USCI raised over $5000 to found a school for Missouri’s freedmen. Established in 1866, the school was called Lincoln Institute. A key figure in the creation of the school was Richard Baxter Foster, an abolitionist white officer who became the Institute’s first principal, and whose image is featured in the Soldiers’ Memorial Monument. The history of the school, and the efforts to create a monument to the soldiers who founded it, is told in this video:
This illustration shows a group of freedmen in Atlanta, Georgia, circa 1865, holding a “street convention” to discuss their political status in the wake of the Civil War and emancipation.
Source: The South: A tour of its battlefields and ruined cities, a journey through the desolated states, and talks with the people, by John Trowbridge.
In the summer of 1865, and in the following winter, I made two visits to the South, spending four months in eight of the principal States which had lately been in rebellion. I saw the most noted battle-fields of the war. I made acquaintance with officers and soldiers of both sides. I followed in the track of the destroying armies. I travelled by railroad, by steamboat, by stage-coach, and by private conveyance; meeting and conversing with all sorts of people, from high State officials to “low-down” whites and negroes; endeavoring, at all times and in all places, to receive correct impressions of the country, of its inhabitants, of the great contest of arms just closed, and of the still greater contest of principles not yet terminated.
So began John Townsend Trowbridge (1827-1916) in his book The South: A tour of its battlefields and ruined cities, a journey through the desolated states, and talks with the people. (The full, ridiculously long title of the book is The South: a tour of its battlefields and ruined cities, a journey through the desolated states, and talks with the people; being a description of the present state of the country, its agriculture, railroad, business and finances; giving an account of Confederate misrule, and of the sufferings, necessities and mistakes, political views, social condition and prospects, of the aristocracy, middle class, poor whites and Negroes; including visits to patriot graves and rebel prisons, and embracing special notes on the free labor system, education and moral elevation of the freemen, also, on plans of reconstruction and inducements to emigration; from personal observations and experience during months of Southern travel.)
Trowbridge wrote The South under commission of L. Stebbins, a Hartford, Connecticut, publisher. Trowbridge’s “tour” of the post-war South was one of several such first hand accounts of the region that were produced by the press. His book won praise for its impartial, fair-minded approach to the subject, and the detail and breadth of his study.
I purchased a copy of The South during a recent visit to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and found it an interesting and compelling read. The original version is in the public domain; it can be viewed by going here: http://www.archive.org/details/southtourofitsba7228trow
Below, I have provided an interesting excerpt from the book about post-war Atlanta. Large swaths of that city were devastated during Sherman’s march to the sea in late 1864, and the ruin was still evident when Trowbridge visited the area the following year. This excerpt touches on several subjects, including:
• the harshness of post-war life in the South, especially for freed blacks
• Union support among poor southern whites
• relations between blacks and poor whites in the South
• views on who was responsible for some of the ruin in Atlanta (this differs from the view that Sherman’s Union forces were to blame for all of the burning in the city)
• African American dialogue concerning their political future in the post-war South.
From John Trowbridge’s The South:
IN AND ABOUT ATLANTA (Chapter LXIII)
A sun-bright morning did not transmute the town into a place of very great attractiveness. Everywhere were ruins and rubbish, mud and mortar and misery. The burnt streets were rapidly rebuilding; but in the mean while hundreds of the inhabitants, white and black, rendered homeless by the destruction of the city, were living in wretched hovels, which made the suburbs look like a fantastic encampment of gypsies or Indians.
Some of the negro huts were covered entirely with ragged fragments of tin-roofing from the burnt government and railroad buildings. Others were constructed partly of these irregular blackened patches, and partly of old boards, with roofs of huge, warped, slouching shreds of tin, kept from blowing away by stones placed on the top. Notwithstanding the ingenuity displayed in piecing these rags together, they formed but a miserable shelter at the best. “In dry weather, it’s good as anybody’s houses. But they leaks right bad when it rains; then we have to pile our things up to keep ‘em dry.” So said a colored mother of six children, whose husband was killed “fighting for de Yankees,” and who supported her family of little ones by washing. “Sometimes I gits along tolerable; sometimes right slim; but dat’s de way wid everybody; — times is powerful hard right now.”
The Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions is inviting one and all to the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the United States Colored Troops (USCT) Memorial Monument to be installed in Lexington Park, Maryland. Lexington Park is in St Mary’s County, MD, and is 90 miles south of Baltimore, MD, and 65 miles south of Washington, DC.
The event will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2012, at 2:00 pm at John G. Lancaster Park, 21550 Willows Road, Lexington Park, Maryland. For information contact:
• Idolia Shubrooks – 301.863.2150
• Nathaniel Scroggins, President (UCAC) – 301.862.9635
• Shell Jackson – 240.431.8880
The Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions (UCAC) Monument Committee has initiated an historical project to educate the citizenry and preserve local, state and national history by erecting a memorial monument to honor United States Colored Troops. It will recognize Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and all Union soldiers and sailors from St. Mary’s County who served during the Civil War. UCAC is working in partnership with the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). Together we will bring the lives of these American heroes to the attention of the public, so that their sacrifices will never be forgotten.
The United States Colored Troops were regiments of the United States Army and Navy during the Civil War that were composed of African American soldiers and sailors. Recruiting stations were set up at various places by the Union. This action was taken despite the complaints of plantation owners who depended on slave labor for local agricultural needs. In St. Mary’s County during the 1800s there were more than 6,500 slaves and over 600 were recruited as USCT to fight with the Union to end slavery in the United States. This history is a vital part of our local heritage, and this project will create a legacy which will serve to educate the community and preserve our history for future generations.
We are proud that St. Mary’s County produced two USCT recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Pvt. William H. Barnes and Sgt. James H. Harris. These sons of St. Mary’s County were awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm also known as the Battle of New Market Heights (Sept. 1864) in Varina, Henrico County, Virginia.
Nationally recognized sculptor Gary Casteel will build the monument. Mr. Casteel’s work is highly regarded and may be seen in collections of the National Park Service, state and local governments, corporations and private enterprises. Visit Mr. Casteel’s website for more information regarding this talented artist:www.garycasteel.com. The site for the monument has been donated by St. Mary’s County in John G. Lancaster Park in Lexington Park, Maryland.
Hat tip to Yulanda Burgess at firstname.lastname@example.org for the info.
USCT Reenactors at the 2011 Gettysburg Remembrance Day Parade. Several of the female reenactors are from FREED (Female Re-Enactors of Distinction), a reenactors group based in Washington, DC.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is the site of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War. As a result of the three day battle, lasting from July 1 to July 3, 1863, almost 8,000 men are estimated to have died, and another 38,000 were wounded, captured, or missing. (Some estimates put total casualties – men killed, wounded, captured, and missing – as high as 51,000.) On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave this speech at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, which has famously become known as the Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The dedication event is commemorated annually on Remembrance Day. The official date of Remembrance Day is November 19, during which a ceremony is held at the National Cemetery. On the Saturday of Remembrance Day week, a parade of Union and Confederate soldiers is held in the city of Gettysburg. Thousands of Civil War reenactors participate, and this is considered one of the largest reenactor events in the northeast.
These are some pictures from the 2011 Gettysburg Remembrance Day Parade. This year, the parade date was the same date as Remembrance Day – November 19. It was sunny and cool, and a great day for holding the parade.
The person on the left is Dr. Franklin Smith, who heads the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, DC.
I believe the man to the far left is James Price, who publishes The Sable Arm, a blog about the United States Colored Troops.
During the Civil War, many military units had their own regimental flags that they would carry into battle, and this was true of units in the United States’ Colored Troops. On the third day of the month, I’ll display a flag from each of those regiments – depending on my ability to find these flags through internet searches and other sources.
These ladies are holding a replica of the regimental flag for the First Kansas Colored Infantry. A larger image of the flag is here at the site for the Kansas Historical Society.
The First Kansas Colored Infantry is one of the most historically significant regiments in the war, although it is less well known than the 54th Massachusetts (depicted in the movie Glory) or perhaps the Louisiana Native Guard/Corps D’Afrique.
At the start of the Civil War, the Union government did not use blacks as soldiers, for various legal and political reasons (see a discussion of these reasons here and here). But that wasn’t a show-stopper for the people of Kansas and its U.S. Senator, James Lane.
Kansas began the recruitment of blacks into the state militia force during the summer of 1862. Some of these black men were fugitive slaves from next-door Missouri (Lane and others are reported to have gone on slave raiding parties into that state); several hundred were from Kansas’s Indian Home Guard. Whatever the source, the result was the formation of the First Kansas Colored Infantry, the first African American regiment raised in the Northern states. Although the 1st Kansas was not formally accepted into the federal army until January 13, 1863, the First Kansas Colored was among the first African American regiments to see fighting.
The Kansas Historical Society notes that
Five months passed before the First was accepted into federal service, but this did not deter them from training or seeing action. On October 28, 1862, a detachment of 225 men faced 500 Confederates at Island Mound in Bates County, Missouri. Ten members of the First were killed and twelve wounded, but the Confederates were driven off.
The First distinguished itself throughout the Civil War. Most prominent were two battles in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in July 1863. At Cabin Creek on July 2, blacks fought alongside whites for the first time in turning back Confederate troops. Fifteen days later, on July 17, at Honey Springs, the First had perhaps its best day of the war, holding the federal center against attack. This action effectively ended any doubts west of the Mississippi about the abilities of black soldiers. Major General James Blunt would later remark, “I never saw such fighting as was done by that Negro regiment . . . . they make better soldiers in every respect than any troops I have ever had under my command.”
The worst day in the First’s Civil War record came on April 18, 1864, at Poison Springs, Arkansas, where 117 died and 65 were wounded. The death toll was aggravated by the Confederates’ execution of captured and wounded men left on the field. For black soldiers in the west, “Remember Poison Springs!” was a battle cry for the remainder of the war.
The preserved regimental flag of the First Kansas Colored Infantry documents the unit’s gallantry. Recorded on it are the battle honors of Island Mound, Cabin Creek, Honey Springs, and Poison Springs, as well as the battles of Sherwood, Prairie Deanne, Jenkins Ferry, and Camden.
The First Kansas Colored Infantry was organized into the USCT as the 79th Regiment Infantry (New), on December 13, 1864.
Several memorials have been erected in honor of the First Kansas, which underscores their importance:
• First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Memorial in Bates County, Missouri
• Memorial at the Fort Scott National Cemetery, Kansas.
• Memorial to the First Kansas Colored on the Honey Springs Battlefield
• Memorial at the Cabin Creek Battlefield near Pensacola, Oklahoma.
View all of the USCT flags on this cite to date by going here.
A great way to celebrate Memorial Day is by visiting one of the dozen monuments that have been erected to honor the United States Colored Troops (USCT) who participated in the Civil War. I have identified the following monument sites which are in several states and the District of Columbia. [If you know of any that I've missed, please write to me and I will make an update.]
The information about each monument site is brief. Originally, I wanted to include a lot more information, but then the post became too large and unwieldly. I’ve provided links that give additional details, and I encourage you to follow them and explore.
My main focus is on monuments, which I define as large, usually sculpted outdoor pieces. There are many other markers, which are smaller commemorative pieces, that honor the USCT (and which may identify themselves as monuments); I have indicated a few of these in this blog entry. Over time, I may add more.
This is an example of a smaller memorial marker which I have not included in my list of USCT monuments. I have listed a couple more of these below.
This marker is from the Cabin Creek Battlefield near Pensacola, Oklahoma, and commemorates the First Kansas Colored Infantry. Click on the image to see a larger size version of the photograph.
If a particular monument is a sculpted piece, I’ve tried to include the sculptor’s name. Some monuments are simply large headboards with engravings, and would not have required a dedicated sculptor to produce original art.
For those who are interested in visiting USCT burial sites, please go to RESTING PLACES OF UNITED STATES COLORED TROOPS.
Of note is that at least fifteen of these monuments were erected in the past 20 years. My speculation is that this recent interest in memorializing the USCT got its impetus from the 1989 movie Glory, which is a fictionalized account of the 54th Massachusetts regiment that served in the Union army.
List of USCT Monuments shown in this blog entry:
1. The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry; New Haven, Connecticut.
2. The African-American Civil War Memorial – The Spirit Of Freedom; Washington, District of Columbia
3. 2nd Regiment Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops; Fort Myers, Florida
4. Colored Soldiers Monument (AKA Kentucky African American Civil War Veterans Monument); Frankfort, Kentucky
5. In Memory of More Than 400 Prominent United States Colored Troops from Kent County; Chestertown, Maryland
6. Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment; Boston, Massachusetts
7. African American Monument; Vicksburg, Mississippi
8. 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Civil War Monument – “Battle of Island Mound”; Butler, Missouri
9. 56th United States Colored Troops Monument; St. Louis, Missouri
10. Soldiers’ Memorial at Lincoln University, Missouri; Jefferson City, Missouri
11. In Memory of the Colored Union Soldiers; Hertford, North Carolina
12. United States Colored Troops National Monument; Nashville, Tennessee
13. West Point Monument (AKA Norfolk African-American Civil War Memorial); Norfolk, Virginia
14. Civil War Monument; Portsmouth,Virginia
Other USCT monuments which are not shown in this blog entry (click on the links to see and read about these monuments):
15. African American Medal Of Honor Recipients Memorial, Wilmington, Delaware. This monument is dedicated to the 87 African Americans who were awarded the US Medal of Honor. The sculpted piece includes a depiction of a Civil War era African American soldier.
16. African American Civil War Monument in Decatur, Illinois. This monument commemorates the entire African American Civil War experience, and includes images of Colored Troops, slaves, freedmen/contrabands, and Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
17. Union Monument at Fort Butler in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. This monument is dedicated to the African American soldiers who fought at the Battle of Fort Butler.
18. United States Colored Troops Civil War Memorial Monument in Lexington Park, Maryland.
19. 54th Regiment Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Plaza in New Bedford, Massachusetts. This plaza/park features a columned archway and water fountain that commemorate the all black 54th Regiment, and is near the location of a recruiting station where many of the regiment enlisted for service.
20. Corinth Contraband Camp, Corinth, Mississippi. This site is a monument to freed blacks, AKA “contrabands,” and includes sculptured pieces of African descent soldiers.
21. Monument to 26th Regiment United States Colored Infantry, Ithaca, New York. This monument is located at an African Methodist Episcopalian (AME) church which served as a recruiting station for African Americans in upstate New York.
22. All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers & Sailors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This monument is not strictly for USCT, and it physically depicts World War I era soldiers. But it’s on the list because it honors all African Americans soldiers through World War I.
Finally, these are some noteworthy memorial markers to African Americans who fought in the Civil War:
23. Monument to the 1st Regiment, Kansas Colored Volunteers, Honey Springs Battlefield, Checotah, Oklahoma. This commemorates the black soldiers who fought at Honey Springs in what was formerly Indian Territory.
24. Monument at Petersburg National Battlefield, Petersburg, Virginia. This recognizes the service of United States Colored Troops who participated in the Siege of Petersburg during 1864-65.
25. See the memorial to the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers at the Cabin Creek Battlefield near Pensacola, Oklahoma, which is shown above in the beginning of this blog entry.
This list was developed mainly from research done on Internet. The ‘net can be unreliable at times, but then, this post would not have been possible without on-line resources. I invite one and all to identify any errors in the text below, and I will work toward making the corrections on a timely basis.
 The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry
New Haven, Connecticut.
The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry Memorial
Photographer: Richard E. Miller; taken: July 6, 2009
Click on the image or here to see a larger version of the photograph from the Historical Marker Database site.
This monument to the much storied Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment is, to me, one of the most visually striking of the USCT memorials. It is in a circular space that features a large obelisk at its center which is partially encircled by eight stone markers that feature the names of regiment members. The obelisk has images of the soldiers and an inscription which tells the history of the regiment. More regiment history is here.
The memorial was erected in 2008 by the Descendants of the Connecticut 29th Colored Regiment, C.V. Infantry, Inc. The sculpture was designed by Ed Hamilton of Louisville, Kentucky. Images of the monument dedication are here.
The memorial is in the northwest corner of Crisuolo Park (a.k.a. Quinnipiac Park) off Chapel Street. The park is just east of the Mill River and north of the Quinnipiac. It is accessible from northbound I-91 off exit 5 (State Street) via James Street. Click for map.
From the obelisk on the monument site
Source: 29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Colored) website
For additional information:
Entry in the Historical Marker Database
A Sketch of the 29th Regiment of Connecticut Colored Troops by Isaac J. Hill, 1867
Connecticut African American Soldiers in the Civil War, 1861-1865 (PDF)
Note: This is from Yulanda Burgess of the of the “United States Colored Troops Brigade” Yahoo discussion group:
In conjunction with its “Discovering the Civil War Exhibit” which opened on May 21, The Ford Henry (AKA Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum) will have the original Emancipation Proclamation on display from the National Archives for three days only, June 20-22, 2011.
The nationally renown museum is located in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburban of Detroit. The entire exhibit is free only during the display of the original Emancipation Proclamation. Those visiting before or after the June dates will see only a facsimile as part of the overall Civil War exhibit. This original document has very, very limited viewing due to its fragility. The last public display of the Emancipation Proclamation was in Los Angeles at the Getty’s Gallery in November of 2003.
For more information see: http://www.thehenryford.org/events/emancipationProclamation.aspx
NOTE: The Henry Ford is hoping for additional responses to its invitation to US Colored Troops groups/units to participate during the Emancipation Proclamation’s display. Any unit that has received a personal invitation to participate in a vigil and encampment and act as a honor guard is urged to contact the museum as soon as possible.