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African

Americans
at War
African
Americans
at War
An Encyclopedia

v o l u m e o n e

j o n at h a n d. s u t h e r l a n d

Santa Barbara, California Denver, Colorado Oxford, England


Copyright © 2004 by Jonathan D. Sutherland

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a


retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except for the inclusion of brief
quotations in a review, without prior permission in writing from the publishers.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Sutherland, Jonathan.
African Americans at war : an encyclopedia / Jonathan D. Sutherland.
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 1-57607-746-2 (hardcover : alk. paper) ISBN 1-85109-371-0 (eBook)
1. United States—Armed Forces—AfricanAmericans—
Biography—Encyclopedias. 2. African American soldiers—
Biography—Encyclopedias. I. Title.
U52.S88 2003
355'.0092'396073—dc22
2003021501

07 06 05 04 | 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This book is also available on the World Wide Web as an eBook.


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Manufactured in the United States of America
Contents

Introduction, xvii

A
Abraham Lincoln Battalion (Spanish Civil War), 1
African American Enlistment, 2
African American Officers (1960s), 5
African American Women in the Military, 8
African Americanization, 11
Alexander, Clifford L., Jr. (b. 1933), 14
Alexander, John H. (1864–1894), 15
American Civil War (1861–1865), 15
American Revolution, 41
Amistad Case (1839), 48
Anderson, James, Jr. (1947–1967), 48
Anderson, Webster (b. 1933), 49
Antebellum Period, 49
Apache Wars (1877–1879 and 1880–1881), 50
Archer, Lee “Buddy,” Jr. (1922– ), 56
Armed Forces Equal Opportunity Survey, 57
Ashley, Eugene, Jr. (1931–1968), 59
Attucks, Crispus (1723–1770), 60
Austin, Oscar Palmer (1948–1969), 62

| v |
Contents

B
Baker, Vernon Joseph (b. 1919), 63
Barnes, William H. (1830/1–1866), 64
Battle Mountain, Korea (1950), 64
Beaty, Powhatan (1837–1916), 66
Bell, Dennis (1866–1953), 67
Black, Barry C. (b. 1948), 68
Black Dispatches, 68
Blake, Robert, 72
Boards of Examination for Officers in United States Colored Troops, 72
Boston Massacre (March 5, 1770), 74
Boyne, Thomas (1846–1896), 74
Brashear, Carl Maxie (b. 1931), 75
Brown, Jesse LeRoy (1926–1950), 76
Brown, Roscoe C., Jr. (b. 1922), 77
Brown, Wesley Anthony (b. 1927), 78
Brown, Willa (Chappell) (1906–1992), 79
Brownsville Incident (1906), 79
Bryant, William Maud (1933–1969), 80
Buffalo Soldiers, 81
Bulge, Battle of the (1944–1945), 85
Bullard, Eugene Jacques (1894–1961), 86
Bunker Hill, Battle of (June 17, 1775), 87
Bureau of Colored Troops, 88

C
Call to Rebellion (1843), 93
Camp Nelson, Kentucky, 94
Carney, William Harvey (1840–1908), 95
Carter, Edward Allen, Jr. (1916–1963), 97

| vi |
Contents

Cash, John Anthony, Sr. (1936–1998), 98


Chaffin’s Farm (New Market Heights), Battle of (September 29–30, 1864), 99
Champagne Offensive (1918), 100
Charlton, Cornelius (1929–1951), 101
Chateau Thierry, Battle of (Battle of Belleau Wood, 1918), 102
Cherry, Frederick (1928– ), 103
Christophe, Henri (1767–1820), 104
Cleburne’s Plan (1864), 104
Coleman, Bessie (1892–1926), 105
Colonial America, 106
Coloured Corps (War of 1812), 109
Confederates, African American, 109
Croix de Guerre, 117
Cromwell, Oliver (1753–1853), 119

D
Davis, Benjamin Oliver, Jr. (1912–2002), 121
Davis, Benjamin Oliver, Sr. (1880–1970), 124
Davis, Calvin Clark (d. 1944), 127
Davis, Rodney Maxwell (1942–1967), 128
Delany, Martin Robison (1812–1885), 128
Dorman, Isaiah (1821?–1876), 129
Dorsey, Decatur (1836–1891), 130
Double V, 130
Doughty, Gene (b. 1924), 134
Douglass, Anna Murray (1813–1882), 134
Douglass, Frederick (ca.1817–1895), 135
Draft Riots (1863), 142
Drew, Dr. Charles Richard (1904–1950), 144
Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt (1868–1963), 145
Dunmore Proclamation (November 7, 1775), 146

| vii |
Contents

E
Earley, Charity Adams (1918–2002), 149
1812, War of, 150
8th United States Colored Troops (Civil War), 157
El Caney, Battle of (July 1, 1898), 158
Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863), 160
Europe, James Reese (1881–1919), 165
Executive Order 9981, 166

F
Fifteenth Amendment (1870), 169
55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (Civil War), 169
54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (Civil War), 171
59th United States Colored Troops (Civil War), 174
57th United States Colored Troops (Civil War), 175
1st Kansas Colored (Volunteers) Infantry Regiment (Civil War), 175
1st Louisiana Native Guards (Civil War), 176
1st North Carolina Colored Volunteers (Civil War), 179
1st Rhode Island Regiment (American Revolution), 180
1st South Carolina Volunteers (Civil War), 181
555th Parachute Infantry Battalion (Triple Nickles) (World War II), 182
Fleming, Benjamin (1782–1870), 184
Flipper, Henry Ossian (1856–1940), 185
Forrest, George, 187
Fort Blakely, Battle of (March 31–April 9, 1865), 188
Fort Fisher, Battle of (December 24, 1864, and January 13–15, 1865), 189
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 190
Fort Pillow Massacre (April 12, 1864), 191
Fort Wagner, Battle of (July 18, 1863), 193
Forty Acres and a Mule, 194

| viii |
Contents

48th and 49th Volunteers (Philippines), 197


Fourteenth Amendment (1868), 198
14th Regiment Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (Civil War), 199
Fox, John R. (d. 1944), 199
Freedmen’s Bureau, 200
Freeman Field Incident, 201

G
GI Bill (June 22, 1944), 203
Gifu (1950), 204
Golden Thirteen, 205
Gravely, Samuel Lee, Jr. (b. 1922), 207
Green Mountain Boys, 208
Guam Incident (1944), 208
Gulf War (1991), 209

H
Hall, Charles “Buster” (1920–1971), 213
Hall, Prince (1735–1807), 213
Hastie, William Henry (1904–1976), 214
Hawley, Nero (1758–1817), 216
Haynes, Lemuel (1753–1833), 216
Healy, Michael Morris (1839–1903), 217
Hector, Edward (1744–1834), 217
Honey Hill, Battle of (November 30, 1864), 217
Houston Riots (1917), 219

I
Iwo Jima, Battle of (February 19–March 26, 1945), 223

| ix |
Contents

J
James, Daniel “Chappie,” Jr. (1920–1978), 225
James, Miles (1829–1871), 227
James, Willy F., Jr. (1920–1945), 228
Jenkins, Robert H., Jr. (1948–1969), 229
Jeter, Phoebe, 229
Jim Crow Military, 229
Joel, Lawrence (1928–1984), 232
Johnson, Dwight H. (1947–1971), 232
Johnson, Hazel Winifred, 233
Johnson, Henry (1824–1904), 233
Johnson, Henry (1897–1929), 234
Johnson, Ralph H. (1949–1968), 236
Julian, Hubert Eustace Fauntleroy (1897?–1983), 237

K
Kettle Hill, Battle of (July 1, 1898), 239
Korean War (1950–1953), 240

L
Lafayette, James (1748–1830), 249
Lake Erie, Battle of (September 10, 1813), 250
Langhorn, Garfield M. (1948–1969), 251
Las Guásimas, Battle of (June 24, 1898), 251
Lawrence, Robert H., Jr. (1935–1967), 252
Leonard, Matthew (1929–1967), 253
Lee, William (d. 1828), 252
Lew, Barzillai (1743–1821 or 1822), 254
Lexington and Concord, Battles of (April 19, 1775), 255

| x |
Contents

Little Rock Nine, 256


Long, Donald Russell (1939–1966), 257
Louvestre, Mary, 258

M
March on Washington (1941), 259
Marne, Second Battle of the (July 15–August 5, 1918), 261
Mason, USS (DE-529) (1944–1947), 263
Massacre Canyon (September 18, 1879), 264
Meuse-Argonne Offensive (September 26–November 11, 1918), 265
Military Intelligence, African Americans in, 266
Militia Act of 1792, 269
Miller, Dorie (1919–1943), 270
Montford Point Marines (World War II), 271
Montgomery’s Brigade (1863–1864) (Civil War), 272
Mulzac, Hugh (1886–1971), 272

N
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 275
National Guard, 276
New Orleans, Battle of (December 1814–January 1815), 278
99th Pursuit/Fighter Squadron (World War II), 279
92d Division (World War I), 282
93d Division (World War I), 284
9th Cavalry, 287

O
Okinawa, Battle of (April 1–June 22, 1945), 293
Olive, Milton Lee, III (1946–1965), 294

| xi |
Contents

Olustee, Battle of (February 20, 1864), 296


102d U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), 297

P
Pancho Villa Campaign (1916–1917), 299
PC-1264, USS (1944–1948, World War II), 301
Petersen, Frank E. (b. 1931), 301
Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902), 302
Pierce, Adam (b. 1756), 304
Pinckney, William (1915–1975), 305
Pitts, Riley Leroy (1937–1967), 305
Poison Spring Massacre (April 18, 1864), 306
Poor, Salem (1747–1834), 307
Port Chicago Mutiny (1944), 308
Port Hudson, Battle of (May 27, 1863), 309
Potter’s Raid (April 1865), 310
Powell, Colin Luther (b. 1937), 311

R
Randolph, Asa Philip (1889–1979), 317
Red Ball Express (August 25–November 16, 1944), 318
Richmond, Battles of (1864), 320
Rivers, Ruben (d. 1944), 322
Robeson, Paul Leroy (1892–1976), 323
Robinson, John C., 325
Robinson, Roscoe, Jr. (1929–1993), 325
Rogers, Charles Calvin (1929–1990), 326
Rough Riders and Buffalo Soldiers (Spanish-American War), 327

| xii |
Contents

S
Salem, Peter (1750?–1816), 329
Saltville Massacre (Battle of Saltville, October 2–3, 1864), 331
San Juan Hill, Battle of (July 1, 1898), 332
Sargent, Ruppert Leon (1938–1967), 335
Sasser, Clarence Eugene (b. 1947), 336
Segregation and Racism in the Military, 336
Selective Service Acts (1917 and 1940), 349
Seminole-Negro Scouts (1870–1914), 351
Service Units of World War II, African American, 353
761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion (World War II), 361
Sims, Clifford Chester (1942–1968), 362
6888th Postal Battalion (World War II), 363
Smalls, Robert (1839–1915), 363
Smith, James Webster (1850–1876), 365
Sol Legare Island, Battle of (July 16, 1863), 366
Spanish-American War (1898), 367
Spanish Civil War (1936–1938), 375
Spartanburg Incident (1917), 378
Stance, Emanuel (Edmund) (c. 1847–1887), 379
Stowers, Freddie (d. 1918), 381

T
10th Cavalry (1866–1898), 383
Thirteenth Amendment (1865), 388
30th Connecticut Volunteers (Civil War), 388
34th Regiment (Civil War), 389
Thomas, Charles L. (1920–1980), 390

| xiii |
Contents

Thompson, William Henry (1927–1950), 391


370th Infantry Regiment (World War I), 392
371st Infantry Regiment (World War I), 394
372d Infantry Regiment (World War I), 395
369th Infantry Regiment (Harlem Hellfighters), 397
332d Fighter Group (World War II), 399
Trenton, Battle of (December 26, 1776), 400
Trinidad Disturbance (July 1943), 401
Tubman, Harriet (c. 1820–1913), 402
Turner, Henry McNeal (1834–1915), 404
Tuskegee Airmen (World War II), 406
25th Infantry Regiment, 410
24th Infantry Regiment, 413
29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry (Civil War), 418
23d Kansas Volunteer Infantry, 419
Tye, Colonel (Titus) (1753–1780?), 420

| v o l u m e t w o |
U
Underground Railroad, 423
U.S. Air Force, 426
U.S. Army, 431
U.S. Army, Interwar Period (1918–1941), 456
U.S. Coast Guard, 465
United States Colored Troops of Kentucky (Civil War), 470
U.S. Marine Corps, 471
U.S. Navy, 487
Ute War (1879), 498

| xiv |
Contents

V
Vietnam War (1954–1975), 501

W
Walker, William (d. 1864), 505
Waller, Calvin (1937–1996), 506
Walley, Augustus (1856–1938), 506
Wanton, George Henry (1868–1940), 507
Warren, John E., Jr. (1946–1969), 508
Washington, William G. (d. 1952), 508
Watson, George (1915–1943), 509
Wereth Massacre (December 17, 1944), 510
West Point, 510
Wham Paymaster Robbery (May 11, 1889), 513
Williams, Cathay (1842–1892?), 514
Wilson, William Othello (1867–1928), 515
Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, 517
Women’s Reserve of the U.S. Navy (WAVES), 521
World War I (1914–1918), 523
World War II, 537
World War II Infantry Replacements, 576

Y
Young, Charles (1864–1922), 585

Z
Z-Gram 66 (December 17, 1970), 589

| xv |
Contents

Chronology, 593
United States Colored Artillery, Formation and Service Records of, 639
United States Colored Cavalry, Formation and Service Records of, 645
United States Colored Troops, Formation and Service Records of, 649
United States Colored Troops, Battles of, 701
Buffalo Soldier Postings, 1865–1917, 723
World War I Recruitment Camps and Postings, African American Troops, 727
World War II and Korean War Recruitment Camps, African American Troops, 733
Desegregation of the Armed Forces: Chronology, 1945–1953, 741
Medal of Honor, 747
Historic Sites of African American Military Significance, 769
Bibliography, 775
Index, 785

| xvi |
Introduction

Lexington Green, Lake Erie, Appomattox, San to the background is a black face, mute testi-
Juan Hill, the Marne, Iwo Jima, the Ardennes— mony of a presence. The inclusion of these
all have in common the presence of African faces has been explained away in passing, de-
Americans. These key engagements are but a scribing them as favorite slaves, personal ser-
taste of four hundred years of military service to vants, and other adjuncts of the leading white
the United States, ardent patriotism against a personalities. Behind the faces are real men
backdrop of hatred and distrust. This work aims (and later women) who gradually became inte-
to place the African American in the military gral parts of the U.S. military machine. For
context of the United States and for the first every featured face, there were dozens, then
time to detail the complete history. hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of
It may seem incredible that a nation as young others who gained no recognition of their con-
as the United States could for so long deny an tribution, their gallantry, and their sacrifice.
integral part of its heritage. It may seem all the Military historians could be forgiven for hav-
more bizarre that a nation’s documented history ing missed or ignored the African American. In-
exhibits all the signs that it effectively excised stitutionally, their contribution was long de-
significant contributions made by a minority. meaned; for the most part their valor was taken
Such is the military history of the United from them and assigned to white units in offi-
States, spread over four hundred years of inter- cial and generally accepted histories. It has only
nal strife, imperial adventures, and world wars. been in recent years, with the successes of the
Unraveling the story of African Americans in civil rights movement and the rapid develop-
the U.S. military is no easy task, fraught with ment of African American history, that vital
contradictions, riddled with inconclusive evi- clues, documents, and forgotten tales have been
dence, and at all times poorly documented. Yet uncovered.
African Americans were in evidence from the In truth, my own discovery and interest in Af-
very beginnings of European colonies in North rican American military history has followed a
America, slaves or the sons of slaves called upon similar path from a beginning of absolute igno-
by the dominant white ruling classes to bear rance. I had long been fascinated by the Ameri-
arms in times of need. Their story is a constant can Civil War, but standard histories barely
until the 1950s, with calls for African Ameri- mention the nearly 200,000 African Americans
cans to rally around the flag when it was men- who donned the uniform of the United States
aced, only to be discarded and humiliated once Colored Troops. No mention was made of the
more in times of peace. African Americans in the U.S. Navy and none of
Examining the art and later the photography the servants, slaves, and soldiers in the ranks of
of the wars, of the regiments, and of the ac- the Confederacy. Runaway slaves, for the most
tions, we see white faces staring back at us from part, were described as hapless and helpless
history. Occasionally, deep in shadow, relegated souls unable to fend for themselves without the

| xvii |
Introduction

guiding hands of their white masters, yet what tions of Valley Forge, participated in the battles
induced so many to suffer all the more in their up and down the eastern seaboard, and were
decision to wear the blue of the Union? Facing present when the final British surrender was ac-
ridicule, resistance, and broken promises in the cepted at Yorktown. The fledging Continental
North and revulsion, reprisals, and summary ex- Navy and the navies of the colonies relied on Af-
ecution in the South, these men fought for rican Americans to put to sea; without large
more than the freedom of their race. They numbers of freedmen and slaves blockades
fought for ideals enshrined in the U.S. Consti- would have been ineffective and the interdic-
tution, denied them from birth. tion of British vessels bringing supplies and re-
But the story of African Americans in the serves less than adequate.
U.S. military begins not with the Civil War but Yet no sooner had victory been achieved and
with the very earliest white colonists and their the nascent state formed, with its famed Consti-
slaves. These fragile settlements, far from any tution proclaiming liberty and equality for all,
support from Europe, soon learned to fend for than African Americans were again marginal-
themselves, to guard their borders, and to ized. The brooding distrust and the U.S. desire
launch preemptive strikes against Native Ameri- to wrest Canada from the British erupted in
cans. Manpower was always a scarce resource, 1812. Once again, African Americans flocked to
and often, against the colonies’ better judgment, the militia and especially to the navy. The key to
African American slaves and freedmen were im- Canada and to American ambitions was the
pressed into colonial militias when the colonies Great Lakes, patrolled and denied by the oppos-
felt most at threat. As the years passed and the ing fleets. At the Battle of Lake Erie, it has been
views of the legislature of each of the colonies estimated that African Americans accounted for
coalesced into policies, each had its own ap- around one in four of the crews on the Ameri-
proach to the deployment of African Americans. can vessels.
Against this backdrop, the non-British colonies With the end of hostilities, the U.S. military
were instrumental in establishing mixed-race retrenched once more. For African Americans,
militia; the Spanish and the French had no any advances that had taken place during the
qualms about a man’s color, his status, or his re- later part of the eighteenth and early years of
ligion when it came to the defense of the colony. the nineteenth century were brushed aside as
Interestingly, what would become the South- the armed forces returned once more to a pre-
ern states were more inclined toward accepting dominantly white force.
African Americans into their militia than the It would take the cataclysmic event of the
Northern states. Each colony had its own inter- Civil War for African Americans to once again
pretation of the various Militia Acts—some ac- have the chance to show their worth, their patri-
cepting African Americans provided they were otism, and their valor. No sooner had the first
free men, others barring all, save those sent as shots been fired at Fort Sumter than the nation
substitutes for their white masters. was on a collision course with itself. The South,
It was therefore unremarkable that when the reliant on agriculture supported by slavery, faced
colonies revolted against British rule in the late a vibrant and diverse North far more developed
eighteenth century, African Americans partici- economically and technologically. The war did
pated in the key incidents that frame the leg- not open as a conflict aimed to determine
endary tales of the birth of the new nation. Afri- whether slavery was acceptable or desirable.
can Americans stood shoulder to shoulder on Even Lincoln was at pains to avoid this con-
Lexington Green, fought and ran with the other clusion; he feared that a ban on slavery would
militia at Concord, and temporarily withstood force the Border States into the arms of the
the British assaults on Bunker Hill (Breed’s Confederacy. Assailed by Southern force of
Hill). African Americans withstood the priva- arms and under constant attack from Northern

| xviii |
Introduction

abolitionists, Lincoln finally issued the Emanci- executed. If Confederates expected this hard
pation Proclamation. This was only the begin- line to dissuade African Americans from fleeing
ning; at first it merely accelerated the flight of the South and pledging their allegiance to the
African Americans from the slave-owning states Union, they were mistaken. Even tragic and vi-
to the relative safety of Union-held territory. cious incidents such as Poison Springs and
Thousands of displaced African Americans who Saltville, which amounted to murder of African
had reached the North via the Underground American troops, galvanized more recruits and
Railroad were joined by thousands more who bolstered the determination of those already in
had been liberated from bondage by soldiers in uniform.
blue. The story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry
What to do with these people? How to deter- Regiment, led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw,
mine their status? Already solutions for men has justifiably found recognition in a number of
were being adopted, albeit without authority books and the motion picture Glory—yet the
from Washington. Experiments had begun in 54th’s story is not remarkable compared to
earnest to transform ragged field hands, illiter- other African American units. The regiment and
ate and malnourished men, into soldiers. The its sister unit, the 55th, exemplify the lot of the
voices of the abolitionists both within and with- African American in uniform during the Civil
out the African American community could no War, no more and no less.
longer be ignored. Gradually, reluctantly and Increasing numbers of African Americans
with trepidation African Americans were in- would join the United States Colored Troops,
ducted into the Union Army. The trickle of operating as Colored Infantry, Cavalry, and Ar-
1863 had become a flood by the last months of tillery Regiments. Still more would join the
the war. Initially at least, these black soldiers Union Navy—which makes the service’s later
were not recognized as true fighting men; they reluctance to accept African Americans even
would provide an opportunity to release white eighty years later all the more astounding. And
soldiers from drudgery, fatigue duties, construc- even in the Confederacy, African Americans
tion details, and backwater garrisons. In truth, played a military role. Officially, at least, it was
both the North and South, after two years of not until the last few weeks of the war that the
heavy casualties, with the prospect of greater proposals to institute a mass recruitment of
sacrifices to come, were already scraping the re- slaves in return for freedom was discussed and
cruitment barrel. African Americans, as far as later accepted. By then of course, it was too
Washington was concerned, seemed to offer a late.
solution to the manpower crisis. Symbolically, it was fitting that African Amer-
Reactions to African American recruitment ican units were present when Richmond fell
were mixed; there was jubilation from the aboli- and that they were at hand when Robert E. Lee
tionists and from African Americans. For the finally surrendered at Appomattox. For many Af-
most part, the North viewed the move with sus- rican Americans, short on service and experi-
picion and more than a little consternation; ence, the end of hostilities was not the end of
many whites considered that armed and trained their term under arms. The post–Civil War es-
blacks would inevitably cause problems. The tablishment of the U.S. Army allowed for the
South reacted in a predictable manner for a so- existence of no fewer than six African American
ciety based on the assumption of the inherent regiments, which would later be reduced to
inferiority of the black man. African Americans four.
donning the Union blue could expect no quarter So began the U.S. Army’s ninety-year tradi-
from the South; their white officers would be tion of segregated African American units. The
held responsible for inciting insurrection, and 24th and 25th Infantry and the 9th and 10th
the orders were that they were to be summarily Cavalry would now be employed in the still-

| xix |
Introduction

unsettled West. African Americans were to be U.S. armed forces reverted to a predominantly
deployed against Native Americans. Often white hue. The interwar years began to offer
posted in remote garrisons, responsible for thou- promise for African Americans choosing the
sands of square miles of territory, the Buffalo army as a career, and a handful were admitted
Soldiers, as they would become known, learned to West Point, but by the time the United States
their trade and established reputations in count- entered World War II, there were precious few
less engagements, pursuits, and holding actions African Americans under arms. But the impetus
as part of Washington’s strategy to impose its for change had finally arrived; first the army,
will on the Native American tribes. For the most then the navy and air force began African Amer-
part, these extended tours of duty were unsung ican recruitment in line with the agreed quotas.
and unrecognized; in the beginning white offi- Even the U.S. Marine Corps, exclusively white
cers spurned the regiments, but as their reputa- for its entire history, began to recruit African
tion grew the scant opportunities for active serv- Americans. Donning the uniform was not
ice made such service more attractive. Active enough, accepting subsidiary roles not an op-
service, even with the Buffalo Soldiers, meant tion; these men wanted to fight as equals, yet
that a career officer could leapfrog his contem- the military establishment was reluctant still.
poraries and attain faster promotion. The first African Americans to see combat in
At the end of the nineteenth century the World War II were those in the Far East, but be-
United States, eager to flex its imperial muscles, hind them unit upon unit was preparing for bat-
came into conflict with the aging and ill-pre- tle, from squadrons of fighter pilots to antisub-
pared Spanish empire. Cuba was stormed and marine vessels, from tank destroyer units to
taken, and later the Philippines. Significantly, Marine battalions. The war which had begun
this was the first time that African American with the spirited handling of an antiaircraft gun
regular units had been deployed in force at Pearl Harbor by an African American mess-
abroad; the black infantry and cavalry units man, Dorie Miller, would end with African
were present at all of the major actions that led Americans having flown sorties over Berlin,
to the surrender of Spanish forces on Cuba and punched their way through German defenses as
were, at various times over the next few years, far as Austria, claimed German U-boat kills, and
deployed against insurgent forces in the Philip- fought in many of the fierce island invasions in
pines. Nonetheless, the years leading up to the Pacific. True heroes emerged from the ranks
World War I were unkind to African American of the Tuskegee Airmen, the regular infantry in
soldiers. No sooner had the need for their expe- Europe, the Marine Corps in the Far East, and
rience passed than they were again relegated to the crews of the naval vessels dominating the
the margins of the United States, much de- seas. Although many would receive immediate
pleted in numbers. recognition in the form of medals and citations,
It was not the African American regulars of only one would live to receive his Medal of
the U.S. Army who would be given the opportu- Honor decades later in a ceremony at the White
nity to serve their country in the first major con- House.
flict of the twentieth century. This honor fell to The corner had been turned, African Ameri-
the thousands of National Guardsmen and con- cans in vast numbers, both male and female,
scripts who would find themselves in the all- had served in virtually every branch of the U.S.
black 92d and 93d Infantry Divisions. All of the military; significantly, many had served in early
regiments would see action on the Western experimental integrated units. The process to-
Front. ward full integration had begun, but it took an-
As had been the case at the end of each of other war to put this fully in place.
the wars, African Americans were excluded from When North Korean troops surged across the
the major victory parades and once again, the 38th parallel in 1950 and invaded South Korea,

| xx |
Introduction

the immediate UN response was to send ill-pre- tive steps into the military over a hundred years
pared and hastily mustered units to stem the before. Two hundred years had passed since Af-
tide. Among these were the 24th Infantry, the rican Americans stood among the revolutionar-
venerable African American unit created in the ies defying the greatest empire the world had
aftermath of the Civil War. The unit has re- ever known. The long journey to seek recogni-
ceived largely unfair criticism of its conduct tion and equality can be seen through the eyes
during the Korean War, but in truth it stood of thousands of men and women across the cen-
alone as the last remaining segregated U.S. turies, this is their story.
Army unit. Its subsequent demise spelled an Their story is not just one of combat, it is the
end to formal segregation in the U.S. military; history of a long and involved social, political,
by now integration was in full swing across the and economic struggle for equality. It is the
length and breadth of the military. story of individuals, often forgotten or con-
The proof of equality had to come in opportu- signed to the footnotes of history, yet larger-
nity at all levels, including the officer ranks, and than-life individuals who forged new beginnings
in all services. By the time the United States be- for their race and for their country. Against all
came embroiled in Vietnam, a smattering of se- odds, African Americans from every era of
nior African American officers were in evidence. American history, from the backwoods of colo-
During the first Gulf War in the last decade of nial America to the deserts of Iraq, now claim
the twentieth century, African Americans were their rightful place in U.S. military history.
serving at the highest levels of command.
Much had changed since the thousands of Jon Sutherland
African American slaves had taken those tenta- March 2003

| xxi |
African
Americans
at War
a
Abraham Lincoln Battalion ment, is the story of Oliver Law, who became
(Spanish Civil War) the first African American to lead an integrated
American force. He was born in Texas in 1899
Approximately 100 African Americans were and served in the U.S. Army during World War
among the 3,200 volunteers from the United I. After six years, he left the army and worked in
States who formed the Abraham Lincoln Battal- a cement factory, as a taxi driver, as a stevedore,
ion to fight with the Republican forces in the and finally as manager of a small restaurant in
Spanish Civil War, which pitted the elected re- Chicago. Law joined the Communist Party dur-
publican government against conservative and ing the Great Depression and took part in
traditionalist forces trying to overthrow it. The marches such as the International Unemploy-
Abraham Lincoln Battalion was the first non– ment Day demonstration (March 6, 1930). He
Jim Crow military organization in U.S. history. and several other activists were arrested and
The Abraham Lincoln Battalion consisted of beaten by the police, but Law was undeterred.
an ideologically based group of volunteers. In 1936 Law joined the Abraham Lincoln
More than half were members of the Commu- Battalion to fight for the Republican Popular
nist and other left-wing parties. Equality was in- Front in the Spanish Civil War. The Popular
tegral to their credo: officers were often voted Front was a coalition of antifascists, including
into positions, and the only badge of rank was antimonarchists, revolutionaries, trade union-
small bars on a beret. In some respects, the lives ists, regional separatists, and Communists as
and sacrifices of the group were idealized by well as other revolutionaries. Law arrived in
supportive news reports from such people as the Spain in January 1937 and joined up with the
writer Ernest Hemingway; the journalists Her- international brigades that had concentrated
bert Matthews and Martha Gellhorn; and the around Albacete.
playwright Lillian Hellman. The battalion, and Franco’s Nationalists failed to capture
the Republican cause in general, received con- Madrid, but he ordered his 40,000 troops to cut
siderable support from many prominent Ameri- the city off from the rest of Republican Spain.
cans on the left, including African American ac- Consequently, the international brigades (the
tivists such as Paul Robeson and A. Philip Lincoln Battalion was part of the 15th Brigade)
Randolph. were sent into the Jarama Valley to block the
Integral to the tale of the Abraham Lincoln Nationalist advance. Law and the Abraham Lin-
Battalion, in terms of African American involve- coln Battalion first saw action on February 27,

| 1 |
African American Enlistment

1937. In that the engagement, Law distin- Communist Party, but some were nevertheless
guished himself and was promoted to command convicted under the Smith Act of advocating
of a machine gun company and shortly there- the violent overthrow of the government; most
after became battalion commander on the death convictions were overturned.
of Robert Merriman—making him the first Afri-
can American to lead an integrated, though un- See also Robeson, Paul Leroy; Spanish Civil War
official, American force. On July 6, 1937, the
Republicans launched a major counteroffensive References and Further Reading
to free Madrid, but Franco committed more Bessie, Alvah Cecil, and Albert Prago, eds. Our
troops. Law was killed July 9, 1937. There was Fight: Writings by Veterans of the Abraham
considerable argument about the death of Law Lincoln Brigade, Spain, 1936–1939. New York:
after the war. Some African American activists Monthly Review Press with Veterans of the
in the United States claimed that he had been Abraham Lincoln Brigade, 1987.
murdered by his own troops, but witnesses on Carroll, Peter N. The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln
the scene are clear that they saw him fall to en- Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War.
emy fire. Shortly after the war, Paul Robeson Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994.
tried unsuccessfully to have a movie made Collum, Danny Duncan, ed.; Victor A. Berch, chief
about Law but failed to obtain the necessary fi- researcher. African Americans in the Spanish Civil
War: “This Ain’t Ethiopia But It’ll Do.” New York:
nancial backing.
G. K. Hall, 1992.
The volunteers fought with a severe lack of
Eby, Cecil. Between the Bullet and the Lie: American
equipment and ultimately fell to superior num- Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. New York:
bers and weaponry. By the end of the conflict Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969.
some 750 had died in battle, a crippling casu- Felsen, Milt. Anti-Warrior: A Memoir. Iowa City:
alty rate. In November 1938, in an attempt to University of Iowa Press, 1989.
persuade the German and Italian troops fight- Guttmann, Allen. Wound in the Heart: America and
ing for Franco to quit the conflict, the Spanish the Spanish Civil War. New York: Free Press of
Republican leader, Juan Negrín, ordered that Glencoe, 1962.
the international brigades be withdrawn from Landis, Arthur H. Abraham Lincoln Brigade. New
the conflict. Franco’s allies refused to follow York: Citadel Press, 1967.
suit, and as a result Madrid fell in March 1939. Merriman, Marion. American Commander in Spain:
That war was over for the Abraham Lincoln Robert Hale Merriman and the Abraham Lincoln
Brigade. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1986.
Battalion, but their participation affected them
Rolfe, Edwin. Lincoln Battalion: The Story of the
after their return to the United States. The men
Americans Who Fought in Spain in the
were outraged when Stalin signed a nonaggres- International Brigades. New York: Veterans of the
sion pact with Hitler in 1939; many supported Abraham Lincoln Brigade, 1939.
the Communist Party’s call for the United Rosenstone, Robert A. Crusade of the Left: The
States to remain neutral. However, when the Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War. New
country did enter the war, many of the men en- York: Pegasus, 1969.
listed. Initially, men known to have been mem-
bers of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion were re-
fused active combat postings because of their
leftist political affiliations; later in the war,
some saw action. African American Enlistment
By the 1950s, however, former brigade mem-
bers were targets of the FBI and anti-Commu- Enlistment represents the number of men who
nist investigations mandated by the U.S. Con- have entered a given service; the term includes
gress. Most of the men had already left the both volunteers and draftees. The percentage of

| 2 |
African American Enlistment

African Americans lining up to enlist for active service in the 8th Regiment Infantry,
Illinois National Guard, Chicago, 1917. (National Archives)

enlisted African American troops has risen Later figures, based on contemporary sources
steadily, although figures vary depending on or produced by the services and later by the De-
when each service began accepting them. partment of Defense (and its predecessor, the
Reliable figures begin at the start of the Department of War), give more reliable percent-
twentieth century; before that, they are essen- ages. The U.S. Army, for example, has gradually
tially estimates. Approximately 180,000 African increased the number of African Americans as
Americans served in the Union army during the enlisted personnel from 1900 to the present
Civil War; the number who served with the day. Around 1900 the figure stood at or around
Confederate army, either in support positions 5 percent. At the peak of African American en-
that freed up white soldiers for combat or on listment in World War I, this figure rose to just
front-line duty themselves, is unknown. Figures over 10 percent. During the years between the
for earlier periods are similarly vague. Although wars, African American enlistments dropped to
African Americans undoubtedly served in the an all-time low, but the Selective Services Act of
army (either regular or federal forces or militia) 1940 brought another major increase in African
and in the navies (continental, state, or priva- American enlistment, which reached a level of
teer), no reliable source exists on the numbers around 13 percent. There was another drop in
involved. To derive the figures, one must ana- the early Cold War years, but beginning in 1970
lyze the muster rolls individual by individual. there was a steady annual increase. By the end

| 3 |
African American Enlistment

MINORITIES IN U.S. ARMED SERVICES, SEPTEMBER 2000


Other Minority
Total Black % Hispanic % Unk. % Total %

Army
Officer 65,047 7,350 11.3 2,536 3.9 3,515 5.4 13,401 20.6
Warrant 11,325 1,812 16 569 5 560 4.9 2,941 26
Officers Total 76,372 9,162 12 3,105 4.1 4,075 5.3 16,342 21.4
Enlisted 394,642 115,240 29.2 34,232 8.7 26,388 6.7 175,860 44.6
Grand Total 471,014 124,402 26.4 37,337 7.9 30,463 6.5 192,202 40.8

Navy
Officer 51,038 3,240 6.3 2,705 5.3 2,538 5 8,909 16.9
Warrant 1,719 284 16.5 27 1.6 115 6.7 426 24.8
Officers Total 52,757 3,524 6.7 2,732 5.2 2,653 5 8,909 16.9
Enlisted 310,284 62,974 20.3 29,630 9.5 27,568 8.9 120,172 38.7
Grand Total 363,041 66,498 18.3 32,362 8.9 30,221 8.3 129,081 35.6

Marine Corps
Officer 15,901 1,032 6.5 777 4.9 548 3.4 2,357 14.8
Warrant 2,007 309 15.4 137 6.8 51 2.5 497 24.8
Officers Total 17,908 1,341 7.5 914 5.1 599 3.3 2,854 15.9
Enlisted 152,474 25,023 16.4 20,174 13.2 7,185 4.7 52,382 34.4
Grand Total 170,382 26,364 15.5 21,088 12.4 7,784 4.6 55,236 32.4
Air Force
Officer 68,490 4,282 6.3 1,518 2.2 3,823 5.6 9,623 14.1
Warrant — — — — — — — — —
Officers Total 68,490 4,282 6.3 1,518 2.2 3,823 5.6 9,623 14.1
Enlisted 281,901 51,272 18.2 15,261 5.4 12,747 4.5 79,280 28.1
Grand Total 350,391 55,554 15.9 16,779 4.8 16,570 4.7 88,903 25.4

DOD
Officer 200,476 15,904 7.9 7,536 3.8 10,424 5.2 33,864 16.9
Warrant 15,051 2,405 12.4 733 4.9 726 4.8 3,864 25.7
Officers Total 215,527 18,309 8.5 8,269 3.8 11,150 5.2 37,728 17.5
Enlisted 1,139,301 254,509 22.3 99,297 8.7 73,888 6.5 427,694 37.5
Grand Total 1,354,828 272,818 20.1 107,566 7.9 85,038 6.3 465,422 34.4

Source: U.S. Department of Defense: http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/almanac/almanac/people/minorities.html.

of the twentieth century, the combined services rary figures exceed the percentage of the U.S.
included about 30 percent African American population that is African American and indi-
enlisted soldiers. Simultaneously, African Amer- cate that recruitment and enlistment are no
ican enlisted officers have risen from a tiny longer controlled by the types of official and un-
percentage in the period preceding 1940 to official quota systems that obtained at various
approximately 11 or 12 percent by the early times in the past.
twenty-first century. Both of these contempo- The U.S. Navy, before the U.S. involvement

| 4 |
African American Officers

in World War I, had very few African Americans; However, African American enlistment in-
the number peaked at about 2 percent toward creased to around 6 percent in 1950, 12 percent
the end of the war. Immediately after the war in 1970, and a high approaching 20 percent
there was a massive drop in African American shortly after 1980. At the turn of the twentieth
enlistment until the late 1930s, when numbers century, the figure was approximately 18 per-
began to increase gradually until around 1946. cent. During this period, the number of African
By that time, no more than 5 percent of enlisted American officers within the Air Force increased
men were African American. The figure dropped gradually, reaching a high in the mid-1980s of
slightly in the early 1950s then rose again until around 5 percent, a figure that still stands. See
1960 although probably no higher than it was accompanying table for recent statistics.
during World War II. Beginning in 1970, how-
ever, there was a steep increase in African See also African American Officers; U.S. Air
American enlistment, and by the end of the Force; U.S. Army; U.S. Marine Corps; U.S. Navy
twentieth century, the estimated figure stood at
about 20 percent. References and Further Reading
The services did not have significant num- Fletcher, Morris. The Black Soldier and Officer in
bers of African American officers until later in the United States Army, 1891–1917. Columbia:
World War II. Even then, their numbers repre- University of Missouri Press, 1974.
sented a fraction of a percent. From the mid- MacGregor, Morris J., Jr. Integration of the Armed
1960s, however, there was a slow but steady in- Forces, 1940–1965. Washington, DC: U.S. Army
crease in the number of officers, and by the end Center of Military History, 1979.
of the twentieth century, the estimate stood at Ploski, Harry A., and James Williams. The Negro
approximately 5 percent—only about 50 per- Almanac. New York: Bellweather, 1967.
cent of the proportion of African Americans in
the general community.
The U.S. Marine Corps did not begin African
American enlistment until World War II. The
decades that followed brought a steady increase African American Officers
in African American participation, reaching a (1960s)
high point shortly after 1980. By this time, Afri-
can American enlisted personnel accounted for The civil rights era of the 1960s brought the
some 20 percent of the U.S. Marine Corps. Be- first serious efforts to recruit African American
ginning in 1980 there was a gradual decline in officers, of whom there had been negligible
African American enlistment, and by the end of numbers until that time. The percentages of Af-
the twentieth century, the figure stood at 16 rican American officers and enlisted men in the
percent. The number of African American offi- four main services between 1962 and 1968 are
cers within the Marine Corps rose steadily be- shown in Table 1.
ginning in 1950 to around 3 or 4 percent during Between 1963 and 1968, the three service
the Vietnam War period. Since then, despite the academies produced fifty-one African American
reduction in African American enlisted person- officers. Although still a modest number, it was
nel, the number of officers continued to rise nevertheless a significant increase; over the pre-
and in the late 1990s stood at approximately 6 ceding eighty-six years—from 1877, when the
percent. first African American graduated from West
African American enlistment figures for the Point, to 1963—there had been only sixty Afri-
U.S. Air Force are similar to those for the Ma- can American graduates. Numbers of black stu-
rine Corps. Initially, the Air Force was part of dents at the academies continued to increase—
the U.S. Army and was not a separate service. still extremely slowly (see Table 2).

| 5 |
African American Officers

TABLE 1. AFRICAN AMERICAN OFFICERS, 1962–1968 (IN PERCENTAGES)


Army Navy Marine Corps Air Force

Year Officers Enlisted Men Officers Enlisted Men Officers Enlisted Men Officers Enlisted Men

1962 3.2 12.2 .2 5.2 .2 7.6 1.2 9.2


1964 3.4 13.4 .3 5.8 .4 8.7 1.5 10.0
1965 3.5 13.9 .3 5.8 .4 9.0 1.6 10.7
1967 3.4 12.1 .3 4.7 .7 10.3 1.8 10.4
1968 3.3 12.6 .4 5.0 .9 11.5 1.8 10.2

Source: MacGregor 1985.

TABLE 2. AFRICAN AMERICANS AT THE MILITARY ACADEMIES, JULY 1968


Class Class Class Class Total Total
Academy of 1969 of 1970 of 1971 of 1972 African American Attendance

Army 10 7 5 9 31 3,285
Navy 2 8 8 15 33 4,091
Air Force 6 10 13 23 52 3,028
Totals 18 25 26 47 116 10,404

Source: MacGregor 1985.

The Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) the competition and the lower the likelihood
program at predominantly African American col- that affirmative action would take precedence
leges was the chief source of officers. There was over seniority (see Table 4).
a large increase in the number of African Ameri- Hundreds of African American officers com-
can air force officers (graduating from five col- plained during this time that their assignments
leges), but despite the affirmative action pro- narrowed their opportunities for promotion. In
grams that began in the 1960s, there was little addition to vertical promotion (moving up in
change in the overall percentages (see Table 3). rank), men also needed to secure horizontal
The opportunities for promotion increased promotions (movement to another post on the
between 1964 and 1968 and brought a gradual same rank to attain new skills and expertise).
but steady increase in the number of African For example, only five men were enrolled at the
American officers. With the notable exception senior service schools in 1965, and only four Af-
of the air force, the higher enlisted ranks (an in- rican American naval officers who had com-
dicator of potential officer material) compared mand experience were on active duty. Between
favorably in all of the other services. Advances 1950 and 1965, only twenty-six African Ameri-
were less marked in the percentages of African can Air Force officers were assigned to tactical
Americans who held the rank of major or lieu- commands. Limited assignments meant limited
tenant commander. The gradual nature of the opportunities for promotion. For more recent
increases reflected the services’ assertions that statistics, see table on p. 4.
integration and the subsequent commissioning
of officers would take a considerable period of See also African American Enlistment;
time. The higher the rank, the more difficult Desegregation of Armed Forces (appendix)

| 6 |
African American Officers

TABLE 3. ARMY AND AIR FORCE COMMISSIONS GRANTED AT PREDOMINANTLY


AFRICAN AMERICAN SCHOOLS, 1964–1967
School Class of 1964 Class of 1965 Class of 1966 Class of 1967

Army Commissions
A&T College, NC 24 22 10 17
Central State College, OH 29 14 26 25
Florida A&M College 29 15 23 15
Hampton University, VA 29 34 20 19
Lincoln University, PA 19 14 16 19
Morgan State College, MD 21 27 12 16
Prairie View A&M College, TX 20 27 31 38
South Carolina State College 16 23 24 24
Southern University, LA 23 37 19 21
Tuskegee Institute, AL 14 14 20 26
Virginia State College 21 14 18 21
West Virginia State College 22 19 15 14
Howard University, Washington, DC 19 37 30 23
Total 286 297 264 278
Percentage of total such commissions granted 2.4 2.7 2.5 2.6

School Class of 1964 Class of 1965 Class of 1966

Air Force Commissions, 1964–1966


A&T College, NC 12 10 33
Howard University, Washington, DC 24 31 23
Maryland State College 2 4 4
Tennessee A&I University 13 26 32
Tuskegee Institute, AL 14 33 41
Total 65 104 133

Source: MacGregor 1985.

TABLE 4. AFRICAN AMERICANS IN CERTAIN MILITARY RANKS, 1964–1966


(IN PERCENTAGES)
1964 1965 1966

E-6 (staff sergeant or petty officer, first class) army 13.9 15.5 18.1
E-6 (staff sergeant or petty officer, first class) navy 4.7 5.0 5.6
E-6 (staff sergeant or petty officer, first class) Marine Corps 5.0 5.3 10.4
E-6 (staff sergeant or petty officer, first class) air force 5.3 5.6 6.6
O-4 (major or lieutenant commander) army 3.6 4.5 5.2
O-4 (major or lieutenant commander) Navy 0.3 0.3 0.3
O-4 (major or lieutenant commander) Marine Corps 0.3 0.3 0.2
O-4 (major or lieutenant commander) air force 0.8 0.9 1.6

Source: McGregor 1985.

| 7 |
A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n Wo m e n i n t h e M i l i t a r y

References and Further Reading missary. Their wives were obliged to support
MacGregor, Morris J., Jr. Integration of the Armed themselves and children by washing for the of-
Forces, 1940–1965. Washington, DC: Center of ficers, and making cakes and pies which they
Military History, United States Army, 1985. sold to the boys in camp. Finally in 1863, the
Available at http://www.army.mil/cmh- government decided to give them half pay, but
pg/books/integration/IAF-22.htm. the men would accept none of this. They pre-
ferred rather to give their services to the state,
which they did until 1864, when the govern-
ment granted them full pay, with all back due
pay. I was very happy to know my efforts were
African American Women successful in camp, and also felt grateful for
in the Military the appreciation of my service. I gave my serv-
ices willingly for four years and three months
African American women have played a part in without receiving a dollar. I was glad, however,
the military since the American Revolution, not to be allowed to go with the regiment, to care
only as nurses and administrators, but as front- for the sick and afflicted comrades (Romero
line troops, whether officially in recent years 1988, 42).
(technically women do not fill combat roles, but
many serve at the front, as in the Gulf Wars) or After the war, King established a school for
incognito in the past. freed slaves, and following the death of her hus-
In 1991 West Point recorded a double band, Sgt. Edward King, in 1866, she married
achievement: the thousandth African American Russell Taylor in 1879. She also created the
cadet graduated from the academy; so too did Boston branch of the Women’s Relief Corps and
the one-thousandth female. Yet African Ameri- published her memoirs in 1902.
cans had been accepted into the academy since Directly after the Civil War, a former slave
1870 and women only since 1976. from Missouri, Cathay Williams, masqueraded
It was probable that several African American as a man and joined the 38th U.S. Infantry,
women fought on both sides during the Ameri- which was then one of only six African Ameri-
can Revolution. However, no clear records sur- can units in the U.S. Army. She deftly managed
vive. In the War of 1812, African American to avoid a physical examination when she en-
women made medical supplies and tended the listed. Having served from November 15, 1866,
sick and wounded. to October 1868, she was forced to accept a dis-
It was the Civil War (1861–1865) that gave charge on the grounds of ill health. It was not
women the most direct opportunity to become until June 1891, when she applied for a pen-
involved in conflict. Notable among them was sion, that Cathay Williams’s true identity was
Susan King Taylor of Georgia. In April 1861, revealed. It is likely that Cathay Williams was
when Maj. Gen. David Hunter attacked Fort the first African American woman to serve in
Pulaski, he freed all of the slaves in the area, in- the regular U.S. Army.
cluding King. Shortly thereafter, she worked as During the Spanish-American War, around
a laundress and nurse for the 1st South Car- eighty African American nurses served in vari-
olina Volunteers, a unit that became the 33d ous capacities for the army. At the time it was
USCT, in which her husband served. She was believed that African Americans were immune
never paid and noted in her diary: from yellow fever and typhoid because of the
color of their skin and its supposed thickness.
The first colored troops did not receive any pay At least thirty-two African American women
for 18 months, and the men had to depend were recruited as nurses who, it was errone-
wholly on what they received from the com- ously thought, would be able to withstand the

| 8 |
A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n Wo m e n i n t h e M i l i t a r y

Among the first African American women in the U.S. Army are these WAACs at Camp Shanks, New York,
shortly before they leave for Europe in 1945. From left to right, kneeling: Pvts. Rose Stone and Virginia Blake
and Pfc. Marie B. GIllispie; second row, Pvt. Genevieve Marshall, T/5 Fanny Talbert, and Cpl. Callie Smith;
third row, Pvt. Gladys Schuster Carter, T/4 Evelyn Martin, and Pfc. Theodora Palmer. (AP Photo)

epidemics of these diseases. Several of them late summer of 1919 all of the African American
died in the yellow fever epidemic that raged in Red Cross nurses had been released from serv-
Santiago, Cuba, between July and August 1898. ice. Of the 3,480 female volunteer nurses of the
When the United States entered World War YMCA, only four were African American women
I, many African American nurses offered their at this time. Female labor was in great demand
services; they had been trained by the American during World War I; wherever it was considered
Red Cross or the National Association of Col- that a woman could replace a man in a support
ored Graduate Nurses (founded in 1909). Afri- capacity, the opportunity was taken. But African
can American women were not allowed to join American women were always at the bottom of
the American Red Cross until two months be- the list in such cases.
fore the end of the war. Shortly after the war In early 1941 the army finally accepted Afri-
ended in November 1918, eighteen African can American women into its nurse corps up to
American nurses were assigned to the Army a maximum of fifty-six. Rep. Frances Payne
Nurse Corps at Camp Grant, Illinois, and Camp Bolton of Ohio introduced an amendment to
Sherman, Ohio. Their duties were confined to the Nurse Training Bill in June 1943 that
treating African American soldiers and German barred racial discrimination in that program.
prisoners of war. Plans had been in place to The result was that 2,000 African American
send African American nurses to Camps Dodge women were enrolled in the Cadet Nurse
(Iowa), Meade (Maryland), and Taylor (Ken- Corps. Despite this amendment, it was not until
tucky), as well as Fort Riley (Kansas), but by the July 1944 that the army eliminated its African

| 9 |
A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n Wo m e n i n t h e M i l i t a r y

American female quota. By the end of the war, African American regular navy nurse, and in
over 500 African American nurses had served in March of that year, 1st Lt. Nancy C. Leftenant
the army. The U.S. Navy did not allow African became the first African American woman in
American women to enlist as nurses until Janu- the regular army nurse corps after serving in the
ary 25,1945, and in early March Phyllis Mae reserve corps since February 1945.
Dailey became the first African American nurse African American women still served in sup-
in the Navy Nurse Corps. port or noncombat roles until the Gulf War. In
The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), Vietnam, CWO Doris Allen was a senior intelli-
the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer gence analyst and reported that although she
Emergency Service (WAVES), and the Coast was both female and African American, she en-
Guard’s SPARS (a shortened version of Semper countered very few prejudices. On July 15,
Paratus [Always Ready], the Coast Guard 1964, Margaret E. Bailey became a lieutenant
motto), all accepted various percentages of Afri- colonel of the Army Nurse Corps, the first Afri-
can American women in segregated units. By can American nurse to reach this rank. She be-
1945 African Americans comprised 3,732 en- came a full colonel in 1970. In 1967 Clara
listed women and 117 officers in the WAAC; Adams-Ender became the first African Ameri-
there were only 72 African American WAVES, can woman in the army to be awarded the Ex-
and even fewer in the Coast Guard. Of the total pert Field Medical Badge. Two years later, Capt.
number of women in all the armed services, Diane Lindsay of the Nurse Army Corps be-
some 270,000, fewer than 10,000 were African came the first African American nurse to receive
American. the Soldier’s Medal for her bravery. In 1972
The first WAACs were sent to Fort Des Mildred C. Kelly became the first African Amer-
Moines, Iowa, in 1942. There were 400 white ican woman to attain the rank of sergeant major
women and 40 African Americans, who became in the army, and in 1974 S. Sgt. Joyce B. Mal-
known as the Ten Percenters. By the end of the one won her Airborne Wings in the army re-
war 6,520 African American women had served serves. When Hazel W. Johnson became chief
in the WAAC. of the Army Nurse Corps on September 1,
Although the WAVES did not accept African 1979, she became the first African American
American women until October 19, 1944, the general officer.
first two officers were sworn in just two months In December 1980 Brenda Robinson became
later, on December 22. Harriet Ida Pickens and the first African American woman to be pro-
Frances Wills were the first of seventy-two Afri- moted to the rank of brigadier general and also
can American women to become officers (lieu- became the first African American U.S. navy
tenant junior grade and ensign, respectively). aviator when she was assigned to the 40th Fleet
The Coast Guard’s SPARS, which opened Logistics Squadron in Norfolk, Virginia.
membership for African American women on On May 18, 1983, the first two African Amer-
October 20, 1944, attracted only a handful of ican women graduated from the U.S. Coast
African American women to join. Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut,
The erosion of the color and sex bars in the and in 1987 Irene Trowell-Harris became the
military was gradual and slow, and by June 1948 first African American general officer in the Na-
only 4 African American officers and 122 en- tional Guard.
listed women were still in the WAAC. Executive When U.S. forces became involved in opera-
Order 9981, which President Harry Truman tions Desert Shield and Desert Storm during
signed on July 26,1948, barred segregation and the 1991 Gulf War, some 35,000 women were
discrimination, including quotas, in the armed directly involved, of whom approximately 40
services. Some six months before this, on Janu- percent were African American. Capt. Cynthia
ary 6, 1948, Ens. Edith De Voe became the first Mosely, who was in command of Alpha Com-

| 10 |
African Americanization

pany, 24th Support Battalion Forward, 24th In- Army Auxiliary Corps; Women’s Reserve of the
fantry Division (Mechanized), commanding 100 U.S. Navy; West Point; Williams, Cathay; World
soldiers, is a good example of the changing for- War I; World War II
tunes of African American women in the mili-
tary. Her unit resupplied fuel directly to the References and Further Reading
front line throughout the campaign. Binkin, Martin, and Mark J. Eitelberg. Blacks and
Lt. Phoebe Jeter, who was commanding an the Military. Washington, DC: Brookings
all-male patriot missile platoon, ordered the de- Institution, 1982.
struction of at least two Scud missiles (Iraqi Dalfiume, Richard M. Desegregation of the U.S.
surface-to-surface missiles). Armed Forces: Fighting on Two Fronts,
In 1995 Brig. Gen. Marcelite Harris was pro- 1939–1953. Columbia: University of Missouri
moted to the rank of major general in the U.S. Press, 1969.
Air Force, becoming the first African American Earley, Charity Adams. One Woman’s Army: A Black
woman to reach this rank. In 1997 Sgt. Danyell Officer Remembers the WAC. College Station:
Wilson became the first African American Texas A & M University, 1989.
Johnson, Jessie J. Women in the Armed Forces
women to be given the duty of guarding two of
1942–1974: A Pictorial History. Hampton, VA:
the unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
J. J. Johnson, 1974.
African American women now account for Lane, Linda Rochelle. Black Women in America: An
some 33 percent of female recruits in the army, Historical Encyclopaedia. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson,
22 percent in the navy, 18 percent in the air 1993.
force, and 17 percent in the Marine Corps. Litoff, Judy Barrett, and Davis Smith. We’re in This
In 1989 Charity Adams Earley, who had com- War Too: World War Two Letters from American
manded the 6888 Central Postal Directory Bat- Women in Uniform. New York: Oxford University
talion during World War II, wrote in her memoir: Press, 1994.
Putney, Martha S. When the Nation Was in Need:
The future of women in the military seems as- Blacks in the Women’s Army Corps during World
sured. What may be lost in time is the story of War Two. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1992.
Romero, Patricia, ed. A Black Woman’s Civil War
how it happened. The barriers of sex and race
Memoirs. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1988.
were, and sometimes still are, very difficult to
Willenz, June A. Women Veterans: America’s
overcome, the second even more difficult than
Forgotten Heroines. New York: Continuum, 1983.
the first. During World War Two women in the
service were often subject to ridicule and dis-
respect even as they performed satisfactorily.
Each year the number of people who shared
the stress of these accomplishments lessens. African Americanization
In another generation young black women who
join the military will have scant record of their In society in general and in the military in par-
predecessors who fought on the two fronts of ticular, the common trend throughout history
discrimination—segregation and reluctant ac- has been to gradually assimilate ethnic groups.
ceptance by males. In the case of immigrants, the assimilation
model has an expectation that new immigrants
and ethnic minorities will adopt the mainstream
See also American Civil War; American or majority of the population’s cultural norms
Revolution; Earley, Charity Adams; 1812, War of; and lifestyles, while at the same time deempha-
Executive Order 9981; Gulf War; Jeter, Phoebe; sizing their own culture. This creates a situation
Johnson, Hazel Winifred; U.S. Army; U.S. Coast with little or no multicultural dimension, simply
Guard; U.S. Navy; Vietnam War; Women’s Army diversity in skin color, accent, or background.

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African Americanization

For most of the history of the U.S. military, men were restricted to camp, and although like
this process has been the norm, seeking to elim- many soldiers they could make this temporary
inate alternative cultural styles. In reality, cer- accommodation their home, there was little
tainly in the population in general, social ele- respite from the drudgery of their day-to-day
ments flow between the dominant culture and existence.
ethnic groups. Musical tastes and trends, as The Vietnam conflict ushered in an era of
well as the adaptation of linguistic patterns, are change in African American troops’ attitudes to-
examples of this flow. ward military service and their cultural identi-
Military organizations, in contrast, are far less ties. During that conflict more African Ameri-
accommodating of cultural diversity. They also cans were deployed than had been in any other
expect that ethnic groups within the armed serv- war, and the draft brought in soldiers from seg-
ices adopt not only the dominant cultural norms ments of the population that had not previously
of society, but also accept the specific cultural entered the military in large numbers. Previous
rules of the service itself. They expect a full as- conflicts saw overt resistance and action from
similation. A degree of cultural diversity was ac- African Americans in terms of discriminatory is-
cepted in the period prior to the integration of sues, but in general, the soldiers had not much
the armed forces, but the requirement for eth- resisted assimilation into the services’ culture.
nic minorities—African Americans in particular, The focus had been on proving the right to
as the largest group—was to be different only in serve and that an African American was as profi-
terms of their color, or usual identity. cient and, above all, patriotic, as white soldiers
In reality, however, the services sought to to serve in the armed services.
force African Americans to assimilate to the Following the assassination of Martin Luther
service while putting them aside in terms of al- King in 1968, Vietnam, in terms of the U.S.
most every other aspect of their existence. In ef- military identity, was a polarized world. Many
fect, this process created a class of African Southern white soldiers displayed the Confed-
Americans who found themselves apart from erate flag and other symbols associated with
both the service in which they served and their racism, and African American troops began to
cultural heritage. Military organizations have assert their identity, often as derived from an in-
strict norms that are imposed on their person- terest in Black Power. This was fueled by the
nel, so this is inevitable to a degree for all per- drafting of more urban African Americans whose
sonnel. Adopting a new culture may be difficult cultural identities differed from those of the ca-
for a white recruit, but since the basis of that reer African Americans of the pre-Vietnam U.S.
culture is predominantly white, a recruit from military.
an ethnic minority may have an even harder Rather than embracing the armed services
time. and accepting assimilation in what was a hostile
The strict rigors of military discipline were foreign land, the men clung to their own identi-
applied to their lives both on and off duty. The ties. For the first time, the armed forces had a
U.S. military often chose African Americans for considerable proportion of men who wanted to
their musical talents, particularly with the for- be identified as black. These new African Amer-
mation of bands and touring parties, such as the ican draftees had been exposed to the activities
World War I 369th regimental band that of the civil rights movements, had witnessed the
brought the lasting passion for jazz to Europe. rioting in cities in the United States, factors
For the most part, however, African Americans that had not necessarily influenced the career-
found themselves relegated to menial labor minded African Americans who they had either
tasks in the rear echelon, with little prospect of replaced or overshadowed in terms of sheer
leave, combat, or commendation. Many of the numbers. These draftees retained a sense of

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African Americanization

Reflecting the stereotypical thinking of the times, the U.S. military often singled out African Americans
for their musical talents, particularly with the formation of bands and touring parties. Shown here is
the 1st Army Post Band (Colored), in Souilly, France, in 1918. (National Archives)

African American pride, and they were not pre- were the first generation who, wholesale, fought
pared to accept discrimination. against discrimination in terms of assignments,
By 1968, the United States had approxi- decorations for bravery, and promotion.
mately 536,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam. That Military culture remains apart from the cul-
same year, 14,592 soldiers were killed in action. ture of the population, part by virtue of the role
African Americans accounted for 9.8 percent of it fulfils and in part as a result of centuries of
the military, but 20 percent of all combat troops, resistance to change. The general trend in post-
and, ultimately, 14.1 percent of U.S. casualties Vietnam military circles is to continue the
in the war. The concentration of African Ameri- diminution of traditional cultural values and
can troops in combat units had never been so identity. A system of affirmative action is in
great in prior conflicts. The thousands of Afri- place to deal with equality and discrimination
can American soldiers at the front had only the issues. Whether this system is effective and fair
images of white heroes from the previous wars is the subject of ongoing debate.
as role models, and many had little notion that
they were following a strong African American See also Powell, Colin Luther; Vietnam War
tradition of military service. The men called
themselves “Bloods” and provided one another
with mutual support and unity on the battle- References and Further Reading
field. They were not prepared to accept indigni- Beckwith, Francis J. Affirmative Action. Amherst,
ties, racial insults, or Confederate flags. These NY: Prometheus Books, 1997.

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A l e x a n d e r, C l i f f o r d L . , J r.

Rubio, Philip F. A History of Affirmative Action: skills that would make them employable in the
1619–2000. Jackson: University Press of civilian world. He was adamant that there
Mississippi, 2001. should be no discrimination or racism in the
army, either in promotion, justice, or social life.
He was the first secretary of the army to appoint
a woman as a special assistant and as a general
counsel to the Defense Department.
Alexander, Clifford L., Jr. Clifford’s principles were reflected in the sta-
(b. 1933) tistics. In 1977 there were nine African Ameri-
can generals in the army. Just four years later,
Clifford was the first African American secretary when he left the post, there were thirty. These
of the army. He was appointed by President included Colin Powell and the first female Afri-
Jimmy Carter in 1997 and was responsible for a can American general, Hazel Winifred Johnson.
budget of $34 billion and a military force of 1.9 During the Clinton administration a debate
million people. on affirmative action thrust Alexander’s affirma-
Alexander worked in successively more im- tive action programs back into the spotlight.
portant roles for four presidents: John F. Clinton cited Colin Powell as an individual who
Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. had had the opportunity to show his worth be-
Nixon, and Jimmy Carter, all before he had cause of affirmative action. Alexander disagreed
reached his mid-forties. Clifford’s road to Wash- and simply explained that when the army board
ington began in 1963 when Lewis Martin, the had submitted a list of general officer candi-
deputy chairman of the Democratic National dates in 1978, he had returned the list with the
Committee, was asked to find talented African note that there were no African American candi-
Americans to work in the Kennedy administra- dates. The board subsequently resubmitted the
tion. Clifford was one of his recruits. He worked list, and Alexander noted with satisfaction that
for the National Security Council (1963–1964) more African Americans were included on the
and served under Johnson as deputy special as- lists. He firmly believed that African Americans
sistant (1964), associate special counsel (1965), such as Colin Powell were treated no differently
and deputy special counsel (1966). For the next than white candidates. Alexander simply de-
few years, until April 1969, Alexander was manded parity.
chairman of the Equal Employment Opportuni-
ties Commission. He then returned to the pri- See also Johnson, Hazel Winifred; Powell, Colin
vate practice of law until 1976. Luther; U.S. Army
In 1977, after the election of Jimmy Carter,
he was appointed the first African American sec- References and Further Reading
retary of the army. He was a strong advocate of
Christmas, Walter. Negroes in Public Affairs and
the All-Volunteer Force (AVF), which called for Government. New York: Educational Heritage,
motivated volunteers who wanted careers in the 1966.
military rather recruits from the lowest levels of Powell, Colin. A Soldier’s Way: An Autobiography.
society whose futures would otherwise hold lit- London: Hutchinson, 1995.
tle in terms of jobs. Clifford thought it impera- Powell, Colin. My American Journey. New York:
tive to attract the very best into the army, regard- Ballantine, 1996.
less of race or gender. He believed that the army
should provide recruits with a clear and equal
career path, according to their talents, and that
all individuals, on leaving the army, should have

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

Alexander, John H. dent Grover Cleveland at Wilberforce Univer-


(1864–1894) sity, Ohio, an African American institution that
had been designated a center for military train-
The second African American West Point gradu- ing, as the U.S. Army’s professor in military sci-
ate, who became a second lieutenant in the 9th ence and tactics. He died of heart disease in
Cavalry in 1887. March 1894, shortly after taking this position.
Prior to the acceptance of Henry Flipper, In 1918 the War Department named Camp
Alexander, and Charles Young, Gen. J. M. Alexander in Newport News, Virginia, after him.
Schofield, the superintendent of West Point,
said in 1880: See also Buffalo Soldiers; 9th Cavalry;
West Point
To send to West Point for four years competi-
tion a young man who was born in slavery is to References and Further Reading
assume that half a generation has been suffi- Schubert, Frank N. Black Valor. Wilmington, DE:
cient to raise a colored man to the social, Scholarly Resources, 1997.
moral, and intellectual level that the average War Department. Report of the Secretary of War,
white man has reached in several hundred 1880. Washington, DC: Government Printing
years. As well might the common farm horse Office, 1881.
be entered in a four-mile race against the best
blood inherited from a long line of English rac-
ers (quoted in War Department, 1881, Part 2,
229–230).
American Civil War
Alexander was born in Helena, Arkansas, the (1861–1865)
son of James Milo and Fanny Miller Alexander,
both of whom had been born as slaves. James Approximately 180,000 African Americans, both
Alexander was able to purchase his freedom and free men and runaway slaves, served in 166
that of his family. In 1879 John Alexander grad- units of the Union Army during the Civil War.
uated from high school at the head of his class This was not only a war to save the Union, but
and after a stint as a teacher went on to study at also became a conflict to end slavery; mass en-
Oberlin College in Ohio, which two of his sib- listment began immediately after the Emancipa-
lings also attended. After two years there he tion Proclamation in 1863.
passed the entrance exams for West Point and Frederick Douglass, a former slave, wrote
received an appointment to the service acad- perhaps the most eloquent words urging African
emy. He graduated thirty-second out of sixty- Americans to enlist in the Union army, where
four in his class. they would gain their opportunity to fight for
Alexander then served with the 9th Cavalry, their own freedom: “Once let the black man get
one of the all-black Buffalo Soldiers regiments, upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him
in Nebraska and Utah for seven years. He was get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his
the only African American officer. Between June shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is
1888 and October 1891 he was stationed at no power on earth which can deny that he has
Fort Duchesne, Utah, where he directed fatigue earned the right to citizenship in the United
details, took his troops out on route marches, States” (quoted in Blight 1989, 161). The threat
and carried out patrols to remove illegal settlers of open hostilities between the industrialized
from Native American reservations. In 1894 he Northern states and the more rural agricultural
took a post that had been established by Presi- economies of the South had been threatening to

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

become armed conflict for years before the out- Lincoln made his inaugural address on
break of the Civil War. The differences were March 4, 1861, and he insisted that he did not
enmeshed in a complex mixture of political, cul- intend to end slavery or repeal the Fugitive
tural, and economic differences. Slavery. Slav- Slave Act. Matters were brought to a head on
ery, one of the foundations of Southern eco- April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces at-
nomic prosperity, was an underlying cause. tacked Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Lincoln
Above all, the Southern states resented being and the federal government now had either to
controlled by a federal government they per- put down the rebellion or accept secession.
ceived as pro-Northern. Any move to abolish or African Americans began to present them-
control slavery was seen as a way to undermine selves to the Union army in 1861, and initially
their way of life. they were turned away. It was considered un-
In the North, slavery was much less wide- necessary to recruit African Americans and,
spread, and the majority of the African Ameri- more important, to do so would drive a wedge
can population were freedmen. The South was between the federal government and the slave-
wedded to the ways that had been in place for owning border states. This move did little to dis-
more than 200 years. Matters began to come to courage African Americans who wanted to fight
a head toward the end of the 1850s, and in par- with the Union Army for the freedom of their
ticular, with the Harper’s Ferry, now in West Vir- compatriots in the South and to prove to the na-
ginia, incident in 1859, when John Brown tion that they were full citizens. The situation
planned a raid on the federal arsenal to arm a was further confused by the increasing numbers
slave revolt, which brought the slavery issue of runaway slaves presenting themselves to
into sharp focus. Brown had twenty-one sup- Union troops after successfully passing through
porters with him, five of whom were African the Confederate lines. Commanders in the field
American. They captured the arsenal at were given little guidance concerning these
Harper’s Ferry, but soon after the area was filled fugitives. They were free once they had reached
with farmers and militiamen, and later by fed- the sanctuary of the North, but Union officers
eral troops, intent on stamping out the revolt. had to decide what to do with them.
Brown’s death at the end of a hangman’s noose
and ten of Brown’s men, who died in the ensu-
The Road to Emancipation
ing skirmish, became powerful symbols of the
abolitionist cause. Although in the immediate On August 6, 1861, the U.S. Congress passed
aftermath of the raid most Northerners con- the Confiscation Act. This act provided for the
demned it as criminal, Brown later came to be seizure of property held by rebels that could be
considered a hero in the North, and in African used to continue the prosecution of war against
American churches up and down the country the Union. In effect this meant that fugitives
the song “John Brown’s Body” was sung with were still considered property and considered
fervor. contraband. At least for the first two or three
In the following year Abraham Lincoln, a Re- years of the civil war, the majority of fugitives
publican, became president of the United lived in contraband camps. The death toll in
States. He was committed to ensuring that there these camps has been estimated at around 25
would be no slavery in the new western territo- percent as a result of disease and famine. Grad-
ries. For the southern states his stance was seen ually the North and Lincoln in particular began
as the inevitable beginning of the end of slavery to realize that emancipation was the only an-
should he be allowed to impose his will. When swer to the increasingly problematic situation.
South Carolina seceded from the Union to be Finally, on January 1, 1863, Lincoln’s Eman-
followed by six other southern states by Febru- cipation Proclamation went into effect, freeing
ary 1861, civil war became inevitable. all slaves living in the rebel South, although the

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

much as their white counterparts. By the end of


the war, some 38,000 African Americans had
died in uniform. As with their white counter-
parts, most had died of disease rather than war
injuries, but the rate of such deaths was much
higher than among white troops. Military de-
ployment for those in the South began from the
very outbreak of hostilities. Although African
Americans in the South were not considered as
potential fighting troops until the tide against
the North could not be turned, many slaves
were employed carrying out a series of large-
scale military construction projects. They were
also vital in food production and the manufac-
ture and support for Confederate soldiers in the
battlefield.
One of the early examples of African Ameri-
can construction workers falling into Union
hands occurred in Virginia, when three slaves
abandoned artillery battery construction and es-
caped to Fort Monroe on the Yorktown Penin-
sula. A Confederate officer presented himself
the next day to retrieve his property, but Brig.
Gen. Benjamin Butler, a Republican from
Massachusetts, told him that they had been
contributing to the Confederate war effort, and
therefore he would not surrender them. The
men were later paid to construct a bakery for
A carte de visite showing contrabands at the Butler’s men.
2d Rhode Island Infantry camp at Camp Brightwood, In the early years of the war, many runaways
Washington, D.C., circa 1863. From left, the white were returned to Confederate lines. This was a
officers are Capt. B. S. Brown, Lt. John P. Shaw, and controversial act and also considered a waste of
Lt. T. Fry. The contrabands with them are not named.
army time and resources. Consequently, early in
(Library of Congress)
1862 the War Department forbade the use of
Union troops in returning slaves to the Confed-
proclamation did not include the slaves who eracy. Later, as African American troops became
lived behind Union lines. These people were more numerous among the Union lines, it be-
still technically slaves. Only after the Emanci- came impossible for Southern slave owners to
pation Proclamation were African Americans al- take it upon themselves to ride into camp to re-
lowed to enlist in the Union army. Although trieve their property. They were not only met
they faced continual harassment, unfair treat- with extreme hostility, but the Union troops also
ment, relegation to support roles, and obsolete hid the fugitives and often forced the Southern-
equipment, between 180,000 and 200,000 en- ers out of their camp at gunpoint.
listed. Many of the men were not paid for eight- It is a popularly held misconception that the
een months because of a protracted dispute 54th Massachusetts was the first Union African
over pay; originally it was considered that Afri- American unit to be created. In March 1862
can American soldiers did not need to be paid as Maj. Gen. David Hunter, an abolitionist and

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

West Point graduate, declared martial law in


South Carolina and took it upon himself to an-
ticipate the Emancipation Proclamation by
declaring free all slaves in South Carolina,
Florida, and Georgia. He also has the distinc-
tion of having pronounced, at gunpoint, that all
of the escaped male slaves in his jurisdiction
were to be enrolled in an all–African American
military unit. Lincoln overruled Hunter twelve
days after he issued his “emancipation procla-
mation” and eventually recalled him, stating
that he had overstepped his authority. But on
July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Militia Act,
or Second Confiscation Act, which effectively
supported Hunter’s actions, although it did not
necessarily endorse his methods.
A former U.S. senator, “Big Jim” Lane of
Kansas, became a brigadier-general in 1862 and
began to create an African American regiment
without the support or knowledge of Washing-
ton. On two occasions he was told that he had
no authorization to take these actions. In Janu-
ary 1863, however, Washington accepted the
existence of Lane’s black regiment, after it had A corporal in the United States Colored Troops
already seen combat. poses holding an 1849 Colt revolver.
In New Orleans, in April 1862, one of Ben- (Bettman/CORBIS)
jamin Butler’s subordinates, Brig. Gen. John W.
Phelps, another abolitionist West Point man,
began to organize African American enlistment. Lincoln and the Washington establishment that
Such actions were initially opposed by the War they needed to make use of the African Ameri-
Department, and when Butler failed to support can population. White recruitment was down
him, Phelps resigned and refused to return to but, as early as July 22, 1862, when Lincoln
service when the federal government changed first presented his emancipation policy to his
its policy on black troops and offered him a ma- cabinet, he had already authorized the raising of
jor general commission in command of African the 1st South Carolina Infantry, under Thomas
American troops. The Louisiana African Ameri- Wentworth Higginson, and Butler’s African
can units included black officers. One, the 2d American militiamen.
Louisiana Native Guards, was commanded by Reactions to the Emancipation Proclamation
the African American Maj. Francis Dumas, who differed greatly, and some responses were much
was himself an owner of slaves. exaggerated. It was said, although no more than
Perhaps what forced Lincoln’s hand was the a rumor, that two companies of Illinois troops
failure of the Peninsular Campaign in 1862 and had laid down their arms and returned home, as
the enormous number of casualties that the they had no intention of fighting for the free-
North had already suffered. The first step, on dom of African Americans. Maj. Gen. George B.
September 22, 1862, freed all slaves still in McClellan made it clear that African Americans
Confederate-held areas as of January 1, 1863. It would not be welcome in the Army of the Po-
was a long and hard road that finally convinced tomac, and many white soldiers hated African

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

Americans more than they loved the Union. Re- states, they could witness slavery in Missouri
gardless of the reactions, the door was open, and Kansas. The majority were Republicans, al-
and tens of thousands of freed and runaway Af- though there were a good many Democrats.
rican Americans would enter, eager to wear the Many of their differences had been put aside by
blue uniform, as Frederick Douglass had so elo- secession, and their overwhelming desire was
quently stated. for justice, freedom, and the preservation of the
Union. A large number of the white officers had
also had combat experience, but many of the
White Officers, Black Recruits
men, who were not driven purely by principle,
The first major concern was the question of of- saw an opportunity in the USCT to gain promo-
ficers. The African American population of the tion more rapidly and to have a greater impact
North in 1860 accounted for 1 percent of the on the outcome of the war than they might in a
total, and those who lived in the North could white regiment.
not escape the prejudices that were rife. White Problems existed, in terms of priorities, about
men who were prepared to serve in the same the men who would be accepted as officers in
regiment as African Americans were stigma- the USCT. The regular army attitude was that
tized. It was considered foolhardy not only be- experienced noncommissioned officers should
cause of the popularly held belief that the Afri- be considered for advancement to officer rank,
can Americans would run the moment they but this would denude existing regiments of
smelled gunpowder, but also because it would experienced men. The other option was to con-
be an indelible stain on the service record of the sider volunteers from outside the military, per-
white officer, and he would never gain promo- haps those who had had some military experi-
tion or suitable accolades. ence in the past. The result was a mixture of the
The initial wave of white officer recruits to two.
command African American troops tended to be In May 1863 the Bureau of Colored Troops
drawn from abolitionist communities and fami- was created. Not only was it responsible for
lies. Among this band was Robert Gould Shaw, finding officers, but it also was concerned with
the son of a wealthy Massachusetts merchant, the recruitment of African American enlisted
Francis George Shaw. At the age of twenty- men. The officers, fewer than 2 percent of
three, the younger Shaw became the colonel of whom were African Americans, would have to
the 54th Massachusetts. Shaw was a compas- pass tests on intelligence, morals, and desire to
sionate and forthright abolitionist, and he and work with African Americans. It was common
his men who fell at Fort Wagner are rightly re- for those who passed the first two examinations
membered as martyrs. to be deceitful about the third. The board con-
Another abolitionist officer was Thomas sidered many men whose promotions were
Wentworth Higginson, a Harvard graduate, for- blocked for various reasons in their existing reg-
mer pastor, and congressman and a fervent sup- iments. In fact, many privates applied.
porter of John Brown, who became the colonel By 1864 it was becoming increasingly diffi-
of the first African American unit to be recog- cult to reach an officer’s rank by normal means
nized by Washington. But few prominent aboli- in regular white regiments. The USCT provided
tionists themselves volunteered for duty. Educa- a much swifter route. All the application re-
tion was the common characteristic of these quired was a statement wishing to be consid-
men and many of the others who became offi- ered for a commission and that the individual
cers in the United States Colored Troops had served his regiment and country well. These
(USCT). The majority professionals or skilled were frequently endorsed by the man’s existing
manual workers. The majority of them were also commanding officer, who, in many cases, sup-
from the Midwest, where, from their slave-free ported the application merely to be rid of the

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

Banner of the 3d United States Colored Troops.


In many of the stylized images of African Americans during the nineteenth century,
freedom and justice are personified as a statuesque white woman in flowing robes.
(North Wind Picture Archives)

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

man. A fair number of individuals from abroad with them, rather than having draftees of vari-
became USCT officers, such as the Argentinean able quality being sent to the regiment. It be-
Edelmiro Mayer. The Bureau of Colored Troops came popularly known that Sundays were the
received 9,000 applications, and of these, 4,000 best times to find African American recruits in
men took the examinations. Around 60 percent the South because many of the local population
passed the tests, but only 25 percent received would be attending church or other functions.
commissions in the USCT. This would be preferable to recruiting men one
Joining the USCT was also a diverse experi- at a time as they were encountered in barns and
ence for African Americans. There was an im- fields and homes. Another popular way of re-
perative to ensure that the regiments, when cre- cruiting African Americans in the South was to
ated, reached establishment strength as soon as use men who had already been enlisted to ap-
possible. Indeed, USCT officers did not have pear in their best parade uniforms. Slaves who
their commissions authorized until at least 100 were naturally wary of white men would be far
men had been enlisted. Experiments with civil- more inclined to enter into a dialogue with a
ian recruiters had largely been a failure. Some Union soldier if he, too, was black. Several Afri-
1,000 state agents had registered with the can American enlisted men even took it upon
provost marshal general’s office but managed themselves to rush the enlistment stage and
among them to recruit only some 5,000 African speak directly to the assembled crowd, as an Af-
Americans. This meant that the burden of re- rican American corporal Gerry Sullivan did in
cruitment was with the officers assigned to the Nashville in 1863. He proclaimed:
USCT units.
In the South slaves were told that if they ran Let us make a name for ourselves and race,
away to join the Union army, they would not be bright as the noonday sun. God is in this war.
paid, they would be mistreated, and they would He will lead us to victory. Don’t ask your wife,
often find themselves in the front line facing for if she is a wife worth having she will call
certain death. Elsewhere, slaves were deterred you a coward for asking her. I’ve got a wife and
from leaving through more violent means, in- she says to me, the other day, “Gerry, if you
cluding hangings, whippings, and mutilation. In don’t go to the war mighty soon, I’ll go off and
some cases, wives or family who had been left leave you, as some of the Northern gentlemen
behind were forced to sign (or make their X, want me to go home to cook for them”
since most slaves were illiterate) letters begging (National Archives, RG 94).
the runaway to return so that retribution would
not be taken out on them. Many African Americans who were slow to
For the Northern states, African American re- enlist were chided by their fellows as being
cruitment was relatively simple. They had the rebels and therefore in favor of slavery. It be-
advantage of the African American community came routine practice for USCT units to be in-
leaders’ encouraging the population. Some 15 cluded in Union raids bent on seizing or de-
percent of all free African Americans in the stroying Confederate property. Wherever the
North would eventually join the Union army. uniformed African Americans were encoun-
The recruitment of African Americans in the tered, they found willing potential recruits who
slave states that came under Union control pre- would be swiftly taken to the rear to be enlisted.
sented different problems. A recruitment office One of the overriding concerns of any of the
would be set up, and officers and noncommis- runaway slaves who joined the USCT was that
sioned officers would travel the countryside in their families were still living in slavery, and they
search of potential recruits. Many of the regi- feared their families would suffer as a result of
ments preferred this option because they would their flight. The potential plight of USCT troops’
be the ones to choose the men who would serve families prompted Washington to consider the

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Stereograph of wounded African American troops recuperating at Aikens Landing


after an unspecified battle in Virginia, probably in 1864. (Library of Congress)

relocation of a man’s family before enlistment This, then, was the lot of Southern African
was completed. The family would be free, and Americans who found themselves in the USCT.
they would be able to earn money in the labor- The experience of Northern African Ameri-
short North to contribute to their own welfare. cans was no less varied and often at odds with
Despite some voices claiming that they would be normal procedures. Some of those who were
a financial burden, few proved to be so. freedmen had formerly been slaves and still
Maj. Joseph W. Paine, with the 4th U.S. Col- bore the marks of the whip or other abuse; in
ored Cavalry, enlisted 500 African Americans some regiments, 50 percent of the men had ex-
into his unit. Taking advantage of the Red River tensive whip scars on their backs. Even when
Campaign, he scattered his men far and wide the enlistment procedure was complete, the
with horses, mules, and wagons to collect their processes of dealing with the men left a great
families and dependents. Not all of the men had deal to be desired. In many instances rations
commanding officers as devoted to their wel- were not forthcoming and the much-coveted
fare. Many were enlisted at the end of a bayo- United States Army uniform did not arrive for
net, while others were imprisoned until they weeks. The army uniform alone did little to per-
agreed to sign the enlistment papers. The pres- suade the North that African Americans were
sure to fill the ranks of the regiments also soldiers. Although very few deserted, and they
meant that age was not an overriding concern. would take the racism, harsh conditions, and
Young boys were recruited as regimental musi- demanding training in stride, they still had to
cians, but children as young as fourteen were prove themselves in battle. Only then would
enlisted as regular soldiers. In many cases some Washington, the Northern public, and their of-
of the men had infirmities that would have ex- ficers really treat them like soldiers.
cluded them under normal circumstances. Before any man would find himself facing the
Physical examinations were cursory at best. enemy, he would go through a training process

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that would prepare him for the noise, the chaos, in their regiments. Although the men were more
the maneuvers, and the potential injury or than adequate in terms of maneuver, what often
death he would face on the battlefield. As the became a bone of contention was what most
war progressed the period between enlistment marked a man’s ability to fight in a nineteenth-
and combat grew ever shorter. Training and drill century war. Very few of the men had any real ex-
had to be learned very quickly, and there was lit- perience of firing a musket, and the majority of
tle time to gradually introduce soldierly con- Southern African Americans had been prohibited
cepts to the men. In instances when the African from using or carrying a firearm by their masters.
Americans were treated as men by their non- The Northern soldiers tended not to have come
commissioned officers and officers, there was from a military background, and live firing and
much progress and mutual respect. In many target practice was not necessarily seen as an in-
regiments, however, the attitudes began as con- tegral part of the overall training. It was also dif-
frontational and remained so throughout the ficult, given the time available, to teach the men
period of enlistment. to fire their muskets under simulated battle con-
In some ways, regiments that enlisted North- ditions. As a result, when the men marched to
ern African Americans had an advantage over join their brigades, divisions, and corps, they
those that had been recruited from the South. A were considered poor replacements for regular
larger proportion of the Northerners were liter- white regiments. Consequently, the majority of
ate, and administrative duties could be passed them found themselves, at least initially, re-
on to African American noncommissioned offi- quired to carry out physical labor such as trench
cers, whereas in Southern regiments, all paper- digging or preparing latrines. The officers did
work had to be handled by the white officers, as their best to continue to hone the men into a
almost all the men were illiterate. Given that an fighting unit, despite the demeaning circum-
army produced a vast mountain of paperwork, stances in which they found themselves.
this was an onerous task and often became the It was during the training process that the de-
focus of resentment between white officers and ficiencies in the white officers in many regi-
their men. ments began to become apparent. Many of the
Each regiment had its own way of coping, regiments had perfectly good soldiers and very
which depended on the attitudes of a com- poor officers. Without a good officer, particu-
manding officer and his subordinates. Some re- larly a colonel, a regiment of whatever race
lied on aggression and punishment for the most could never become an effective fighting unit. It
minor infraction; others recognized that praise was difficult for these officers, who had often
and encouragement were more effective. Sev- no training themselves, to direct and develop
eral regiments offered passes to their men for their men. Many who realized this took steps to
exemplary conduct; others rewarded companies recruit experienced white noncommissioned of-
with rosettes and, in the absence of any real no- ficers to do the bulk of the work for them.
tion of how these men would perform in com- Discipline was a very difficult issue. Deser-
bat, stripes were issued to men who performed tion was often dealt with conventionally by
well during training and drills. The key feature shackling and whipping, and officers reserved
was to instill an esprit de corps and make the the right to punish their men if their behavior
men an effective fighting unit. proved unacceptable. However, the parallels be-
White officers such as Shaw and Higginson tween army discipline and punishment and that
considered that the African Americans absorbed of Southern slave owners was all too apparent,
drill and training far faster than their white and whipping, in particular, could do irrepara-
counterparts. For the first time, many of them ble damage to the discipline of the regiment.
were being paid to do a job and they took pride Significantly, however, most African American

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“Drummer” Jackson, a former slave serving as a drummer in the 79th United States
Colored Troops during the Civil War. This portrait was circulated with a companion
photograph of Jackson as a slave in tattered clothing to encourage enlistment
among African Americans. (CORBIS)

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former slaves understood the difference be- ing in offensive actions. They acted and felt like
tween punishment in the army and punishment soldiers and, much against the widely held
that they may have received at the hands of stereotype of African Americans at the time,
their former owners. It was widespread and not they were self-reliant.
uncommon that slaves would be punished, or, Before the bulk of the men saw action, the
perhaps, killed at the whim of their masters for popular opinion, even held by newspapers such
no apparent reason. At least in the army, having as the New York Times, was that the African
deserted or not carried out an order, a punish- American men would not conduct themselves in
ment would be commensurate with the offense, a soldierly manner. In an editorial in February
and there would be a reason for it. Many Afri- 1863, the New York Times proclaimed, “Whether
can Americans, particularly those who had been Negroes shall or shall not be employed as sol-
slaves, had difficulties accepting the absolute diers seems to us purely a question of expedi-
word of a white officer and following his orders ency, and to be solved satisfactorily only by
without question. The men were free, but in ef- experiment.”
fect they were not; they still had to obey a white In fact, in October 1862, Lane’s regiment
man and accept his authority. There were mu- had fought against Confederates in Missouri,
tinies and consequent court martial hearings, and their performance should have silenced
and almost 80 percent of the Union soldiers critics. When Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s
who were executed for mutiny during the Civil 1st South Carolina Infantry marched up the St.
War were African American, although they only Mary’s River into Georgia and Florida, it was
accounted for only 10 percent of the rank and not a question of courage that tested the com-
file (Glatthaar 1990, 115). mander; he was more concerned with keeping
The most important factor that could have the men in check because they were all desper-
potentially undermined the discipline of the ate to engage the Confederates. Even wounded
USCT was the fact that they were valued at $10 men refused to leave the line until they had
a month, less deductions, whereas white sol- made their mark.
diers were valued at $13. For many of the men, In April 1863 the 2d Louisiana Native Guards
any pay was welcome, but a large minority sim- marched into Pascagoula, Mississippi, as a di-
ply refused to accept $10 a month and waited versionary attack to pin Confederates based in
eighteen months before this iniquity was set- Mobile from reinforcing Charleston. Here they
tled. Famously, Robert Gould Shaw and his fel- fought a four-hour battle, during which the 180
low officers of the 54th were among the white men, hopelessly outnumbered at times, beat off
officers who similarly refused to accept their four Confederate attacks. Tragically, although
pay until their African American soldiers re- Col. Nathan W. Daniels, in command of the
ceived equal remuneration. regiment, had only lost two dead and eight
Crimes were committed while in uniform, wounded, a further four were killed and five
such as robbery, murder, rape, and wounding. wounded when a U.S. gunboat fired on the regi-
However, the number of African American sol- ment, believing them to be Confederates.
diers who were executed for such crimes far ex- Only the 1st South Carolina infantry had so
ceeded the numbers enlisted in the U.S. Army far received any significant press coverage, and
and accounted for 21 percent. nagging doubts still persisted as to the fighting
prowess of the African American. In May 1863
the USCT had their first opportunity to be in-
Combat
volved in a major set piece action at Port Hud-
By the time that the USCT marched into battle, son, Louisiana. The city was heavily fortified,
they had been transformed into a unit that was and at least 6,000 Confederates, under Major
capable of not only defending itself, but engag- General Franklin Gardner, were poised behind

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The 107th U.S. Colored Infantry Band at Fort Corcoran, Arlington, Virginia, November 1865.
(Library of Congress)

the defense works. African American regiments siana in the lead. The men, according to eyewit-
made up a substantial proportion of the 19th nesses, including newspaper reporters, made six
Corps, notably the 1st and 3d. Louisiana Native assaults on the Confederate positions, but
Guards (who would later become the 73d and failed to breach the enemy lines. One in five of
75th U.S. Colored Infantry). Both regiments the African American troops was killed or
were typical of the USCT of the period, a mix- wounded, a total of 200 men, and at around 1
ture of free men and former slaves. The majority p.m., the regiments reluctantly began to fall
of the 1st Louisiana were free men. Their time back. Despite their failure, the men had proved
came on May 26, 1863, when they took up posi- that African American soldiers had all the verve
tions, ready for an attack the following morning. and élan that could be expected of them and
At 10 a.m. on May 27, they crossed a pon- that at no time had they been reluctant to face
toon bridge spanning Foster’s Creek and ran im- enemy fire.
mediately into Confederate fire. The difficult Just ten days later, on the Mississippi River,
terrain, once they had crossed the pontoon, the 9th Louisiana (Colored) Infantry, which
hampered their attempts to deploy, and the would later become the 5th U.S. Colored Heavy
promised artillery support failed to materialize, Artillery, were sent out from Milliken’s Bend
apart from two guns that fired intermittent with other African American troops on a recon-
shots at the enemy. They approached to within naissance mission. The 9th Louisiana was com-
600 yards of the Confederate positions and manded by Col. Hermann Lieb, and the men
formed a line. As they advanced through the had only had two days of musket-firing practice.
woods, the full force of the Confederate defend- The two lead companies were mounted on
ers cut into the regiments, with the 1st Loui- mules, and it was these men who first encoun-

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

tered the Confederates and drove off a deter- proportion of casualties in battle recorded
mined Confederate cavalry attack. The African throughout the whole war, with only 55 percent
American troops were supported by the 10th of the men still standing.
Illinois Cavalry. After the initial engagement, The battle of Milliken’s Bend had been won,
the white horse soldiers sped off in pursuit of but still African American troops and their brav-
the Confederates, only to reappear moments ery failed to hit the headlines, and it would take
later with the Confederates hot on their heels. a more gallant yet foolhardy assault in South
Again it was the mule-mounted African Ameri- Carolina by the 54th Massachusetts (Colored)
cans who repelled the charges of the Confeder- Infantry to attract the attention of the public
ates. The foray from Milliken’s Bend had stirred and the press. The 54th Massachusetts was a
up a hornet’s nest, and the Union command volunteer regiment, but in fact the majority of
had grossly underestimated the number of Con- the men were from out of state. Although Mass-
federates in the area. Lieb and the rest of the achusetts Gov. John Andrew received most of
force fell back on their original positions, where the credit for raising the regiment, he could not
they began to build defense works to counter have done so without the solid support and in-
the inevitable Confederate assault. Even cotton fluence of the African American abolitionist,
bales were used as part of the defense works. Frederick Douglass. The regiment was to repre-
Mounted African American troops were sent out sent the determination of African Americans to
as pickets to warn the encampment of roughly make a solid, worthwhile, and prominent contri-
1,000 men of the oncoming Confederates. Pre- bution to the war effort. Two of Douglass’s sons
sent were the 9th Louisiana Infantry, the 1st were volunteers, and the command structure
Mississippi, the 13th Louisiana, and the 11th consisted of the sons of prominent white aboli-
Louisiana. There were also elements from the tionists from Massachusetts. The commander
23d Iowa and the 10th Illinois Cavalry. was the young colonel, Robert Gould Shaw.
The Confederate force, numbering some The regiment’s trials and tribulations are,
1,500, engaged the pickets at around 4 a.m. on perhaps, the most documented in the entire his-
June 7. The inexperienced African American tory of African American regiments, yet in many
soldiers managed to halt the oncoming Confed- respects they suffered no more or no less than
erates with their first volley, but they lacked the other regiments of their time. The impelling de-
musket training that would have allowed them sire was to engage the enemy and to prove be-
to reload fast enough, and the Confederates yond any doubt that black men were equal and
closed for hand-to-hand combat. There was a prepared to make any sacrifice for their race
vicious, swirling melee, and at the crucial point and for the Union.
Lieb sent in his two reserve companies. This ac- Their first engagement had none of the glory
tion seemed to have settled the matter, but the that they were searching for and involved an un-
rebels continued to push on, despite the best ef- fortunate incident at Darien, Georgia, where
forts of the African American troops. Most of they were commanded to set fire to a town.
the fighting was now with the bayonet. Try as They found themselves part of the Union forces
they might, the Confederates could not drive bent on storming Fort Wagner, which protected
the USCT into the river. The timely arrival of Charleston, South Carolina. The regiment was
three Union gunboats helped to persuade Gen. deployed initially on James Island, where three
Henry E. McCulloch, commanding the Confed- companies of the regiment held the line during
erates, to order a withdrawal. Some 35 percent the night against determined Confederate at-
of the African American troops had been killed tacks, allowing the white 10th Connecticut In-
or wounded, with the 9th Louisiana having the fantry to retreat. A correspondent from New
dubious honor of having suffered the highest England wrote of the same engagement: “The

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

boys of the 10th Connecticut could not help good examples of the changing attitudes. One
loving the men who saved them from destruc- occurred only three days before the 54th’s as-
tion. The dark-skinned heroes fought the good sault on Fort Wagner and the other some eight
fight and covered with their own brave hearts months later.
the retreat of brothers, sons and fathers of Con- In July 1863, a race riot in New York had
necticut” (Emilio 1990, 60). claimed the life, among others, of the nephew
When Union forces moved to assault Fort of First Sergeant Robert J. Simmons of the
Wagner, the 54th was due to be left behind, but 54th. Eight months after Fort Wagner, when the
a letter from Shaw to Brig.-Gen. George C. 20th USCT took part in a parade in New York,
Strong (also a Massachusetts officer and the tens of thousands of black and white civilians
regiment’s former brigade commander) con- cheered the 1,000 men as heroes and true de-
vinced him of the importance of the regiment’s fenders of the Union.
presence. Having achieved this transfer back to More proof had to be furnished to start to
Strong, Shaw also requested that the regiment wash away generations of prejudice, and it fell
lead the assault on Fort Wagner. on the increasing numbers of African American
The Confederate defense works were impres- troops who flocked to join the USCT. Daily, the
sive and garrisoned by some 1,700 men and 17 newspapers contained accounts of battles and
artillery pieces. Any force that approached the high casualties, yet this did little to dissuade Af-
fortification would be swept with lead and shot, rican Americans from enlisting. African Ameri-
although since the morning of July 18 the Con- can men who had already fled from slavery dif-
federates had been under constant bombard- fered in attitude and approach from those who
ment by the U.S. Navy and land-based Union had been born as free men in the North. They
artillery. felt they had less to prove than did their South-
The 54th arrived the evening of July 18. They ern compatriots still living in slavery. Equally,
had been on the move for two days and had those in the North, who had access to the press
eaten nothing since they broke camp that morn- and were influenced by Northern opinion, held
ing. The regiment was some 630 men strong, different opinions than those in the South, many
and despite their exhaustion they were eager of whom were illiterate. Regardless of where
and proud to lead the attack. As the assault went they came from, their commitment, Christian
in, Confederate fire began to rip into the regi- faith, and determination to sweep away inequal-
ment. Nevertheless, as casualties mounted, it ity impelled the men to present themselves to
seemed for a moment that the assault might the recruitment officers. Although they often
succeed because some of the Confederates were marched into battle ill trained and poorly
abandoning their positions. Union reinforce- equipped, they continued to show their fighting
ments were too slow in moving to support the prowess and desire to come to fight the enemy.
54th, and although the regiment penetrated the Any deficiencies in their training were offset by
outer defenses, they were finally thrown back, a gradual recognition that both the African
leaving Shaw and many African American sol- American soldiers and their white officers faced
diers dead. The regiment suffered 40 percent the same or similar hurdles. This sense of inter-
casualties, yet the survivors were as determined dependence and realization that they were part
to continue the fight as they had been before of something much bigger than themselves, and
the fateful charge. that the regiment and its reputation were in
The casualties suffered by the 54th were the their hands, gave them a sense of obligation. As
price paid to alert the Northern press and pub- the men faced engagement after engagement
lic that the USCT and African Americans in and saw friends fall, their determination was no
general could fight with courage and determina- less than that of a white regiment’s in wanting to
tion. Two separate events in New York offer see the war through to a successful conclusion.

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

Confederate charge against African American Union soldiers at the Battle of the Crater.
(North Wind Picture Archives)

Glory and Infamy white soldiers. In many of the engagements


wild, impetuous, and determined charges by Af-
What is particularly striking about the use of Af-
rican American regiments terrified the Confed-
rican American troops during the Civil War is
erates, and in many respects they had the same
that they were rarely used in the traditional and
reputation as the Union Irish Brigade.
logical manner. Because the majority of the reg-
African American troops were used in this
iments were both understrength and lacked
training, standard practice would have been to role at Petersburg during the Battle of the
use them in a defensive role. The vast majority Crater on July 30, 1864. Union forces had dug
of the regiments, however, were used as assault a tunnel under the main Confederate defense
troops, which reduced the need to give them in- lines into which they began packing explosives.
tensive musket training. They would fight as The Confederates countermined and acciden-
shock troops, using the bayonet, and be em- tally detonated the explosives, creating a huge
ployed as a sharp instrument to punch holes crater. The 29th USCT charged through this
through Confederate lines. They viewed this as gaping hole. Of the 450 men who charged, only
logical and a way to make use of the best attrib- 128 survived. In total USCT troops engaged
utes of African American troops, who they be- here accounted for 35 percent of the casualties.
lieved to be innately savage in combat. The men Similarly, at Chaffin’s Farm in early September
were not necessarily considered expendable, nor 1864 USCT were sent in with fixed bayonets
were black soldiers less of a military asset than against Confederate defense works protecting

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

Richmond. After crawling through a swamp and tion of stopping the USCT from running to the
being shot at by the Confederates, the troops, rear. The problem was that the majority of them
against orders, returned fire and experienced wanted to charge forward, and in many engage-
high casualties. Of the 1,300 men in the ments officers and noncommissioned officers
brigade, 455 were injured or dead by the end of were forced to draw their swords and stand be-
the battle. One company suffered 87 percent tween their regiment and the enemy, simply to
casualties. stop the men. While the African American sol-
Another major assault took place at Big Black diers were eager to come to grips with the en-
River, Mississippi, toward the end of 1864. emy, the Confederates had added animosity to-
Union forces were attempting to destroy a rail- ward the black soldiers. Many could not
road bridge to cut Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood’s reconcile the concept of black soldiers with the
Confederates off from their supply routes. To stereotype of slaves who, for the most part,
protect the vital bridge, the Confederates had would acquiesce to any indignity. The prospect
entrenched and built a stockade. Union forces of facing trained, disciplined, and armed black
had attacked the position twice and failed to de- soldiers who were as determined as they to fight
stroy it. Under Maj. J. B. Cook, the 3d USCC departed from everything they thought they
were brought in to attack. Their route to the de- knew about the black man. Thus, when Confed-
fensive position was complicated by an almost erates had an opportunity to vent their anger on
impassable swamp, and the men were forced to the USCT, they took the full advantage of the
dismount and wade through mud up to their situation and often committed war crimes.
waists to approach the Confederates. Two com- When Confederate troops initially faced African
panies managed to creep up upon the positions American soldiers, Confederates considered
and delivered a volley into the stockade, while atrocities a means by which they could instill
the main force charged along the railroad track terror in the black soldiers, and not only dis-
into the Confederate position. After several re- courage them from remaining in the Union
verses, Cook’s men managed to carry the posi- army, but also deter others from replacing them.
tions. While holding off the Confederates, they Later, Confederate attitudes turned to revenge,
set fire to the bridge and succeeded in their and they sought retribution upon African Amer-
mission. As a result of the action Cook was pro- icans for their increasing contribution to the
moted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel by his Union war effort. There were incidents of hang-
commanding officer, Maj. Gen. E. R. S. Canby, ings, summary executions, and ill-treatment of
who described the action as one of the most prisoners and deserters.
heroic acts that he had ever encountered. Three incidents occurred in 1864 that tar-
Not all African Americans distinguished nished the reputation of the Confederate army.
themselves on the battlefield. In June 1864 vir- The first took place on April 12, 1864, when
tually an entire company of the 59th United 1,500 Confederate cavalry, under the command
States Colored Infantry (USCI) retreated at the of Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, de-
battle of Guntown, Mississippi, discarding their scended upon a largely African American gar-
muskets as they fled. On another occasion, a rison at Fort Pillow, north of Memphis, Ten-
private in the 5th USCI fled from battle three nessee. Although the exact circumstances
times. His punishment was a fine of $10 a remain in dispute, and Forrest’s culpability is
month for six months, the wearing of a placard debatable, it is clear that more than 60 percent
proclaiming the word “coward,” and having his of the black troops engaged were either killed in
head shaved. A sergeant in the 6th USCI was combat or massacred afterward. Forrest’s ac-
reported by his captain as having crawled to the tions were repeated by Confederate guerrillas
rear on his hands and knees during an advance. and irregulars for much of the rest of the war.
For the most part, however, it was not a ques- Six days later, at Poison Springs in Arkansas,

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

the 79th USCI (called New to distinguish it Although African American troops had lim-
from another regiment with the same number), ited opportunities to fight in major engage-
among a force of some 1,200 Union troops, ments, they took every combat opportunity to
were murdered by the Confederates after com- prove their worth. Many had a fatalistic atti-
bat. Despite the intervention of Confederate of- tude; they believed that they would die even if
ficers, some African American wounded were they surrendered. Along with this, they believed
bayoneted or bludgeoned to death. that their sacrifices would benefit their families,
The third, which occurred at Saltville in Oc- as well as those who followed them. When en-
tober 1864, was another example of unforgiv- gaged in combat, partly as a result of their inex-
able brutality. Elements of the 5th United perience, they tended to suffer higher casualties
States Colored Cavalry (USCC) had held their than white regiments. Nevertheless they often
position for two hours until ordered to withdraw performed far better than more experienced
at dusk. Some of the wounded men were aban- white regiments; African Americans consistently
doned and others isolated, falling into the hands proved that they were less likely to break and
of the Confederates. There were summary exe- run—they were often more determined in at-
cutions on the battlefield and groups of Confed- tack and more stubborn in defense.
erates broke into field hospitals in the area and Medicine at the time of the war was primi-
summarily executed at least seven wounded Af- tive. Regardless of the severity of the injury, the
rican American soldiers in their beds. medical staff could provide little more than ba-
Forrest and others like him intended these sic assistance. Many of the African American
acts to illustrate that African American soldiers troops ignored wounds that would have nor-
were no match for Confederates and that death, mally enabled them to obtain an honorable dis-
by whatever means, would be the reward for charge due to their compulsion to stay with the
presuming otherwise. This, he and others regiment. Only those who were severely debili-
hoped, would highlight to the Union that they tated were ever ordered to leave the field. Some
should cease to use black soldiers in the field. of the regiments never saw combat and spent
Instead, it bonded the USCT even more closely their service with the USCT as laborers, or in
with their white counterparts, military and civil- other noncombat roles. Nevertheless, African
ian. Some USCT regiments took to fighting un- American troops were eager to make their mark.
der a black banner on the battlefield. This signi- For example, the 7th USCI in South Carolina
fied that they expected and would give no rushed to rescue a white regiment that had
quarter and would not be taken alive or accept been in the line and had run short of ammuni-
prisoners. On one occasion shortly after the tion. The 7th took up positions behind the
Fort Pillow Massacre, the 26th USCI, operating white soldiers, who promptly fled as the Con-
in South Carolina, summarily executed Confed- federates approached. The 7th, ignoring their
erate prisoners. Later, when USCT were de- fleeing compatriots, advanced and rallied the
ployed to attack Fort Blakely, Alabama, they Union troops with their vigor and succeeded in
swept over the defenses and shot or bayoneted breaking the Confederate’s resolve.
every Confederate that they could see. Nathan Bedford Forrest again faced African
This made the question of surrender very dif- American troops under very different circum-
ficult if the USCT faced Confederates. Both stances at Brice’s Cross Roads in June 1864,
sides were reluctant to surrender; both believed just two months after the Fort Pillow Massacre.
that the other would murder them. Official The Union forces, which included two USCT
Confederate policy shortly after 1863 was to regiments (the 55th and 59th) supported by a
summarily execute any African American en- black artillery battery, were charged with elimi-
listed man caught under arms, a distinction that nating the threat Forrest posed to Union supply
was extended to white officers of the USCT. and communications lines during the Atlanta

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

campaign. The USCT regiments had pledged to partment confirmed, on June 4, 1863, the terms
avenge the massacre of their comrades at Fort of the Militia Act, or Second Confiscation Act,
Pillow, but their leadership of a spirited attempt of July 17, 1862, it became apparent that, de-
to rally against Forrest’s forces was unable to spite promises to the contrary, African American
stave off a Union defeat. The 14th USCI at Pu- soldiers would not be paid on equal terms with
laski, Tennessee, was similarly defiant when white enlistees. Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton had
facing a determined Confederate assault and re- been charged with the task of recruiting 5,000
fused to give ground. African American soldiers. He had been told
The USCT regiments were gradually gaining that the men would operate under the same
confidence and experience. This allowed some conditions and pay as white men. Equally, the
soldiers to rise from the ranks to become senior 54th and 55th Massachusetts (Colored) In-
noncommissioned officers. Often companies fantry were told that in addition to the $50 en-
were led by black sergeants, who proved them- listment bonus, and $100 mustering out pay-
selves capable of making the right tactical deci- ment, they would receive $13 per month.
sions on the battlefield and controlling and di- When William Whiting, a lawyer at the War
recting the men. The more opportunities they Department, made the announcement in June
had to see the fighting abilities of the black sol- 1863, it was clear that African Americans would
diers, the more often the white men realized be paid on the same basis as laborers, and there
that the black soldiers were their equals. In- would be no additional payments for those who
creasingly, black regiments, such as those that held noncommissioned officer ranks. The pay-
had taken part in attacks at Petersburg in June ment was set at $10 minus $3 for their clothing.
1864, were received positively by their peers. This meant that an African American soldier
As the war closed, the USCT was providing was valued at little more than half his white
an ever-increasing proportion of the Union counterpart. Many protests ensued, and very
army. During the siege of Petersburg and at the few of the USCT or the two Massachusetts reg-
battle of Nashville, African American troops iments were prepared to accept this payment.
helped to win notable victories. On many occa- On seven occasions the 54th and 55th were
sions the USCT simply served as yet another mustered to receive their pay, and on seven oc-
Union regiment in the line, providing mutual casions they refused to accept it. It was not a
support to regiments either side of them, but on question of money, but the payment was a sym-
other occasions they were to prove to be the in- bol of their inequality. Many of the men thought
strument of victory on the battlefield. One ex- the offer undermined their self-respect. Despite
ample occurred at Fort Blakely, Alabama, in hardships, particularly to family members who
1865, where a division of USCT provided the had lost their breadwinner and would have to
right wing of the Union army. The USCT was throw themselves on the mercy of their commu-
given instructions to advance, and they ran into nity, it was not a matter about which they would
Confederate skirmishers: almost as one, the en- compromise. They argued that there was no dif-
tire division surged forward and stormed the ference between a black man and a white man
Confederate defense works. standing on a battlefield, facing the same dan-
gers, yet fulfilling the same role. They were sol-
diers, they were doing their duty, and they saw
The Vexed Questions of
no reason why they should be subject to dis-
Pay and Promotion
crimination.
Although African Americans knew that they There was no immediate prospect of resolv-
were making a positive contribution to the war ing the pay issue. On one hand Washington
effort in Union uniform, they still had to con- considered the lower pay an appropriate means
tend with severe prejudice. When the War De- by which to convince those opposed to African

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

An African American army cook at work, City Point, Virginia, 1864 or 1865. (Library of Congress)

American enlistment that although the men the Union than their white counterparts. Some
were needed, they were not yet equal to whites. of the USCT were on the verge of mutiny as the
Those who supported the use of African Ameri- dispute continued for a year. The 79th USCI
cans in the armed forces could not and would nearly mutinied, and Sgt. William Walker of the
not accept this policy. It fell on the limited 21st USCI claimed that his enlistment contract
number of Northern spokesmen who had some was null and void as the government had not
influence in Washington to plead the men’s kept its side of the contract. He concluded that
cause. Notably Gov. John Andrew of Massachu- he should no longer be a soldier and was not
setts spoke on their behalf, claiming that al- prepared to act as one until the government ful-
though the uniform gave the African American filled its obligations. He was tried at a court
dignity, inequities in pay only degraded them. martial and executed.
Ultimately the matter would be forced by the The situation began to get more dangerous
men’s own officers. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler and volatile as the officers struggled to maintain
and Col. James Montgomery were among those control of their men, who were often still being
who pleaded the case of their men, stating that used as unpaid laborers and not soldiers. Fi-
although the African Americans were equal in nally, after U.S. Attorney General Edward Bates
uniform, they were often fiercely more loyal to conceded and reminded Lincoln of his constitu-

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

tional responsibility, the situation gradually be- convince the public that African American en-
gan to be resolved. Bates told Lincoln that the listed men should be accepted, it was a step too
men should receive equal pay and that if the far to expect them to accept black officers.
case were presented before a court of law, the It was widely believed that African Americans
government would undoubtedly lose. were used to having to work under the guidance
In June 1864 Congress approved equal pay of white men and that they would find it impos-
backdated to January 1, 1864. There were still sible to take orders from a black officer. Equally,
conditions, notably that the men would have it was argued that black officers, if appointed,
had to have been free men on April 19, 1861, to would be incapable of handling the paperwork
receive back pay. This solution proved to be an- and comprehending the complexities of supply,
other bone of contention as it effectively al- rations, and orders. This was contradicted by
lowed only free men to claim back pay for 1862 the sizable minority of literate African Ameri-
and 1863. Had a man been a slave after April cans and the many illiterate white soldiers.
19, 1861, he would receive no back pay at all. It There was also an internal army dynamic.
was not until March 1865 that the situation was Commonly soldiers who had reached the rank
finally resolved on an equal basis. of first sergeant expected the opportunity to be
The question of black officers began to rear promoted to a lieutenant. This was the natural
its head from the very beginning of African course of combat or field promotions, where in-
American involvement in the civil war. When dividuals would effectively be filling dead men’s
Butler had federalized the Louisiana African shoes. The USCT regiments provided white
American militia units in the summer of 1862, noncommissioned officers with an additional
he had transferred the entire regiment as it opportunity to reach the rank of lieutenant and
stood into Union service. This meant that there beyond. If the USCT were filled with African
were both black and white officers. The major- American noncommissioned officers, this route
ity of the African American officers were from to promotion would be blocked.
the literate and wealthy classes of the New Or- African Americans wanted the chance not
leans area, and, indeed, the regiments boasted only to prove themselves capable of being non-
around seventy-five African American captains commissioned officers, but also to be able to
and lieutenants, in addition to the black Major pin an officer’s shoulder tabs onto their uni-
Dumas. Jim Lane, who was at work in raising an forms. Many demanded that the boards of ex-
African American regiment in Kansas, similarly amination be opened to them, and eventually
saw no problem in elevating African American the situation began to be forced by individuals,
recruits to the officer ranks. much to the disgruntlement of Washington.
By 1863, however, the secretary of war, Edwin In early 1864, the then regimental com-
M. Stanton, would not accept African American mander of the 54th Massachusetts, Colonel
officers unless a specific piece of legislation had Hallowell, recommended to Governor Andrew
been approved by the president and Congress. that Sgt. Stephen A. Swails be promoted to the
The Massachusetts regiments, for example, were rank of second lieutenant. The nomination was
forbidden to appoint black officers. Meanwhile, accepted, but Maj. Gen. John G. Foster, who
the War Department, having replaced Butler, commanded the Department of the South, mus-
told his successor to replace the African Ameri- tered the newly promoted lieutenant out of the
can officers with white men. The initial claim regiment. Governor Andrew refused to concede
was that African Americans had rarely had any on the issue and bombarded secretary of war,
command experience due to the inequalities in Stanton, into submission, forcing him to accept
militia regiments in the past and that, therefore, Swails’s appointment in January 1865.
they were not competent to lead men in battle. This none-too-gentle knock on the door by
With Washington finding it difficult enough to Swails, Hallowell, and Governor Andrew caused

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

Washington to accept that African Americans under fire from Confederate positions. They
could receive commissions, and as a conse- would have to deal with bodies that had been
quence, before the war was over 1 in every left to decompose on the battlefield for days or
2,000 African Americans had been promoted weeks, while white regiments rested. Other
into the officer corps. Five of the early promo- prejudices and iniquities were common, includ-
tions, excluding that of Swails, served in the two ing USCT regiments being issued with faulty or
Massachusetts regiments. There were, however, inadequate uniforms and equipment. They
other African Americans receiving commissions, would be given recycled uniforms, often with
but they were confined to ordained clergymen gaping holes that told the story of the previous
who had the rank of officers while serving as owner. On many occasions whole regiments had
chaplains. Taking on the role of a chaplain and to operate without shoes, and when they did re-
adopting an officer’s rank was a difficult choice ceive them, they were shoddy and would wear
for a clergyman, as he would enter a world that out in a few weeks.
was dominated by white officers. Personal in- Above all, as an indication of the perceived
sults, misconduct, and immorality would dog all value of the USCT, they were often at the bot-
chaplains as they struggled to provide spiritual tom of the list when it came to the delivery of
guidance for the enlisted men. They had to walk muskets. They would be issued with obsolete
a very difficult path between two worlds. equipment that, at best, would often prove to be
as hazardous to the user as the target. There
were instances where African American regi-
Dirt, Dishonor, and Disease
ments were given the latest equipment, such as
One of the enduring frustrations of USCT enlis- the 29th Connecticut (Colored) Infantry who
tees was the lack of opportunity to fight. were issued with new Springfield rifles. How-
Throughout the war large numbers of men, hav- ever, the majority of regiments, such as the 2d
ing been trained and continually drilled USCI, who had an inspection in April 1864, re-
throughout their period of enlistment, only ever ceived either captured or re-bored equipment
wielded a spade or a pickaxe in anger. Fatigue that led to the inspector immediately condemn-
duties were considered to be, by many brigade, ing 340 of the regiment’s muskets; they were
division, and corps commanders, the purpose of later given Springfield rifled muskets in ex-
having black soldiers. Their presence freed up change.
white regiments for action. The hard and thank- Obsolete equipment at times impaired the
less work only served to reduce morale and to ability of a regiment to fight. The 54th USCI,
wear out the men’s uniforms. Initially paid little for example, was issued with such a wide mix-
or nothing, they had little opportunity to replace ture of different muskets that it had to carry
their clothing and for many of the men, having three calibers of ammunition into the field.
fled slavery in the South, they now felt that they However hard the men trained, their useless
were reduced to slavery once more under only and dangerous equipment would put them in
slightly different circumstances. They still en- great jeopardy on the battlefield. The 3d USCC,
countered rigid discipline and the prospect of viewed as an extremely effective unit, was al-
punishment for complaints and minor infrac- ways short of mounts, and at one stage nearly
tions. The men became demoralized, and the 300 of the men lacked carbines and over 400
better officers sought to leave the regiment at sabers.
their earliest opportunity for fear of seeing the It was a common belief at the time that black
war out in some backwater supply depot, never troops were ideal for combat and operations in
having seen a Confederate. the Southern states, particularly areas that were
African American troops were often used for notorious for cholera and typhoid, because they
burial details, frequently operating at night or were thought to have some form of natural im-

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

munity as their ancestors, or indeed, the troops an African American admitted to a hospital had a
themselves, had come from countries plagued one in three chance of dying while hospitalized.
with these diseases. Thousands succumbed to African American troops also encountered
“tropical” diseases, largely because their military general prejudice and hostility, in both the
camps were in highly contagious areas and, as North and the South. In New York regiments
in most military bases of the period, little care were pelted with stones and in Florida the citi-
or attention was paid to sanitary conditions. zens of Key West petitioned the government not
The workload of the medical staff attached to to have a USCT regiment garrisoned in their
USCT units was crippling, and official records vicinity. Black soldiers were not welcome in the
suggest that they dealt with over 600,000 cases South, but even in Washington and New York,
of illness in the enlisted ranks alone, in addition mobs of rioters would hurl themselves at the
to handling 10,000 wounded men between uniformed men and abuse them in every way.
1863 and 1865. The USCT had enormous diffi- Within the military itself there was discrimi-
culties in attracting trained doctors. Doctors nation and abuse that was often open and un-
found it impossible to transfer from a regiment abashed. The troops were constantly referred to
because the commanding officer guarded what- as “niggers,” and on some occasions USCT men
ever medical assistance he had secured. One of were robbed or murdered by fellow Union men
the answers was to try to attract as many Afri- because they were black. Racist commanders of
can American physicians as possible, but few USCT regiments were rarely reprimanded.
were available. Approximately eight black doc- Some commanders, however, took their respon-
tors served in the Union army. For the majority sibilities seriously and would take action against
of the regiments, any individual who claimed to anyone who discriminated against their men or
have any rudimentary knowledge of physiology, made abusive remarks toward them. They would
medicine, or injuries in general would be ac- even pursue them as far as a court martial.
cepted to serve as either a hospital steward or a In some situations, members of the USCT
physician. Attempts were made by many regi- would fight back. An extensive brawl took place
mental commanders to find anyone, including in Nashville between the USCT and white U.S.
medical cadets or trainees, but most proved in- regulars. When Union troops from Philadelphia
competent. encountered Sgt. Prince Rivers, a freedman,
On at least one occasion two physicians were they considered it more prudent to leave the
given dishonorable discharges for whipping Af- man alone due to his aggressive stance and
rican American soldiers who were serving as enormous size. Butler was one commander
medical orderlies and nurses. On other occa- among few who would support his African
sions white medical staff robbed badly wounded American men in such circumstances.
men, and in other instances African American The most violent reactions were in the South,
soldiers openly criticized unnecessary amputa- not only from the perspective of the Confeder-
tions and operations that they had suffered at ate army, but also those among the civilian pop-
the hands of incompetent or overworked med- ulation. As early as 1862, many Southerners be-
ical staff. lieved that Washington was stealing their slaves,
Generally African American troops found putting them in a blue uniform, arming them
themselves in segregated hospitals, most of with muskets, and sending them South to de-
which were poorly equipped and understaffed. stroy the Confederacy. These armed slaves, as
In one such hospital at Fort Smith, Arkansas, 92 they saw them, were commanded by white men
of 343 men died due to appalling conditions and who were inciting slave insurrection; both the
neglect. At Vicksburg another hospital had a former slaves, regardless of their past, and the
death rate of 30.5 percent, while its white coun- white men needed to feel the full weight of
terpart had a death rate of 14 percent. In general Confederate law.

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

In April and May 1862 the Confederate Con- less villages, towns, and cities of the South. For
gress resolved officially to return all African many of the men, even the final surrender of
Americans, whatever their circumstances, to a Robert E. Lee at Appomattox would not end
state of bondage and summarily execute white their period of enlistment. A great many of the
officers. In practice this was never widely ac- men would be destined to remain in the South
cepted on the battlefield as most Confederate as part of the Army of Occupation. African
regiments who encountered African American Americans were not at the top of the list when it
units refused to take prisoners. All this policy came to demobilization. The first to be mus-
served to achieve was to bond the enlisted men tered out were veteran white regiments, as the
with their officers, both realizing that they faced process of demobilizing one million men began
the same peril if they surrendered to the enemy. soon after Lee’s surrender. A large number of
Admittedly some white officers and African African American units would remain under
American enlisted men were taken prisoner and arms in the South for a considerable period of
treated according to the accepted Articles of time. In some respects, as far as those who had
War, but few would risk this outcome. fled from slavery were concerned, this was a
When operating in the South, the USCT met reasonable period of transition through slave,
the hatred of the Confederate population. Suf- soldier to free man.
fering the indignity of finding their town occu- Around the insular existence of a USCT regi-
pied by Union troops was bad enough, let alone ment the men encountered still defiant and of-
the soldiers being black men. As Union troops ten violent Southerners, as well as bewildered
moved further into Confederate territory, organ- and displaced former slaves. The USCT were
ized Southern resistance had collapsed in most well placed to contribute toward the progress of
places, and they now faced the prospect of deal- African Americans who had remained in the
ing with Confederate guerrillas. South. Many of the officers serving in the
On one occasion, while operating in the USCT were invaluable in helping to organize
South, the 79th USCI (new) responded to the the Southern black population in the immediate
murder of one of their black soldiers by Confed- aftermath of the Civil War. They had the leader-
erate guerrillas by executing a Confederate pris- ship skills and experience in handling large
oner. In North Carolina African American numbers of African Americans. Many of the offi-
troops, under the command of Brig. Gen. Ed- cers worked tirelessly for the Freedmen’s Bu-
ward A. Wild, took hostage the families of the reau under the stewardship of Maj. Gen. Oliver
officers of a Confederate guerrilla group to pre- Otis Howard, whose own brother had held a
vent them from making attacks on his men. It commission in the USCT. One of the first series
became common for the guerrillas to make a of tasks was to ensure that the black and the
special target of black troops operating in their white population of the South did not turn on
territories, and they committed many atrocities. one another and worked together toward recon-
Equally, a rough form of justice was extracted structing the South. Contracts for major con-
by the USCT when the opportunities presented struction projects to repair the infrastructure
themselves. On one occasion, in Springfield, had to be overseen, and it was the USCT, as an
Tennessee, an assistant surgeon, Eli M. Hewitt, occupying army, that had to ensure that the
was murdered by Confederate guerrillas. The wishes of the Freedmen’s Bureau were enforced.
commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Lovell H. There was still widespread disgust among the
Rousseau, extracted $5,000 from the local pop- population and outright displays of arrogance
ulation and sent the money to Hewitt’s family. with individuals still walking around in their
As the war entered its final months, with the Confederate uniforms. In some areas organized
Confederacy collapsing, the USCT were an in- attempts were made to undermine the USCT.
tegral part of the force that marched into count- In both Texas and Louisiana, former Confeder-

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

ates dressed in Union uniforms, blackened their at least they receive adequate support for the
faces, and carried out robberies and murders, jobs that they were undertaking.
purporting to be USCT men. There were fre- In October 1865, a mutiny took place in
quent brawls arising out of harassment, but in- Jacksonville, Florida. The men were engaged in
creasingly, Southern diehards found themselves a melee with a crowd, and after the situation
facing uniformed African American troops who had been calmed, six men were executed for
refused to back down. There were still murders, mutiny.
notably in Raymond, Mississippi, and in Ken- In some of the regiments, however, the offi-
tucky, but it was not only the enlisted men who cers took the opportunity to institute extensive
were the objects of the violence. In Louisiana a education for the men, both in literacy and reli-
white lieutenant was murdered by civilians, and gious studies. In most cases the men realized
in Walhalla, South Carolina, Lt. J. T. Furman that this was a route to self-improvement. The
(33d USCI) was killed by a civilian who shot barracks would be transformed into a school,
him in the back. and officers and literate African Americans
The 33d were also the intended victims of an would serve as the teachers.
attempt to kill the whole regiment on a trestle As life in the USCT gradually ended, and the
bridge en route to Charleston. The regiment’s last men were finally mustered out, the future
commander, Lt. Col. Charles T. Trowbridge, for the men who had served continued to be
had been warned by a local politician that the hard. Most of the men had served a compara-
regiment was in danger. Consequently Trow- tively long period in the army and had either
bridge ordered Sgt. Frederick Brown and four been injured or ill, and most would later rely on
enlisted men to ride with the engine driver. As military pensions. Some ended up in veterans’
the train reached a trestle bridge high above a homes in the Northern states, but the South-
river, the coupling pin was pulled, leaving the erners who returned to the South had to rely on
carriages in which the regiment was traveling their families. Despite the enormous contribu-
on the track 100 feet above the water. There tions made by African Americans during the
was a sudden volley of musketry fire, and civil- Civil War, it would not be for another ninety
ians were seen attempting to set fire to the years that African Americans would finally be
bridge. Sergeant Brown produced his pistol and accepted as full equals in the U.S. Army. Only a
at gunpoint made the engine driver back up and handful of regiments would survive during the
recouple the carriages, which allowed the regi- remainder of the nineteenth century.
ment to escape. For many years, in mute testimony of the per-
The African American troops were scattered ceived value of the African American during the
throughout the South, and in certain areas, Civil War, veterans would occupy the rear of the
such as Texas, the men suffered from food columns of the parades on the July 4. Despite
shortages. As the army shifted to a peacetime this indignity, the veterans considered it worth-
force, whole commands were forgotten, and the while to be represented and to continue to re-
men succumbed to fevers and the effects of mind the population of their participation in the
poor and inadequate rations. For the most part Civil War.
the men were hopelessly bored, particularly in
areas such as Texas or New Mexico. There was
Black Confederates
nothing to make them want to stay with the reg-
iment, and much of the pride and loyalty had A considerable number of African Americans
begun to evaporate. They were still drilled and also served for the Confederate States of Amer-
penalized, and drunkenness became a severe ica. Given the stance of the Southern states on
problem. Many of the men wrote to Stanton or African Americans, many fought purely to de-
any other influential individual to demand that fend their own states, such as the Louisiana

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

Civil War artist and journalist Alfred R. Waud’s “Mustered Out, Little Rock, Arkansas, April 20, 1865,”
published in Harper’s Weekly, May 19, 1866. The drawing captures the exuberance of the Little Rock,
Arkansas, African American community as the U.S. Colored Troops returned home at the end of the Civil War.
The victorious soldiers are joyously greeted by women and children. (Library of Congress)

Native Guards. Even slaves from Alabama and By January 1864 the manpower situation in
freedmen from Virginia volunteered to join the the South had reached a critical point. Every-
Confederate army. In Tennessee freedmen were where the Confederates were hopelessly out-
enlisted into regiments in Memphis as early as numbered, and finally, at the headquarters of
1861. General Johnson, Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne
From the beginning some Southerners called proposed the enlistment and arming of slaves in
for the deployment of African Americans to help exchange for their freedom. Confederate Presi-
remedy the disparity of white manpower be- dent Jefferson Davis refused at that time, but he
tween the North and the South. They were was forced to change his mind during the last
largely ignored, and only individuals, operating eighteen months of the war.
either as substitutes or servants in regular Con- Gen. Robert E. Lee accepted African Ameri-
federate regiments, represented the African cans into his Army of Northern Virginia, but
American in the Confederate armed forces. there was enormous opposition in the South to
When Stonewall Jackson occupied Frederick, arming slaves because people feared rebellion
Maryland, in 1862, of his force of 64,000, some or mutiny.
3,000 were African Americans scattered among By February 1865 the possibility of Union
the regiments. Black Confederates fought at the forces facing black Confederates spurred
First Manassas, in the Shenandoah, during the Ulysses S. Grant to order that all male African
Seven Days, and at Gettysburg. Americans in the South be captured to prevent

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A m e r i c a n C i v i l Wa r

them from joining the Confederate army. Si- Colored Troops (appendixes); individual
multaneously. African Americans were serving regiments
in the Confederate navy, but it was only on
March 13, 1865, that the Confederate Con- References and Further Reading
gress finally acceded to the enlistment of Afri-
Adams, George W. Doctors in Blue: The Medical
can Americans into their army. By then, it was History of the Union Army in the Civil War. New
too late. They were offered $100 but still, slave York: Henry Schuman, 1952.
owners blocked the attempts because they were Berlin, Ira, Joseph P. Reidy, and Leslie S. Rowland.
unwilling to relinquish their property. Lee be- Freedom: A Documentary History of
lieved that if a man was willing to join the Con- Emancipation, 1861–1867. 2 vols. New York:
federate army, then the state should compel his Cambridge University Press, 1982.
owner to release him. Blight, David W. Frederick Douglass’s Civil War.
Contemporary state records suggest that Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
some 83 percent of Richmond, Virginia’s, male 1989.
slave population volunteered for duty and that Brown, William Wells. The Negro in the American
Rebellion: His Heroism and His Fidelity. New
the Confederate states intended to raise
York: Lee and Sheppard, 1867 (reprinted Johnson
300,000 men and call them the Confederate
Reprints 1968).
States Colored Troops. Burchard, Peter. One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould
It has been estimated that some 65,000 black Shaw and his Brave Black Regiment. New York:
soldiers were enlisted in the Confederate army, St. Martin’s Press, 1965.
of whom 13,000 fought in combat. The larger Coffman, Edward M. The Old Army: A Portrait of the
contribution was made by the tens of thousands American Army in Peacetime, 1784–1898. New
of slaves and freedmen who provided the logisti- York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
cal support for the Confederate army through- Cornish, Dudley T. The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in
out the war. the Union Army, 1861–1865. New York:
The role of the African Americans who served Longmans Green, 1956.
for the Confederacy during the Civil War has Crawford, Samuel J. Kansas in the Sixties. Chicago:
McClurg, 1911.
been rarely and only recently recognized. The
Edelstein, Tilden G. Strange Enthusiasm: A Life of
African American Confederate veterans were
Thomas Wentworth Higginson. New Haven, CT:
granted pensions only in the 1920s. By then, Yale University Press, 1968.
many of the men had died. Edmonds, David C. The Guns of Port Hudson: The
Investment, Siege, and Reduction. 2 vols.
See also Beaty, Powhatan; Carney, William; Lafayette, LA: Arcadiana Press, 1984.
Douglass, Frederick; Boards of Examination for Emilio, Luis F. A Brave Black Regiment: History of
Officers in United States Colored Troops; Bureau the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts
of Colored Troops; Chaffin’s Farm, Battle of; Volunteer Infantry. Boston: Boston Book Co.
Confederates, African American; Emancipation 1894. Reprint, Salem, NH: Ayer, 1990.
Fletcher, Marvin. The Black Soldier and Officer in
Proclamation; Fort Blakely, Battle of; Fort Fisher,
the United States Army, 1891–1917. Columbia:
Battle of; Fort Pillow Massacre; Fort Wagner,
University of Missouri Press, 1974.
Battle of; Forty Acres and a Mule; Freedmen’s
Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War
Bureau; Honey Hill, Battle of; Medal of Honor Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers.
(appendix); Olustee, Battle of; Poison Springs; New York: Free Press, 1990.
Potter’s Raid; Richmond, Battle of; United States Hewitt, Lawrence Lee. Port Hudson: Confederate
Colored Artillery (appendix); United States Bastion on the Mississippi River. Baton Rouge:
Colored Cavalry (appendix); United States Louisiana State University Press, 1987.

| 40 |
American Revolution

Higginson, Thomas Wentworth. Army Life in a when Gen. George Washington assumed con-
Black Regiment. Boston: Beacon Press, 1962. trol of the Continental Army. He went further
McPherson, James M. The Negro’s Civil War. New and banned both slaves and free blacks. Al-
York: Pantheon, 1965. though Washington had had African Americans
National Archives, Record Group 94. Miscellaneous under his command during the French and In-
Papers, 2d USCI. dian War, he evidently believed it unnecessary
———. The Negro in the Military Service of the
to recruit African Americans at the start of the
United States: 1639–1886. Washington, DC:
conflict. His decision was ratified by a commit-
National Archives and Records Service, 1973
(microfilm, 5 reels).
tee set up to review the military later in 1775.
Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Civil War. There were, however, already African Ameri-
Boston: Little, Brown, 1953. cans in the Continental Army. What was to be
Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. 4 done about these men? As far as Southern lead-
vols. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1939. ers were concerned, notably Edward Rutledge
Sefton, James E. The United States Army and of South Carolina, they should be discharged
Reconstruction, 1865–1877. Baton Rouge: immediately and without question or appeal.
Louisiana State University Press, 1967. Events were to overtake them all: the Continen-
Shannon, Fred A. The Organization and tal Army was too small already and shrinking as
Administration of the Union Army, 1861–65. the days passed; there would be no alternative
2 vols. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1965. but to accept African Americans into the army.
Williams, George Washington. A History of the
Integration did not become the norm across the
Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion,
whole of the American army during the war. As the
1861–1865, Preceded by a Review of the Military
Service of Negroes in Ancient and Modern Times.
manpower shortage became more acute, the need
New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969 to enlist slaves grew. When the British offered
(Reprint). slaves their freedom in return for taking up arms
for the Crown, the American army reluctantly of-
fered the same deal. Lord Dunmore’s (John Mur-
ray, Earl of Dunmore) Proclamation of May 1775
drew thousands of African Americans to the British
American Revolution cause; many were runaways. In Georgia alone dur-
ing the American Revolution and as a direct result
The Continental Army introduced African of the Dunmore Proclamation, the male slave pop-
Americans into its ranks because it lacked the ulation fell to 25 percent of its prewar level as
necessary white manpower to prosecute a war many slaves enlisted and others simply took the op-
against the British. Slaves were excluded under portunity to flee. One particular unit, called the
the edict of the Continental Congress, and only Ethiopian Regiment, consisted of 300 runaway
free men were allowed to enlist. This rule was slaves and fought as a cohesive unit, albeit for a
often ignored; each enlistment officer had a short period of time. They fought and lost just one
quota to fill, and when necessary, slaves were battle. With the slogan “Liberty to Slaves” still
enlisted to fill the vacant slots in the regiments patched onto their chests, Dunmore’s regiment left
despite their official exclusion. the continent never to return. It is probable that
Initially, however, the Congress and states they were either sent to Canada and mustered out
moved to ensure that African Americans re- or that they served temporarily in the West Indies
mained excluded from the military. In May and were then mustered out.
1775 the Massachusetts Committee of Safety Some African Americans served as paid re-
decided to exclude slaves from joining the placements for whites. As one Hessian officer
provincial army. This ban continued in July wrote in his journal, “You never see a regiment

| 41 |
American Revolution

in which there are not negroes” (Kaplan and nine other soldiers rushed to his aid, they drew
Kaplan 1989, 26). It was the common practice more taunts and attacks from the mob.
of substitution that seems to have had its roots Attucks advanced and yanked a musket from
in early colonial legislation allowing someone the hands of one of the soldiers. The soldiers re-
who was drafted offer a replacement instead of alized that the mob might overpower them and
serving himself. Usually the draftee either paid lynch them all. With the mob daring the sol-
someone to take his place (often a poor man) or diers to fire on them, they did so, and Attucks
used a slave for this purpose. In many units in was killed along with four other members of the
the American Revolution, substitute African mob. Attucks and the other victims rapidly be-
Americans found themselves serving alongside came martyrs and served as a rallying call for all
white draftees who lacked the money to pay a Americans to fight against British repression.
substitute. Attucks became a folk-hero of the American
African Americans served on most ships in Revolution.
the Continental Navy and the vessels belonging At least four African Americans were also
to the individual states. Although there were no present on Lexington Common on April 19,
known all–African American crews, the propor- 1775, when the Massachusetts men faced the
tion of African Americans on board ships was British army. Peter Salem, like Attucks from
extremely high. There had always been a great Framingham, Massachusetts, fought at Lexing-
difficulty in recruiting sailors for the hazardous ton and was said later to have shot Major Pit-
life at sea; consequently, race was never an issue cairn, who was leading the British assault at
when hard-pressed captains had to set sail with Bunker Hill. Prince Estabrook was wounded at
the prospect of an understrength crew. The ma- Lexington; also present were Sam Croft and a
jority of vessels that were pressed into combat man called Pompey.
and supply missions during the American Revo- Two months later, at Bunker Hill, Salem and
lution already had been operating as merchant Estabrook fought in the ranks of the militia, as
ships with their own complement of African did two other African Americans, Cuff White-
Americans. There was neither the time nor the more and Salem Poore. The former gained a
will to challenge this as all men and all vessels reputation for acquiring trophies from the field
were needed. and was said to have made a brisk trade in the
sale of British officers’ swords. The latter was
commended for bravery by his commander at
First Shots
the battle.
The first African American to face the British in
the months leading up to the American Revolu-
Crown or Congress
tion was Crispus Attucks, of African American
and Native American ancestry, a runaway who On the British side, Dunmore continued to use
lived in Boston. The Boston Massacre took African Americans in foraging roles and trans-
place on March 5, 1770. The population of ferred as many as possible to the navy to serve
Boston was already seething about new taxes as sailors. The Dunmore Proclamation had a
that had been imposed on them by the British drastic impact on the slave owners; patrols were
Parliament. Around the same time, a British sol- stepped up in likely areas and owners pointed
dier assaulted a Boston boy. A mob, apparently out that Dunmore was only interested in re-
led by Attucks, hunted for the soldier and cor- cruiting able-bodied men. This meant leaving
nered him on sentry duty. To begin with, the wives, children, parents, and the infirm behind.
mob jeered and threw snowballs at the soldier, Ultimately, the slave owners demanded protec-
but soon some were throwing stones. When tion and redress that came in the form of decla-

| 42 |
American Revolution

rations such as that from the Virginia Conven- unit on their behalf as a substitute. The owners
tion. It directed that slaves who fled from the of the slaves being presented as a substitute
rightful owners to take up arms for the Crown would have granted their freedom before they
would suffer the penalty of death. Nevertheless, were accepted. Provided this had been done,
African Americans continued to join the British the recruiting officer could not turn the man
forces. Other Southern states followed suit with away. What is not known is whether all of the
similar declarations, but the tide could not be slave owners kept their side of the bargain after
stemmed. the period of service had been completed. In a
The African Americans’ flight to the British number of cases men who were so contracted
Army was affecting the colonial economy. A so- found themselves returned to slavery after the
lution was sought in which African Americans war or period of enlistment.
could be incorporated into the American army The problem was recognized after the war,
and thus forestall their enlistment with the but as in many other cases, the Continental
British. Under intense pressure, Washington Congress deferred the issue to the states for
conceded that he would allow free men to join their own solution. While some of the states
the Continental Army. By late 1775, the Conti- passed legislation confirming the freedom of Af-
nental Congress released an ambiguous state- rican American slaves who had served under
ment on African American recruitment, which these or any circumstances, many more simply
stated that free men: “who had served faithfully allowed the men to be returned to slavery.
in the army might be reenlisted but no others.” In September 1776, the Continental Con-
The statement evidently referred to those who gress created eighty-eight new battalions of
had been serving in the state militias and had troops and assigned recruitment quotas to each
proven themselves loyal to the cause of inde- of the states. This forced officials to confront
pendence. States interpreted this statement in the issue of the enlistment of African Ameri-
various ways. The Continental Congress was cans. The states found it almost impossible to
clear that the policy only referred to free men meet their quotas; the smaller the white popula-
and that as far as the Continental Army was tion, the greater the problem. The states in New
concerned, slaves were still not welcome. England were the first to recognize the solution.
Regardless of the policy, the situation when Openly, they began to enlist slaves as quickly as
recruiting officers were approached by African they could to fulfil the quotas assigned to them
Americans was entirely different. How could ei- by Congress. New Hampshire, for example,
ther the recruitment officer or the African found that the small slave system had to be dis-
American verify whether he was a free man or mantled in order to facilitate the availability of
not? Few had documentation; fewer could read African Americans. In contrast, the more South-
or write. The simple expedient, given the press- ern states opted to retain the slave economy and
ing need for men and having been given permis- vigorously pursue the white population to meet
sion to recruit African Americans, was for the their quotas. Of all of the Southern states,
recruitment officers to enlist all able-bodied Af- Maryland was the only one that decided to en-
rican Americans who presented themselves. act legislation allowing for the recruitment of
Recruiters also accepted African American slaves to cope with the demand for manpower.
slaves enlisted as substitutes for their masters. While the increasing recruitment of African
It was a legal transaction and the recruitment Americans, whether slaves or free men, helped
officers saw no real problem with it, neither did to cope with the quotas, another problem was
they object when free American Americans pre- beginning to establish itself as the war contin-
sented themselves with papers saying that they ued into 1776. Enlisted men were expected to
had been paid by a white man to serve in the serve for three months. This meant that no

| 43 |
American Revolution

sooner had a unit begun to reach its optimum compensate slave owners for the loss of their
strength than men began to leave. This rapid property as freedom would be granted to the
turnover and gradual depletion meant that it men put forward. Connecticut, following Rhode
was never clear just how effective or strong a Island’s lead and in the face of strong opposi-
regiment would ever be at a given time. tion to the creation of an all–African American
African Americans provided the solution. In- battalion, did not offer compensation. The re-
stead of being enlisted to serve three months, sult was that Connecticut did not have enough
they were often recruited for a three-year term African Americans to provide a complete battal-
or for the duration of the war. Only by agreeing ion until June 1780.
to this deal would slaves be promised their free- Other states were ready to embrace the con-
dom at the end of the term. In many respects, cept, notably South Carolina. The initiative
the slaves had little or no choice but to accept. there came from none other than the former
Most New England states adopted this policy, president of the Continental Congress, Henry
finding that slaves given the prospect of free- Laurens. A well-placed and successful mer-
dom after three years would readily accept, chant, he and his son John, who was an aide to
would be less likely to desert, and would be Washington and a diplomat, proposed that
more willing to operate in areas remote from 3,000 African Americans be raised in return for
their homes. their freedom. The Continental Congress finally
Although African Americans were providing approved the idea, but it did not gain approval
an ever-increasing percentage of troops in the in South Carolina. The idea received less than a
Continental Army, very few had any hope of be- lukewarm response. Largely as a result of the
ing elevated beyond the rank of private. There fear of a slave insurrection as a result of arming
were no African American officers in either the slaves, the state legislature rejected the proposal
Continental Army or in the state militias; some and Laurens’s plan was dead.
did attain the rank of sergeant. Of the five African American units that
During the period 1775–1777, the numbers served in the American Revolution, the most fa-
of African Americans serving the American land mous was the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. It
forces remained relatively small. It was neither was commanded by a white officer, Col. Chris-
feasible or the policy to create independent Afri- topher Greene, and composed of around three
can American units, but as enlistment in- hundred men. At the Battle of Rhode Island,
creased, the options increased. Integration of- one of the bloodiest encounters of the war, they
ten gave way to segregation, particularly in New held off three determined attacks by the British
England. Aside from the racially based motiva- in the area around Providence and Newport,
tions for segregation, it was also believed that if enabling the American troops to escape a trap.
African Americans served in single-race units, Although Connecticut had problems raising a
then their discipline and commitment to the complete battalion of African Americans, an-
regiment would be improved. This hope of an other unit had been operating since 1777. The
esprit de corps would lead to five all–African 6th Connecticut Battalion (“The Colonials” or
American units being formed. 6th Company) was a battalion in name only be-
The first such unit was created at Rhode Is- cause it numbered only fifty-six men. Com-
land in February 1778. Among all of the New manded by Colonel Humphrey, a white officer,
England states, Rhode Island had the greatest the unit retained its separate identity until No-
difficulties in filling the quotas with white men. vember 1782. It was formed in 1777 as a result
In January, Rhode Island had failed to enlist of legislation passed by the Connecticut Gen-
enough men to create the two required battal- eral Assembly, which called for the creation of a
ions, so the state authorized the enlistment of separate African American company of slaves.
slaves. State legislation would also undertake to Owners would be compensated and the men

| 44 |
American Revolution

The hand-painted flag for the Bucks of America. After the Revolutionary War Massachusetts Governor John
Hancock presented this flag to the company in recognition of valor. (Massachusetts Historical Society)

freed at the end of their service. The unit was survivors of the unit by John Hancock at the
fiercely proud of its independence and identity, governor’s mansion circa 1787.
adding weight to the contemporary belief that Two other partially black units from abroad
all–African American units would have this es- made significant contributions to the war effort.
prit de corps. There was much sadness when Both the French and the Spanish had men of
the unit was incorporated into a larger 6th Con- African descent in their ranks. The first came
necticut Battalion, which replaced the earlier from French-held Santo Domingo and was
unit. called the West Indian Volunteer Chasseurs. In
One of the least well-known African Ameri- 1778, the French sent a large and imposing
can units of the American Revolution came force of some 3,600 men, of whom 550 to 600
from Massachusetts; their hand-painted stan- were of African descent. The unit served in
dard is displayed at the Massachusetts Histori- Georgia in the autumn of 1779 during the siege
cal Society. Known as the “Bucks of America,” of Savannah. The French were defeated and
the unit’s status remains unclear. It may have failed to take the city, and the troops returned to
been a private organization raised by Boston the French West Indies.
merchants to act as a security guard unit to pro- Another unlikely source of African Americans
tect their property during the war. A man called was the Spanish troops of Bernardo de Galvez.
Middleton commanded the unit; he was an Afri- Since 1762, Louisiana west of the Mississippi
can American horse-breaker of some repute. had belonged to the Spanish. African American
Their banner or standard was presented to the militias had existed since the wars with the

| 45 |
American Revolution

Native American Chickasaw and Natchez in came unbearable; African American sailors
1736. While they had been originally raised seemed to have accepted a harsher environment
when the area belonged to the French, the Afri- and were less likely to abscond. For slaves, in
can American militias were still retained in inte- any case, the option was not there to desert.
grated units. When the Spanish entered the While a numerical superiority on a single vessel
American Revolution as allies of the French, may have posed the threat of a mutiny, it was
Galvez at the head of around seven hundred generally thought that having slaves at sea
and fifty men (of whom around a hundred were rather than on land helped to reduce the possi-
of African descent) moved on the British. bility of slave insurrections on the land. Free Af-
Galvez captured Fort Charlotte (Mobile) and rican Americans tended to favor the state navies
Fort George (Pensacola). His army’s contribu- if they chose naval service. The pay was superior
tion effectively tied down British troops and to that received as a sailor in the Continental
succeeded in denying the west to them as well fleet, and there were greater opportunities for
as clearing west Florida and Louisiana of their promotion and the bonus that the vessels would
forces. only be expected to operate in the territorial wa-
ters of the state, or close by. Also, the enlistment
period in the state navies was usually much
Naval Service
shorter than that of the Continental Navy. Afri-
The vessels that composed the naval forces op- can Americans, perhaps serving several periods
posing the British during the American Revolu- of enlistment in the state navies, could find
tion came from three sources. The Continental themselves graded as full seamen, marines, and,
Navy, the primary force, consisted of some fifty in some cases, pilots. Compared to the opportu-
or so ships of various sizes and capabilities. nities on board a Continental navy vessel, where
Supporting the Continental Navy were the the majority of African Americans worked as
ships from the various colonies, which in some cooks, gun crew members, or powder boys, state
cases, rivaled the Continental force in numbers. navy duty had real advantages.
The privateers were the third component of the The state navies, however, could not compare
sea forces. The latter operated under letters of with the opportunities on board privateers. Not
marque (documents that authorized the captain only did the crew get to share any prize money
of the vessel to operate under the flag and pro- from handing over a captured enemy vessel, but
tection of a given country) from the Continental the system on board was radically more egalitar-
Congress that authorized them to make war on ian. Few privateer captains were about to ques-
the British in the name of the American people. tion a man whether he was a runaway or a free
African Americans served as sailors on all three man; neither was he particularly interested in
categories of vessels. Stephen Decatur’s the the reasons for the man offering his services.
Royal Lewis had a crew that was almost entirely Captains needed crew members and gave them
African American. In 1775 a recruiting poster reasons to stay with the ship. African Ameri-
in Newport sought, “ye able backed sailors, men cans, as were other crew members, were re-
white or black, to volunteer for naval service in warded with extra pay and privileges according
ye interest of freedom.” to service and performance.
For many years before the war, free African Many African Americans, although not serv-
Americans had chosen a life at sea. Many had ing in active combat, aided the American naval
seen action or at least service in the Royal Navy effort by working in docks and harbors. Ship-
or on a merchant vessel. Still more, either as yards were working at maximum capacity, and
servants or slaves, had served on board ships ship repairs were always needed due to the nor-
with their masters. White sailors had the repu- mal wear and tear on the wooden vessels, as
tation for jumping ship when conditions be- well as a result of combat. African American ar-

| 46 |
American Revolution

tisans were in great demand for such repair African Americans had served with distinc-
work throughout the course of the war. tion and in considerable numbers throughout
The approaches of the two navies differed the whole of the American Revolution. Some,
about the question of captured African Ameri- but certainly not all, African Americans used
cans. The majority of African Americans serving their service and loyalty to the newly consti-
on American ships, if captured, were taken by tuted United States to secure for themselves
the British to the West Indies to be sold as and their families a comfortable and accepted
slaves to work on the sugar plantations. Most, if existence. However, promises made by Congress
not all, African Americans serving in the Royal and state legislatures were forgotten, and none
Navy who were captured by the Americans were of those who had served received the national
either retained on the captured vessel or simply recognition that they deserved.
transferred to another ship in the fleet.
A conservative estimate of the number of Af- See also Attucks, Crispus; Boston Massacre;
rican Americans engaged in combat units, Colonial America; Dunmore Proclamation;
whether army or navy, has been put at around 1812, War of
five thousand. This is probably an underesti-
mate and does not include those of African de-
scent who fought under the flag of a foreign References and Further Reading
power, as was the case of those employed by the Berlin, Ira, ed. Slavery and Freedom in the Age of
French or the Spanish. the American Revolution. Blacks in the New
Why were African Americans so willing to World. Urbana, IL: United States Capitol
risk themselves? The simple answer was the Historical Society/University of Illinois Press,
promise of freedom, offered by both the Ameri- 1986.
cans and the British. They could not have Bobrick, Benson. Angel in the Whirlwind: The
Triumph of the American Revolution. New York:
known that neither side would keep this prom-
Simon and Schuster, 1997.
ise in all cases. The free men, however, partici-
Bradley, Patricia. Slavery, Propaganda, and the
pated out of loyalty or patriotism to the cause to American Revolution. Jackson: University Press
which they attached themselves during the con- of Mississippi, 1998.
flict. Soldiers and sailors followed their beliefs Buckley, Robert N. Slaves in Red Coats: The British
about the right course of action for the Ameri- West India Regiments, 1795–1815. New Haven,
can colonies whether they remained loyal to the CT: Yale University Press, 1979.
Crown or joined the rebellion. Cox, Clinton. Come All You Brave Soldiers: Blacks in
The overall population in the colonies on the the American Revolution. New York: Scholastic,
eve of the American Revolution was estimated 1999.
at 22 million. The African American population Davis, Burke. Black Heroes of the American
(slave and free) accounted for about 4.5 million. Revolution. New York: Harcourt Brace
For either side to ignore this large percentage of Jovanovich, 1976.
Davis, Lenwood G., and George Hill. Blacks in the
the population was foolhardy.
American Armed Forces, 1776–1983: A
Nevertheless, they did, as described above. In
Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,
May 1775, the Committee of Safety of Massa- 1985.
chusetts resolved that no slaves were to be ad- Foner, Philip S. Blacks in the American Revolution.
mitted into the army “upon any consideration Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975.
whatever,” although freemen of any race could Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Defenders of America,
enlist. George Washington instructed his adju- 1775–1973. Chicago: Johnson, 1974.
tant general of the Continental Army, Horatio Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Courage, 1775–1783.
Gates, to tell all recruiting officers not to enlist Washington, DC: NSDAR. 1984.
any “stroller, Negro, or vagabond.” Hirschfeld, Fritz. George Washington and Slavery: A

| 47 |
Amistad Case

Documentary Portrayal. Columbia, MO: mer president John Quincy Adams agreed to
University of Missouri Press, 1997. help with the legal support organized by aboli-
Johnson, Jesse J., ed. A Pictorial History of Black tionists. The abolitionists’ case was that the Af-
Soldiers (1619–1969) in Peace and War. ricans had been illegally kidnapped and en-
Hampton, VA: Hampton Institute, 1969. slaved after Spain had outlawed the African
Kaplan, Sidney, and Emma Nogrady Kaplan. The slave trade. In March 1841 the Supreme Court
Black Presence in the Era of the American
finally concluded that the Africans had a right
Revolution. Amherst: University of Massachusetts
to claim their freedom. Ten months later, in
Press, 1989.
Laden, John R. A History of the American
January 1842, thirty-five of the surviving Amis-
Revolution. New York: DaCapo, 1969. tad cargo returned to Africa.
Mullen, Robert F. Blacks in America’s Wars: The The Amistad case is seen as a precursor to the
Shift in Attitudes from the Revolutionary War to abolition of slavery in the United States. The re-
Vietnam. New York: Monad Press, 1974. volt became a symbol for African Americans of
Nalty, Bernard C. Strength for the Fight: A History of militant resistance to slavery and of black pride.
Black Americans in the Military. New York: Free
Press, 1986. References and Further Reading
Tuchman, Barbara W. The First Salute, a View of the
Hoyt, Edwin Palmer. The Amistad Affair. New York:
American Revolution. New York: Ballantine,
Abelard-Schuman, 1970.
1988.
Jones, Howard. Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of
Wood, W. J. Battles of the Revolutionary War—
a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American
1775–1781: Major Battles and Campaigns.
Abolition, Law and Diplomacy. New York: Oxford
Chapel Hill, NC: DaCapo Press, 1990.
University Press, 1987.
Kohn, Bernice. The Amistad Mutiny. New York:
McCall Publishing, 1971.
Walters, Ronald G. The Anti-Slavery Appeal:
American Abolitionism after 1830. Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.
Amistad Case (1839)
Zinert, Karen. The Amistad Slave Revolt. North
Haven, CT: Linnet Books, 1997.
In 1839 a group of forty-nine slaves, led by an
African called Cinque, staged a shipboard revolt
off the coast of Cuba. The slave ship Amistad
(meaning, paradoxically, friendship) was a
Cuban schooner (Cuba at the time was a Span-
ish colony). Its two surviving crew members Anderson, James, Jr.
were ordered by the former slaves to set sail (1947–1967)
back to Africa. Whether by accident or design,
the Amistad sailed into U.S. waters off Long Is- An African American private in the U.S. Marine
land Sound. The incident and the events that Corps who saved members of his own platoon
followed did much to cement the grievances of by clutching a live enemy grenade to his chest
slaves and to drive a philosophical wedge be- and absorbing most of the explosion.
tween the North and the South. Pfc. James Anderson Jr. was born on January
The Africans were taken into U.S. custody, 22, 1947, in Los Angeles, California, and joined
and Spain immediately demanded that they be the 2d Platoon, Company F of the 2d Battalion,
extradited to Cuba to face charges of murder 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, and fought in
and piracy. Abolitionists in the United States Vietnam. Company F had been assigned to re-
rallied around and supported the case of the Af- lieve a reconnaissance patrol in dense jungle to
ricans as far as the Supreme Court, where for- the northwest of Cam Lo. Anderson’s platoon

| 48 |
A n t e b e l l u m Pe r i o d

was in the lead and had advanced about 200 tery came under attack from North Vietnamese
meters when they engaged the enemy. Anderson troops. The battery’s defensive perimeter was
and the others took up positions some 20 me- penetrated, but Anderson continued to direct
ters from the enemy and engaged in a firefight, artillery fire down onto the enemy until two
with several men being wounded around him. grenades were thrown at him. They knocked
An enemy grenade was thrown into the midst of him over and wounded him in both legs. Al-
the Marines’ positions. Anderson grabbed the though he could not stand, he propped himself
grenade, pulled it to his chest, curled up in a up and continued to direct fire. When a third
ball, and, when the grenade went off, his body grenade landed in his gun pit, he picked it up
absorbed most of the explosion. Anderson’s and threw it, but the blast wounded him again.
heroic action saved the other platoon members Although only partially conscious, Anderson re-
from injury or death. fused to relinquish his command and continued
In honor of Anderson, the USNS PFC James to direct the defense. The enemy attack was de-
Anderson Jr., a maritime pre-positioning ship of feated. Only then was the full extent of Ander-
some 49,500 tons was brought into service in son’s injuries known. He lost both his legs and
1985. The ship carries equipment to support part of one arm.
U.S. Marine Corps operations. For his conspicuous gallantry and heroism,
James Anderson Jr. was posthumously Anderson was awarded the Medal of Honor.
awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism
during the Vietnam War in a citation signed by See also Medal of Honor (appendix);
President Lyndon B. Johnson. Vietnam War

See also Austin, Oscar Palmer; Davis, Rodney References and Further Reading
Maxwell; Jenkins, Robert H., Jr.; Johnson, Ralph Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Defenders of America,
H.; Medal of Honor (appendix); U.S. Marine 1775–1973. Chicago: Johnson, 1974.
Corps; Vietnam War

References and Further Reading


Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Defenders of America,
1775–1973. Chicago: Johnson, 1974.
Antebellum Period

After the War of 1812, the military forces of the


United States returned to peacetime levels. The
glut of potential white recruits into the army
Anderson, Webster and the navy left little room for African Ameri-
(b. 1933) cans, regardless of their expertise or previous
service.
A Medal of Honor winner, sergeant first class of The official policies on the recruitment of Af-
Battery A, 2d Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, rican Americans remained unchanged; army
101st Airborne Infantry Division who suffered regulations dating from 1820 and 1821 rein-
horrific wounds while protecting his crew. forced the exclusion of African Americans. Nev-
Webster Anderson was born in Winnsboro, ertheless, African Americans did serve as labor-
South Carolina, on July 15, 1933, and joined ers, although not as armed servicemen.
the army in 1953. While serving in Vietnam he The situation for the navy was entirely differ-
was in action at Tam Ky in the early hours of ent, given the harsh conditions on board vessels
the morning of October 15, 1967, when his bat- of the period and the certain dangers of sailing

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A p a c h e Wa r s

in the treacherous waters. Few whites volun- scribed by Thomas R. Gray, a local physician.
teered to serve. As they had always done, He was tried, convicted, and hanged a few days
covertly at least, naval captains signed on any later.
able-bodied man who would be prepared to face The most famous of the slave insurrections,
the rigors of service. Turner’s rebellion terrified Southerners,
Officially, the navy banned the recruitment of prompting them to tighten laws to control slaves
African Americans to serve on board ships in and prevent future insurrections. It hardened
1816, but because of manpower shortages many Southern opposition to abolition and abolition-
crew members and those who worked in the ists, whom many blamed for the uprising, and
shipyards were African American. Freedmen reinforced opposition to any arming of African
were specifically welcome, but this trend was Americans, slave or free.
abruptly challenged by the Southern states as
they began to become increasingly alarmed as See also American Civil War; 1812, War of
to the numbers of African Americans seen on
naval vessels visiting or operating out of the References and Further Reading
ports in the South. In response, the navy sought Oates, Stephen B. The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s
to engineer the reduction (by natural attrition of Fierce Rebellion. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.
the number) of African Americans to a limit of Paulson, Timothy J. Days of Sorrow, Years of Glory
some 5 percent of the service. This process 1831–1850: From the Nat Turner Revolt to the
started in 1839 and was the policy until the out- Fugitive Slave Law. New York: Chelsea House,
break of the Civil War. 1994.
The opportunities for African Americans were
no better in the militias. Only Louisiana al-
lowed African Americans into the state militia.
Following Nat Turner’s Rebellion of 1831, all
Southern states sought to exclude African Apache Wars (1877–1879
Americans from their militias. and 1880–1881)
Nat Turner was a slave born on October 2,
1800, in Southampton County, Virginia. From In the autumn of 1875, the 9th Cavalry, except
an early age he had been credited with the abil- for its officers an all–African American unit,
ity to predict events; Turner was deeply religious was reassigned from Texas to New Mexico and
and considered himself to be guided by visions. southern Colorado to face hostile Apaches.
In 1830, by then owned by Joseph Travis, After eight years in Texas, the unit was reas-
Turner viewed an eclipse of the sun that he took signed to relieve the 8th Cavalry in New Mex-
as a sign to start a slave insurrection. He ico. Logistically, this move entailed a massive
planned the insurrection with Henry, Hark, overland march taking about three months.
Nelson, and Sam (no last names are recorded When C Troop (commanded by Capt. Charles
for these men). Early in the morning of August D. Beyer) set out from Fort Brown on the Rio
22 the group murdered the Travis family in their Grande, they traveled to Fort Clark, Pecos Sta-
home and then moved from house to house in tion, Fort Selden, and then on to Fort Bayard
the area, killing whites as they went—in all, (near Silver City, New Mexico). In all, the jour-
fifty-five were killed. News of the slave revolt ney took three months, during which they cov-
spread rapidly, and the rebels were soon cap- ered more than 1,000 miles.
tured by federal troops, state militia, and armed May 1876 found the 9th stationed in six loca-
white citizens. Turner was apprehended on Oc- tions in New Mexico and one in southern Col-
tober 30, and his so-called confession was tran- orado. The regimental headquarters was Fort

| 50 |
A p a c h e Wa r s

Union in northeast New Mexico. The transition small band of these Apaches fought a running
had taken nearly a year and had exacted a heavy battle with elements of the 6th Cavalry (a white
toll on the combat strength of the regiment, unit) in Arizona and then had headed east into
with slightly over half of the men listed in the New Mexico.
unit reporting for duty. Captain Beyer’s C Troop was dispatched from
Initially, the regiment was assigned to various Fort Bayard in pursuit, with a detachment of six
duties that involved the already fragmented de- Buffalo Soldiers, as the 9th and 10th Cavalry
ployment being stretched more thinly around were called by Native Americans, and three
the area. Aside from the principal concerns of Navaho scouts in the lead under Lt. Henry
dealing with hostile Native American Indians, Wright. Wright and his men found the trail and
the regiment was detailed to protect the mail followed it to an Apache camp that housed
routes, repair and build barracks and outposts, around fifty of the raiders, including women
care for horse herds, and distribute supplies to and children. Wright rode into the camp and or-
remote detachments. dered the Apaches to hand over their weapons
The very real danger of Apache raids was up- and horses in return for his protection. While
permost in the mind of the commanding officer the negotiations were underway, the women and
of the 9th, Col. Edward L. Hatch. Throughout children slipped away, and there was a vicious
the remainder of 1876, whatever elements of fight in which five Apaches were killed. Wright
the regiment were available were constantly pa- extricated his command and withdrew with cap-
trolling on horseback and carrying out preven- tured Apache horses to Fort Cummings.
tive measures to dissuade the Apaches from Four days later, C Troop found the renegades
raiding isolated settlements and Hispanic and in the Boca Grande Mountains and overran the
Anglo settlers. Throughout this period, the 9th new camp, capturing the women and children,
familiarized themselves with the area and began supplies, and some horses. The warriors, how-
to explore the trails, valleys, mountains, and ever, escaped. Wright recommended Corp.
rivers. Clinton Greaves for a Certificate of Merit along
The Indian Department had decided to dis- with the rest of the men who had accompanied
place the Apaches and concentrate them in the him into the Apache camp. He also asked that
vast San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. The de- Greaves, who had used his carbine as a club to
cision, in hindsight, was misguided, and al- batter through the encircling Apaches to aid the
though a sizeable number of Apaches resigned escape, be awarded the Medal of Honor.
themselves to living there, a minority refused to Colonel Hatch approved the recommendations,
move. Significant absentees were Geronimo but once the paperwork arrived on Gen.
and Juh, both chiefs with a desire to retain their William T. Sherman’s desk, he rejected all of the
freedom to roam and both of whom had sizeable Certificate recommendations and awarded
bands of warriors. Greaves the Medal of Honor (which he received
Consequently as 1877 dawned, the 9th con- on June 26, 1879).
tinued its efforts to keep the peace within the Similar situations and operations continued
San Carlos Reservation, carry out its other du- into 1877. The 9th covered large distances as
ties, and attempt to prevent Geronimo and Juh they continued to attempt to control the huge
and other Apaches from creating havoc. January area in which they were the only army represen-
set the tone for the year when it was discovered tatives. Some six thousand Apaches lived in the
that the Chiricahua Apaches, supported by dis- harsh environment that stretched from the Col-
sident Apaches from the Warm Springs and orado River in the west to the mountains to the
Mescalero groups, had agreed to increase the east of the Rio Grande. Washington meant to
frequency of the raids. The affair began when a move these people into the San Carlos Reserva-

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A p a c h e Wa r s

tion. The authorities had not reckoned on the C Troop climbed over the Mimbres Moun-
intense determination of the Apaches not to be tains and descended into a canyon the following
removed, and in Victorio (Apache Wolf), the day. As the Buffalo Soldiers deployed into a skir-
Native Americans had found their leader. mish line, they could see the Apache camp
By the time that the frequent running battles, about a half mile away. Victorio had chosen a
raids, and ambushes ignited into a full-scale good defensive position on a rocky summit sur-
guerrilla war in 1879, Victorio as leader of the rounded by breastworks. As soon as Victorio re-
Warm Springs Apaches was fifty-four years old. alized that the cavalry had found him, he stood
In the 1860s, he had been a warrior under on the summit and waved a white flag, calling
Mangas Coloradas, a renowned Apache warrior his intentions to negotiate. Beyer was unwilling
and leader, from whom he had learned war to parlay with Victorio, and consequently, the
craft. Victorio had never forgiven the U.S. Army two sides prepared to fight. Victorio sent the
for the torture, execution, and dismemberment women and children to safety, while his men
of Mangas after he had been captured in 1863. strengthened the defense works.
Above all, Victorio resented the demands of the Beyer, meanwhile, had ordered Wright’s men
army and the steady erosion of the Apache lands to within 200 yards of the Apache positions and
and way of life. sent five men to capture Victorio’s horses and
While the 9th was continuing its patrol activ- mules. Victorio’s strength was estimated at
ities in the region, Victorio struck in April 1879. around sixteen warriors, and Beyer was deter-
His attacks were designed to hit hard and fast, mined to force the issue and end Victorio’s defi-
and he sought never to be where the enemy ex- ance. At around noon, Beyer sent Sgt. Delemar
pected him. The first attacks were aimed at Penn (I Troop) forward in command of a group
white settlers in New Mexico; from there he of skirmishers to threaten Victorio’s left. As
headed toward the San Mateo Mountains, and Penn’s men moved out, Beyer ordered the whole
then struck near Silver City. Elements of the command to advance, which immediately drew
9th were immediately sent either in pursuit or Apache fire. Penn’s men managed to get around
to cover the more exposed settlements. the rear of Victorio’s men, which forced them to
Again it was Captain Beyer and C Troop with retreat down the ridge and then disappear
a temporarily assigned group of Buffalo Soldiers among the trees.
from I Troop who caught up with Victorio on Victorio’s casualties are unknown because his
May 29. Beyer had left Fort Bayard on May 25, warriors carried away their dead and wounded.
learning from settlers in the White Diamond Beyer’s command was left with one dead and
Creek and Gila River area that the Apaches had two wounded. C Troop burned Victorio’s sup-
been seen there two or so days before. In the af- plies and continued to search for him in vain for
ternoon of May 27, C Troop found a fresh trail a further fourteen days. Despite the failure to
and realized that they were only hours behind capture Victorio, Beyer was delighted with his
the Apaches. Beyer pushed on until around men’s steadiness under fire and cited several for
midnight, camping for the night beside the recognition of their gallantry, including
North Star Road (which C Troop had built in Sergeant Penn.
1877). By 5:00 a.m. the following day, the troop Although Victorio lost the fight and his
were underway once more, now encountering horses, he was determined to continue the un-
burning brush and woodland set alight by Victo- equal struggle. His men hit several places in Au-
rio’s men. The cavalry were forced to proceed gust, primarily to steal horses and weapons. On
on foot, leading their horses around the blazes. September 8, he killed five Buffalo Soldiers
Beyer’s men camped at 4:30 p.m. knowing that from E Troop who were guarding horses at Ojo
Victorio was only a few miles ahead. Caliente. Victorio raided ranches and settle-

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A p a c h e Wa r s

ments on his way to Black Mountains after the ers when he charged the Apaches and scattered
attack. them as they were massing to fall on Wright’s
The 9th were quickly on Victorio’s trail, find- command.
ing signs of his positions on September 16. He On the afternoon of September 29, Morrow’s
was believed to be based near the head of Las exhausted 200 reached the Ojo Caliente in the
Animas Creek, which indeed he was, and he Mimbres Mountains. Victorio struck again, and
had chosen this position in the hope that he the fight continued into the night. At least three
could draw the 9th out to fight him there. The Apaches were killed, but at dawn, Victorio’s
9th were ready to oblige, and a column consist- men were sniping at the 9th’s encampment. The
ing of B Troop (Capt. Byron Dawson) and E 9th deployed and pressured Victorio into aban-
Troop (Capt. Ambrose E. Hooker) rode into the doning his camp. Morrow had lost two more
mountains until they reached the canyons near men, but it was clear that Victorio’s casualties
Las Animas Creek. were mounting and that he had lost sixty of the
On the morning of September 18, led by Lt. horses he had appropriated over the past few
Col. Nathan A. M. Dudley, the Buffalo Soldiers weeks.
rode straight into an ambush set by Victorio’s Still the 9th pressed Victorio for a final battle
150 men. Dawson’s men took the brunt of the that would settle the issue. This did not happen.
attack, and soon both C and G Troops were rid- The 9th, having lost nine men during Septem-
ing to the sound of the guns to support the other ber, saw Victorio slip across the border into
two troops. The 9th attempted to flush Victorio’s Mexico at the end of October.
men out of their positions, but even flank at- With the 9th’s involvement in the Ute War
tacks failed to dislodge them. The Las Animas concluded, Colonel Hatch was able to concen-
Creek was a debacle culminating in Dudley’s de- trate all of the regiment’s efforts against Victorio
cision to withdraw at dusk for fear of the in southern New Mexico. The Apaches had
Apaches getting around the flanks of his com- spent the winter months in Mexico, but in early
mand. Supplies, wagons, and baggage fell into 1880, Victorio crossed the border and faced the
Victorio’s hands, but at least one Buffalo Soldier 9th one final time. Hatch organized the regi-
had shown sufficient courage to make a recom- ment into three separate entities under Major
mendation for a Medal of Honor a certainty. Morrow, Captain Carroll, and Captain Hooker
Sgt. John Denny from Big Flats near New and gave chase. This time, however, the 9th did
York braved enemy fire to retrieve a wounded not face the Apaches alone. Considerable rein-
comrade named Freedland. Denny was acting forcements in the form of more African Ameri-
sergeant of B Troop and would not receive his can troops had been deployed in the region.
medal until January 1895, less than three years Under Col. Benjamin H. Grierson, the 10th
before he retired as a corporal in September Cavalry had moved out from Fort Concho,
1897. By then, Denny had been court-martialed Texas, in the spring of 1880, supported by ele-
on two occasions for brawling. ments of two infantry regiments, the African
Hatch immediately replaced Dudley with American 24th and 25th. While the infantry
Maj. Albert B. Morrow, who pushed the 9th on covered the supply routes and garrisoned key
to bring Victorio to battle once more. On Sep- positions, the 10th were free to pursue Victorio
tember 24, 1879, the 9th caught up with Victo- along with the 9th.
rio on the Cuchillo Negro River. Lieutenant In May, with the Buffalo Soldiers close be-
Wright and a group of his men were ambushed hind, Victorio was forced to leave Arizona and
as they helped a wounded cavalryman, and it head back toward New Mexico. Sgt. George Jor-
was only the prompt and courageous action of dan of K Troop, 9th Cavalry, was first to hear
Sergeant Boyne that saved Wright and the oth- that Victorio was about to fall on the settlement

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A p a c h e Wa r s

at Fort Tularosa. It was May 13, and Jordan’s able seventy-year-old Nana, the small band of
detachment of twenty-five men was escorting a Apaches crossed and recrossed the border on a
supply train when they got the news. Tularosa series of raids. Despite the best efforts of the
was at least a day’s hard ride away, but Jordan 9th and 10th, it seemed that no one in New
and his men were determined to reach the set- Mexico was safe, particularly because just over
tlement first and protect the civilians. Marching twenty Mescaleros (Apaches) had slipped out of
through the night and taking the wagons with the San Carlos Reservation and joined Nana.
them, the Buffalo Soldiers managed to reach There seemed to be no solution to the situa-
Tularosa at 6:00 a.m. on May 14, 1880. They tion. The 9th, now seriously under strength, set
had won the race, and Jordan was able to order off in pursuit. Hatch’s men were supported by
his men to construct defense works, within four hundred or so infantry (eight companies)
which he placed the civilians before Victorio ar- and a further two companies of Indian scouts.
rived, at the head of 100 Apaches. For a month from July 17, 1881, the 9th and
Jordan’s experience and determination had the other supporting units harried Nana’s
caught Victorio off-guard, and the Apaches were Apaches, fighting at least twelve skirmishes
driven off. None of the soldiers or civilians was with him at various points during the pursuit.
injured. It took the army ten years to reward On August 12, K Troop 9th Cavalry, led by
Jordan with the Medal of Honor. The bulk of Captain Parker found Nana’s force of around
the 9th arrived at Tularosa on the morning of forty to sixty Apaches in the Carrizo Canyon on
May 15, and Hatch sent two of the three groups the west of the Mimbres Mountains. Parker’s
he had formed in pursuit of Victorio. men were outnumbered by two or three to one.
On May 23, 1880, a group of Apache scouts Sergeant Jordan led the troopers on the right,
working for the 9th under the command of a while Sgt. Thomas Shaw rode into the canyon
civilian, Henry K. Parker, found Victorio on the with Parker. Nana’s Apaches decided to stand
southern bank of the Palomas River. Parker’s and fight. The skirmish lasted for an hour and a
men ambushed Victorio and killed at least ten half, claiming the lives of five Apaches and two
of his warriors and ran off over seventy of the Buffalo Soldiers, with three others wounded.
Apache horses. As a result of this crushing set- Parker’s men could not follow because they
back, Victorio slipped across the Mexican bor- could not abandon the wounded men, but the
der. It was a welcome break for the 9th, who captain recommended that both Jordan and
had been in their saddles since January. Shaw be rewarded for their leadership with
Grierson’s 10th Cavalry controlled all of the Medals of Honor. By the time that the awards
water sources on the American side of the bor- were made in December 1890, Jordan had al-
der, and when Victorio emerged once more, he ready been given a Medal of Honor and re-
was beaten back into Mexico. Victorio, however, ceived a Certificate of Merit for his contribu-
was never destined to fall into the hands of tions in the Carizzo Canyon.
either the 9th or the 10th. On October 14, On August 16, 1881, Lt. Gustavus Valois’s I
1880, General Joaquin Terrazas, leading a con- Troop was at Canada Alamosa when they re-
siderable force of Mexican troops, fell on Victo- ceived news that Nana had attacked and killed a
rio’s depleted band of around sixty warriors at Mexican family on a ranch a short ride away.
Tres Castillos. Victorio was killed, but half of Valois dispatched Lt. George R. Burnett to lead
his men, including an aging warrior called fifteen men to investigate; the rest of the troop
Nana, managed to escape and cross the border. would follow. As Burnett had only graduated
On October 28, Nana and around thirty from West Point the previous year, Valois sent
Apaches ambushed a 10th Cavalry patrol at Ojo 1st Sgt. Moses Williams, who already had
Caliente, killing five of the Buffalo Soldiers. For eleven years experience. They found the bodies
the next six or seven months, under the remark- of a woman and three children, and then fol-

| 54 |
A p a c h e Wa r s

lowed the trail along the Cuchillo Negro Creek valued Burnett’s contribution in the engage-
and into the Black Range. ment, as the fresh captain received a Medal of
A group of thirty or so Mexican volunteers Honor in 1897.
had fallen in with Burnett, making the total Burnett was right in assuming that Nana
command about fifty men, but the pursuing would use night to escape. Although I Troop
force was still likely to be outnumbered by continued the pursuit, the Apaches slipped back
Nana. Burnett pressed and, on spotting the across the Mexican border. Before this, B Troop
Apaches, ordered Sergeant Williams to com- would encounter the elusive Nana on August
mand the right while sending some of the Mexi- 19, 1881.
can volunteers to the left. At 1,000 yards, the The leading element of the troop was com-
Apaches opened fire; Burnett’s return fire manded by Lt. George W. Smith operating to
forced them back over a ridge. In textbook fash- the north of Fort Cummings. The mounted men
ion, Burnett managed to fire and maneuver, were following trails out of the Mimbres Moun-
each time threatening to turn the Apaches tains west toward the Mimbres River. Ahead
flank. In this way, the running battle covered was a group of cowboys, and Smith failed to
around ten miles as far as the Cuchillo Negro scout ahead as the troop entered the Gavilian
Mountains. Here, Nana decided to make a Canyon. Nana had set an ambush and in sec-
stand, having lost his cattle, a larger part of his onds, Smith and three of the troopers were
supplies, and several men killed and wounded. killed, as were ten horses. Smith’s men were
By then it was late afternoon, and Burnett fortunate that Sgt. Brent Woods took over.
feared that the Apaches would slip away during Woods rallied the men and led them in an at-
the night. Accordingly, he sent a messenger back tack up the wall of the canyon and toward the
to find Valois, suggesting that Valois moved to Apache positions. Nana broke contact, and by
take a hill on the right of the Apache position, the time that the rest of the company arrived
while Burnett’s men threatened the Apache left. under Lt. Charles Taylor and Capt. Byron Daw-
Before Valois could take the hill, the Apaches son, the Apaches had vanished.
seized it first, Burnett charged in on the left, but Woods would have to wait some time before
heavy fire forced him to stop and dismount his his bravery and command skills were rewarded.
men. In the confusion, Burnett’s men thought In 1894 Dawson, now retired, submitted the
that he had been killed and began to withdraw, necessary paperwork recommending the ser-
but Sergeant Williams managed to rally them geant for a Medal of Honor. Supported by state-
and return to the new positions. ments of other troop present after the death of
Valois’s command, meanwhile, was taking the Smith, the Medal of Honor was granted on July
brunt of the Apache fire. He ordered his men to 12, 1894.
fall back and sent word to Burnett to establish a Although most of Nana’s Apaches fled across
new firing line to the rear. Under heavy fire, the border with the 9th in pursuit, some re-
three of Burnett’s men were left stranded just mained and faced the Buffalo Soldiers again.
200 yards from the Apaches. Just to the north of the border, on October 4, F
Burnett, Sergeant Williams, and Private Troop (Captain Carroll) and K Troop (Captain
Whalley dodged enemy fire to reach the three Parker) managed to force the last of the Apaches
men. As a result of this bravery under fire, Bur- into Mexico after a vicious skirmish. It is be-
nett recommended Sergeant Williams (awarded lieved that Nana was present at this encounter.
1896) and Private Whalley (awarded 1890) for Effectively, this fight on October 4, 1881,
Medals of Honor. Burnett also recommended ended the Apache Wars and the resistance of
that Trumpeter Rogers, who had carried the Nana, but the Native American would reemerge
message to Valois under fire, be awarded a Cer- one more time in 1886, when he would join
tificate of Merit (awarded 1891). Clearly, Valois Geronimo.

| 55 |
A r c h e r, L e e “ B u d d y, ” J r.

Ten years later, during the Pine Ridge Cam- Utley, Robert M. Frontier Regulars, The United
paign, the culmination of twenty-four years States Army and the Indian, 1866–1891. New
service on the frontier would see the 9th riding York: Macmillan, 1974.
once more into action against the Sioux, whose Utley, Robert M. The Indian Frontier of the
society and culture had been all but eradicated. American West 1846–1890. Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press, 1984.
See also Buffalo Soldiers; Johnson, Henry
(1824–1904); Medal of Honor (appendix);
9th Cavalry; 10th Cavalry; Ute Wars

References and Further Reading Archer, Lee “Buddy,” Jr.


(1922– )
Amos, Preston E. Above and Beyond in the West:
Black Medal of Honor Winners 1807–1890.
Lee “Buddy” Archer was a career air force offi-
Washington, D.C.: Potomac Corral, The
Westerners, 1974.
cer and one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen,
Athearn, Robert C. William Tecumseh Sherman and retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
the Settlement of the West. Norman: University of After an impressive period at high school,
Oklahoma Press, 1956. Archer enrolled at New York University to study
Billington, Monroe Lee. New Mexico’s Buffalo international relations. In early 1941, he ap-
Soldiers, 1866–1900. Niwot: University of plied for pilot training with the U.S. Army Air
Colorado Press, 1991. Corps. Although he passed the necessary en-
Brown, D. Alexander. Grierson’s Raid. Urbana: trance tests, he was refused on the grounds that
University of Illinois Press, 1954. the U.S. Army Air Corps did not admit African
Carroll, John M. The Black Military Experience in Americans. He left the university and joined the
the American West. New York: Liveright, 1972. U.S. Army, and by May 1942 he had become an
Cashin, Herschel V. Under Fire with the Tenth U.S.
instructor at Camp Wheeler, Georgia.
Cavalry. New York: Arno Press, 1969.
Archer then heard that African Americans
Cox, Clinton. The Forgotten Heroes; the Story of the
Buffalo Soldiers. New York: Scholastic, 1993.
were being accepted into pilot training at
Downey, Fairfax. The Buffalo Soldiers in the Indian Tuskegee, and he made an immediate applica-
Wars. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969. tion. Archer graduated in the first class of 1943
Herr, John K., and Edward S. Wallace. The Story of and became a second lieutenant, assigned to
the U.S. Cavalry. Boston: Little, Brown, 1953. the 302d Fighter Squadron (332d Fighter
Higginson, Thomas Wentworth. Army Life in a Group) that flew Curtis P-40 Warhawks.
Black Regiment. East Lansing: Michigan State In January 1944, Archer retrained with Bell
University Press, 1960. P-39 Airacobras, and his unit was transferred to
Laughlin, David. Buffalo Soldiers: An Illustrated 30 Italy to fly a variety of missions including escort
Year History of the 10th Regiment of the U.S. and ground attack missions (such as Anzio). In
Cavalry. Tucson, AZ: Blue Horse Productions, March 1944, the squadron was transferred to
1991.
the 306th Fighter Wing and based at Ramitelli
Leckie, William H. The Buffalo Soldiers, A Narrative
Air Base flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, al-
of the Negro Cavalry in the West. Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1967.
though he would eventually be flying in North
Savage, W. Sherman. Blacks in The West. Westport, American P-51 Mustangs.
CT: Greenwood, 1976. Archer flew some 169 combat missions dur-
Schubert, Frank N. Black Valor: Buffalo Soldiers and ing the war and had at least five confirmed en-
the Medal of Honor, 1870–1898. Wilmington, emy kills. After the war, he returned to the
DE: Scholarly Resources, 1997. United States and was assigned to the Tuskegee

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A r m e d Fo r c e s E q u a l O p p o r t u n i t y S u r v e y

Army Air Field as chief of the Instrument In- Armed Forces


structor School. Archer was later granted a reg- Equal Opportunity Survey
ular commission and completed his studies at
the University of California at Los Angeles. The Equal Opportunity Survey was carried out
Throughout his long and distinguished ca- by the Defense Manpower Data Center
reer, he held a variety of posts including the (DMDC) (September 1996 to February 1997).
chief of protocol for the French Liaison Office, It was mailed to 76,754 enlisted members and
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, officers in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air
White House Air Force-France project officer; Force, and Coast Guard (up to the rank of cap-
and chief and executive officer of three interna- tain in the Navy or Coast Guard or colonel in
tional military organizations including the the other services). The survey attracted a 53
SHAPE Liaison Office, 36th North American percent usable response rate.
Air Defense Division, and HQ USAF Southern The survey was the most comprehensive ever
Command, Panama. conducted on the subject of race relations in
Archer received the Distinguished Flying the military; it was developed for
Cross and was awarded citations from Presi-
dents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, and the purpose of providing a better understand-
the director of the CIA. Archer retired with the ing of service members’ perceptions and expe-
rank of lieutenant colonel after twenty-nine riences related to fair treatment and equal op-
years in the military portunity. The questionnaire asked service
A P-51C NA Mustang is painted to represent members about their overall racial/ethnic in-
“INA the Macon Belle” flown by Lt. Lee teractions, as well as about specific insensitive,
“Buddy” Archer of the 302d Fighter Squadron, discriminatory, harassing and even violent
332d Fighter Group, and 15th U.S. Air Force racial/ethnic interactions that had occurred in
and is on show at the Duxford Air Museum in the 12-month period prior to filling out the
England as a tribute to him. survey.

See also 332d Fighter Group; Tuskegee Airmen; The racial and ethnic groups that were sur-
U.S. Air Force; World War II veyed (using the EOS [Equal Opportunity Sur-
vey] categories) are Whites, Blacks, Hispanics,
References and Further Reading Asians/Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans/
Francis, Charles E. The Tuskegee Airmen. Boston: Alaskan Natives.
Branden, 1988. The main findings of the survey can be sum-
Jakeman, Robert J. The Divided Skies: Establishing marized as follows:
Segregated Flight Training at Tuskegee, Alabama,
1934–1942. Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama 1. Race relations in the military were per-
Press, 1992. ceived to be better than those in local
Osur, Alan M. Blacks in the Army Air Forces during civilian communities and had improved
World War II: The Problem of Race Relations.
over the past five years, according to
Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History,
28 percent of African Americans sur-
1977.
Rose, Robert A. Lonely Eagles: The Story of America’s
veyed.
Black Air Force in World War II. Los Angeles: 2. Most of the respondents reported that
Tuskegee Airmen Western Region, 1976. they had largely positive personal inter-
Sandler, Stanley. Segregated Skies: All-Black Combat actions with members of other races and
Squadrons of WWII. Washington, DC: ethnic groups and that socializing
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992. among these groups was common.

| 57 |
A r m e d Fo r c e s E q u a l O p p o r t u n i t y S u r v e y

3. The majority of the respondents be- evaluation prejudice (19 percent), dis-
lieved that the military offered freedom criminatory levels of punishment (9 per-
from harassment and discrimination. cent), and training/test scores differen-
4. A large percentage of the respondents tials (6 percent).
claimed that they had suffered instances 4. Some 37 percent felt that their families
of “offensive encounters,” and a smaller had suffered from a racially motivated
percentage said that they had suffered incident.
from an actual fear of threat or harm. 5. Racially motivated “bothersome inci-
5. African Americans and Hispanics felt dents” on a U.S. military installation
that they had suffered discrimination in were reported by 60 percent; 48 percent
periodic reviews and evaluations. reported such incidents during duty
6. Most of the respondents confirmed that hours; 47–57 percent of racial/ethnic
they had received training on racial and minority group members said the of-
ethnic harassment and discrimination in fender was of a higher rank/grade.
the twelve months prior to the survey 6. In the complaints procedures, 54 per-
and that they were aware of the report- cent claimed that a complaint made had
ing procedures in place. Most, however, been substantiated by the service, but
stated that they had not reported inci- some 48 percent said that nothing had
dents because they believed that no ac- been done, 53 percent said that the
tion would be taken or that the incident guilty party had been informally spoken
was not important enough to warrant a to, and in 50 percent of the cases, the
complaint. complaint had been discounted.
7. Some 45–56 percent of minorities said
With reference to the key questions and re- that “bothersome situations” caused
sponses by African American respondents, the them to lose trust in or have negative
main issues were these: feelings about their coworkers, and
43–54 percent said that this affected
1. When asked, “Have you tried to avoid an their relationships with their supervi-
assignment in the military because you sors. Between 40 percent and 49 per-
thought you might be subjected to racial/ cent said that these factors had made
ethnic harassment or discrimination?” them seriously consider leaving the serv-
18 percent responded yes. ice.
2. Some 75 percent of African Americans 8. When asked the question “Has the mili-
said that they had experienced an “of- tary paid too much or too little attention
fensive encounter,” while some 13 per- to racial/ethnic discrimination and ha-
cent felt the threat of harm from an- rassment in the past several years?” Afri-
other member of the military. In terms can American responses were 62 per-
of the offensive encounters, the figures cent (too little), 36 percent (right
for each of the services were Army (74 amount), and 3 percent (too much).
percent), Navy (79 percent), Marine 9. On the question of whether the military
Corps (80 percent), Air Force (70 per- offers better opportunities to different
cent), and Coast Guard (81 percent). racial and ethnic groups, see the accom-
3. In terms of experiencing discrimination panying table.
in their careers, African Americans re-
ported that they had suffered assign- Although more than fifty years had elapsed
ment/career prejudice (18 percent), since the integration of the armed forces, there

| 58 |
A s h l e y, E u g e n e , J r.

IN YOUR OPINION, HAVE OPPORTUNITIES GOTTEN BETTER OR WORSE


OVER THE PAST 5 YEARS . . . IN THE MILITARY . . . ?
Racial/Ethnic Group of Respondent

Asian/ Native American/


White Black Hispanic Pacific Islander Alaska Native
% % % % %

For Whites 16 53 45 48 23
For Blacks 62 39 58 62 65
For Hispanics 59 43 47 58 57
For Asians/Pacific Islanders 52 43 47 50 51
For Native Americans/
Alaskan Natives 49 37 43 51 41

was still considerable cause for concern. De- See also Segregation and Racism in the Military;
fense Secretary William Cohen was quoted at a U.S. Air Force; U.S. Army; U.S. Coast Guard;
1999 news conference announcing the publica- U.S. Marine Corps; U.S. Navy
tion of the survey results:
References and Further Reading
There is no place for racism in our society and Scarville, Jacquelyn, Scott B. Button, Jack E.
there is certainly no room for it in the mili- Edwards, Anita R. Lancaster, and Timothy W.
tary. . . . I believe that we have made greater Elig. Armed Forces Equal Opportunity Survey.
strides in the military in breaking down the Arlington, VA: Defense Manpower Data Center,
barriers to discrimination than perhaps the Program Evaluation Division.
rest of our society. . . . To the extent that any
of it exists, to the extent that there are com-
plaints about lack of promotion, actions that
involve discrimination, they have to be
eliminated. Ashley, Eugene, Jr.
(1931–1968)
The survey results seemed to call into ques-
tion the military’s reputation as the model for Sergeant First Class Ashley, a member of Com-
American race relations. Pentagon embarrass- pany C, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne),
ment over the results may have accounted for one of the few African American Special Forces
the withholding of the data from February troops in combat during the Vietnam War, died
1997. The Department of Defense plans to use in combat near Lang Vei in Vietnam. Sergeant
the survey results as a baseline set of measure- Ashley showed conspicuous gallantry as the se-
ments for future surveys. As former U.S. Army nior Special Forces adviser detailed to organize
colonel William A. DeShields, director of the a rescue mission to extract trapped U.S. advis-
Black Military History Institute of America, ers at Camp Lang Vei. Ashley supported the
noted in a November 1999 AP story, “Minorities camp with explosives and illuminations motor
do seem to get opportunities that aren’t always rounds during the North Vietnamese attack. He
open on the outside. But that doesn’t mean lost communications with the camp and person-
everything is perfect. There are still problems.” ally directed artillery support and air strikes.

| 59 |
Attucks, Crispus

Ashley organized and equipped a group of local SFC Ashley was posthumously awarded the
pro-American Vietnamese into an assault group. Medal of Honor for his actions on February
The sergeant led them in fire attacks on the en- 6–7, 1968, as part of Detachment A–101 Com-
emy positions, although he and his forces were pany C, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne),
exposed to heavy machine gun and automatic 1st Special Forces. His body was buried at
weapon fire. As commanding officer, he led five Rockfish Memorial Cemetery, Fayetteville,
assaults against dug-in enemy positions, con- North Carolina. His Medal of Honor was pre-
tending with numerous suicide attacks on his sented to his family at the White House on De-
bunkers by enemy troops laden with booby-trap cember 2, 1969, by Vice-President Spiro T. Ag-
satchel charges. In his fifth and final assault to new.
clear the enemy and gain contact with the
camp, he ordered air strikes within his own po- See also Vietnam War
sitions to clear the enemy troops barring his ap-
proach. The enemy was forced to withdraw, and References and Further Reading
Ashley’s command successfully captured a key Phillips, William R., and William C. Westmoreland.
hill summit. Despite being badly wounded, Ash- Night of the Silver Stars: The Battle of Lang Vei.
ley continued to direct his men and carry out Washington, DC: U.S. Naval Institute, 1997.
his mission without any regard for his own
safety. Eventually, the sergeant lost conscious-
ness due to his machine gun wounds and was
carried from the summit by his men. Unfortu-
nately, an artillery round landed on his bearers, Attucks, Crispus
and Ashley was fatally wounded. His citation (1723–1770)
reads:
Crispus Attucks was born in 1723 in Framing-
SFC Ashley displayed extraordinary heroism in ham, Massachusetts, to an African slave father
risking his life in an attempt to save the lives and Natick or Nantucket Indian mother. When
of his entrapped comrades and commanding he was sixteen, he was sold by his master,
officer. His total disregard for his personal Colonel Buckminster, to Deacon William
safety while exposed to enemy observation and Brown. Attucks’s desire to be a free man and to
automatic weapons fire was an inspiration to work on boats was the reason for his escape
all men committed to the assault. The resolute from William Brown’s establishment in 1750.
valor with which he led 5 gallant charges Brown placed an advertisement in the Boston
placed continual diversionary pressure on the Gazette offering a reward for the return of At-
attacking enemy and his valiant efforts carved tucks and warning vessels operating in the local
a channel in the overpowering enemy forces area that he was likely to try for work on one of
and weapons positions through which the sur- them. He did, however, gain employment on lo-
vivors of Camp Lang Vei eventually escaped to cal vessels, variously as a sailor, a member of a
freedom. SFC Ashley’s bravery at the cost of whaling crew, and a rope-maker in Boston.
his life was in the highest traditions of the mil- On March 2, 1770, a fight broke out between
itary service, and reflects great credit upon several Boston rope-makers and three British
himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army. soldiers, setting the stage for a conflict three
days later that involved Attucks. He joined a
The North Vietnamese deployed seven tanks group of about thirty men intent on harassing
in the battle, the first time they had done so in and taunting the British guard at the Boston
the war. Despite the lack of antitank weapons, Customs House. Seven redcoats under Capt.
five of the seven enemy tanks were destroyed. Thomas Preston came to his rescue. The crowd

| 60 |
Attucks, Crispus

A painting of the Boston Massacre showing Crispus Attucks, one of the leaders of the demonstration and
one of the five men killed by the British troops, as he is shot. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

(which by this point had grown to a mob) recognition of his actions. A Crispus Attucks
surged forward, and the soldiers fired, although Day was inaugurated by African American aboli-
Preston swore he never gave the order. Captain tionists in 1858, and he has been immortalized
Preston and five of his men were later acquitted as “the first to defy, the first to die. . . . The first
of the charge of murder. to pour out his blood as a precious libation on
During the melee that followed, Attucks was the altar of a people’s rights.” (The quotation is
one of the five men killed at what became attributed to journalist and poet John Boyle
known as the Boston Massacre. (The four other O’Reilly [1844–1890].)
men were Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel
Maverick, and Patrick Carr.) The Boston Mas- See also Boston Massacre; American Revolution
sacre is described as the catalyst for the Ameri-
can Revolution that followed, and Attucks was References and Further Reading
recognized as the first to die for independence. Millender, Dharanthula. Crispus Attucks, Black
He was about fifty years old when he died. Leader of Colonial Patriots. Indianapolis: Merrill,
Crispus Attucks was buried in the Park Street 1982.
cemetery in Boston. In 1888 the city erected a Zobel, Hiller B. The Boston Massacre. New York:
bronze and granite statue on the common in W. W. Norton, 1970.

| 61 |
A u s t i n , O s c a r Pa l m e r

Austin, Oscar Palmer fects of the blast. Heavily wounded, Austin then
(1948–1969) encountered an enemy soldier who leveled his
gun at the wounded man, whereupon Austin,
PFC Oscar Palmer Austin was an assistant gun- still protecting his colleague, took the full force
ner in Company E, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, of the burst and was mortally wounded.
1st Marine Division in Vietnam, who gave his Austin’s parents received his posthumous
life in saving a fellow Marine near Da Nang. Medal of Honor from Vice President Spiro Ag-
Oscar Austin was born in Nacogdoches, new at the White House on April 20, 1970. In
Texas, on January 15, 1948. After graduating honor of Austin, a destroyer, the US Oscar
from high school, he joined the Marine Corps Austin (DDG-79), was brought into service in
at Phoenix, Arizona, on April 2, 1968. 2000. Its motto is “honor and sacrifice.”
While operating some six miles west of Da
Nang, on February 23, 1969, his unit was at- See also Anderson, James, Jr.; Davis, Rodney
tacked by a large Vietnamese force that threat- Maxwell; Jenkins, Robert H., Jr.; Johnson, Ralph;
ened to overrun the positions, including the ob- Medal of Honor (appendix); U.S. Marine Corps;
servation post that Austin was defending. A Vietnam War
fellow company member had been wounded
and was unconscious, and Austin ran to help References and Further Reading
the man. An enemy grenade landed nearby, and Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Defenders of America,
he shielded the wounded comrade from the ef- 1775–1973. Chicago: Johnson, 1974.

| 62 |
b
Baker, Vernon Joseph reconnoiter for a position, I observed two
(b. 1919) cylindrical objects pointing out of a slit in a
mound at the very edge of the hill overlooking
In 1997 Vernon Baker received the Medal of the flatland. At first I took these objects to be
Honor some forty-two years after showing ex- machine gun barrels. Crawling up under the
emplary leadership and bravery during World opening I stuck my M-1 into the slit and emp-
War II. Vernon Baker was born in Cheyenne, tied the clip into the aperture and discovered
Wyoming, in 1919. When he first tried to enlist that an [artillery scope] which I had mistaken
in the U.S. Army he was turned down initially; for a machine gun and two men, one of whom
the enlistment officer told him there was no was slumped in a chair and the other wounded,
quota for African Americans. However, later he trying to crawl into a corner where some
was accepted, and after completing his initial “potato-masher” grenades were piled. Seeing
training he was attached to the 25th Infantry at this, I moved to the rear . . . and pulling the
Camp Wolters, Texas, as a company clerk. In pin from a hand grenade, tossed it into the
1942, after officer candidate school, he was rear entrance. After the explosion I went into
commissioned a second lieutenant. He was the position and discovered a powerful tele-
transferred to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and scope and two telephones. I cut the telephone
joined the 370th Infantry Regiment, which sub- lines, placed a hand grenade in the cradle of
sequently deployed to Italy as part of the 92d the scope, pulled the pin, and moved out
Infantry Division. (Astor 1998, 287–288).
In the spring of 1945 a new Allied offensive
was planned, with the main objective being Baker then moved forward and found a Ger-
Bologna, Italy. Baker was the weapons platoon man machine gun post where the crew was eat-
leader of Company C, 1st Battalion, of the ing breakfast. He shot both of the men and set
370th. They were moving on Castle Aghinolfi, a up his own machine gun in the German post.
German strong point on a hill. Baker later re- Later, he shot a German who had thrown a
counted: grenade at him and then ran to where the dead
German was lying. He found a concealed en-
I was ordered to set up my machine gun sec- trance to a German dugout and used two cap-
tion to cover the approach of the riflemen to tured German grenades to blow the door off.
the objective proper. Upon moving forward to A German soldier emerged, whom Baker shot

| 63 |
B a r n e s , Wi l l i a m H .

before throwing another grenade inside the See also Medal of Honor (appendix);
dugout, waited for the explosion, and then emp- World War II
tied a full magazine. Several other Germans
were killed. References and Further Reading
Meanwhile, Baker’s company had been in- Astor, Gerald. The Right to Fight. Novato, CA:
volved in a vicious fight with more Germans, Presidio, 1998.
and Baker returned to his company com- Baker, Vernon, and Ken Olsen. Lasting Valor.
mander: Columbus, MS: Genesis Press, 1997.

While we were in the midst of this discussion


the enemy began to zero in on our position
with heavy mortars. As the first three rounds
fell, Lieutenant Botwinik was injured by a Barnes, William H.
fragment of one round, which fell less than (1830/1–1866)
five yards to the rear of his position. The mor-
tar position could not be located at the begin- William H. Barnes was a Medal of Honor win-
ning of the barrage but, as the firing contin- ner at the Battle of New Market Heights, also
ued, one soldier, glancing up into the air, known as Chaffin’s Farm, on September 29,
happened to see what he thought at first was a 1864.
flock of birds. It was soon discovered that the Barnes was born near Leonardtown in St.
flock of birds was instead a barrage of mortar Mary’s County, Maryland, in 1830 or 1831. A
shells which had just been fired from a posi- free man, he enlisted in the army in February
tion behind a demolished house on the hill 1864. As a private in Company C of the 38th
(Astor 1998, 289). United States Colored Troops (USCT), he was
one of fourteen African Americans to be granted
Baker called in artillery via the artillery for- the Medal of Honor for gallantry during the
ward observer and neutralized the mortar bat- Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, which was also known
tery. Later he led an attack toward the main as New Market Heights. Barnes, although
objective through an enemy minefield. He de- wounded, was one of the first to enter the Con-
stroyed two more enemy machine-gun posts federate defense works and carry the position.
with grenades, but German defenses were stiff- He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in Jan-
ening, and casualties were mounting, forcing uary 1865. Barnes died of tuberculosis in Indi-
Baker to withdraw. The following afternoon, anola, Texas, on Christmas Eve, 1866.
with about seventy men, the battalion resumed
its offensive and eventually routed the Ger- See also American Civil War; Chaffin’s Farm,
mans, holding Castle Aghinolfi. Battle of; Medal of Honor (appendix);
Baker was recommended for the Distin- Unites States Colored Troops (appendixes)
guished Service Cross, while Capt. John Run-
yon, the white company commander, was rec-
ommended for the Medal of Honor. Runyon’s
award was reduced, and it was not until 1997
that Baker was finally awarded the Medal of Battle Mountain, Korea
Honor in recognition of his leadership and brav- (1950)
ery during the attacks. For many years Baker
was openly critical of the discrimination that The African American 24th Infantry Regiment
postponed his justified reward for his services had been created in the aftermath of the Civil
during World War II. War. It had served on the frontier during the

| 64 |
Battle Mountain, Korea

1870s and 1880s and performed well during the which he had commanded during World War II.
Spanish-American War in Cuba (notably at San Gen. Mark W. Clark is reported to have warned
Juan Hill). The regiment also served during the Corley that remarks like that would do him no
Philippine insurrection (1899–1902) and be- service, and his superiors in the army adminis-
came part of Gen. John Pershing’s expeditionary tration were uncomfortable with his comments.
force to Mexico against Pancho Villa (1915– Such comments seemed to confirm the belief of
1920). In 1950 the regiment was rushed to many African Americans that the official cover-
Korea, where it achieved less glory. The U.S. age of the 24th’s performance in Korea was an
Army’s official history of the Korean War (pub- example of the racism that remained in the U.S.
lished in 1961) described the regiment as often Army after it was officially integrated.
being “frightened and demoralized.” The regi- The army’s report conflicted with the experi-
ment was vilified for its performance, but later ence of the men on the ground. David Carlisle,
studies would vindicate the regiment and iden- an African American advocate of the 24th’s be-
tify the courage, resilience, and determination havior, was a lieutenant with the unit, and Roger
of its men. Walden was a company commander with the
As a result of the North Korean offensive of regiment. Walden reported that his company
1950, the 24th Infantry was forced by the end suffered some 50 casualties (dead, wounded, or
of August to withdraw from the strategically im- missing) out of 130 men who had joined the
portant Hill 625. Hill 625, also known as Battle battle. Carlisle presents the most compelling ev-
Mountain, lay on the southern tip of the Pusan idence of how the 24th performed during this
perimeter, to which the 24th had been forced to period. When Carlisle left the army in 1951, the
pull back by the advancing North Koreans. Californian began to seek justice for the 24th by
From August to September 1950, the 24th had countering the claims of cowardice during the
one of the most vital points on the Pusan engagements for Hill 625. Carlisle founded the
perimeter. In thirty days, the unit retook Battle 24th Infantry Regiment Association in 1975 and
Mountain at least nineteen times. The defen- sought to persuade the army to rewrite its offi-
sive positions it occupied were not well cial histories. The army was noncommittal until
planned. When the enemy attacked on Septem- 1987, when Carlisle won the support of then-Lt.
ber 1, the 2d Battalion of the 24th virtually col- Gen. Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense
lapsed as many soldiers panicked and fled, Caspar Weinberger. Carlisle was also backed by
abandoning their equipment. The official army two Democratic members of Congress, Chair-
inquiry on the matter concluded that it was the man of the House Armed Services Committee
worst wartime performance of any U.S. Army Les Aspin and Augustus Hawkins, California’s
unit, past or present. The 24th became known first African American congressman, first
among white troops as either the “Running elected in 1962. (Hawkins had previously been
24th” or the “Bugout Brigade.” involved in vindicating those involved in the
In early September 1950, the commander of Brownsville Incident of 1906 and after sixty-six
the 25th Infantry Division (of which the 24th years guided a bill through Congress to have
was a part), Maj. Gen. William B. Kean, re- their names cleared.)
quested that Eighth Army Headquarters relieve At length, John Marsh Jr., the secretary of the
the 24th of its frontline duties. Gen. Douglas army, directed military historians to review the
MacArthur ignored the request, and the 24th re- 24th’s record and prepare a new history of the
mained on duty until it was deactivated on Octo- troops’ performance in battle. In 1988, the U.S.
ber 1, 1951. In 1951 the 24th’s commander, Lt. Congress passed a resolution to honor the
Col. John T. Corley, was quoted as saying that 24th’s military achievements between 1869 and
the men of the 24th were every bit as tough and 1951. Col. John Cash, an African American
tenacious as his old 1st Infantry Division troops, Korean War veteran and military historian (a

| 65 |
B e a t y, Po w h a t a n

distinguished military graduate of Rutgers Uni- Beaty, Powhatan


versity ROTC), was assigned the reappraisal (1837–1916)
task. Cash had been an infantry officer, a history
professor at West Point, and a Latin American Beaty was the first sergeant in Company G, 5th
analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency; U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War, hav-
he had held command positions in Korea, Viet- ing been raised to this rank two days after he
nam, and elsewhere. He was accompanied back enlisted. He went on to fight with distinction at
to Korea in October 1989 by six 24th Infantry the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm (September 29–30,
veterans. His task was to consider the 24th’s 1864), earning the Medal of Honor, one of the
performance and the claims of Lt. Col. Charles few African Africans to be awarded this honor
M. Bussey, commander of the 77th Engineers during the Civil War.
(the 77th had been engaged in support of the Beaty was born on October 8, 1837, in Rich-
24th), for the Medal of Honor. Bussey had been mond, Virginia, and later moved to Ohio as a
recommended for the Medal of Honor and the farmer. He briefly served in the Black Brigade of
Distinguished Service Cross, but the recom- Cincinnati (September 2–September 20, 1862),
mendations had been rejected. when Confederate Gen. Kirby Smith threatened
Cash interviewed more than 250 former offi- the city. The unit constructed fortifications
cers and enlisted men from the 24th, who con- around Cincinnati.
firmed that some of the 24th did run from bat- Beaty entered military service on June 7,
tle in the early months of the war. The actions 1863, in Cincinnati, training at Camp Dela-
of the unit during March and April 1951, how- ware, where he was posted to Company G, 5th
ever, vindicated its overall performance. The U.S. Colored Infantry (127th Ohio Volunteer
second army history, Black Soldier, White Army: Infantry). Within two days of his enlistment
The 24th Infantry in Korea, was published in Beaty was promoted to first sergeant.
1996, incorporating the research carried out by After a period of relative inactivity, in 1864,
Cash to correct the record. The book empha- Beaty marched with Maj. Gen. Benjamin But-
sizes the inadequacy of the rotating regimental ler’s Army of the James to attack Richmond
command until the arrival in September of Cor- (Fort Harrison) north of the River James. Beaty
ley, who instituted reforms that made the regi- participated in the series of battles known as the
ment more effective. Battle of Chaffin’s Farm.
The assault on New Market Heights was led
See also Buffalo Soldiers; Gifu; Korean War; by Brig. Gen. Charles Paine’s 3d Division of the
Medal of Honor (appendix); 24th Infantry 18th Corps, U.S. Colored Troops (USCT). The
Regiment first assault against Gen. John Gregg’s Texas
Brigade and the 24th Virginia Cavalry was sent
References and Further Reading in at 5.30 a.m. Almost 700 soldiers attacked the
Bowers, William T., William M. Hammond, and
position with fixed bayonets and the percussion
George L. MacGarrigle. Black Soldier, White caps of the muskets removed to prevent acci-
Army: The 24th Infantry in Korea. Washington, dental firing as the Colored Troops struggled
DC: U.S. Army, Center of Military History, 1996. through the Confederate defenses. The attack
failed, and 365 men died. Beaty joined the sec-
ond assault at 6 a.m. As Maj. Gen. Benjamin
Butler reported on October 11, 1864, Beaty
took command of Company G after all of the
white officers had been killed or wounded:

| 66 |
Bell, Dennis

their actions. Beaty was discharged on April 6,


1865, the day he received his Medal of Honor.
Some 3,000 black soldiers were in action during
the two-day battle, of whom about 1,302 died,
or were wounded or missing.
Beaty died on December 6, 1916, and was
buried at the Union Baptist Cemetery, Cincin-
nati, Ohio. A twelve-foot portrait of him is on
Richmond’s floodwall. A bridge on Virginia’s
Route 5 crossing over interstate Route 895 was
named the Powhatan Beaty Memorial Bridge.

See also American Civil War; Medal of Honor


(appendix); United States Colored Troops
(appendixes)

References and Further Reading


Brinsfield, John. “The Battle of New Market
Heights.” http://www.army.mil/soldiers/feb96/
p50.html.
“Holland, Milton M.” http://www.nps.gov/rich/
holland.htm (accessed August 25, 2003).

Powhatan Beaty, First Sergeant, Co. G, 5th U.S.


Colored Troops, ca. 1900. (Library of Congress)
Bell, Dennis
(1866–1953)
Milton M. Holland, sergeant-major, Fifth U.S.
Colored Troops, commanding Company C; An African American member of Troop H, 10th
James H. Bronson, first sergeant, commanding U.S. Cavalry, who was one of five who won a
Company D; Robert Pinn, first sergeant, com- Medal of Honor in action in Cuba during the
manding Company I, wounded; Powhatan Spanish-American War.
Beaty, first sergeant, commanding Company Bell was born in Washington, D.C., on De-
G, Fifth U.S. Colored Troops—all these gal- cember 28, 1866. He joined the U.S. Army in
lant colored soldiers were left in command, his home city and was assigned to combat ac-
all their company officers being killed or tion in Cuba with Troop H, 10th Cavalry. At
wounded, and led them gallantly and meritori- Tayabacoa on June 30, 1898, he landed and
ously through the day. For these services they evacuated several wounded members of the
have most honorable mention, and the com- 10th, despite intense enemy fire.
manding general will cause a special medal to Bell had been chosen for a hazardous mission
be struck in honor of these gallant colored to attack Spanish positions at the mouth of the
soldiers (quoted in “Holland” 2003). San Juan River. He was one of twenty-eight vol-
unteers to accompany about three hundred
Beaty and the others mentioned in the dis- Cuban insurgents. The attackers came under
patch were awarded the Medal of Honor for heavy fire, and Bell, already a veteran, having

| 67 |
Black, Barry C.

Black, Primus

See Green Mountain Boys

Black, Barry C. (b. 1948)

A highly decorated, long-serving U.S. naval offi-


cer who attained the rank of rear admiral and
was the first African American to become the
chief of the Chaplain Corps.
Black was commissioned as a naval chaplain
in 1976 and subsequently served with naval sup-
port, the U.S. Naval Academy, the 1st Marine
Aircraft Wing, the Naval Training Center, USS
Belleau Wood, Naval Chaplain School, Marine
Aircraft Group 31, Naval and Education Train-
ing (Pensacola, Florida), and Fleet Chaplain of
the U.S. Atlantic Fleet (Norfolk, Virginia).
Black is also a well-respected academic with
two doctoral degrees. During his long and con-
tinued service in the U.S. Navy, Black had been
awarded the Legion of Merit Medal, the De-
fense Meritorious Service Medal, two Meritori-
A member of Troop H, 10th U.S. Cavalry, ous Service Medals, two U.S. Navy and U.S.
Dennis Bell was one of five African Americans who Marine Corps commendation medals, and sev-
won a Medal of Honor in action in Cuba during the eral medals and awards for campaigns and serv-
Spanish-American War. (Library of Congress) ices. In 1995, he received a Renowned Service
Award from the NAACP for his contributions to
served with the regiment in Montana, took part equal opportuny and civil rights.
in the fifth attempt to rescue wounded com-
rades. See also U.S. Marine Corps; U.S. Navy
He received his Medal of Honor on June 23,
1899, for his actions at Tayabacoa.
Bell continued to serve with his regiment un-
til at least 1902 and served in Texas and the Black Dispatches
Philippines.
Black dispatches was the term used in the
See also Medal of Honor (appendix); Philippine Union army to refer to intelligence received
Insurrection; Spanish-American War; 10th from African Americans during the Civil War re-
Cavalry; U.S. Army garding the dispositions and plans of Confeder-
ate forces.
References and Further Reading As Frederick Douglass wrote in 1862, “The
Schubert, Frank N. Black Valor. Wilmington, DE: true history of this war will show that the loyal
Scholarly Resources, 1997. army found no friends at the South so faithful,

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Black Dispatches

active, and daring in their efforts to sustain the River. Scott fled from a plantation near York-
government as the Negroes. Negroes have re- town, Virginia, and passed his impressions of
peatedly threaded their way through the lines of the Confederate defense to Butler. On one of
the rebels exposing themselves to bullets to con- his spying missions, Scott discovered that the
vey important information to the loyal army of Confederates were planning to attack Newport
the Potomac” (Markle 1995, 64–65). News; this would cut off Fort Monroe from its
Although the term was first used to describe supply routes. Butler ordered an attack on the
the information received on the front line from Confederate positions to forestall the danger,
runaway slaves, it later became a more general but despite Scott’s accurate intelligence, the at-
description of information that came from tack failed.
placed agents in strategic areas, long-term pen-
etrations of key Confederate facilities (such as
John Scobell
in Jefferson Davis’s White House in Richmond),
and information gleaned from other operations, Allan Pinkerton, the founder of the Chicago-
including the Underground Railroad. Confeder- based detective agency, was the chief of intelli-
ate Gen. Robert E. Lee recognized the value of gence for Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, com-
the Black dispatches to the Union cause when mander of the Army of the Potomac. Pinkerton
on May 22, 1863, he wrote: “The chief source often operated under the alias of Major Allen.
of information to the enemy is through our Ne- He quickly realized the value of former slaves,
groes” (quoted in Rose 2003). whom he found to be willing and able to provide
African Americans, given their status in the intelligence on Confederate movements, fortifi-
South, were rarely challenged or considered cations, and supply lines. Pinkerton set up a
dangerous to the Confederacy. Much vital infor- system by which all former slaves (often called
mation was gathered by servants overhearing contraband), as well as others who had come
military planning. Regrettably, little is actually from Confederate territory, would be debriefed
known about many of the African Americans by his agents. Ultimately, he decided that some
who risked their lives to provide intelligence to should be sent back into Confederate territory
the Union. Shortly after the war, the War De- to collect intelligence. John Scobell was one
partment in Washington gave many of the par- such agent; he was recruited toward the end of
ticipants the files that had been created detail- 1861. Scobell was an ideal choice, well edu-
ing their services. Many of these have since cated, a freedman with a distinct aptitude for
been destroyed. When the Confederates fled the various roles he would be assigned.
Richmond in 1865, all of their files, in particu- Sometimes alone, at other times posing as a
lar, the counterintelligence information, were servant for a white Pinkerton agent, Timothy
burned so that they would not fall into enemy Webster, Scobell traveled widely throughout
hands. Of the more than twenty books pub- Virginia. He also had a productive working rela-
lished after the war by former spies on both tionship with Carrie Lawton, Pinkerton’s best
sides, none was written by an African American. female operative. Local African Americans sup-
However, surviving files identify at least nine plied Scobell with detailed intelligence. Scobell
key African Americans who contributed to the was a member of the Legal League (a pro-free-
Union intelligence network. dom underground organization operating in the
South), and he used other members as couriers
and contacts. Scobell operated successfully as a
George Scott
Pinkerton agent until Pinkerton terminated op-
George Scott was a runaway slave who provided erations in November 1862, following McClel-
vital information to Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, lan’s replacement as commander of the Army of
who commanded Fort Monroe on the James the Potomac by Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside.

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Black Dispatches

W. H. Ringgold before the Confederates could wreck the facili-


ties. The secretary of the navy detailed Smalls’s
W. H. Ringgold was another of Pinkerton’s Afri-
contribution in his annual report to the presi-
can American agents. He had been working on a
dent.
riverboat for six months on the York River in Vir-
Robert Smalls’s contribution continued. On
ginia. When the boat was damaged in a storm,
the evening of May 12, 1862, accompanied by
Ringgold headed for Baltimore and then on to
his family and by other African American
Washington, D.C., where he met Pinkerton in
sailors, he boarded the armed coastal patrol
December 1861. Ringgold’s first contribution
ship Planter and sailed out of Charleston har-
was a detailed plan of Confederate defense
bor. Posing as the captain (who had left the ship
works on the peninsula and the York River. Mc-
for home), Smalls passed under the noses of the
Clellan was able to base much of his planning
Confederate fortifications, making the correct
for the peninsular campaign on the information
signals as required. When the Planter reached
that Ringgold provided.
the blockading Union ships, he turned the ves-
sel over to Union forces.
Mary Louvestre

Mary Louvestre, a former slave, was working as Charlie Wright


a servant for an engineer in Norfolk, Virginia, Charlie Wright came to prominence after Gen.
who was involved in the refitting of the captured Joseph E. Hooker took over command of the
USS Merrimac, which would become the Vir- Army of the Potomac on January 27, 1863. The
ginia, the Confederacy’s first ironclad. Touvestre Union command lacked a coherent intelligence
stole a set of the plans and fled north, delivering system since the departure of McClellan and
them to the Department of the Navy. As a result the end of the Pinkerton operations. Hooker as-
of the intelligence received, Union officials signed Col. George H. Sharpe to create the Bu-
made the construction of the Monitor, their new reau of Military Information (BMI) to collect,
ironclad warship, a priority. As it happened, the collate, and analyze intelligence on the Confed-
Virginia was able only to sink the Congress and eracy. On June 12, 1863, Capt. John McEntee,
the Cumberland (both Union frigates) and a BMI intelligence officer, wired Sharpe after
ground a third, the Minnesota, before the Union the Battle of Brandy Station. McEntee was op-
forces were able to challenge the ironclad. erating with Union cavalry near Culpeper, Vir-
ginia. The telegram said: “A contraband [Char-
lie Wright] captured last Tuesday states that he
Robert Smalls
had been living at Culpeper C. H. [Court
One of the best known of the black intelligence House] for some time past. Saw Ewells Corps
agents was Robert Smalls, a freedman. In passing through that place destined for the Val-
March 1862 he rowed out to a Union warship ley and Maryland. That Ewells Corps has
that was part of a flotilla assembled to attack passed the day previous to the fight and that
Fernandina, Florida. He was able to report that Longstreet was them coming up” (quoted in
the Confederates were preparing to evacuate Rose 2003). Wright’s information confirmed
Fernandina and Amelia Island. As a harbor pi- Hooker’s suspicions that Lee was heading for
lot, Smalls realized the importance of Fernand- Maryland; accordingly Hooker’s troops shad-
ina to the Union operations against Charleston owed Lee on the other side of the Blue Ridge
and warned that the Confederates would de- Mountains, continually shielding Washington
stroy the port before they withdrew. Union from Confederate attack. This movement di-
troops launched an assault as a result of the in- rectly led to the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3,
telligence and succeeded in capturing the port 1863).

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Black Dispatches

Charlie Wright was not given full recognition ords of her spy ring; consequently, little informa-
of his contribution until several years after the tion on Bowser’s contributions remains on file.
Civil War ended. It was then acknowledged that On June 30, 1995, Bowser was posthumously
his information allowed Hooker to cover Wash- inducted into the U.S. Army Intelligence Hall of
ington; credit had originally been given to Fame at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Union cavalry scouts. Without Wright’s infor-
mation, Hooker could not have arrived at Get-
Harriet Tubman
tysburg and seized the dominating terrain fea-
tures before Lee. Harriet Tubman, a former slave who became in-
volved in the Underground Railroad, not only
guided African Americans to the North in the
William A. Jackson
years preceding the war, but also made vital in-
Perhaps the most stunning contribution to the telligence contributions of her own. Tubman
Black Dispatches came from African Americans ceased operations in 1860, due to the increased
in place in Richmond throughout the war. Two difficulties of bringing friends and relatives to
operated directly from the residence of Confed- the north, spending the first two years of the
erate President Jefferson Davis. The first was war helping to settle and support those that she
William A. Jackson, a slave working as a coach- had saved from slavery. The Union turned to
man for Davis, who delivered his first report on Tubman in the spring of 1863 as a potential
military conversations he had overheard to the source of intelligence data on South Carolina.
Union command near Fredericksburg, Virginia, Tubman organized a series of spying expedi-
on May 3, 1862. Unfortunately records do not tions to the south, reporting directly to Col.
reveal exactly what Jackson told the Union com- James Montgomery, commanding officer of the
mander, General Irvin McDowell, but it was sig- 2d South Carolina Volunteers, an African Amer-
nificant enough for the general to wire it ican unit involved in guerrilla warfare. Tubman
straight to the War Department in Washington. accompanied former slaves chosen by herself on
some of the missions, at other times directing
operations from Union lines. The intelligence
Mary Elizabeth Bowser
was regular, accurate, and decisive on many oc-
The “Richmond Underground” was a Union spy casions, notably during the Union raid up the
ring operating under the guidance of Elizabeth Combahee River (June 1863) when Tubman led
Van Lew, who came from a socially prominent 150 of Montgomery’s men through the Confed-
family in the Confederate capital. An African erate lines. The raid was devastating. Eight hun-
American agent, Mary Elizabeth Bowser, had dred slaves were freed, and millions of dollars of
been one of Van Lew’s slaves. Bowser had been vital Confederate supplies were either destroyed
given her freedom by Van Lew and sent north to or taken.
be educated before the war began. After the spy
ring was set up, Van Lew asked Bowser to come
Dabney
back to Richmond and pose as a servant at
Davis’s home. Bowser secured a full-time post Legend has it that during the fighting around
and had access to the house. She overheard Fredericksburg in 1863, a slave called Dabney,
conversations, saw vital documentation, and accompanied by his wife, managed to get
used her photographic memory to record every through the lines and secure work at the head-
word in the papers. Bowser would regularly quarters of General Hooker. Dabney seemed to
meet with Van Lew to pass on her intelligence. know the local area well and began to show
After the war, Van Lew persuaded the War more than a passing interest in the Union meth-
Department in Washington to destroy the rec- ods of using flags for signaling. Dabney’s wife

| 71 |
Blackman, Epheram

was soon given permission to return to Confed- Blackman, Epheram


erate territory as servant to a white Southern
woman returning home. Within days, Dabney See Green Mountain Boys
was able to tell Hooker’s staff startlingly accu-
rate details of Confederate troop movements
and positions. Dabney confided that he and his
wife had worked out their own signaling system
using laundry hung on a line. His wife hung Blake, Robert
laundry in a particular order that would relay to
Dabney the presence of a Confederate com- An African American runaway slave, who signed
mander and the strength of his forces. It is not up with the U.S. Navy in Virginia, on April 16,
known whether Dabney’s story is completely 1864, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for
true; no official records remain of his contribu- his Civil War service.
tion to the Union intelligence effort. Blake was designated as contraband—a term
Many hundreds more slaves, runaways, and used to describe runaway slaves behind Union
freedman and women made continuous reports lines—but was assigned to the steam gunboat
to various representatives of the federal govern- Marblehead, which was a 691-ton gunboat that
ment throughout the war. The clandestine na- had been built in Newbury Port, Massachusetts,
ture of their operations means that few records and commissioned in March 1862. The vessel
remain. was on blockade duty off the coasts of Georgia
and South Carolina, and Blake had been serving
See also Smalls, Robert; Tubman, Harriet; on board for a year before officially enlisting.
Underground Railroad On December 25, 1863, the gunboat was en-
gaged on the Stono River against Confederate
References and Further Reading positions on John’s Island. Blake’s Medal of
Honor citation states: “Serving the rifle gun,
Fishel, Edwin C. The Secret War for the Union.
Blake, an escaped slave, carried out his duties
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
bravely throughout the engagement which re-
Markle, Donald E. Spies and Spymasters of the Civil
War. New York: Hippocrene, 1995.
sulted in the enemy’s abandonment of posi-
Pinkerton, Allan. The Spy of the Rebellion. Chicago: tions, leaving a caisson and one gun behind.”
A. G. Nettleton, 1883.
Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Civil War. See also American Civil War; Medal of Honor
Boston: Little, Brown, 1953. (appendix); U.S. Navy
Rose, P. K. “The Civil War: Black American
Contributions to Union Intelligence.” Center for
the Study of Intelligence website: http://www.cia.
gov/csi/books/dispatches/dispatch.html (accessed
August 18, 2003). Boards of Examination for
Ryan, David D. A Yankee Spy in Richmond: Officers in United States
The Civil War Diary of “Crazy Bet” Van Lew.
Colored Troops
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996.
Taylor, M. W. Harriet Tubman. New York: Chelsea,
1991.
A system established on May 22, 1863, to at-
U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A tract white officers to serve in African American
Compilation of the Official Records of the Union units.
and Confederate Armies. Washington, DC: The boards met regularly in Cincinnati,
Government Printing Office; 1880–1901, Vol. Ohio; Davenport, Iowa; Nashville, Tennessee;
25, Part 2. New Orleans, Louisiana; and Washington,

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B o a r d s o f E x a m i n a t i o n f o r O f f i c e r s i n U n i t e d S t a t e s C o l o r e d Tr o o p s

D.C., and later in Richmond, Virginia. They 6. Appointments to each grade shall only be
sought white officers of high intelligence and made from the candidates approved by the
morals, with a commitment to African Ameri- Board, and in the order of merit recom-
cans. mended by it.
The boards’ goal, as Adj. Gen. Lorenzo 7. The report of the Board, if adverse, shall be
Thomas, who was in charge of raising African conclusive, and no person rejected by it
American troops in the Mississippi Valley from shall be re-examined.
1863 to 1865, stated, was to recruit “only those 8. Other instructions will be communicated to
for Officers whose hearts were in the work and boards if required.
who would exert themselves to the uttermost
and treat the Negro kindly” (quoted in By order of the Secretary of War:
Glatthaar 2000). General Order No. 144 pro- E. D. TOWNSEND,
nounced: Assistant Adjutant-General.

The following rules are prescribed for the Assessing intelligence was never a problem;
guidance of boards in examining applicants for candidates were tested on a variety of subjects
commissions in regiments of colored troops: including military tactics. The major long-term
concern was the motivation of those who pre-
1. The Board will sit every day, except Sunday, sented themselves to the board. In Tennessee,
from 9 o’clock a.m. to 5 o’clock p.m. The Capt. R. D. Mussey, who was in charge of or-
place of sitting to be provided by the Quar- ganizing United States Colored Troops (USCT)
termaster’s Department, and public notice units in the area, was clear on the position: “No
given. person is wanted as an officer in a Colored Reg-
2. The Board will make to the Adjutant- iment who ‘feels that he is making a sacrifice in
General, for record in the Bureau for accepting a position in a Colored Regiment’, or
Colored Troops, reports of all persons who desires the place simply for higher rank
examined, whether approved or rejected; and pay” (quoted in Glatthaar 2000, 39). One
the reports will be made weekly, or oftener officer who was chosen, Henry Crydenwise,
when specially called for. said of the officers in the USCT that they were
3. Each applicant must exhibit to the Board “a better class of men, more moral, more reli-
authority from the Adjutant-General to ap- gious, better educated and understand their
pear before it. Such authority will be given business better than those in white reg’ts”
upon satisfactory recommendations of good (ibid.).
moral character and standing in the com- For some, seeking to be an officer in the
munity in which the applicant resided, or, if USCT meant that men could attain a salary and
in the military service, on testimonials from command much higher than in a white volun-
his commanding officers. All such recom- teer unit. Others saw it as a step toward uplift-
mendations will be filed in the Bureau for ing the status of African Americans by ensuring
Colored Troops. that under their command, black soldiers would
4. Each applicant shall be subjected to a fair find a better place in society after the war. Oth-
but rigorous examination as to physical, ers were attracted because they were committed
mental, and moral fitness to command abolitionists, but a good proportion simply be-
troops. lieved that their experience as noncommis-
5. The Board shall specify for what grade of sioned officers was much needed by the fledg-
commission the several applicants are fit, ling USCT regiments. While the boards sought
and shall also classify and number them to weed out unsuitable candidates, they were
according to merit or proficiency. not always successful, and a considerable num-

| 73 |
Boston Massacre

ber of officers proved to be wholly inadequate in tucks found himself at the front of the mob and
terms of field skills or their ability to lead men leveled his stick at one of the soldiers. He deliv-
in battle. Although many of the officers were ered the blow, and during the melee that fol-
subsequently reassigned, many more stayed in lowed, whether under orders or not, the British
their positions, with little interest in their men’s opened fire on the crowd. They hit eleven peo-
welfare or their rights. ple with their musket balls, killing five—At-
tucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel
See also American Civil War; Bureau of Colored Maverick, and Patrick Carr.
Troops; United States Colored Troops, Formation An investigation into the actions of the
and Service Records of (appendix) British troops exonerated them, but Attucks and
the other four casualties had already become
References and Further Reading martyrs of the American Revolution. Civilian
Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War opinion regarding the Boston Massacre was
Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. mixed. Paul Revere attested that all of the mem-
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, bers of the mob were respectable Boston inhab-
2000. itants, while John Adams, a pro-liberty radical
Redkey, Edwin S., ed. A Grand Army of Black Men: and Boston lawyer, provided a legal defense for
Letters from African American Soldiers in the the British soldiers. Adams later declared that
Union Army, 1861–1865. Cambridge: Cambridge Crispus Attucks was the leader of “a motley rab-
University Press, 1992. ble of saucy boys, Negroes and Molattoes, Irish
Teagues and outlandish Jack Tarrs.” For others
the actions of those in Boston on the night of
March 5 began the process of challenging
British authority in America. British troops were
Boston Massacre subsequently removed from Boston.
(March 5, 1770)
See also American Revolution; Attucks, Crispus
The Boston Massacre is considered to be a
milestone in the events that led to the American References and Further Reading
Revolution. It occurred as a result of continued Kaplan, Sydney, and Emma Nogrady Kaplan.
conflict between British soldiers garrisoned in The Black Presence in the Era of the American
Boston and local inhabitants. The event flared Revolution. Amherst: University of Massachusetts
on March 5, 1770, when a mob challenged Press, 1989.
British soldiers. The soldiers fired, killing five
men, among whom was a sailor described as a
mulatto, Crispus Attucks.
The exact chain of events that led up to the
Boston Massacre remains murky. What is prob- Boyne, Thomas
able is that Crispus Attucks was among those (1846–1896)
drinking in a tavern on King Street in Boston
when an alarm bell was heard ringing, warning Thomas Boyne was an African American soldier
that a British sentry was under attack. Attucks who served in the U.S. Army for twenty-five
emerged from the tavern with a mob of other years, from 1864 to 1889, during which time he
men to discover that the sentry was being pelted won a Medal of Honor in the Apache Wars.
with snowballs by boys. As the mob approached Boyne was born in Prince George’s County,
the soldier, more troops arrived. Somehow At- Maryland, in 1846. In 1864 he joined B Battery

| 74 |
B r a s h e a r, C a r l M a x i e

of the 2d Colored Light Artillery and fought at January 1885 at Fort Caldwell, Kansas, in the
Wilson’s Wharf and City Point (May–June hospital.
1864). His regiment was sent west at the end of Boyne re-enlisted in July 1885 and served
the Civil War, and he was discharged in March with the 25th at Fort Meade, Dakota, but his
1866. Boyne adopted the name of Thomas long service was beginning to affect his health,
Bowen, and claiming that he came from Nor- and he developed a hernia while at Fort
folk, Virginia, reenlisted, serving in the 40th In- Missoula, Montana, in October 1888, that
fantry and later in the 25th until 1875, when he prompted the army to discharge him in January
transferred into the 9th Cavalry. By the time he 1889. He was granted a disability pension of $8
was sergeant in Company C of the 9th during a month, which increased to $10 in 1893. In
the Apache Wars (1877–1879), he had already 1890 Thomas Boyne was admitted to the U.S.
had fifteen years’ experience. Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C., where he
Boyne was part of a detachment sent to inter- died of consumption on April 21, 1896.
cept Victorio, leader of the Warm Springs
Apache, in May 1879. They found him on May See also American Civil War; Apache Wars;
20, with his men deployed behind defense Medal of Honor (appendix); 9th Cavalry;
works in a canyon in the Mimbres Mountains, 25th Infantry Regiment; U.S. Army
New Mexico. After a failed attempt to parley,
both sides opened fire, and during the engage- References and Further Reading
ment Boyne showed exemplary conduct and gal- Carroll, John M., ed. The Black Military Experience
lantry. 2d Lt. Henry H Wright wrote, “I was en- in the American West. New York: Liveright, 1969.
gaged in bringing in a wounded man with a few Schubert, Frank. Black Valor. Wilmington, DE:
men and was surprised by the Indians, my horse Scholarly Resources, 1997.
was killed and corralled by hostiles when
Sergeant Thomas Boyne commanded a detach-
ment sent to my assistance, flanked and gal-
lantly charged the Indians driving them off.”
By the end of September 1879 Boyne had Brashear, Carl Maxie
been involved in five engagements with (b. 1931)
Apaches, and during 1880 he participated in
three more. Maj. Albert B. Morrow, senior offi- The first African American to become a U.S.
cer of the 9th Cavalry, wrote of Boyne, “I have Navy master diver, Carl Brashear was born in
seen him repeatedly in action and in every in- Kentucky on January 19, 1931, to sharecrop-
stance he has distinguished himself. If any sol- ping parents. At the age of seventeen, he joined
dier deserves a Certificate of Merit or Medal of the U.S. Navy as a steward and completed his
Honor, Sergt. Boyne does and I hope he may be basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training
so rewarded.” Center in Michigan. He worked in the officers’
Boyne received his award on January 6, 1882, mess at Key West before being assigned to the
for bravery in action at Mimbres Mountain, USS Palau. He then served on the USS Tripoli,
New Mexico, May 29th, 1879, and at Cuchillo where he trained as a diver. His ambition was to
Negro, New Mexico, September 27, 1879. become a deep-sea diver, but he failed his first
During the winter of 1884–1885 he served course in 1960. Undaunted, Brashear finally
in the Indian Territory during the army’s at- completed the twenty-six-week course, graduat-
tempts to prevent settlers from encroaching on ing third in a class of seventeen.
the tribal lands. Throughout this period Boyne On January 17, 1966, a B-52 carrying four
was stricken with frostbite. He spent most of nuclear weapons and a KC-135 stratotanker

| 75 |
Brown, Jesse LeRoy

collided off the southern coast of Spain. Three He became not only the Navy’s first African
of the four nuclear weapons fell from the B-52 American master diver, but also its first am-
following the collision. One fell close to the vil- putee diver.
lage of Palomas but remained intact. A second Brashear achieved his goal of becoming a
also fell near the village, but it broke apart on master diver in June 1970 and had attained the
impact, spreading radioactive material over the rank of senior chief boatswain’s mate. He re-
countryside, requiring the United States to re- tired in 1979. A film based on his life, Men of
move 1,400 tons of contaminated earth to a Honor, was released in 2000.
storage site. The third weapon fell into the
Mediterranean Sea, and Brashear was assigned See also U.S. Navy
to the USS Hoist to retrieve it. It was located on
March 17, and Brashear was sent down to re- References and Further Reading
trieve it on March 25. The bomb was brought to Brashear, Master Chief Botswain’s Mate Carl M.
the surface at around 5 p.m., but there was a Oral History of, November 17, 1989, U.S. Naval
sudden sea swell, and as Brashear later re- Station, Norfolk, VA: http://www.usni.org/hrp/
counted in an oral history: oralhistory/brashear.htm.

I got the crate, picking it up, and the boat


broke loose. The engineer was revving up the
engines, and it parted the line. I was trying to Brown, Jesse LeRoy
get my sailors out of the way, and I ran back (1926–1950)
down to grab a sailor, just manhandling him
out of the way. Just as I started to leave, the Jesse Brown was the first African American to
boat pulled on the pipe that had the mooring become a naval aviator and the first naval offi-
line tied to it. That pipe came loose, flew cer to be killed in action in the Korean War.
across the deck and it struck my leg below the Jesse Brown was born in Hattiesburg, Missis-
knee. They said I was way up in the air just sippi, October 13, 1926. He enlisted in the
turning flips. I landed about two foot inside of naval reserve in 1946 and after successfully
that freeboard. They said if I’d been two feet completing preflight school and flight training
farther out, I’d have gone over the side. I he became a naval aviator in October 1948. He
jumped up and started to run and fell over. was assigned to 32d Fighter Squadron, where
That’s when I knew how bad my leg was. he became a section leader and rose to the rank
of ensign in April 1949. During the Korean War
Brashear was taken by helicopter to a Span- Brown was awarded an Air Medal for his contri-
ish air base, but the helicopter ran out of fuel, bution to attacks on Sinanju, Songjin, and Won-
and it wasn’t until several hours later that he re- sun. He also won, posthumously, on December
ceived treatment. He had lost a great deal of 4, 1950, the Distinguished Flying Cross during
blood and appeared dead, when the doctor a support mission to help Marines fighting
found a faint heartbeat. After an extensive oper- around the Chosin Reservoir. He was flying his
ation in which he was given eighteen pints of aircraft low when it was hit by ground fire.
blood, Brashear began to stabilize, but his leg In 1973 the USS Jesse L. Brown, a destroyer
was infected and he agreed to a below-knee am- escort, was named in his honor at Boston Naval
putation. Yard, making him the first African American
The navy wanted to retire Brashear from ac- naval officer to have a naval vessel named after
tive duty, but he disagreed and returned to div- him.
ing school. He proved that despite the loss of
one leg, he was still fit to carry out all duties. See also Korean War; U.S. Navy

| 76 |
B r o w n , R o s c o e C . , J r.

Ens. Jesse L. Brown in the cockpit of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter, ca. 1950. The first African American
naval aviator, he flew with Fighter Squadron 32 from USS Leyte. (U.S. Navy)

Brown, Roscoe C., Jr. tangs. Lieutenant Brown’s aircraft was nick-
(b. 1922) named “Bunnie” after his daughter.
On March 24, 1945, on an escort mission
A member of the 332nd fighter group and flight over Berlin led by Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr.,
leader of the 100th Fighter Squadron, Brown Brown shot down one of three German Messer-
was credited with being the first 15th Air Force schmitt 262 jet fighters, of only eight shot down
pilot to shoot down a German jet fighter. A during the war. A week later on March 31,
graduate of Dunbar High School in Washing- 1945, Brown claimed a Focke Wulf 190, one of
ton, D.C., and Springfield College, Springfield, thirteen claims that day. He was promoted to
Massachusetts, he became one of the Tuskegee captain and commanded the 100th until he re-
Airmen and began flying missions in Europe in turned to the United States in October 1945.
February 1944. In May he began long-range Brown was awarded the Distinguished Flying
bomber escort duties. In July 1944, the squad- Cross and an Air Medal (with eight Oak Leaf
ron was issued with North American P-51 Mus- Clusters).

| 77 |
B r o w n , We s l e y A n t h o n y

Following the war, he earned a doctorate


from New York University. He then began a ca-
reer of distinguished public service and served
as the director of the Institute for African Amer-
ican Affairs at NYU, president of Bronx Com-
munity College, and director of the City Univer-
sity of New York Graduate Center for Urban
Education Policies, chairman of the New York
City Regional Educational Center for Economic
Development, and a host of other posts.
The 100th Flying Training Squadron was re-
activated on September 24, 1999, as part of the
U.S. Air Force’s Reserves 340th Training Group.
Brown was among sixteen former Tuskegee Air-
men present at the reactivation ceremony at
Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, the squadron’s
new home.

See also 99th Pursuit Squadron; Tuskegee


Airmen; U.S. Air Force; World War II

References and Further Reading Midshipman Wesley A. Brown, ca. 1949.


Francis, Charles E., and Adolph Caso. The Tuskegee He graduated in that year from the
Airmen: The Men Who Changed a Nation. U.S. Naval Academy, the first African American
Wellesley, MA: Branden Publishing, 2000. to do so. (Courtesy of the
Homan, Lynn M., and Thomas Reilly. Black Knights: U.S. Naval Academy Library)
The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen. Gretna, LA:
Pelican Publishing, 2000.
American, Lawrence Chambers, would not
graduate from the academy until 1953.
During his first year at the academy he was
given 140 out of a maximum of 150 demerits
and very narrowly avoided being thrown out. Af-
Brown, Wesley Anthony ter graduation Brown entered the Civil Engi-
(b. 1927) neering Corps. Even in the later stages of his
naval career, he encountered naval officers who
The first African American to graduate from the did not approve of African American officers be-
U.S. Naval Academy, Wesley Brown was born in ing in the U.S. Navy. He retired in July 1969
Baltimore, Maryland, on April 3, 1927. After at- with the rank of lieutenant commander.
tending Dunbar High School, in the District of
Columbia, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy See also U.S. Navy
as a midshipman in 1945. He graduated four
years later, becoming the first African American
to complete a Naval Academy education. He References and Further Reading
was the only one of five African Americans in Astor, Gerald. The Right to Fight. Novato, CA:
his class to graduate in 1949. The next African Presidio, 1998.

| 78 |
Brownsville Incident

Brown, Willa (Chappell) American–run airport in the Chicago area dur-


(1906–1992) ing the late 1940s. Brown taught aeronautics at
Westinghouse High School until the 1970s. She
Willa Beatrice Brown was born on January 22, died on July 18, 1992.
1906, in Glasgow, Kentucky. She became the
first African American woman to be granted a See also 99th Pursuit/Fighter Squadron;
commercial pilot’s license. Among other notable Tuskegee Airmen
firsts, she also became the first African Ameri-
can officer in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) in 1941, References and Further Reading
the federal coordinator of the CAP Chicago Bolden, Tonya. The Book of African-American
unit, and, in 1943, she became the first woman Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters.
in the United States to have gained both a me- Avon, MA: Adams Media Corporation, 1996.
chanic’s license and a commercial license in
aviation.
Brown was heavily influenced by Bessie
Coleman (the pioneering African American pi-
lot) and started taking flying lessons in 1934. Brownsville Incident
She became a member of the Challenger Air (1906)
Pilot’s Association and the Chicago Girls’ Flight
Club, buying her own aircraft. In 1937 she also Earlier known as the Brownsville Riot, this inci-
completed her master’s degree at Northwestern dent highlighted the racism to which African
University in Chicago. American soldiers were subjected by communi-
Brown was the co-founder of the National ties in which they were stationed. Members of
Airmen’s Association of America in 1937, an or- the African American 24th and 25th Infantry
ganization whose goal was to help African Amer- Regiments, stationed at nearby Fort Brown,
icans advance in the U.S. Army Air Force. In were accused of rioting in Brownsville, Texas,
1940, with air force Lt. Cornelius R. Coffey, which led to the discharge “without honor” of
Brown founded the Coffey School of Aeronau- 167 soldiers without trial.
tics, which trained some 200 pilots over the While on leave from campaigning in the
next seven years. Many of these men became Philippines, a group of between ten and twenty
members of the 99th Pursuit Squadron during men of the 24th and the 25th Infantry Regi-
World War II. ments were alleged to have run through the
Throughout this period, Brown lobbied for streets of Brownsville firing into buildings. The
the inclusion of African Americans into the incident, which lasted around ten or fifteen
Civilian Pilot Training Program and the Army minutes, took place on August 13. One man
Air Corps, predecessor of the U.S. Air Force. In was killed, and several other people, including
1942, Brown took the post of training coordina- one policeman, were injured. Brownsville citi-
tor for the Civilian Pilot Training Program in zens immediately accused the African American
Chicago. infantrymen of causing the incident.
In 1972 Brown was appointed to the Federal On August 14, based on the assumption that
Aviation Administration Women’s Advisory the African American soldiers were guilty, a
Board in recognition of her contributions to avi- committee of community leaders began an in-
ation in the United States. Brown became the formal investigation. Only eight of the twenty-
first African American woman to run for Con- two witnesses, who were not questioned under
gress, failing on three occasions (1941, 1948, oath, claimed to have seen the soldiers actually
and 1950). She also tried to set up an African carrying out the shootings. The investigation

| 79 |
B r y a n t , Wi l l i a m M a u d

was concluded after two days with the commit- In 1972, under pressure from African Ameri-
tee deciding that the African American infantry- can congressmen (principally Augustus Haw-
men were to blame. kins, a Democrat from California), a new inves-
Meanwhile, the government and military au- tigation was undertaken by the secretary of the
thorities began to carry out the first of eight in- army, Robert F. Kroehlke. He found in favor of
quests into the riot. Five were performed by the those who had been discharged and overturned
military authorities, another by a citizens’ com- the decision made by Roosevelt and Garlington.
mittee of Brownsville, and the others by the By then, however, only two members of the unit
Texas Rangers, a statewide mounted police were still alive. Kroehlke concluded in his ap-
force, and a grand jury convened by the Senate praisal of the action that the “concept of mass
Military Affairs Committee. None were able punishment is repugnant to the American con-
conclusively to identify the guilty parties. cept of justice,” and he ordered that the “dis-
In his capacity as commander-in-chief of the charges without honor” be revoked and changed
armed forces, President Theodore Roosevelt in- to “honorable discharges” (MacGregor and
structed the inspector general of the army, Brig. Nalty 1977, 3: 224–225).
Gen. E. A. Garlington, to conduct another in-
vestigation. Garlington also failed to identify the References and Further Reading
men responsible, noting that the African Ameri- Krawczynski, Keith. “The Spanish American War
can troops had been severely provoked by locals. and Aftermath.” In A Historic Context for the
As with this investigation, various members of African-American Military Experience, ed. Steven
the units had been threatened with dishonor- D. Smith and James A. Ziegler. https://www.denix.
able discharges if they failed to cooperate. In osd.mil/denix/Public/ES-Programs/Conservation/
any event, the men either refused to comment Legacy/AAME/aame2a.html (accessed August 25,
or claimed that they had no relevant evidence. 2003).
Garlington interpreted this as a “conspiracy of Lane, Ann J. The Brownsville Affair: National Crisis
silence” and recommended that all of the men and Black Reaction. Port Washington, NY:
be discharged “without honor,” adding that a Kennikat Press, 1971.
MacGregor, Morris J., and Bernard C. Nalty (eds.).
“forceful lesson should be given to the Army at
Blacks in the Armed Forces: Basic Documents.
large.” He believed that this incident brought
8 vols. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources,
considerable dishonor to the army and stated: 1977.
“The people of the United States, wherever they Nalty, Bernard C. Strength for the Fight. New York:
live, must feel assured that the men wearing the Free Press, 1986.
uniform of the Army are their protectors and
not midnight assassins” (MacGregor and Nalty
1977, 3: 223–224).
Garlington’s recommendations were accepted
by Roosevelt, and the discharge of 167 men was Bryant, William Maud
approved. When Garlington’s recommendations (1933–1969)
were implemented, Roosevelt, who had previ-
ously had fairly good relations with the African Medal of Honor recipient William Bryant was
American community, was universally con- born in Cochran, Georgia, on February 16,
demned by black leaders. Newspaper editors ac- 1933, and joined the army in Detroit, Michigan.
cused him of deliberately postponing the an- In March 1969 he was a sergeant 1st class of
nouncement until after the elections to avoid Company A, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Spe-
losing black support; and the general black cial Forces, serving as the commanding officer
community reacted with anger and disbelief. of Civilian Irregular Defense Group Company

| 80 |
Buffalo Soldiers

321, 2d Battalion, 3d Mobile Strike Force in wished to remain white and not take advantage
Long Khanh Province, Vietnam. His battalion of the experience of many African American
had been surrounded by three enemy regi- troops who had fought during the Civil War.
ments, and Bryant had brilliantly commanded Opposing them were those who favored an inte-
his unit throughout thirty-four hours of persist- grated force. The two sides compromised, and
ent attacks. The enemy fire was intense, but African American recruits were placed into seg-
Bryant nevertheless freely moved around the regated units. It was further agreed that the
battalion’s perimeter, praising the men, distrib- army, which consisted of thirty regiments,
uting ammunition, and directing fire. would be doubled in size. Forty-five units would
During a lull in the attacks, Bryant took a pa- be infantry, ten cavalry, and five artillery. This
trol out and came under heavy fire from the en- would give the army a total of 54,000 men. Of
emy. The patrol was pinned down, but Bryant the thirty new regiments, six would be made up
held off an enemy attack on his own and helped of African Americans.
the other men to repel further assaults. He re- On August 1, 1866, the 9th and 10th Cavalry
turned to the perimeter with a wounded enemy were created, along with the 38th, 39th, 40th,
soldier who died en route. Bryant led a further and 41st Infantry. As would be the pattern in
patrol with the aim of breaking through the en- the years to come, the majority of African Amer-
emy positions. He advanced 200 meters and ican troops would serve in isolated garrisons on
was pinned down by enemy-held bunkers. the frontier. The 9th and 10th and two of the
Bryant attacked the enemy positions and called infantry regiments were sent to Texas for border
for gunship support. During the attack Bryant duty. The remaining two infantry regiments
was seriously injured, but he overran the were assigned to occupational garrison duties in
bunkers and killed three enemy soldiers. As he the South.
regrouped his men for a further attack, he was In March 1869 the four infantry regiments
hit by an enemy rocket and mortally wounded. were merged into two as part of the army’s plan
For his bravery Bryant was posthumously to reduce the number of infantry regiments
awarded the Medal of Honor. from forty-five to twenty-five. The 38th and the
41st became the 24th Infantry, and the 39th
See also Medal of Honor (appendix); and 40th became the 25th. (For detailed regi-
Vietnam War mental histories, see the individual units.)
Debate continues about how these four regi-
ments and, indeed, African American soldiers
from this point on, became known as Buffalo
Soldiers. There are two probable explanations.
Buffalo Soldiers Most commonly, it is believed that Native Amer-
icans thought that the hair of African American
A name given to African American soldiers in troops resembled that of buffaloes. An equally
the post–Civil War West. plausible origin dates back to September 1867
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the federal when Pt. John Randall of Troop G, 10th Cav-
government realized that it still needed to main- alry, was assigned the task of escorting two civil-
tain a sizable peacetime army. The government ians on a hunting trip. The three men rode out
needed a presence in the South, and it also had of sight and were immediately confronted by
to maintain order on the increasingly violent seventy Cheyenne. The Native Americans killed
and turbulent frontier to the west. In 1866 the two civilians and Randall’s horse. Randall
Congress began to debate the structure of this retreated to a nearby railroad track and fended
peacetime army. The army establishment itself the Cheyenne off with his pistol until a patrol

| 81 |
Buffalo Soldiers

army concentrated them in the sparsely popu-


lated West, where their presence was deemed
less offensive to whites. They typically served
alongside the more numerous white units.
The overall achievements of the Buffalo Sol-
diers cannot be considered without taking into
consideration the fact that they continually had
to endure racial prejudice and deal with the her-
itage of slavery. Particularly in the earlier years,
many were former slaves; most were illiterate
and had little or no education. In addition,
there was a dearth of white regimental officers
Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry ride back to who would accept a posting to an African Amer-
their camp at the Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge Agency, ican regiment. Those who did found that the
South Dakota. (Western History Collection, majority of the clerical work fell on their shoul-
Denver Public Library)
ders, whereas in white regiments, where the
general level of education was higher, it would
have been the responsibility of noncommis-
found him, whereupon the Cheyenne fled. He sioned officers.
killed thirteen of them and was severely injured The army did establish educational programs
himself, with eleven lance wounds and a bullet for all troops, usually with the army chaplains
in his shoulder. The Cheyenne reportedly de- organizing the schools. George G. Mullins, for
scribed these new warriors “who had fought like example, who was attached to the 25th, carried
a cornered buffalo; who like a buffalo had suf- out extensive evening sessions that averaged
fered wound after wound yet had not died; and 100 men every weekday from 1875 to 1879.
who like a buffalo had a thick and shaggy mane During the day the chaplains would also organ-
of hair” (Starr 1981). However the nickname ize lessons for the children of the regiment. The
originated, the African American soldiers army agreed to pay for all the necessary class-
seemed comfortable with the association, and room supplies in 1878, but they did not make
the 10th Cavalry even incorporated a buffalo attendance compulsory.
into its crest. Most of the men were unskilled laborers.
Until 1898, when the Buffalo Soldiers were They knew nothing of soldiers’ duties. Officers
assigned to Cuba and later the Philippines, they began with the basics of putting on a uniform
served continuously on the frontier. In these and loading a rifle. Many Buffalo Soldiers also
isolated posts they rarely came to the attention lacked skills with horses, which posed problems
of the American public, even though seventeen in the cavalry regiments. The African American
won the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in soldiers relied heavily on their white officers in
campaigns against the Native Americans. They the early years, but later became proficient vet-
had a huge range of territory to monitor. The erans in their own right.
enormous frontier meant that the regiments Neither the 9th nor the 10th generally had a
were rarely posted as a single unit and that iso- full complement of white officers because the
lated companies were scattered across hundreds officers often preferred to hold a lower rank in a
of miles. It has been estimated that African white regiment than to command an African
American troops were roughly one in five of all American regiment. Although the army tried to
army soldiers assigned to the West—double send good officers to serve with the Buffalo Sol-
their proportion in the army as a whole, as the diers, the majority of these men would rather

| 82 |
Buffalo Soldiers

have served in a white regiment. However, The prevailing beliefs about race at the time
among the officers who did serve with the Buf- led to hostility against the Buffalo Soldiers. The
falo Soldiers, a higher proportion eventually only times when the Buffalo Soldiers found
rose to the rank of general than those who had themselves accepted to any great degree was
served in white regiments. when the local white citizens considered them-
Throughout the whole period it was widely selves closer to their African American protec-
believed among whites that the African Ameri- tors than to the more alien Native Americans
can soldiers were inherently inferior to their and Mexicans. This was particularly true in
white counterparts. A writer in Public Opinion, towns close to reservations or near the borders.
1899, wrote, “The young Negro is ebullient and Racial tension at times erupted into violence.
full of animal spirits and more mutinous than Some Buffalo Soldiers were murdered, and only
the white man until thoroughly disciplined.” In on rare occasions were the perpetrators ar-
the same year a former army surgeon wrote an rested. Perhaps one of the most striking exam-
article called The Evolution of the Colored Sol- ples occurred in January 1875, when Sgt.
dier, in which he quoted a white officer: “They Edward Troutman and four enlisted men (Com-
don’t care what the danger is, so long as they pany G, 9th Cavalry) rode out of Ringgold Bar-
have a white man for their leader, and they racks, Texas, on a patrol. A group of ranch
won’t follow their own color across the street to hands ambushed them and killed two of the pri-
pick apples.” vates. Troutman and the surviving men returned
The army did little to dispel these myths, and fire, killing one of the attackers. Nine Mexicans
its failure to deal with racial prejudice was fur- were arrested for the attack; one stood trial and
ther compounded by the fact that for around was acquitted, and the other eight were re-
twenty years all four African American regi- leased. Troutman and the two survivors were ar-
ments served in the least inviting areas of the rested, and Colonel Hatch and another officer
country. The army also did very little to show were charged with burglary for taking the dead
the men that they were valued. The 10th Cav- soldiers’ uniforms. It was only after a great deal
alry, when it was being organized at Fort Leav- of negotiation that the five men were released.
enworth, was quartered by post commander The Buffalo Soldiers themselves could be
Gen. William Hoffman on ground that was little subjected to gross miscarriages of justice. In Au-
better than a swamp. The general then com- gust 1885 Corporal Hallon, a Buffalo Soldier at
plained to their commander, Colonel Grierson, Fort Meade, South Dakota, was accused of
that his men’s uniforms were muddy! The con- murdering a doctor from Sturgis City. He was
ditions in which the men lived were bad. The incarcerated at the local jail; two days after his
post’s surgeon at Fort Conchu described the arrest a mob broke in and lynched him. On June
food: “The bread was sour, the beef of poor 10, 1888, Pvt. Robert Robinson was lynched.
quality and the canned peas not fit to eat.” An Robinson was stationed at Fort Shaw, Montana,
officer at Fort Quitman in Texas described the and was said to have shot a man in the town of
barracks in which the men lived as being “not fit Sun River. He had been turned over to the sher-
to stable cattle in.” iff by the military authorities but died a victim
The cavalry were reliant on their mobility. In- of mob violence before he could come to trial.
deed, the quality of their horses often meant the Nevertheless, the desertion rate for African
difference between life and death, yet in the American troops was only around 4 percent,
early years they were given discarded horses compared to similar white regiments whose de-
from the 7th Cavalry, and much of their equip- sertion rate ran at around 25 percent. Equally,
ment had been scavenged from Civil War battle- alcoholism was a severe problem in the army,
fields. particularly in the more isolated posts, yet

| 83 |
Buffalo Soldiers

among the Buffalo Soldiers alcohol abuse was Fields, Elizabeth Arnett. The West. “1865–1897.”
virtually nonexistent. It may well be that the pri- In A Historic Context for the African-American
vations African Americans endured under slav- Military Experience, ed. Steven D. Smith and
ery enabled them to cope better with the diffi- James A. Ziegler. https://www.denix.osd.mil/
culties of army life on the frontier. denix/Public/ES-Programs/Conservation/Legacy/
AAME/aame2.html#4 The West 1865–1897
The Buffalo Soldiers reenlisted at higher
(accessed August 31, 2003).
rates than did their white counterparts. Not
Fletcher, Marvin E. The Black Soldier and Officer in
only were there few comparable job opportuni- the United States Army, 1891–1917. Columbia:
ties for African Americans during this period, University of Missouri Press, 1974.
but regimental pride and loyalty played an im- Foner, Jack D. The United States Soldier between
portant part. The enlisted men stayed with the Two Wars: Army Life and Reforms, 1865–1898.
regiments far longer than did white soldiers, New York: Humanities Press, 1970.
and at least a few senior officers spent much of Fowler, Arlen L. The Black Infantry in the West
their careers with them. Colonel Hatch holds 1869–1891. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1971.
the record, having commanded the 9th Cavalry Glass, Edward L. N. The History of the Tenth
for twenty-three years; Colonel Grierson re- Cavalry, 1866–1921. Fort Collins, CO: Old Army
mained with the 10th for twenty-two, and Press, 1972.
Kelley, William F. Pine Ridge, 1890: An Eye Witness
Colonel Andrews of the 25th remained in com-
Account of the Events Surrounding the Fighting at
mand for twenty-one years.
Wounded Knee. San Francisco: Pierre Bovis,
The Buffalo Soldiers played a vital role in es- 1971.
tablishing African Americans in the armed Langellier, John P. Men A-Marching: The African
forces of the United States, and they con- American Soldier in the West, 1866–1896.
tributed a great deal to the settlement of the Springfield, PA: Steven Wright, 1995.
West. However, few Americans were aware of Leckie, William H. The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative
them until they prepared to leave for Cuba of the Negro Cavalry in the West. Norman:
shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish-Ameri- University of Oklahoma Press, 1967.
can War. Muller, William G. The Twenty Fourth Infantry Past
and Present. Fort Collins, CO: Old Army Press,
See also American Civil War; Apache Wars; 1972.
Buffalo Soldier Postings (appendix); Freedmen’s Nankivel, John H. History of the Twenty Fifth
Bureau; Medal of Honor (appendix); Mexican Infantry, 1869–1926. Fort Collins, CO: Old Army
Press, 1972.
War; 9th Cavalry; Spanish-American War; 10th
Schubert, Frank N. Buffalo Soldiers, Braves and the
Cavalry; 24th Infantry Regiment; 25th Infantry
Brass: The Story of Fort Robinson, Nebraska.
Regiment; U.S. Army; Ute War
Shippensburg, PA: White Mane, 1993.
———. Black Valor. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly
References and Further Reading
Resources, 1997.
Carroll, John M., ed. The Black Military Experience Starr, Michelle, 1981. “Buffalo Soldier.” Army
in the American West. New York: Liveright, 1969. Magazine (January): 41–46.
Cashin, Herschel V. Under Fire with the 10th Steward, Theophilus G. The Colored Regulars in the
Cavalry. New York: Bellwether, 1970. United States Army. Philadelphia: Ame, 1904.
Downey, Fairfax D. The Buffalo Soldiers in the Utley, Robert M. Frontier Regulars: The United
Indian Wars. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969. States Army and the Indian, 1866–1890. New
Drinnon, Richard. Facing West. New York: New York: Macmillan, 1973.
American Library, 1980. Wooster, Robert A. The Military and the United
Dunlay, Thomas, W. Wolves for the Blue Soldiers: States Indian Policy, 1865–1903. New Haven,
Indian Scouts and Auxiliaries with the United CT: Yale University Press, 1988.
States Army, 1860–1890. Lincoln: University of
Nebraska Press, 1982.

| 84 |
Bulge, Battle of the

Bulge, Battle of the ers held at St. Vith until late on December 21.
(1944–1945) On December 23, the weather cleared, and Al-
lied planes finally came to the support of the be-
The Battle of the Bulge, the high point of the sieged American troops. Gradually, the Allies
last German counteroffensive in the west in closed the salient, with the 1st U.S. Army from
World War II, presented the U.S. forces with so the north linking up with the 3d from the south.
massive a challenge that every available fighter St. Vith was recaptured on January 23, 1945.
had to be pressed into service. African American Some of the positions lost to the Germans were
service troops were converted into infantry re- not regained until January 25, 1945.
placements to join existing white and African The Battle of the Bulge was the largest single
American formations in the line. engagement ever fought by the U.S. Army
The Battle of the Bulge, or Ardennes Offen- (some 500,000 Americans and 600,000 Ger-
sive (December 16, 1944–January 25, 1945), mans were engaged). Two vital stands against
began with the German attack (Operation the German offensive doomed the much-
Wacht am Rhein and the Herbstnebel plan) on vaunted Wehrmacht. The 99th Infantry Divi-
the morning of December 16, 1944. Two later sion and the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion
attacks on New Year’s Day 1945 attempted to bore the brunt of the 6th Army attack on the
create second fronts in the Netherlands (Opera- first day and held. Meanwhile, the 7th Armored
tion Schneeman) and in northern France (Oper- Division and the 106th Infantry Division, with
ation Nordwind). elements of the 9th Armored Division and 28th
In the overall German plan, three armies, the Infantry Division, held St. Vith for four days be-
6th Panzer Army, 5th Panzer Army, and 7th yond the German timetable.
Army, were to attack. The 6th Panzer Army, for When the German offensive got under way,
political reasons, was to make the main effort the 7th Armored was near Aachen but managed
and capture Antwerp. The 5th had the responsi- to move 60–70 miles to the south on the second
bility of hitting the center of the American lines day. The 99th and the 291st held their ground
promptly and capturing the rail and road center until reinforced by the 7th. Bastogne is thought
of St. Vith. After that, it would move toward to have been the key to the battle, but this is not
Brussels. In the official order signed by Hitler on the case. Famously, General Anthony McAuliffe
November 10, 1944, the 15th Army was added. (101st Airborne Division) replied “nuts” to the
The terrain was the dense Ardennes Forest, German demand for him to surrender, and by
the weather chilly and foggy, thus eliminating the third day the 10th Armored Division had
the danger of Allied air support that would oth- broken through to Bastogne. Bastogne was
erwise have rendered the whole plan impracti- strategically important, but its defense had not
cable. The Germans would have this advantage inhibited the forward movement of the lead ele-
until around December 23. Due to the fog and ments of the German offensive, and it was left
the density of the trees, ground visibility was to rear-echelon German troops to clear the
also poor, and traffic jams on both sides of the town. Symbolically, however, Bastogne served as
front would be inevitable due to the paucity of a rallying point and a sign of American resist-
decent roads in the region. The only railroad on ance.
the entire front to cross from Germany into Bel- African American troops were, during the
gium came to St. Vith (also a major road junc- Battle of the Bulge, assigned at squad or com-
tion) making this the vital target in order to en- pany level to white infantry regiments; others
sure supplies continued to reach the leading were posted to African American or white ar-
elements of the offensive. mored units (a role for which they were not pre-
The German plan called for capture of St. pared). More than 4,000 African Americans
Vith by 6 p.m. on December 17, but the defend- would be assigned to infantry combat during

| 85 |
Bullard, Eugene Jacques

this period, fighting for some eleven divisions in moved first to Glasgow, then to Liverpool,
both the 1st and 7th Armies. As a distinct entity, where he became a boxer. After visiting Paris in
the 761st Tank Battalion had just joined Pat- 1913, he answered the French call for volun-
ton’s Third Army and would fight from October teers in August 1914, joining the 3d Marching
21, 1944, to the end of the war in Europe on Battalion of the Foreign Legion. After five
May 6, 1945. This level of integration, a prag- weeks’ training, he was sent to the Somme. He
matic response to the desperate need for U.S. fought at Arras and Champagne. He then was
reinforcements against the powerful German posted to Verdun in February 1916, now a mem-
offensive, was not again achieved until the ber of the 170th Infantry, the Swallows of
armed forces were desegregated in the 1950s. Death. Here he earned the nickname that would
last a lifetime. At Verdan, Bullard was wounded
See also Service Units of World War II, African twice and was awarded the Croix de Guerre and
American; 761st Tank Battalion; U.S. Army; the Médaille Militaire. While recuperating, he
World War II Infantry Replacements joined the French Flying Corps, gaining his pi-
lot’s license on May 5, 1917. In August, he ap-
References and Further Reading plied to join the U.S. Army Flying Corps and
Astor, Gerald. Blood-dimmed Tide: The Battle of the passed the medical but was never offered a posi-
Bulge by the Men Who Fought It. New York: tion. In November he was assigned by the
Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1999. French to Escadrille Spad 93 and in his first
Eisenhower, John S. D. The Bitter Woods: Hitler’s month shot down a German aircraft. Sergeant
Surprise Ardennes Offensive. New York: Putnam’s, Bullard was dismissed from the French Air
1969. Force. The incident that nearly brought a court-
MacDonald, Charles B. A Time for Trumpets: The martial occurred in Paris while Bullard was on a
Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge. New York: twenty-four-hour pass. He climbed on board a
Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1985. troop truck to catch a lift back to his unit, only
Toland, John. Battle: The Story of the Bulge. to be kicked by a French soldier who said to
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
him: “There’s no room for your kind.” As the
second kick came, Bullard grabbed the leg and
punched the man in the face. The man was an
officer. Bullard was not court martialed because
of his medals, wounds, and record, but he was
Bullard, Eugene Jacques posted to a service battalion of the 170th.
(1894–1961) After the war, Bullard became a boxer, the
leader of a jazz band, and a host at a nightclub.
Soldier, aviator, spy, boxer, and medal winner He married in 1924 and with his French wife
from Georgia who was dubbed “The Black had two children. In 1939, Bullard was ap-
Swallow of Death.” proached by the Deuxième Bureau to spy on
Bullard was born in 1894. In 1902, and at Germans in Paris. When the call came for U.S.
the age of eight, while his father was in hiding citizens to leave France in the spring of 1940,
from a lynch mob, he ran away from home. Bullard instead joined the 51st Infantry en-
Bullard had nine siblings and roots reaching gaged in the defense of Paris. He led a machine
back to the slaves of French refugees from gun section until he was wounded in the back.
Haiti. As a child, he had always been told by his Bullard headed for the American consulate in
father about France and that men were equal Bordeaux, where he obtained his first passport.
there. He then crossed the French border into Spain,
Bullard reached Virginia by 1906 and stowed then left the continent from Lisbon, arriving in
away on a German ship bound for Aberdeen. He New York in July. With the assistance of the

| 86 |
Bunker Hill, Battle of

French Underground, his daughters joined him 1,150 killed or wounded), the rebels were swept
in February 1941. from their positions after a brief struggle. For
In 1954, Bullard returned to France to re- the British, it was a victory won at too great a
light the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown cost, and it was an enormous propaganda win
Soldier and five years later became a Knight of for the rebels.
the Legion of Honor. In 1960, at a reception in One of the British dead was Major Pitcairn.
New York, Gen. Charles de Gaulle embraced His death was attributed to Peter Salem, the
Bullard after recognizing his legion uniform and slave of a man only known as Groton. Dr. Jer-
medals. He died in 1961 and was buried at the emy Belknap, the son of his former owner,
cemetery of the Federation of French War Vet- noted that according to contemporary accounts,
erans at Flushing, New York, with full French Salem shot Pitcairn through the head at the
military honors. very moment of British victory. In the first pub-
lished account of the battle, Historical and
See also Croix de Guerre; World War I Topographical Sketch of Bunker Hill Battle,
written in 1818 by Samuel Swett, the author
References and Further Reading states: “Amongst the foremost of the leaders
Buckley, Gail. American Patriots. New York: Random was the gallant Maj. Pitcairn who excitingly
House, 2001. cried ‘the day is ours’ when Salem, a black sol-
Carisella, P. J., and James W. Ryan. Black Swallow dier, and a number of others shot him through
of Death. Boston: Marlborough House, 1972. and he fell” (quoted in Kaplan and Kaplan,
Lloyd, Craig. Eugene Bullard, Black Expatriate in 1989, 21). Salem was later to be lauded by the
Jazz-Age Paris. Athens: University of Georgia rebel officers and taken to meet George Wash-
Press, 2000. ington.
The African American contribution that day
has been depicted in John Trumbull’s painting
The Battle of Bunker Hill (1786). A black man
(accounts differ as to who it is) is shown stand-
Bunker Hill, Battle of ing beside an officer with a sword. Interestingly,
(June 17, 1775) this man appears in the 1801 engraving of the
picture, but his image was erased in later ver-
An uncertain number of African Americans sions.
were present when Col. William Prescott’s Poor(e) was twenty-eight at the time, a free-
troops, which totaled 860 men, occupied the man from Andover, Massachusetts. He was also
Boston peninsula, which would trigger the Bat- credited with the death of another British offi-
tle of Bunker Hill (properly known as the Battle cer, Lt. Col. James Abercrombie. In December
of Breeds Hill). One account puts the number 1775, fourteen rebel officers petitioned the
as high as 103 (Young 2003); little or nothing is General Court of Massachusetts to press the
known of most of these men. Continental Congress to reward Poor(e) for his
Peter Salem, Salem Poor(e), and Cuff Whit- services. They claimed “the Reward due to so
temore—Salem and Whittemore were both vet- great and Distinguished a Caracter, a Negro
erans of Lexington and Concord—helped fortify Man called Salem Poor, [who] behaved like an
and man the rebel positions in the late after- Experienced Officer, as Well as an Excellent
noon of June 17, 1775. Soon after, British Soldier” (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989, 22–23).
troops began landing from Boston and formed There is no evidence that Poor(e) was ever re-
to storm the positions. The initial attacks failed, warded in any way.
but the British, under Maj. John Pitcairn, held Some evidence exists of other African Ameri-
on. Although British casualties were high (some cans who may have been in the battle. These in-

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B u r e a u o f C o l o r e d Tr o o p s

clude Jude Hall from Exeter, who fought with was to oversee the creation of United States
Nathan Hale’s New Hampshires; Season and Colored Troop (USCT) regiments and to cen-
Pharoh from New York County; two men from tralize the control of units that had already been
Arlington, Job Potama and Isaiah Bayoman; a created in some states and by field command-
man called Pompy from Braintree; and Robin of ers. The imperative to create African American
Sandowne, New Hampshire. Some accounts units had been recognized by the middle of
suggest the names of other African Americans 1862, by which time the Union army had suf-
who may have participated include Cuff Blan- fered a series of defeats at the hands of the
chard, Seymour Burr, Grant Cooper, Titus Confederacy.
Coburn, Caesar Dickenson, Charlestown Eads, Recruitment was dropping among the white
Alexander Eames, Cuff Hayes, Pomp Fisk, Cae- population of the North. Lincoln announced
sar Jahar, Caesar Post, Sampson Talbot, and plans to enlist African Americans into the mili-
Cato Thifts. At present there is no other infor- tary under the Militia Act of July 17, 1862. On
mation about these men; further research may August 25, 1862, Secretary of War Edwin Stan-
expand our knowledge of the African American ton authorized Gen. Rufus Saxton to accept
contribution to this and other Revolutionary into service no more than 5,000 volunteers of
War battles. African descent. In May 1863, the War Depart-
ment formed the Bureau of Colored Troops to
See also American Revolution; Lexington and organize the recruitment and enlistment of Afri-
Concord, Battles of can Americans as well as the appointment of
their white officers (see sidebar).
References and Further Reading Within a few months, some thirty regiments
Bergman, Peter M., ed. Chronological History of the had been raised. Washington had initiated the
Negro in America. New York: New American recruitment only because of the severe losses
Library, 1969. suffered by white troops. The officers were to be
Drotning, Phillip T. Black Heroes in our Nation’s white; even regiments that had had African
History. New York: Cowles, 1969. American officers found these men gradually
Fleming, Thomas. Liberty! New York: Penguin, replaced by white officers. By the end of the war
1997. around 178,975 African Americans (10 percent
Kaplan, Sidney, and Emma Nogrady Kaplan. The of the Union Army) were serving as soldiers in
Black Presence in the Era of the American the U.S. Army and another 19,000 were serving
Revolution. Amherst: University of Massachusetts in the navy. African Americans served as ar-
Press, 1989.
tillerymen and infantry and performed all non-
Peckham, Howard H. The War for Independence.
combat support functions such as carpenters,
New York: Bonanza Books, 1975.
Young, Alfred F. Preface to George Quintal, Patriots
chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses,
of Color. Toronto: Eastern National Press, scouts, spies, pilots, surgeons, and teamsters.
forthcoming 2004. http://www.nps.gov/bost/ By the end of the war, there were around eighty
patriotsofcolor/preface.htm (accessed August 25, African American commissioned officers.
2003). The significance of the Bureau of Colored
Troops was that it undertook a systematic and
consistent approach to the recruitment and
training of both slave and free African Ameri-
cans from Confederate, border, and Northern
Bureau of Colored Troops states. To facilitate this, the bureau set up re-
cruitment centers in the Border States and in
In May 1863, the Bureau of Colored Troops the South where the Union army had gained
(BCT) was established in Washington. Its role control.

| 88 |
WAR DEPARTMENT
Adjutant General’s Office
Washington, May 22, 1863
GENERAL ORDERS,
No. 143.

I. A Bureau is established in the Adjutant General’s Office for the record of all matters relating to
the organization of Colored Troops. An officer will be assigned to the charge of the Bureau, with such
number of clerks as may be designated by the Adjutant General.
II. Three or more field officers will be detailed as Inspectors to supervise the organization of col-
ored troops at such points as may be indicated by the War Department in the Northern and Western
States.
III. Boards will be convened at such posts as may be decided upon by the War Department to ex-
amine applicants for commissions to command colored troops, who, on application to the Adjutant
General, may receive authority to present themselves to the board for examination.
IV. No persons shall be allowed to recruit for colored troops except specially authorized by the War
Department; and no such authority will be given to persons who have not been examined and passed
by a board; nor will such authority be given any one person to raise more than one regiment.
V. The reports of Boards will specify the grade of commission for which each candidate is fit, and
authority to recruit will be given in accordance. Commissions will be issued from the Adjutant Gen-
eral’s Office when the prescribed number of men is ready for muster into service.
VI. Colored troops may be accepted by companies, to be afterwards consolidated in battalions and
regiments by the Adjutant General. The regiments will be numbered seriatim, in the order in which
they are raised, the numbers to be determined by the Adjutant General. They will be designated:
“—Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops.”
VII. Recruiting stations and depots will be established by the Adjutant General as circumstances
shall require, and officers will be detailed to muster and inspect the troops.
VIII. The non-commissioned officers of colored troops may be selected and appointed from the
best men of their number in the usual mode of appointing non-commissioned officers. Meritorious
commissioned officers will be entitled to promotion to higher rank if they prove themselves equal to it.
IX. All personal applications for appointments in colored regiments, or for information concerning
them, must be made to the Chief of the Bureau; all written communications should be addressed to
the Chief of the Bureau, to the care of the Adjutant General.

by order of the secretary of war:


E. D. Townsend,
Assistant Adjutant General

Source: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office 1780s–1917, Record Group 94, National Archives.

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B u r e a u o f C o l o r e d Tr o o p s

Camp of the Tennessee Colored Battery at Johnsonville, Tennessee, 1864. (Library of Congress)

The approximate breakdown of the recruit- USCT amounted to 68,178 men (although
ment has been calculated along the following around half of these died of disease, not in com-
lines from a variety of sources: Northern states bat).
(freedmen), 33,000; Border States (Delaware,
Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky), See also American Civil War; Freedmen’s
62,000; Louisiana, 24,000; Mississippi, 8,000; Bureau; United States Colored Troops
and other Southern states, 37,000. By the end (appendixes); individual units
of the war, 138 infantry regiments, 6 cavalry
regiments, 14 heavy artillery units, and a single References and Further Reading
light artillery unit had been created. The bu- Cornish, Dudley T. The Sable Arm: Black Troops in
reau’s own calculations of the losses in the the Union Army, 1861–1865. Lawrence:

| 90 |
B u r e a u o f C o l o r e d Tr o o p s

University Press of Kansas, 1987 (originally Williams, George Washington. A History of the
published New York: Longmans Green, 1956). Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion,
Franklin, John Hope. From Slavery to Freedom: A 1861–1865, Preceded by a Review of the Military
History of Negro Americans. New York: Alfred A. Service of Negroes in Ancient and Modern Times.
Knopf, 1956. New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969.
Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War Originally published 1888.
Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. Wilson, Joseph T. The Phalanx: A History of the
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, Negro Soldier of the United States in the Wars of
1990. 1775–1812, 1861–1865. Hartford, CT: American
Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Making of Publishing Company, 1890. Reprint Salem, NH:
America. New York: Collier Books, 1964. Ayer, 1992.

| 91 |
c
Call to Rebellion (1843) nected by the more tender relations of parents,
wives, husbands, and sisters, and friends. As
At the 1843 National Negro Convention in Buf- such we most affectionately address you. . . .
falo, New York, Henry Highland Garnet (1815– Two hundred and twenty-seven years ago
1882) of New York made an address to the the first of our injured race were brought to
slaves of the United States, urging them to the shores of America. They came not with
stand and fight as their only means of achieving glad spirits to select their homes in the New
freedom. World. They came not with their own consent,
to find an unmolested enjoyment of the bless-
Brethren and fellow citizens: ings of this fruitful soil. The first dealings they
Your brethren of the North, East, and West had with men calling themselves Christians ex-
have been accustomed to meet together in Na- hibited to them the worst features of corrupt
tional Conventions, to sympathize with each and sordid hearts; and convinced them that no
other, and to weep over your unhappy condi- cruelty is too great, no villainy and no robbery
tion. In these meetings we have addressed all too abhorrent for even enlightened men to per-
classes of the free, but we have never, until form, when influenced by avarice and lust.
this time, sent a word of consolation and ad- Neither did they come flying upon the wings of
vice to you. We have been contented in sitting Liberty to a land of freedom. But they came
still and mourning over your sorrows, earnestly with broken hearts, from their beloved native
hoping that before this day, your sacred liber- land, and were doomed to unrequited toil and
ties would have been restored. But, we have deep degradation. Nor did the evil of their
hoped in vain. Years have rolled on, and tens of bondage end at their emancipation by death.
thousands have been borne on streams of Succeeding generations inherited their chains,
blood and tears to the shores of eternity. and millions have come from eternity into
Whilst you have been oppressed, we have also time, and have returned again to the world of
been partakers with you; nor can we be free spirits, cursed and ruined by American slavery.
while you are enslaved. We, therefore, write to
you as being bound with you. Garnet then went on to cite four individuals
Many of you are bound to us, not only by that he believed showed that it was better to
the ties of common humanity, but we are con- “die free men than live to be slaves”:

| 93 |
Camp Nelson, Kentucky

In 1822, Denmark Veazie, of South Carolina, African Americans supported them—although


formed a plan for the liberation of his fellow- the one raider who was killed in the abortive at-
men. In the whole of the history of human ef- tempt was the free African American Hayward
forts to overthrow slavery, a more complicated Shepherd.
and tremendous plan was never formed. He
was betrayed by the treachery of his own peo- See also American Civil War; Amistad Case;
ple, and died a martyr to freedom. Douglass, Frederick
The patriotic Nathaniel Turner followed
Denmark Veazie. He was goaded to despera- References and Further Reading
tion by wrong and injustice. By despotism, his Garnet, Henry Highland. Complete text of Call to
name has been recorded on the list of infamy, Rebellion at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/
and future generations will remember him 4h2937t.html.
among the noble and brave. Litwack, Leon F. North of Slavery: The Negro in the
Next arose the immortal Joseph Sinque, the Free States, 1790–1860. Chicago: University of
hero of the Amistad. He was a Native Ameri- Chicago Press, 1970.
can, and by the help of God he emancipated a Schor, Joel. Henry Highland Garnet. Westport, CT:
whole ship-load of his fellow countrymen on Greenwood, 1977.
the high seas. And he now sings of liberty on Stampp, Kenneth M. The Peculiar Institution:
the sunny hills of Africa and beneath his native Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South. New York:
Vintage, 1956.
palm-trees, where he hears the lion roar and
feels himself as free as the king of the forest.
Next arose Madison Washington, that
bright star of freedom, and took his station in
the constellation of true heroism. He was a
slave aboard the Brig Creole, of Richmond Camp Nelson, Kentucky
bound to New Orleans, that great slave mart,
with a hundred and four others. Nineteen During the Civil War Camp Nelson was a major
struck for liberty or death. But one life was military recruitment and training center for Af-
taken, and the whole were emancipated, and rican Americans and was the largest muster and
the vessel was carried into Nassau, New Provi- training post in Kentucky. The camp was origi-
dence. nally founded and constructed by Maj. Gen.
Ambrose Burnside’s IX Corps of the Army of the
Garnet called on all slaves to resist, asking Ohio in June 1863 as a supply depot for the
them to trust in God and the fact that there army; it was closed in June 1866.
were 4 million slaves in America and that their Following the Confederate Conscription Act
concerted action would be irresistible. Although of February 1864, which eliminated resistance
he condemned the slaveholders themselves as to recruitment of African Americans into the
being oppressors and tyrants, Garnet did not Union forces, Camp Nelson was flooded with
understand why the slaves of the south “tamely African American recruits, and by the end of
submit.” Garnet’s incendiary call to rebellion August some 2,000 men were undergoing train-
was rejected by the convention; Frederick ing. By the end of 1865, some 40 percent of
Douglass, who went on to become the leading Kentucky’s male African American population
black abolitionist in the country, spoke at length (10,000) had passed through the camp.
against it. When, sixteen years later, John Camp Nelson was the third most important
Brown and his men raided the federal arsenal at African American training center during the
Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), few Civil War. Eight United States Colored Troops

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C a r n e y, W i l l i a m H a r v e y

(USCT) regiments were formed here, in addi- ernment will not be guilty of this great wrong
tion to mounted infantry units, cavalry, and toward us, as we have tried to do our duty. We
light artillery. are Kentucky boys, and there is no regiment in
Initially, conditions were primitive as a vast the field that ever fought better. We can boast
tent-city grew to accommodate the men. For of being heroes of eight hard fought battles,
many of the recruits, however, especially those and this we deem sufficient recommendation
who were former slaves from the Southern for our discharge (Camp Nelson website).
states, life was considerably safer and more ac-
ceptable. The camp also served as a major sup-
ply depot on one of the most crucial logistical See also American Civil War; Bureau of Colored
lines for the Union armies operating in the area Troops; United States Colored Cavalry
and further south. As a result, Confederates of- (appendix); United States Colored Troops
ten raided the camp. (appendixes)
African American troops were stationed
around the area, and units were deployed to References and Further Reading
protect the Louisville, Nashville, and Kentucky Camp Nelson website: www.campnelson.org/history/
Central railroads. The troops also fought in recruitment.htm (accessed July 2, 2003).
raids on Big Springs and Fort Jones, among Howard, Victor. Black Liberation in Kentucky
other engagements, including Glasgow, Tay- Emancipation and Freedom, 1862–1884.
lorsville, Harrodsburg, Simpsonville, and Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983.
Smithfield. Lucas, Marion Brunson. A History of Blacks in
Two of the regiments that trained at Fort Nel- Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation,
son, the 114th and 116th Colored Infantry, 1760–1891. Frankfort: Kentucky Historical
both eventually found themselves in Maj. Gen. Society, 2001.
Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James, seeing ac-
tion throughout Virginia. Both units were pres-
ent when the Confederates surrendered at Ap-
pomattox Court House, Virginia. Although the
majority of the regiments that had passed Carney, William Harvey
through the camp during the Civil War were (1840–1908)
mustered out in either 1865 or 1866, two of the
units, the 114th and the 116th, were consid- William Carney was an African American Civil
ered indispensable and were transferred to the War hero and winner of the Medal of Honor.
Rio Grande region at the end of the war. These He was born into slavery in Norfolk, Virginia, to
two units were not mustered out until 1867, William and Ann Dean Carney in 1840. His
much to the disgust of the soldiers who served mother had been freed when her master, Major
in them. Sergeant-Major Thomas Boswell of the Carney, died, but his father was still in bondage
116th wrote from Roma, Texas, in November when Carney was born. During his teenage
1865: years, Carney’s father escaped to the North and
bought the family’s freedom. His family soon
We are in high hopes of being mustered out joined him, and they settled in New Bedford,
soon, but it seems that they have slighted us. Massachusetts, where the younger Carney
Our corps is pretty much all gone home; but it worked at odd jobs and joined the local church.
is said we are retained because we are “slave In early 1863 the Union Army called for Afri-
State troops.” Is this a good reason for our re- can American volunteers and William Carney, at
tention? No. We earnestly hope that the Gov- the age of twenty-three, enlisted in the Morgan

| 95 |
C a r n e y, W i l l i a m H a r v e y

Guards on February 17, 1863. During the Carney was mustered out of the army with an
spring Carney’s company was merged with oth- honorable discharge because of injuries sus-
ers to become part of the 54th Massachusetts tained at Fort Wagner in June 1864, and he re-
Volunteer Infantry Regiment. When asked at turned to New Bedford, where he was employed
the time why he had volunteered, Carney told as superintendent of street lights for the city.
the Liberator newspaper: “Previous to the for- On October 11, 1865, William Carney married
mation of colored troops, I had a strong inclina- Susannah Williams of New Bedford. She was
tion to prepare myself for the ministry; but the first African American woman to graduate
when the country called for persons, I could from the New Bedford High School and was
best serve my God serving my country and my one of the first black teachers employed in
oppressed brothers.” Massachusetts. They had one child, Clara
Together with forty-six other African Ameri- Heronia, who later became a well-known music
can volunteers of Company C, 54th Massachu- teacher in the New Bedford area. The couple
setts, Carney fought at the Battle of Fort Wag- moved to California to seek their fortune, and
ner, South Carolina, on July 18, 1863, one of in 1867 Carney was employed as a shipping
the bloodiest battles of the war. The regiment clerk in the office of James T. Hoyt, an assistant
was commanded by Col. Robert Gould Shaw, army quartermaster based in San Francisco.
who was wounded just as the troops reached The Carneys returned to New Bedford in
the summit of the fort. Carney was also 1870, and William became employed as a letter
wounded in the head, leg, and hip and he fell carrier, the first African American in the area to
very close to Shaw. do so. He retired in 1901. He was then asked by
When Carney noticed that the soldier who Massachusetts Secretary of State William H.
carried the flag had been wounded, he pulled Olin to take the job of messenger at the State
himself to his feet and took the flag. Carrying House, Boston, a position he held until his
the flag aloft through a volley of enemy bullets death. Carney was the second African American
across the battlefield, strewn with his dead and to hold this position, the first being the aboli-
wounded comrades, and despite his agonies, tionist Lewis Hayden.
Carney delivered the flag to a member of his Carney regularly led the Memorial Day pa-
own regiment, Louis F. Emilio. Amidst cheers rades, including the 1904 service when he was
from the rest of the men, Carney reportedly the chief orator at the Shaw Monument on
shouted: “Boys, the old flag never touched the Boston Common. He continued to be a popular
ground!” speaker at patriotic events.
Carney then fell to the ground. For his brave Carney died on December 8, 1908, as a re-
and selfless heroic efforts William Carney be- sult of an elevator accident in the Boston State
came the first African American Medal of House. His funeral was well attended by state
Honor recipient. The issuing ceremony did not officials and all the flags in the Commonwealth
take place until May 23, 1900, making Carney were flown at half mast, the first time this was
the last African American Civil War veteran to done for an African American man. Carney’s
actually receive the award (many such awards flag was enshrined in Memorial Hall and a
were presented long after the event). His cita- bronze statue erected in his memory behind the
tion read: “When the color sergeant was shot monument to Robert Gould Shaw in the Massa-
down, this soldier grasped the flag, led the way chusetts State House.
to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon.
When the troops fell back he brought off the See also American Civil War; 54th
flag, under a fierce fire in which he was twice Massachusetts Infantry Regiment; Fort Wagner,
severely wounded.” Battle of; Medal of Honor (appendix); United

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C a r t e r, E d w a r d A l l e n , J r.

States Colored Troops; Battles of (appendix); During the Spanish Civil War Carter joined
United States Colored Troops, Formation and the Abraham Lincoln Battalion and fought
Service Records of (appendix) against Franco’s Fascists in Spain. In 1938 he
was forced to flee Spain and headed for France
References and Further Reading and then back to the United States. He married
Aptheker, Herbert. A Documentary History of the Mildred Hoover in Los Angeles in 1940.
Negro People in the United States. New York: Carter enlisted in the segregated U.S. Army
Citadel Press, 1951. on September 6, 1941, and before the United
Duncan, Russell, ed. Blue-eyed Child of Fortune: States entered World War II, he had been pro-
The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould moted to the rank of sergeant. In 1942 the army
Shaw. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992. began to take an interest in Carter because he
Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Defenders of America, was believed to be a Communist. On May 18,
1775–1973. Chicago: Johnson Publishing, 1974. 1943, an army intelligence officer at Fort Ben-
Lee, Irvin H. Negro Medal of Honor Men. 3d ed. ning, Georgia, placed Carter under surveillance
New York: Dodd, Mead, 1969. and began an investigation into his background.
Logan, Rayford W., and Michael R. Winston, eds.
From then on all of his commanding officers
Dictionary of American Negro Biography. New
were required to send secret reports to Fort
York: Norton, 1982.
Moebs, Thomas Truxton. Black Soldiers—Black
Benning.
Sailors—Black Ink. Chesapeake Bay, VA: Moebs In 1944 Carter was sent to Europe and as-
Publishing, 1994. signed to transport supplies, but in December
of that year, when General Eisenhower needed
combat replacements and instituted the Ground
Force Replacement Command, Carter was one
of 4,562 African American soldiers to be at-
Carter, Edward Allen, Jr. tached to white-only infantry and armor regi-
(1916–1963) ments. He was a member of a security detach-
ment assigned to protect Gen. George Patton
A Medal of Honor winner who fought in the and his staff. Carter finally saw action but had
Chinese Army, the Spanish Civil War, and to accept a demotion to the rank of private as it
World War II, but was denied the chance to was not acceptable for African Americans to
fight in Korea because the authorities suspected command white troops. He served for some
him of being a Communist. time in Patton’s Mystery Division, the 12th Ar-
Edward Carter Jr. was born in Los Angeles, mored Division, which in March 1945 carried
California, on May 26, 1916. He was the son of out a secret offensive in which the troops re-
the Reverend E. A. Carter, a traveling mission- moved their divisional insignia.
ary, and Mary Carter, who was from Calcutta, On March 23, 1945, while traveling on a
India. He grew up in India and then moved to tank near Speyer, Germany, Carter came under
Shanghai in China, where he attended a mili- German small arms and antitank weapon fire.
tary school. Still in his teens, he ran away from He led three other men across an open field to
home and joined the Chinese Nationalist Army deal with the enemy. Two of the others were
and fought against the Japanese. Carter had killed and the third wounded, and Carter re-
risen to the rank of lieutenant when it was dis- ceived five wounds. Eight German infantrymen
covered that he was only fifteen years old. moved to take him prisoner, but Carter killed six
Reluctantly, he reenrolled in a Shanghai Mili- of them and captured the other two. He was
tary School and learned Chinese, Hindi, and recommended for the Medal of Honor, but this
German. was reduced to the Distinguished Service Cross.

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C a s h , J o h n A n t h o n y, S r.

He recovered from his wounds in less than a Brazil, and became an intelligence officer at the
month and became a staff sergeant. Defense Intelligence Agency. He was trained at
By October 1945 he had been awarded the Fort Benning, Georgia, and served as a captain
Purple Heart, the American Defense Service in the 3d Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division in
Medal, and the Combat Infantry Badge. After Vietnam between 1965 and 1966.
leaving the army shortly after the war, he at- In 1965 Cash was assistant operations officer
tempted to reenlist in 1949 but was refused be- at 3d Brigade headquarters at the time of the
cause of his supposed Communist connections. Battle of Ia Drang, where he did nonetheless
He died on January 30, 1963. On January 10, see some action. He returned to Vietnam for a
1997, Carter’s body was exhumed and reburied second tour of duty in 1972, where he was a
with full military honors four days later at Ar- historian in Vietnam and Thailand with the of-
lington National Cemetery. On January 13 his fice of the chief of military history.
son, Edward Allen Carter III, received a post- After his retirement in 1992, Cash visited
humous Medal of Honor from President Bill Korea in October 1989, where he accompanied
Clinton on his behalf. six 24th Infantry veterans back to Battle Moun-
tain to examine the regiment’s performance
See also Abraham Lincoln Battalion; there and to substantiate Charles M. Bussey’s
Medal of Honor (appendix); Spanish Civil War; claim for a Medal of Honor. Cash interviewed
World War II more than 250 former officers and enlisted men
from the 24th. Although he did uncover stories
References and Further Reading of the murder of a Korean peasant, a rape per-
Buckley, Gail. American Patriots. New York: Random petrated by members of the 24th, and the sur-
House, 2001. render of 136 men, a whole company, to the en-
Carter, Allene G., and Robert L. Allen. Honoring emy, he was able to establish that the 24th had
Sergeant Carter: Redeeming a Black World War II been involved in a number of successful opera-
Hero’s Legacy. New York: HarperCollins, 2003. tions and had suffered heavy casualties protect-
ing white units who had themselves run away.
He found that the actions of the unit during
March and April 1951 vindicated its overall per-
formance. Black Soldier, White Army: The 24th
Cash, John Anthony, Sr. Infantry in Korea was published in 1996, incor-
(1936–1998) porating the research carried out by Cash to
correct the record. The book emphasizes the in-
An African American colonel who served both in adequacy of the rotating regimental command
a combat and an intelligence role in the U.S. until the arrival in September of a new com-
Army and, after his retirement, became a distin- mander, John T. Corley, who instituted reforms
guished military historian. that made the regiment more effective.
Cash was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Cash retired from the U.S. Army in 1992 and
and was a graduate of Rutgers University, where died on August 24, 1998. He was buried with
he also received a master’s degree in history. He full military honors at Arlington National
received a second master’s degree in Latin Cemetery on September 2.
American studies at the University of Wiscon-
sin. He taught history at West Point and at Mor- See also Korean War; 24th Infantry Regiment;
gan State University. Cash trained Cuban na- U.S. Army; Vietnam War
tionals prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion of
Cuba, served as a company commander in Viet- References and Further Reading
nam and defense attaché in El Salvador and Bowers, William, William Hammond, and George

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C h a f f i n ’ s Fa r m , B a t t l e o f

MacGarrigle. Black Soldier, White Army: The


24th Infantry Regiment in Korea. Washington,
DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, U.S.
Army, 1996.
Cash, John A., John Albright, and Allan W.
Sandstrum. Seven Firefights in Vietnam.
Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military
History, U.S. Army, 1970.
Converse, Elliott V., 3d, Daniel K. Gibran, John A.
Cash, Robert K. Griffith Jr., and Richard H.
Cohn. The Exclusion of Black Soldiers from the
Medal of Honor in World War Two. Jefferson, NC:
McFarland, 1997.

Chaffin’s Farm (New Market


Heights), Battle of
(September 29–30, 1864)

Of the sixteen African Americans awarded the


Medal of Honor for valor during the Civil War,
fourteen were honored for action at the Battle
of Chaffin’s Farm, or New Market Heights, Vir-
ginia. No other single day’s battle in U.S. his-
Christian A. Fleetwood in uniform
tory involved so many black honorees.
in an 1884 carte de visite. Fleetwood’s actions
During the fall of 1864 Union forces during the battle at Chaffin’s Farm near Richmond,
launched several attacks to break through the Virginia, on September 29, 1864, led to his receipt
Confederate defenses guarding Petersburg and of the Medal of Honor. (Library of Congress)
Richmond. On the night of September 28,
Union Gen. Ulysses Grant sent Maj. Gen. Ben-
jamin Butler’s Army of the James (Virginia)
across the James River to attack Confederate 5:30 a.m. in clearing fog, Col. Samuel Duncan’s
defense works north of the river. This was Lee’s 3d Brigade leading. Duncan’s men suffered over
left flank defending Richmond. Butler’s troops 50 percent casualties, but a second assault went
marched for twelve hours from their positions in at 6:00, this time getting to within 30 yards
at Petersburg, 17 miles northeast. At dawn, they of the Texans.
found themselves facing elements of Hood’s Meanwhile Fort Harrison, a key defensive po-
Texas Brigade holding New Market Heights. sition in the Confederate line, was under threat.
Butler had chosen for one mission Brig. Gen. The Texans holding the defense works against
Charles Paine’s 3d Division of XVIII Corps, the USCT were ordered to reinforce the fort.
which were United States Colored Troops Under cover of Virginian cavalry, the Texans
(USCT). Their objective, the Confederate withdrew, and the USCT swarmed over the
earthworks, lay some 300 yards away, bisected Confederate positions. By 7:00, New Market
by a stream, marshland, abates, and sharpened Heights was in Union hands. African American
stakes. The assault began on September 29 at troops accounted for 54 percent of the Union

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Champagne Offensive

losses in the battle, although they accounted for Champagne Offensive


only 20 percent of the total Union forces (1918)
involved.
The African American war correspondent A major World War I offensive against the Ger-
Thomas Morris Chester, from the Philadelphia mans in which the African American 93d Divi-
Press, was at the engagement September 29; he sion, assigned to service in France in the au-
described the charge of the 4th and 6th USCT. tumn of 1918, was involved from September 28
The latter was led by William Birney, the son of to October 6.
the Alabama abolitionist James G. Birney. As the The 369th Regiment was posted to the front
two regiments stormed the Confederate posi- line with the French 161st Division, working
tions, the 4th lost its whole color guard. Alfred alongside Moroccan troops. Casualties were ex-
B. Hilton snatched up the Union flag, which tremely heavy. At the beginning of the day, the
had been presented to the regiment by African 3d Battalion had had 20 officers and 700 men,
American women from Baltimore. Waving the but as nightfall approached, they were down to
flag above his head, he remained a defiant sym- 7 officers and 150 enlisted men. By the end of
bol until the order was given to retreat. His last the offensive the 1st Battalion had been re-
words before dying were “Save the flag.” Sgt. duced to 3 officers and 100 men, the 2d to 10
Maj. Christian A. Fleetwood, one of the Medal officers and 300 men, and the 3d Battalion to 7
of Honor awardees, brought the colors safely officers and 137 enlisted men. The 369th was
back to the Union lines. in the line for nine consecutive days and failed
When Gen. Benjamin Butler presented in only one attack. They never gave up an inch
Tiffany Medals to 200 of the 7th USCT, he pro- of ground.
claimed on October 11, 1864: “A few more The 371st Infantry, after its arrival in France
such charges, and to command colored troops on April 23, 1918, was placed under French
will be the post of honor in the American command and nearly 200 men were added to
armies” (quoted in Scott 2003). the regiment, to form three new machine gun
companies. Apart from the American khaki uni-
See also American Civil War; Medal of Honor form, the regiment was equipped with French
(appendix); United States Colored Troops, Battles rifles, bayonets, helmets, pack, and other
of (appendix); United States Colored Troops, equipment. They received training in French
Formation and Service Records of (appendix) tactics and finally joined the front line as part
of the 157th French Infantry Division com-
References and Further Reading manded by Gen. Mariano Goybet. After serving
Blackett, R. J. M., ed. Thomas Morris Chester: Black in the line for three months to the northwest of
Civil War Correspondent. Baton Rouge: Louisiana Verdun, it was decided that the regiment
State University Press, 1989. should participate in the much-anticipated
Cornish, Dudley Taylor. The Sable Arm: Black September offensive in the Champagne region.
Troops in the Union Army, 1861–1865. Lawrence: The French had attempted to penetrate the
University Press of Kansas, 1987. Originally
German lines at this point before, and in al-
published New York: Longmans Green, 1956.
most every year of the war had launched major
Scott, Donald. “Camp William Penn’s Black Soldiers
in Blue.” Written for America’s Civil War. http://
offensives, only to receive massive casualties
afroamhistory.about.com/library/prm/ and grave disappointment because little or no
blsoldiersinblue4.htm (accessed August 26, ground was taken.
2003). Nevertheless, by the late spring of 1918, the
Sutherland, Jonathan. Battles of the American Civil Germans, although capable of launching devas-
War. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2002. tating counterattacks, were now firmly on the

| 100 |
Charlton, Cornelius

defensive, and when the 371st went over the References and Further Reading
top with their objectives clearly stated, they, like Barbeau, Arthur E., and Florette Henri. The
the majority of the other units involved, were Unknown Soldiers. New York: Da Capo, 1996.
considerably more successful than their prede- Gibbons, Floyd. And They Thought We Wouldn’t
cessors. The regiment stormed Cote 188, Bussy Fight. New York: Doran, 1918.
Farm, Ardeuil, Montfauxelles, and Trieres. Mason, Monroe, and Arthur Furr. The American
During their surge forward, they captured Negro with the Red Hand of France. Boston:
large numbers of German prisoners, forty-seven Cornhill, 1920.
machine guns, eight trench mortars, three field Scott, Emmett J. Scott’s Official History of the
artillery pieces, and a munitions depot. The reg- American Negro in the World War. Chicago:
iment also captured some railroad cars stacked Homewood Press, 1919. Reprint: New York: Arno
Press/New York Times, 1969.
with supplies, wood, and hay. During their ad-
vance they had also brought down three Ger-
man aircraft with rifle and machine gun fire.
The regiment was directly involved from Sep-
tember 28 to October 6. Of the 2,384 officers
and enlisted men, 1,065 were killed, wounded, Charlton, Cornelius
or missing. The majority of these casualties (1929–1951)
were inflicted on the first three days of the of-
fensive when the German resistance was at its Medal of Honor winner Cornelius (Connie)
strongest. Charlton was born in East Gulf, West Virginia,
The French awarded the 371st a Unit the son of a coal miner. He served in Korea on
Citation. On January 27, 1919, Vice Admiral his second enlistment tour and was assigned to
Moreau, representing the French government, Company C, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th In-
decorated the Regimental Colors. One of the fantry Division. He quickly regained the ser-
officers was also awarded the French Legion of geant’s stripes he had earned in his first tour of
Honor; thirty-four other officers were awarded duty and was engaged near the 38th parallel in
the Croix de Guerre, as were eighty-nine of the an attack on Hill 543 with the 8th Army in May
enlisted men. The U.S. Army and government 1951. His third battalion ran into difficulties,
consequently awarded ten officers and twelve and Charlton took command of the platoon af-
enlisted men the Distinguished Service Cross. ter his lieutenant had been wounded. He had
The 372d made its first offensive moves on already been recommended for a battlefield
September 27 when it helped to push the Ger- commission. In carrying out the assault on Hill
mans out of Bussy Farm. By September 30 they 543, he took the lead and destroyed two enemy
were placed at Trieres Farm, to relieve the positions, killing six of the enemy. As he re-
371st. They spent most of the following week grouped his men, he was hit in the chest by
helping to mop up pockets of German resist- grenade fragments. Despite his wounds, he led
ance around Monthois. By the end of the first another charge and carried the hill. Charlton
week of October, all three regiments were re- then noticed another enemy emplacement,
lieved and sent to the rear to rest. which he tackled on his own, firing as he ran to-
ward the enemy bunker. He was again hit by
See also Chateau-Thierry, Battle of; Croix de grenade fragments, which killed him.
Guerre; Marne, Second Battle of the; 92d Charlton’s award was posthumously made on
Division; 369th Infantry Regiment; March 19, 1952. Part of his citation reads: “The
371st Infantry Regiment; 372d Infantry wounds received during his daring exploits re-
Regiment; World War I sulted in his death but his indomitable courage,

| 101 |
C h a t e a u - T h i e r r y, B a t t l e o f

superb leadership, and gallant self-sacrifice re- tably the 369th Infantry Regiment, were in-
flect the highest credit upon himself, the in- volved in the engagement.
fantry, and the military service.” Chateau-Thierry, 50 miles northeast of Paris,
He was buried in a family ceremony in Mer- formed the tip of the German advance toward
cer County, West Virginia, due to what the U.S. the French capital. It was defended by the U.S.
Army called an administrative oversight; Charl- 2d and 3d Divisions. The American troops, to-
ton’s family charged that racism was the reason. gether with the French 10th Colonial Division,
In 1989 the army finally offered to move his re- launched a counteroffensive on June 3–4 that
mains to Arlington Cemetery, but family re- pushed the Germans back across the Marne to
jected the offer. Instead Cornelius Charlton was Jauglonne. Two days later, the 369th took part
reburied at the American Legion Cemetery at in operations to clear the Germans out of Bel-
Beckley on March 10, 1989. The reburial was leau Wood. When a French officer, on June 6,
witnessed by two army generals, a congressman, suggested to Col. William Hayward, the com-
an assistant secretary of state, and an honor manding officer of the 369th, that he should
guard from Fort Knox. Charlton is the only Afri- pull his men back in the face of intense German
can American among the 251 soldiers buried in defensive fire, he replied: “My men never retire,
the American Legion Cemetery. they go forward or they die” (quoted in National
The USNS Charlton was built in San Diego, Archives). During this engagement, a member
California, and was named after Sgt. Cornelius of the 369th, Sgt. Bob Collins, was awarded the
Charlton at a ceremony on December 11, 1999, Croix de Guerre for his use of a machine gun
officiated by Maj. Gen. Mario F. Montero, Jr. under heavy fire.
Charlton’s sister, Fairy M. Papadopoulos, chris- Maj. Gen. Omar Bundy’s 2d Division was
tened the ship. A tree in the Bronx, where he heavily engaged, as was Gen. James Harbord’s
lived before serving in Korea, was dedicated to 2d Marine Corps division, the latter being
his memory, and the bridge over the Bluestone given the task of actually clearing the wood.
Gorge in Mercer County still bears the name The division had to advance across wheat fields
Charlton Memorial Bridge. devoid of cover, in the face of well-positioned
German machine gun posts. The net result of
See also Korean War; Medal of Honor the attack was the highest casualty rate in a
(appendix); 24th Infantry Regiment; U.S. Army single day (June 6) that the Marine Corps had
ever suffered. The Germans tried to hold the
wood; the Marines (and the 3d Infantry
Brigade) took it before being forced out again.
The woods changed hands no fewer than six
times before the Germans were permanently
Chateau-Thierry, Battle of pushed out.
(Battle of Belleau Wood, Over the course of the battle (June 6–26), to-
1918) tal American casualties reached nearly 10,000,
of whom 1,811 were killed. German losses are
Two related actions took place, the first at unknown, but at least 1,600 German prisoners
Chateau-Thierry (June 3–4, 1918) and the sec- fell into Allied hands. The battle represented
ond at Belleau Wood (June 6–26, 1918). Bel- the blunting of the last major German offensive
leau Wood, on the Metz-Paris road, had been of the war.
taken by the German Seventh Army at the end In recognition of the contribution of U.S.
of May as part of the Aisne offensive. Held by Marines during the engagement, the Bois
four German divisions, it was recaptured by Belleau was renamed the Bois de la Brigade de
U.S. troops. Many African American troops, no- Marine.

| 102 |
C h e r r y, F r e d e r i c k

See also Croix de Guerre; Marne, Battle of; camp known as the Hanoi Hilton. Here he and
Meuse-Argonne Offensive; 93d Division; 369th other prisoners suffered appalling conditions
Infantry Regiment; World War I; World War I and daily interrogations and torture at the
Recruitment Camps and Postings (appendix) hands of their captors.
After some time he was transferred to Cu Loc
References and Further Reading Prison (called “the zoo”), where he shared a cell
American Battle Monument Commission (ABMC). with a white pilot, a navy lieutenant from Ten-
93d Division: Summary of Operations in the World nessee, Porter Halyburton. After an initial per-
War. Washington, DC: Government Printing iod of mistrust, they became friends and de-
Office, 1944. pended heavily on one another.
Barbeau, Arthur E., and Florette Henri. The Cherry had been wounded when he had been
Unknown Soldiers: African American Troops in shot down, and only in February 1966 did the
World War I. New York: DaCapo, 1996. North Vietnamese operate on him. They gave
National Archives Digital Classroom. http://www. him no anesthetic or medication, and the
archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/wwi_369th wound became infected. It is unlikely that
_infantry/wwi_369th_infantry.html (accessed Colonel Cherry would have survived had it not
September 1, 2003).
been for the care provided by Halyburton. By
March Cherry was in a pitiful state and had lost
nearly half of his weight. The North Vietnamese
took off his torso cast, and washed him down
with gasoline. He was given a blood transfusion
Cherry, Frederick and operated on twice more, in April and July
(1928– ) 1966. He described the second operation:
“They just took a scalpel and cut away the dead
Frederick Cherry, a fighter pilot in the 35th Tac- flesh, scraping at the infection on the bones. It
tical Fighter Squadron based in Thailand, was was the worst straight pain I had yet known.
the first African American pilot to be captured They had my face covered with a sheet. And
by the North Vietnamese and incarcerated at they kept raising it to see if I’m going to beg for
the “Hanoi Hilton” (Hoa Lo Prison). mercy, going to scream. And each time they
Born March 24, 1928, one of eight children looked down at me, I would look at them and
in a poor Virginia family, Frederick V. Cherry smile.”
graduated from Virginia Union College in 1951. Halyburton continued to care for him, but
He had already taken flight school tests at Lan- four days after the second operation the Viet-
gley Air Force Base, Virginia. Of the twenty men namese began intensive interrogation on
in his group, he was the only African American, Cherry. He was kept in solitary confinement,
and he achieved the highest scores. He origi- and they wanted him to make a statement de-
nally wanted to join the navy as a pilot, but the nouncing the U.S. government. He was interro-
recruiter’s overt racism prompted him to join gated between four and five hours a day; still his
the U.S. Air Force. He flew fifty-one missions in wounds were not healing, and finally the North
F-84G fighter bombers over Korea. Vietnamese gave him antibiotics.
In 1965, now a major and fighter pilot with Cherry was finally released and returned to
the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Colonel the United States in 1973. He was awarded the
Cherry flew bombing missions from his base in Air Force Cross, two Bronze Stars, and two Pur-
Thailand into North Vietnam. In October 1965 ple Hearts to add to his Distinguished Flying
he was shot down flying a F-105D on a general Cross and Silver Star. After the war and after
bombing mission. Captured by the North Viet- Cherry’s retirement in 1981, he and Porter
namese, he was sent to the prisoner-of-war Halyburton continued to stay in touch.

| 103 |
Christophe, Henri

See also U.S. Air Force; Vietnam War improve the education and the infrastructure of
Haiti, attracting teachers through early aboli-
References and Further Reading tionist networks from Great Britain and the
Terry, Wallace. Bloods: An Oral History of the United States. But on March 28, 1811, with his
Vietnam War by Black Veterans. New York: power base secure, he declared Haiti a kingdom
Ballantine Books, 1984. and crowned himself King Henri I.
In August 1820 Christophe suffered a stroke
that left him partially paralyzed. On October 2
of the same year, a military mutiny sparked a re-
volt on the island. Christophe apparently com-
Christophe, Henri mitted suicide shortly after this incident; rumor
(1767–1820) had it that his body was buried in quicklime to
prevent it from being mutilated.
A Grenadian-born soldier and statesman,
Christophe fought as a volunteer during the See also American Revolution
American Revolution and later crowned himself
King Henri I of Haiti. References and Further Reading
Christophe’s parents were slaves who had Bennett, Lerone, Jr. Before the Mayflower. New York:
been brought to Grenada to work on sugar plan- Penguin Books, 1978.
tations. Christophe became a cabin boy on a Heatter, Basil. A King in Haiti: The Story of Henri
French ship and was then sold to a sugar Christophe. Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1972.
planter on the island of St. Dominique, which
would later be called Haiti.
In terms of U.S. military history, Christophe
is perhaps best remembered for his involvement
in the failed Franco-American attempt to cap- Cleburne’s Plan (1864)
ture Savannah during the American Revolution
in October 1779. He was, apparently, just Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne proposed a
twelve years old at the time and was a powder highly controversial plan in the winter of 1864
boy; it is said that he was wounded during the in a desperate bid to turn the tide of the Civil
siege. War in the Confederacy’s favor—abolishing
It is said that Christophe served with the slavery and enlisting the newly freed African
French-led Haitian Free Negroes known as the Americans into the Confederate Army.
Fontages Legion, 545 strong. In 1794 Chris- In Dalton, Georgia, on the night of January
tophe was one of the leading Haitian figures 2, 1864, Cleburne requested a meeting of all se-
fighting with the French against the Spaniards, nior staff in the Army of Tennessee. After prov-
who were trying to conquer the island. He be- ing himself a brilliant tactical commander at the
came a general of slaves. head of one of the army’s divisions throughout
Christophe had originally served as a ser- the fall of 1863, Cleburne had recently invested
geant, but he was made a general by revolution- considerable time in drafting a secret proposal
ary leader Jean Jacques Dessalines. Ultimately to arm slaves for the Confederacy. Over the ob-
the Haitians turned against the French and de- jections of his staff officers, who had advance
feated the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte to cre- notice of what his proposal contained and
ate a republic on November 27, 1803. Chris- feared it would cost him his military career, Cle-
tophe was made president of the northern state burne shocked his colleagues by arguing that if
in February 1807. He took active measures to the Confederacy abolished slavery, it would pro-

| 104 |
Coleman, Bessie

vide half a million new African-American troops, Anthology about Black Southerners. Atlanta, GA:
clear the way for foreign recognition by such Southern Heritage Press, 1995.
powers as Britain and France (both of whom Blackerby, H. C. Blacks in Blue and Gray: Afro-
had expressed serious concerns about support- American Service in the Civil War. Tuscaloosa,
ing a government openly committed to a slave AL: Portals Press, 1979.
system), and deprive the North of a morally Brewer, James. Confederate Negro: Virginia’s
Craftsmen and Military Laborers. Durham, NC:
powerful motive for continuing the war.
Duke University Press, 1969.
After hearing the outline of Cleburne’s argu-
Henry, Robert. The Story of the Confederacy.
ment, Commander of the Army Gen. Joseph E. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1931.
Johnston quickly called the meeting to an end, Jordan, Ervin L. Blacks Confederates and Afro-
expressing as much alarm at “Cleburne’s Yankees in Civil War Virginia. Charlottesville:
Memorial” as his senior staff and refusing to University of Virginia Press, 1995.
forward it to the War Department for its consid- Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Civil War.
eration. Word of Cleburne’s proposal spread, Boston: Little, Brown. 1953.
however, leaked by other attendees of the meet- U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A
ing who felt the idea deserved some considera- Compendium of the Official Records of the Union
tion by Confederate authorities. Eventually it and Confederate Armies, 128 vols., ser. 4, vol. 3.
came to the attention of Confederate President Washington, DC, 1880–1901.
Jefferson Davis, who ordered that the proposal Wiley, Bell. Southern Negroes; 1861–1865. New
Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1938.
immediately be suppressed. As the military cam-
Wilson, Joseph T. The Black Phalanx: A History of
paign of the spring of 1864 began, interest in
the Negro Soldiers of the United States. Hartford,
Cleburne’s plan subsided. CT: American Publishing Company, 1892.
The following November, Cleburne was killed
at the battle of Franklin. Ironically, shortly after
his death, the Confederate Congress debated a
bill that included much of what he had pro-
posed in his original plan, although without the
provision to abolish slavery, instead leaving it up Coleman, Bessie
to the individual states as to whether or not to (1892–1926)
include emancipation as a reward for military
service. Despite strong opposition, the Congress The first licensed African American pilot in the
passed the bill on March 13, 1865, a sign of world, Coleman broke ground for future African
how desperate the Confederacy was to keep a Americans and set up the early infrastructure
fighting force in the field in the face of the ad- for African American pilot training.
vancing Union Army. The Confederacy’s mili- Bessie Coleman was born on January 26,
tary situation was too bleak for such a measure 1892, in Atlanta, Texas. One of thirteen chil-
to have any significant effect, however, and the dren born to her African American mother and
war ended a few months later without the meas- American Indian father, she grew up in the cot-
ure being put into operation. ton fields of Texas. An avid reader, by the end of
World War I she had made up her mind that she
See also American Civil War; Confederates, would learn to fly—an extremely difficult task,
African American given her race and sex.
Refused in the United States, Coleman, on
References and Further Reading the advice of Robert S. Abbott, a Chicago news-
Barrow, Charles Kelly, J. H. Segars, and R. B. paper publisher, learned French and contacted
Rosenburg, eds. Forgotten Confederates: An an aviation school in France. Finally, in 1921

| 105 |
Colonial America

she earned her pilot’s license from the Fédéra- Colonial America
tion Aéronautique Internationale, becoming the
first African American pilot in the world. From the beginning of the seventeenth century
In 1921, on her return to America, Coleman’s to the events that led to the outbreak of the
aim was to open a flight school for African American Revolution, a growing population of
Americans. She quickly became a celebrity, ap- slaves, thought to number nearly 30,000 by the
pearing on newsreels and performing at air end of the seventeenth century, in addition to
shows around the country. She also began giv- free blacks, were periodically pressed into mili-
ing lectures and was given the nicknames of tary service to assist white male colonists in pro-
“Queen Bess” and “Brave Bessie” by the press tecting the various colonies, but only at times of
for her daring airborne feats. In 1923 she pi- military crisis.
loted the largest aircraft yet to be flown by a Each of the colonies had its own militia
woman, a Benz LFG. units, and the laws that governed the creation
Coleman’s dream of a flying school was close and constituent parts of these militias differed
to becoming a reality by 1926, when she had widely, not only along racial lines, but in many
raised almost enough money from stunt flying. cases as a result of immediate needs. Some of
Tragically, while test flying a World War I Jennie the colonies expressed explicitly that African
(U.S. Army Curtiss JN-4), at Paxon Field, Jack- Americans were either not welcome in the mili-
sonville, Florida, she was killed. tias or simply not allowed to offer their services.
After her death, African American aviator and For the most part, the colonial legislatures ex-
promoter of black aviation William J. Powell or- cluded African Americans, except when a
ganized the Bessie Coleman Aero Groups. In colony faced some military threat, most often
1931 the first all–African American air show attack by Native Americans. African American
was held, and the following year Coleman’s men were again excluded after the threat had
school was finally opened for African American passed.
aviators. Powell’s book encouraging African During peacetime, white colonists feared
Americans to enter the field of aviation, Black arming blacks, both slave and free, concerned
Wings (1934), was dedicated to Coleman. In that a racial war would be the result, particu-
1995 she was honored with a commemorative larly if blacks chose to ally themselves with Na-
stamp by the U.S. Postal Service. tive Americans. Although in reality such al-
liances were unlikely, the colonists’ racial
See also African American Women in the attitudes, which classified both blacks and Na-
Military tive Americans as uncivilized heathens, made
such a collusion too horrifying a possibility to
References and Further Reading ignore. Particularly in the Southern colonies,
Fisher, Lillian M. Brave Bessie: Flying Free. Dallas, where the black population was significant and
TX: Hendrick-Long Publishing, 1995. sometimes outnumbered whites, such concerns
Rich, Doris L. Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator. of racial warfare overcame fears of outside inva-
Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, sion in all but the direst of circumstances.
1995. Twice in Virginia’s early history, such a racial
war seemed imminent: first during the Mas-
sacre of 1622 and then later during Bacon’s Re-
bellion of 1676. On both occasions, such clear
racial distinctions between the combatants later
proved to be erroneous, but the myth of blacks

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Colonial America

and Indians united against whites remained because of the important social role the militia
prevalent in many colonial minds. played in establishing a social hierarchy among
In addition, in conformity with white racial white colonists—a social hierarchy that offered
attitudes of the time, many colonists believed no place for African Americans. Although seem-
African Americans lacked the intelligence to ingly a minor consideration when compared to
competently handle firearms or participate in other likely objections to African American mili-
organized military maneuvers. Incompetent tary participation, such a social motivation
black troops seemed more of a liability than an could have had a powerful effect on colonists
asset, despite the need for manpower. struggling to define their own places in their
Colonists had an additional reason to shy fledgling communities.
away from enlisting African Americans in mili- Exclusion in the early years was tradition
tary service if they were slaves. As a valuable rather than law. In 1639 Virginia became the
commodity, slaves were too expensive for their first colony to explicitly state in legal terms that
owners to risk losing them in a battle or cam- African Americans were prohibited from mili-
paign; nor did colonists relish the idea of fore- tary service. Nevertheless, Virginia officials al-
going the profit from slave labor so that their lowed African Americans to join militias on an
workers could serve in colonial militias. Colo- ad hoc basis as the need arose. Other colonies
nial legislatures never resolved the issue of how followed similar patterns. Massachusetts, for
to compensate slaveowners for the loss of their example, enacted legislation in 1652 requiring
laborers to military service, which effectually that African Americans attend military training.
curtailed efforts to enlist these men. Slaves Before the end of the century, the colonial legis-
serving as militiamen also raised other issues of lature repealed and then reinstated the measure
control, such as preserving the chain of com- four times. In 1706, North Carolina’s colonial
mand. Who would have the ultimate decision legislature passed a law actually requiring all
about what slaves would do, where they would able-bodied African Americans to turn out for
be stationed, and how long they would be ex- military service along with the colony’s white
pected to remain in their units? Again, based on males in the event of a Native American attack.
the principle of property, the assumption was Some colonies organized all-black fighting
that these decisions would lead to disputes be- units, although such instances were rare. Nev-
tween owners and officers, whose needs would ertheless, South Carolina raised just such a unit
most likely differ. Perhaps to offset owners’ con- during the Yemassee War of 1715, when faced
cerns about such issues, some colonies offered with a nearly overpowering Native American
incentives for slaveowners to allow their slaves threat. White settler John Pight personally
to participate in colonial defense. North Car- raised an African American unit of so-called In-
olina was one such colony, offering a land grant dian fighters that worked in conjunction with
of 50 acres to settlers for providing each able- the colonial militia conducting scouting opera-
bodied male slave capable of bearing arms in tions and launching raids against Native Ameri-
times of crisis. can settlements.
All of these objections were overlooked by Throughout this period, colonial militias
colonists in times when they faced the threat of needed almost constant infusions of manpower
invasion from an outside power. But in peace- to sustain their defenses, as a series of major
time, no colony entertained the idea of African wars, minor conflicts, and intermittent raids
Americans in the militias. Recently, some histo- plagued all of the colonies at one point or an-
rians have suggested that another reason to ex- other. Native Americans posed the most signifi-
clude African Americans from the militia was cant threat to white settlement. Initially, Native

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Colonial America

Americans fought to preserve their access to and pikes to defend the colony from Native
land and other natural resources in the face of American attacks but prohibited them from us-
rapid white settlement. Shortly after white set- ing firearms. The Carolinas adopted a policy of
tlers arrived in the New World, however, Native full integration for African Americans when
American considerations were complicated by a faced with a series of Indian wars in the early
struggle for power among European nations, as days of their settlement. Conversely, Virginia ex-
each sought to colonize America and ally them- cluded all slaves from military duty and re-
selves with various Native American groups to stricted free blacks to noncombatant support
either maintain control of their territory or gain roles. In every case, the military role each colo-
new territory. Colonists often felt trapped by the nial government assigned to African Americans
political machinations of European govern- was highly dependent on the circumstances of
ments and Native American groups, as each each individual colony at that particular point
played the other against one another. of its history. None of the colonies maintained
Almost as unnerving for the white colonists consistent policies toward African Americans
was the fact that African Americans fought on throughout the colonial period, especially as the
all sides in these conflicts. For example, run- laws and social conventions concerning race
away slaves often sought shelter among Native and servitude were evolving in different direc-
Americans, who often—but not always—wel- tions throughout the New World.
comed such outsiders. French and Spanish In general, African Americans proved willing
colonies also provided greater opportunities for to join colonial militias, although certainly some
blacks in their military organizations than were slaves were compelled to fight against their will
to be founded in the English colonies. Colonial by their owners. Those that joined voluntarily
governments in areas controlled by these two did so for a variety of reasons. Free blacks saw
powers not only encouraged slaves in English military service as an opportunity to both earn
colonies to flee to their borders with promises money and gain social stature. Slaves also
of emancipation, but they also either formed earned money by serving, although their owners
all-black units of fighting men or integrated most likely confiscated most of their pay. Many
blacks into existing units of soldiers, both of slaves were drawn to the colonial military by the
which had the potential of bringing economic promise of freedom, either from colonial gov-
and social rewards to blacks. The first of such ernments or their masters, although some
units was organized in French-held Louisiana in colonies offered only monetary rewards rather
1736 to help protect the colony from attack by than emancipation. For slaves, the dangers in-
the Natchez Indians. The Spanish colony of herent in active military service were often con-
Florida followed suit four years later with the sidered insignificant when compared with the
formation of a similar unit, which was com- drudgery and toil of their daily lives. Some ea-
posed almost entirely of runaway slaves from gerly opted for militia duty because it was easier
Georgia and the Carolinas. than the back-breaking labor they were nor-
Throughout all the colonies—be they En- mally compelled to do on farms and plantations.
glish, French, Spanish, Dutch, or Swedish—the The willingness of African Americans to fight
experiences of African Americans differed dra- in the cause of colonial defense proved benefi-
matically from colony to colony. In some areas, cial to all the colonies at various points through-
blacks were used exclusively as laborers or in a out the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
fighting capacity that forbade the use of As European influence in America spread,
firearms. The Dutch settlement in New Amster- colonists periodically found themselves fighting
dam provides such an example when the Native Americans along the whole of the fron-
colonists chose to arm their slaves with hatchets tier, an area that itself changed almost annually

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Confederates, African American

as settlement spread westward. Whether the and many of them joined integrated militia
war between these shifting powers was rooted units. But under the direction of Richard Pier-
in North America or simply an additional the- point (1745–1838), who was himself of African
ater of engagement for a European conflict, Af- descent, thirty men created their own militia
rican Americans were often present in locally company known as the Coloured Corps. They
raised units on a variety of sides in the wars and fought at Queenston Heights in October 1812
serving in almost all capacities. and during the siege of Fort George in May
1813. The unit was disbanded shortly after hos-
See also American Revolution tilities ended.
On December 11, 1837, the Coloured Corps
References and Further Reading regrouped under Thomas Runchey, who raised
Donaldson, Gary A. The History of African- a company of 50 African Canadians who were
Americans in the Military. Malabar, FL: Krieger, placed under the command of James Sears. A
1991 second company was raised under Hugh Eccles,
Franklin, John Hope. From Slavery to Freedom: A and together they had a combined strength of
History of Negro Americans. New York: Alfred A. around 130 men. They fought during Macken-
Knopf, 1956. zie’s Rebellion in December 1837 and were dis-
Johnson, Jesse J., ed. A Pictorial History of Black banded in the summer of the following year, but
Soldiers (1619–1969) in Peace and War. had never been paid by the Canadian govern-
Hampton: VA: Hampton Institute, 1969. ment. Sears paid his own men and was not re-
Kaplan, Sidney, and Emma N. Kaplan. The Black imbursed until 1840, but Runchey deserted and
Presence in the Era of the American Revolution.
fled to the United States.
Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press,
1989.
See also 1812, War of
Lee, E. Lawrence. Indian Wars in North Carolina,
1663–1763. Raleigh: Carolina Charter
Tercentenary Commission, 1963. References and Further Reading
Litwack, Leon F. North of Slavery: The Negro in the Meyler, David, and Peter Meyler. Stolen Life:
Free States, 1790–1860 Chicago: University of Searching for Richard Pierpoint. Toronto: Natural
Chicago Press, 1961. Heritage, 1999.
Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Making of
America. New York: Collier Books, 1964.

Confederates,
African American
Coloured Corps
(War of 1812) Little has been written about the involvement of
African Americans in the Confederate army
An African Canadian loyalist unit that was during the Civil War, although the issue was ex-
unique among the militia during the War of tremely controversial for the Confederacy. Fac-
1812. It was also known as Captain Runchey’s ing persistent manpower shortages in keeping
Company of Coloured Men. its armies in the field, the Confederate govern-
A thriving population of African Canadians ment considered the enlistment of black troops,
lived in the Niagara Peninsula at the outbreak both slaves and free blacks, at several points
of the War of 1812. They were as keen as their during the conflict but repeatedly rejected the
white neighbors to show their loyalty to Britain, idea until the waning months of the war. At the

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Confederates, African American

national level, African American involvement re- war began, recognizing the great potential to fill
mained limited to unofficial supporting roles. manpower shortages with both free blacks and
However, the Congress did not pass any laws slaves. Although these troops did not receive
prohibiting more formal recruitment, and many equal treatment as white troops, they were
states either welcomed or compelled African granted some form of compensation for their ef-
Americans to participate in their war efforts, forts and often were treated with a surprising
both as fighting troops and support staff. degree of fairness considering the status of Afri-
There was, in fact, significant African Ameri- can Americans in Southern society. After the
can involvement in the Confederate army from war, many black soldiers even applied for and
the outset of the war. A lack of record-keeping received pensions for their service. For example,
and a general tendency to overlook the contri- in June 1861, the Tennessee government ruled
butions of Southern blacks have meant that it is that the governor could, at his discretion, “re-
virtually impossible to determine exactly how ceive into the military service of the State all
many African Americans served with or sup- male free persons of color, between the ages of
ported the Confederate war effort, but some fifteen and fifty, or such numbers as may be
historians estimate the number to be as high as necessary who may be capable of actual serv-
90,000 men, ranging in age from sixteen to ice.” The governor was further authorized to
sixty. Most filled positions as personal servants “press free blacks into services if a sufficient
for their white masters, charged with keeping number was not met.” The freedmen were to be
the officers’ quarters clean, polishing weaponry, paid $18 a month and receive the same rations
cleaning clothes, grooming and feeding horses, and clothing as white soldiers. They appeared in
and running various errands. They were also two black regiments in Memphis by September
called upon to provide entertainment in the 1861.
form of singing and dancing or to tend the In other cases, African Americans seized the
wounded. These personal servants were almost initiative themselves and formed fighting units
certainly the slaves of the individual officers for the Confederacy, or at least for their states
they served before the war and simply accompa- or local communities. In April 1861, 1,400 Afri-
nied their masters to the battlefield and adapted can American freedmen formed a militia regi-
their usual tasks to wartime conditions. Other ment, the Louisiana Native Guards, and
African Americans laboring for the Confederate marched through New Orleans, stating their in-
army performed more manual labor, construct- tention to protect the city. Louisiana had long
ing entrenchments and defensive works, work- boasted a unique and independent-minded free
ing as camp cooks and launders, and burying black community, which even before this date
the dead. had made clear its reasons for fighting on
Although the vast majority of Southern Louisiana’s behalf. The previous December, in a
blacks who contributed to the Confederate war letter written to the New Orleans’ Daily Delta,
effort did so as either personal servants or man- the freedmen stated: “The free colored popula-
ual laborers, others were actually enlisted as tion love their home, their property, their own
soldiers or scouts in state military organizations. slaves and recognize no other country than
In all, six states opted to induct slaves and free Louisiana, and are ready to shed their blood for
blacks into their state militias, with the result her defense. They have no sympathy for Aboli-
that Southern black troops fought on the battle- tionism; no love for the North, but have plenty
field in a large number of Civil War engage- for Louisiana. They will fight for her in 1861 as
ments. they fought in 1814–15.”
Despite the controversy surrounding the re- Later that same year, a group of slave volun-
cruitment of African American soldiers, many teers in Alabama formed a small division, and in
Southern states moved to do so shortly after the Virginia, sixty freedmen formed a company,

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Confederates, African American

African American laborers on the James River, Virginia. (National Archives)

marching to Richmond to volunteer with the also told of African American units serving with
Confederate army, although the Confederate Southern militia at Charleston; Mobile, Ala-
government declined their offer and sent them bama; Nashville; New Orleans; Bowling Green,
home. Ohio; and Lynchburg, Virginia.
Reports of battles by Union officers during Gen. Stonewall Jackson also had a significant
1861 and early 1862 gave accounts of the in- number of African American troops serving un-
volvement of African Americans at First Manas- der him on his victorious Shenandoah Cam-
sas (Bull Run; July 1861), where the “Rich- paign in 1862. In fact, the participation of Afri-
mond Howitzers” were said to have been can Americans in Jackson’s fighting force
partially manned by African American militia- elicited comment from Union scouts, as evi-
men operating Battery 2, and at New Market, denced by the following report from the chief
Virginia (December 1861). At the Battle of Big inspector of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Dr.
Bethel, Virginia, on June 10, 1861, a Union ma- Lewis Steiner, who wrote of Jackson’s occupa-
jor, Theodore Winthrop, was mortally wounded. tion of Frederick, Maryland:
Sam, the body servant of Captain Ashe of Com-
pany D, 1st North Carolina Bethel Regiment, Wednesday, September 10: At 4 o’clock this
was one of the four men credited with firing the morning the Rebel army began to move from
fatal shot. our town, Jackson’s force taking the advance.
In April 1862, a white soldier in the 5th New The movement continued until 8 o’clock p.m.,
Jersey Infantry under the command of Hiram occupying 16 hours. The most liberal calcula-
Berdan reported shooting two African American tion could not give them more than 64,000
Confederate sharpshooters. Newspaper reports men. Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in

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Confederates, African American

this number. These were clad in all kinds of Confederate army until the waning days of the
uniforms, not only in cast-off or captured war, although both military and political leaders
United States uniforms, but in coats with began discussing the idea with some vehemence
Southern buttons, State buttons, etc. These after 1863, when the tide of war began to turn
were shabby, but not shabbier or seedier than definitively against the South. The matter was
those worn by white men in the rebel ranks. raised suddenly by Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cle-
Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, burne in January 1864, when he presented a
sabers, bowie-knives, dirks, etc. They were plan for black recruitment to fellow members of
supplied in many instances, with knapsacks, the senior staff of the Army of Tennessee. Most
haversacks, canteens, etc., and they were man- of the officers, including Commander-of-the-
ifestly an integral portion of the Southern Army Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, viewed Cle-
Confederacy army. They were seen riding burne’s proposal with abhorrence. In fact, John-
horses and mules, driving wagons, riding on ston refused to send Cleburne’s carefully argued
caissons, in ambulances, with the staff of gen- “Memorial” onto the War Department for con-
erals and promiscuously mixed up with all the sideration. A few officers present saw the idea
Rebel horde (Heysinger 1912, 122–123). as at least worthy of consideration and wrote
letters to friends and contacts in the govern-
Throughout the war, Northern newspapers ment, urging them to read Cleburne’s proposal.
printed with obvious amazement reports of When news of the plan reached Confederate
black troops fighting for the Confederate cause. President Jefferson Davis, he quickly wrote
But the factors that influenced African Ameri- Johnston and ordered him to suppress Cle-
cans to fight for the Confederacy were complex. burne’s proposal, which Johnston accordingly
Many Southern blacks left behind families on did. Davis wrote that he “deem[ed] it to be in-
the Southern home front; others felt an am- jurious of the public service that such subject
biguous though nevertheless powerful sense of should be mooted or even known to entertain by
loyalty to their masters, many of whom had persons possessed of confidence and respect of
been childhood friends before adulthood di- the people. If it be kept out of the public journal
vided them so definitively along racial and so- its ill effect will be much lessened.”
cial lines; others hoped to gain their freedom by But Davis had no alternative but to change
service with the Confederates, thereby ensuring his mind as the spring and summer military
a more secure place for themselves and possibly campaigns unfolded. Confederate battlefield
their families after the war; and still others defeats had seriously depleted the South’s man-
served under compulsion by their masters or power and morale was low following Sherman’s
saw military duty as the best means to bring March to the Sea. During the winter of 1864–
them within the Union lines where they could 1865, Confederate fortunes looked bleak in-
make a bid for freedom. Remarkably, some deed, particularly with Union troops closing in
Southern blacks professed a remarkable degree on the Confederate capital at Richmond, Vir-
of loyalty to the Confederate cause, as evi- ginia, from both the north and the south. Vir-
denced by the experiences of an African Ameri- ginia’s Governor William Smith suggested that
can soldier named George Washington Yancey, the government should enhance his state’s de-
who, according to his pension application after fences by arming its slaves and offering them
the war, had fought with the Confederates, freedom as a reward. He asked: “With two hun-
been captured by Union forces three times, and dred thousand Negro soldiers already in the
each time escaped to return to Confederate Union army, can we hesitate, can we doubt,
service. when the question is, whether the enemy shall
Despite this record of contribution, African use our slaves against us or we use them against
Americans were not formally enlisted in the him; when the question may be between liberty

| 112 |
Confederates, African American

and independence on one hand or our own sub- ties, then “they would take up arms for the
jugation and utter ruin on the other.” rebels.”
Gen. Robert E. Lee was also keen to receive In the same month, the first African Ameri-
more men and to enlist regiments of black sol- can seamen began serving formally in the Con-
diers, with the goal of gradually emancipating federate navy, although as with the army, they
them, as well as the rest of the South’s slaves. had been serving informally for almost the en-
On January 11, 1865, Lee wrote about the po- tire course of the war. Believed to total 1,150
tential role of slaves in the South’s eventual vic- men, these Southern blacks served for the re-
tory or defeat, viewing them as a possible mili- mainder of the war, and the last Confederate
tary asset, seaman to surrender was an African American
on board the CSS Shenandoah in England in
It is the enemy’s avowed policy to convert the October 1865. One such African American sea-
able-bodied men among them into soldiers, man and slave named Horace King was an ac-
and to emancipate all. His progress will complished engineer and became known as the
destroy slavery in a manner most pernicious to “Bridge Builder of the Confederacy.”
the welfare of our people. . . . Whatever maybe The main issue remained whether or not to
the effect of our employing Negro troops, it officially induct African Americans into the
cannot be as mischievous as this, I think, army, where their presence would have the most
therefore, we must decide whether slavery dramatic impact on the course of the war. The
shall be extinguished by our enemies and the Confederate Congress hotly debated the issue
slaves used against us, or use them ourselves throughout early 1865, with some members
at the risk of the effects which may be seeing no other option to arming slaves if the
produced upon our social institutions. . . . Confederacy were to survive, while others
The best means of securing the efficiency and found the idea a violation of everything for
fidelity of this auxiliary force would be to which the Confederacy stood. In a more practi-
accompany the measure with a well digested cal vein, the influential Senator Robert Hunter
plan of gradual and general emancipation. As from Virginia thought the enlistment of slaves
that will be the result of the continuance of on a wide-scale basis would prompt mass run-
this war, and will certainly occur if the enemy aways. He commented that “Negroes now are
succeeds, it seems to be most advisable to deterred from going to the enemy only by the
adopt at once. Every day’s delay increases the fear of being put in the army. If we put them in
difficulty (U.S. War Department, they will all go over.”
1012–1013). Also at issue was whether or not to emanci-
pate those slaves who served with the military, a
The Northern government had struggled provision that was equally controversial. As a
throughout the war with the issue of how to Confederate Congress member from Missis-
treat runaway slaves from the South, but in sippi said during the debate: “All nature cries
February 1865, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant out against it. The Negro was ordained to slav-
acted quickly in the face of reports that the ery by the Almighty. Emancipation would be the
Confederacy was preparing to arm their slaves destruction of our social and political system.
in a desperate attempt to reverse its military for- God forbid that this Trojan horse should be in-
tunes. Grant ordered “the capture of all Negro troduced among us.” The bill that eventually
men before the enemy can put them in their took shape from these debates did not include a
ranks,” prompting popular African American provision to emancipate those slaves who served
civil rights leader Frederick Douglass to tell with the Confederate army, leaving it up to the
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln that unless individual states whether emancipation would
slaves were guaranteed freedom and land boun- follow from military service, but many still saw

| 113 |
Confederates, African American

the measure as one that threatened the very that designation for theirs. But this has no
foundations of the Confederacy. weight against the choice of the troops and he
Nevertheless, the Confederate Congress nar- recommended that they be called colored or if
rowly passed a bill for formal African American they prefer, they can be called simply Confed-
enlistment in the army on March 13, 1864, and erate troops or volunteers. Everything should
Davis signed it. Within ten days, the army had be done to impress them with the responsibil-
issued General Order No. 14, moving to organ- ity and character of their position, and while of
ize African American units with the intention of course due respect and subordination should
getting them in the field, most importantly in be exacted, they should be so treated as to feel
the defensive works around Richmond, as that their obligations are those of any other
quickly as possible. soldier and their rights and privileges depend-
Setting a quota of 300,000 men for the Con- ent in law & order as obligations upon others
federate States Colored Troops, the Confeder- as upon theirselves. Harshness and contemp-
ate government offered a one-time payment of tuous or offensive language or conduct to
$100 to every black soldier who signed up, and them must be forbidden and they should be
the army’s officers were ordered to treat the made to forget as soon as possible that they
men humanely and to protect them from any in- were regarded as menials. You will readily un-
justices or oppression. There were still prob- derstand however how to conciliate their good
lems, however, as many of the owners of the will & elevate the tone and character of the
slaves were unwilling to permit them to enter men (reprinted in Civil War Times [February
military service. General Lee’s assistant adju- 1998]).
tant general, Charles Marshall, wrote on this
problem to Lt. Gen. R. S. Ewell on March 27, Despite such problems, enormous numbers
1865: of slaves volunteered (or were forced to volun-
teer by their masters) for military duty. Fund-
General Lee directs me . . . to say that he raising for uniforms began taking place in and
much regrets the unwillingness of owners to around Richmond, and the newly recruited col-
permit their slaves to enter the service. If the ored troops trained and drilled in the streets of
state authorities can do nothing to get those the city. Even this injection of fresh manpower
negroes who are willing to join the army, but could not stem the tide of Confederate defeat,
whose masters refuse their consent, there is no however. Not only were the ultimate numbers of
authority to do it at all. What benefit they ex- black soldiers inconsequential in the face of the
pect their negroes to be to them, if the enemy seemingly unstoppable Union army, but they
occupies the country, it is impossible to say. couldn’t be organized into an effective fighting
He hopes you will endeavour to get the assis- force in enough time to halt a major Union ad-
tance of citizens who favour the measure, and vance. A few units did see action. For example,
bring every influence you can to bear. When a in Amelia County, Virginia, on April 4, 1865, a
negro is willing, and his master objects, there Confederate supply train was manned and
would be less objection to compulsion, if the guarded exclusively by infantry of the Confeder-
state has the authority. It is however of pri- ate States Colored Troops. It was attacked by
mary importance that the negroes should know Union cavalry, and the ex-slaves fought off the
that the service is voluntary on their part. As to charge for some time but were finally forced to
the name of the troops, the general thinks you retreat. The Confederacy was too exhausted to
cannot do better than consult the men them- continue the fight, however, and Lee surren-
selves. His only objection to calling them col- dered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Vir-
ored troops was that the enemy had selected ginia, on April 9, 1865.

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Confederates, African American

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 14.

I. The following act of Congress and regulations are published for the information and direction of all
concerned:

AN ACT to increase the military force of the Confederate States.


The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That, in order to provide additional
forces to repel invasion, maintain the rightful possession of the Confederate States, secure their inde-
pendence, and preserve their institutions, the President be, and he is hereby, authorized to ask for and
accept from the owners of slaves, the services of such number of able-bodied negro men as he may
deem expedient, for and during the war, to perform military service in whatever capacity he may
direct.
SEC 2. That the General-in-Chief be authorized to organize the said slaves into companies, battal-
ions, regiments, and brigades, under such rules and regulations as the Secretary of War may prescribe,
and to be commanded by such officers as the President may appoint.
SEC 3. That while employed in the service the said troops shall receive the same rations, clothing,
and compensation as are allowed to other troops in the same branch of the service.
SEC 4. That if, under the previous sections of this act, the President shall not be able to raise a suf-
ficient number of troops to prosecute the war successfully and maintain the sovereignty of the States
and the independence of the Confederate States, then he is hereby authorized to call on each State,
whenever he thinks it expedient, for her quota of 300,000 troops, in addition to those subject to mili-
tary service under existing laws, or so many thereof as the President may deem necessary to be raised
from such classes of the population, irrespective of color, in each State, as the proper authorities
thereof may determine: Provided, That not more than twenty-five per cent. of the male slaves between
the ages of eighteen and forty-five, in any State, shall be called for under the provisions of this act.
SEC 5. That nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in the relation which the
said slaves shall bear toward their owners, except by consent of the owners and of the States in which
they may reside, and in pursuance of the laws thereof.

Approved March 13, 1865.

II. The recruiting service under this act will be conducted under the supervision of the Adjutant
and Inspector General, according to the regulations for the recruiting service of the Regular Army, in
so far as they are applicable, and except when special directions may be given by the War Department.
III. There will be assigned or appointed for each State an officer who will be charged with the col-
lection, enrollment, and disposition of all the recruits that may be obtained under the first section of
this act. One or more general depots will be established in each State and announced in orders, and a
suitable number of officers will be detailed for duty in the staff departments at the depots. There will
be assigned at each general depot a quartermaster, commissary, and surgeon, and the headquarters of
the superintendent will be at the principal depot in the State. The proper officers to aid the superin-
tendent in enlisting, mustering, and organizing the recruits will be assigned by orders from this office
or by the General-in-Chief.

(continues)

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Confederates, African American

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 14. (continued)

IV. The enlistment of colored persons under this act will be made upon printed forms, to be fur-
nished for the purpose, similar to those established for the regular service. They will be executed in
duplicate, one copy to be returned to this office for file. No slave will be accepted as a recruit unless
with his own consent and with the approbation of his master by a written instrument conferring, as far
as he may, the rights of a freedman, and which will be filed with the superintendent. The enlistments
will be made for the war, and the effect of the enlistment will be to place the slave in the military serv-
ice conformably to this act. The recruits will be organized at the camps in squads and companies, and
will be subject to the order of the General-in-Chief under the second section of this act.
V. The superintendent in each State will cause a report to be made on the first Monday of every
month showing the expenses of the previous month, the number of recruits at the various depots in
the State, the number that has been sent away, and the destination of each. His report will show the
names of all the slaves recruited, with their age, description, and the names of their masters. One copy
will be sent to the General-in-Chief and one to the adjutant and Inspector General.
VI. The appointment of officers to the companies to be formed of the recruits aforesaid will be
made by the President.
VII. To facilitate the raising of volunteer companies, officers recruiting therefor are authorized to
muster their men into service as soon as enrolled. As soon as enrolled and mustered, the men will be
sent, with descriptive lists, to the depots of rendezvous, at which they will be instructed until assigned
for service in the field. When the organization of any company remains incomplete at the expiration of
the time specified for its organization, the companies or detachments already mustered into service
will be assigned to other organizations at the discretion of the General-in-Chief.
VIII. It is not the intention of the President to grant any authority for raising regiments or brigades.
The only organizations to be perfected at the depots or camps of instructions are those of companies
and (in exceptional cases where the slaves are of one estate) of battalions consisting of four compa-
nies, and the only authority to be issued will be for the raising of companies or the aforesaid special
battalions of four companies. All larger organizations will be left for future action as experience may
determine.
IX. All officers who may be employed in the recruiting service, under the provisions of this act, or
who may be appointed to the command of troops raised under it, or who may hold any staff appoint-
ment in connection with them, are enjoined to a provident, considerate, and humane attention to
whatever concerns the health, comfort, instruction, and discipline of those troops, and to the uniform
observance of kindness, forbearance, and indulgence to their treatment of them, and especially that
they will protect them from injustice and oppression.

By order:
S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General.

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Croix de Guerre

References and Further Reading Croix de Guerre


Barrow, Charles Kelly, J. H. Segars, and R. B.
Rosenburg, eds. Forgotten Confederates: An A French military decoration won by many Afri-
Anthology about Black Southerners. Atlanta: can Americans during their tour of duty in
Southern Heritage Press, 1995. France in World War I. The medal was created
Bellard, Alfred. Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War April 8, 1915, to commemorate feats of bravery
Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard. Boston: Little, in World War I and was reauthorized for World
Brown, 1975. War II in 1939. The Croix de Guerre was
Blackerby, H. C. Blacks in Blue and Gray: Afro- awarded to both individuals and units in the
American Service in the Civil War. Tuscaloosa, US. Army for action in World War I.
AL: Portals Press, 1979. As the first to land in France, the African
Brewer, James. Confederate Negro: Virginia’s
American 369th Infantry Regiment had the
Craftsmen and Military Laborers. Durham, NC:
early opportunities to earn honors from the
Duke University Press, 1969.
Brown, William Wells. The Negro in the American
French government. In May 1918, Sgt. Henry
Rebellion: His Heroism and His Fidelity. Boston: Johnson was manning an observation post with
Lee and Shepard, 1867. Pvt. Needham Roberts when they heard Ger-
Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War man raiders cutting through barbed wire. Both
Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. of the men were wounded in the opening mo-
New York: Free Press, 1990. ments of the fire fight, Roberts severely, leaving
Hansen, Joyce. Between Two Fires—Black Soldiers Johnson to hold the post. He fought the Ger-
in the Civil War. New York: Franklin Watts, 1993. mans off with first his grenades, then his rifle,
Henry, Robert. The Story of the Confederacy. and finally his knife. Later, captured German
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1931. documents would confirm that he had killed
Heysinger, Isaac W. Antietam and the Maryland and four Germans and wounded thirty-two others.
Virginia Campaigns of 1862. New York: Neale
Johnson was to become the first African Ameri-
Publishing, 1912.
can—indeed, the first American—to win the
Jordan, Ervin L. Blacks Confederates and Afro-
Yankees in Civil War Virginia. Charlottesville:
Croix de Guerre with Gold Palm.
University of Virginia Press, 1995. On June 6, 1918, the regiment was sent into
McPherson, James. For Cause and Comrades: Why the line at Chateau-Thierry to help clear the
Men Fought the Civil War. New York: Oxford Germans out of Belleau Wood. A few days later,
University Press, 1997. Sgt. Bob Collins was awarded the Croix de
Priest, John Michael. Into the Fight—Pickett’s Guerre for using his machine gun to devastating
Charge at Gettysburg. Shippensburg, PA: White effect, despite the heavy fire he himself was at-
Mane Books, 1998. tracting from the enemy.
Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Civil War. The 370th Regiment was sent into action in
Boston: Little, Brown, 1953. July in the Argonne sector of the front. On July
U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A 16, Lt. Harvey Taylor, after receiving six wounds
Compendium of the Official Records of the Union
during a raid, was also awarded the Croix de
and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. Washington,
Guerre. Early in September, at Soissons, an-
DC, 1880–1901, ser. 4, vol. 3.
Webb, Garrison. Civil War Curiosities. Nashville,
other member of the regiment, Sgt. Matthew
TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1994. Jenkins was awarded the Croix de Guerre and
Wiley, Bell. Southern Negroes, 1861–1865. New the Distinguished Service Cross for taking a for-
Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1938. tified German tunnel and holding it without
Wilson, Joseph T. The Black Phalanx: A History of supplies or reinforcement for thirty-six hours
the Negro Soldiers of the United States. Hartford, with some of his Company F.
CT: American Publishing, 1887. The 370th Regiment, which pursued the re-

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Croix de Guerre

Some of the men of the 369th Infantry who won the French Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action.
Left to right, front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins;
back row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor.
(National Archives)

treating Germans in the last week of the war, turing three) and had then captured a German
stormed a German artillery battery at Val St. trench mortar and its crew. He earned the Croix
Pierre and Logny. Over the course of the regi- de Guerre with palm, the Médaille Militaire,
ment’s stay at the front, some seventy-one sol- and the Distinguished Service Cross. In all, the
diers were awarded the medal, in addition to the French awarded 152 Croix de Guerre to the reg-
whole of Company C (who received the Croix iment. Their French commanding general, Mar-
de Guerre with palm, honoring an additional iano Goybet, said in honor of them: “The ‘Red
act of bravery). Hand’ sign of the division, has, thanks to you,
The 372d Regiment operating on the Cham- become a bloody hand which took the Boche
pagne front had pushed the Germans out of (Germans) and made him cry for mercy. You
Bussy Farm, fought at Sechault, and advanced have well avenged our glorious dead” (Heywood
on Ripont. During the fighting in September 1928, 42).
1918, Corp. Clarence Van Allen had destroyed a The 371st, another regiment of the 93d Divi-
German machine gun post (killing four and cap- sion, held the highest honors, with 134 Croix de

| 118 |
Cromwell, Oliver

Guerre. The total cost in men to the division Rodino, he was presented with a replacement
had been 584 killed, 2,582 wounded—some 32 by Col. Roger Lestac on board a French aircraft
percent of the division’s initial strength. carrier in New York harbor.
When the 92d Division was moved up to The next time African Americans would have
Argonne to take part in what would be the last the opportunity to win the Croix de Guerre
Allied push in the war, the four regiments, the would be in World War II, perhaps most notably
365th, 366th, 367th, and 368th, were placed the thousand men of the 490th Port Battalion.
on either side of the Moselle River. When the The whole unit was awarded the medal for their
7th Division’s attack floundered, and the outstanding services to the assault troops on
French 56th Infantry could not move due to Utah Beach on D-Day (June 6, 1944).
heavy enemy fire, the 1st Battalion of the 367th
were thrown in to assist. Under Maj. Charles See also Bullard, Eugene Jacques; Bunker Hill,
Appleton, the battalion hit the Germans in the Battle of; Lew, Barzillai; 92d Division; 93d
flank and allowed the French to pull back and Division; World War I; World War II
reform. Appleton’s battalion was awarded a unit
Croix de Guerre. References and Further Reading
It was not just regular U.S. Army units that Barbeau, Arthur E., and Florette Henri. The
were winning the Croix de Guerre; Eugene Unknown Soldiers. New York: DaCapo Press,
Jacques Bullard had enlisted in the French 1996.
Army in 1914. He was an African American of Heywood, Chester D. Negro Combat Troops in the
Haitian descent from Columbus, Georgia. In World War. Worcester, MA: Commonwealth,
September 1914 he joined the French Foreign 1928.
Legion and fought in many bloody battles. In Miller, Warren H. The Boys of 1917. Boston: Page,
1916, by then in the French 170th Infantry, 1939.
Bullard was awarded the Croix de Guerre. The Sweeney, W. Allison. History of the American Negro
170th was popularly known as the Swallows of in the Great World War. Chicago: Caneo-
Henneberry, 1919.
Death; Bullard was nicknamed the Black Swal-
low of Death.
Throughout World War I African Americans
continuously proved their valor and performed
tasks on the battlefield often ignored by their
own countrymen. In the last two days of the Cromwell, Oliver
war, the great-great-great-grandson of Barzillai (1753–1853)
Lew, who had stood on Bunker Hill all those
years before, won the Croix de Guerre: Freder- Oliver Cromwell was born in Columbus, New
ick White, a seventeen-year-old from Cam- Jersey, and at the age of twenty-four he crossed
bridge, Massachusetts, survived a gun attack the Delaware River with Washington as a mem-
and German assault that wiped out most of his ber of the 2d New Jersey Regiment. He served
company. with the regiment for some seven years, fighting
William Layton of the 369th had his Croix de at the battles of Brandywine, Monmouth,
Guerre in his possession for only a short period Princeton, Trenton, and Yorktown. He is por-
after his entire regiment was awarded the medal trayed, along with another African American,
for their actions at Argonne. On his return to Prince Whipple, in the famous 1851 painting by
the United States in February 1919, his medal Emmanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the
was stolen from under his pillow at Camp Up- Delaware, of the memorable crossing on De-
ton, New Jersey. Nearly seventy years later, fol- cember 25, 1776. Cromwell also survived the
lowing the efforts of New Jersey Cong. Peter awful winter at Valley Forge (1777–1778),

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Cromwell, Oliver

Oliver Cromwell crossed the Delaware River with General Washington as a member of the
2d New Jersey Regiment. The crossing is depicted in this 1851 painting by Emmanuel Leutze.
Cromwell appears directly in front of Washington. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

when the army languished with few supplies for References and Further Reading
several months. Beach, E. Merrill. From Valley Forge to Freedom.
In 1783 Cromwell was given an honorable Chester, CT: Pequot Press, 1975.
discharge, signed by Washington himself, for Kaplan, Sidney, and Emma Nogrady Kaplan.
his faithful service during the Revolutionary The Black Presence in the Era of the American
War. Cromwell lived to the age of 100, when a Revolution. Amherst: University of Massachusetts
number of newspapers and periodicals recalled Press, 1989.
his contribution during the war. Peckham, Howard H. The War for Independence.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958.
See also American Revolution; Trenton, Battle of

| 120 |
d
Davis, Benjamin Oliver, Jr. out of a class of 276 in 1936, becoming the first
(1912–2002) African American to graduate from the academy
in forty-seven years. Davis also became one of
The first African American to graduate from only two African American line officers in the
West Point in the twentieth century, commander U.S. Army at the time, the other one being his
of the first African American air unit to be father. He later wrote of the silencing during his
formed, the first African American to be pro- time at West Point, “It was designed to make me
moted to a four-star general in the U.S. Air buckle, but I refused to buckle. They didn’t un-
Force. derstand that I was going to stay there, and I
Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. was born on De- was going to graduate. I was not missing any-
cember 18, 1912, in Washington, D.C., the son thing by not associating with them. They were
of Elnora and Benjamin Davis. His father, in missing a great deal by not knowing me” (Davis
1940, became the first African American to be 1991, 28).
promoted to the rank of four-star general in the With a commission as a second lieutenant,
U.S. Army. Benjamin Davis Jr. lived on a num- Davis applied to join the Air Corps but was re-
ber of military bases during his youth. After fused because there were no black squadrons.
leaving Cleveland High School, Davis entered Davis had recently married Agatha Scott, and
Cleveland Western Reserve University and then the couple moved to Fort Benning, Georgia,
transferred to the University of Chicago. where he spent the next year commanding an
In 1932 Davis entered West Point. He was infantry company of black soldiers.
nominated for entry to the academy by the Afri- In June 1937 Davis entered infantry school
can American Chicago congressman, Oscar De- in Georgia. After graduating a year later, he ac-
Priest, and passed the entrance examinations. cepted the position of professor of military sci-
During his time at West Point, Davis was sub- ence at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, where he
jected by his classmates to a shunning tech- remained for the next four years. During his
nique known as silencing. This meant that time at the institute, President Franklin D. Roo-
Davis roomed alone and ate alone and was spo- sevelt approved changes about the enlistment of
ken to by other cadets only when on official African Americans into the armed services, and
business. This silencing made Davis more deter- a training program for African American pilots
mined to succeed, and he graduated thirty-fifth at the Tuskegee Institute was established. In

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D a v i s , B e n j a m i n O l i v e r, J r.

May 1941 Davis entered the Advanced Flying abama and was assigned to the deputy chief of
School at the Tuskegee Air Base and received staff for operations in Washington, D.C.
his pilot wings in the spring of the following Davis again saw combat during the Korean
year. He was given command of the 99th War when he assumed command of the 51st
Fighter Squadron at Tuskegee, the first African Fighter-Interceptor Wing of the Far East Air
American air unit to be formed. Forces (FEAF). Commanding this racially inte-
Davis, along with the 99th Pursuit Squadron, grated flying unit, Davis was promoted to
served in North Africa and Sicily during World brigadier general, becoming the first African
War II. After four months of active service in American to attain the rank in the U.S. Air
the Mediterranean, he returned to America in Force. From 1954 until 1955 Davis served as di-
October 1943 to take command of the 332d rector of operations and training at the FEAF
Fighter Group, a larger African American unit, headquarters in Tokyo and then took up the
based at Selfridge Field, Michigan. The unit post of vice commander of the 13th Air Force in
was deployed to Italy in January 1944 and Taipei, Formosa (Taiwan). After serving as chief
proved to be a highly efficient and effective of staff in Ramstein and Wiesbaden, Germany,
force. On June 9 the unit, flying P-47 Thunder- Davis returned to the United States in July
bolts and escorting B-24 bombers, flew to Mu- 1961.
nich, Germany, led by Davis. During this mis- In the positions of director of manpower and
sion the unit successfully destroyed several organization and deputy chief of staff, pro-
Me–109s. For his leadership skills and bravery grams, and requirements, Davis remained at the
on this mission, Davis was awarded the Distin- headquarters of the U.S. Air Force until April
guished Flying Cross—the first of many such 1965, when he was assigned as chief of staff for
awards. The medal was presented to Davis at the United Nations Command and U.S. Forces
the Ramitelli Air Base in Italy and was pinned in Korea. Davis became the first African Ameri-
on his chest by his father, Brig. Gen. Benjamin can in any military branch of the United States
O. Davis Sr. forces to attain the rank of lieutenant general in
In March 1945 the Tuskegee Airmen, led 1965.
once more by Davis, flew a 1,600-mile round- During the Vietnam War Davis commanded
trip escort to Berlin; they never lost a bomber the 13th Air Force at Clark Air Force Base in
against the German force. For this mission, the the Republic of the Philippines. In 1968 he was
unit won a Distinguished Unit Citation, and assigned as deputy commander in chief of the
Davis was promoted to colonel. U.S. Strike Command at MacDill Air Force
One of the Tuskegee Airmen said of Davis Base in Florida, with additional duties as com-
that he was “the most positive commander I mander in chief, Middle East, Southern Asia,
ever had. He stressed the awful price of failure.” and Africa.
Another noted, “He was respected by most and General Davis retired from military service in
hated by some, but it was because of the disci- 1970, moving to Arlington, Virginia, and served
pline he exacted that we were able to make the as assistant secretary at the Department of
record we did” (Smithsonian 2003). Transportation for environment, safety, and
Following the end of World War II Davis re- consumer Affairs under President Richard M.
turned to America in June 1945 to take com- Nixon until 1975. In 1978 Davis served, as his
mand of the 447th Composite Group at Cod- father had before him, on the Battle Monu-
man Field, Kentucky. He then commanded the ments Commission. In 1991 he published his
base and the 332d Fighter Wing at Lockbourne autobiography, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Ameri-
Army Air Base in Ohio. Between 1949 and 1953 can. In 1998 President Clinton promoted him
Davis graduated from the Air War College in Al- to the rank of four-star general on the retired

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D a v i s , B e n j a m i n O l i v e r, J r.

list. At the presentation ceremony at the White nation, for his people and also for his country.
House on Wednesday, December 9, 1998, the He believed all his adult life in racial integra-
secretary of defense, William S. Cohen, said of tion and thought he could bring this essential
Davis: reform to America once World War II began. If
he demonstrated blacks could fly and fight and
General Davis is often held up as a shining ex- lead with the same skill and courage as whites,
ample of what is possible for African-Ameri- a notion foreign to white America of 1941, he
cans. But today we honor him not only as a believed he could destroy the myth of racial in-
great African-American. We honor him be- feriority. The Tuskegee Airmen shared his vi-
cause, like his father before him, he is a great sion and courage, and he and they succeeded”
warrior, a great officer, and a great American. (quoted in Lopez 2002).
The Tuskegee Airmen who stand in our
midst today displayed incredible heroism in Also present was Davis’s nephew, Judge L.
the skies of yesterday. Their record is as re- Scott Melville, who spoke of how his uncle had
markable as it is renowned, never losing a worked for dignity and honor:
plane that they were protecting to an enemy
fighter in 10,000 sorties over North Africa and Black men, brown men, yellow men, red men
Europe. They were the first black fighter and women of all colors could not acquire
squadron, and by their great and good fortune those attributes through birth, they had to
they were led by then-Colonel Davis. In their earn them. Ben understood these rules of the
first escort mission, he and 38 American fight- American politics, and he was determined to
ers held off more than 100 German attackers. overcome them. Not by demonstrating, not by
In perhaps their most spectacular mission, denouncing, not by complaining, not by
Colonel Davis led the Tuskegee Airmen on a whining, but by succeeding. He was deter-
1,600-mile escort mission to Berlin. Until that mined to succeed. This is what motivated him.
day, the Allies had shot down only two of the He tried to instill in each of his officers the
new German jet fighters. But on that day need to show by example that they were just as
alone, Colonel Davis and his Tuskegee Airmen good as anybody else, and maybe even better
downed three. (quoted in Lopez 2002).
. . . few did more than General Davis to
prove that black and white Americans could At the Arlington ceremony, former members
not only serve together—indeed, that white of the Tuskegee Airmen served as honorary pall-
soldiers would serve under a black superior— bearers, and a heritage flyover, including two P-
but that they could succeed together (Cohen 51s, an F-16, and an F-15, honored Davis with
1998). a missing-man formation.

Davis died on July 4, 2002, and was buried See also Davis, Benjamin O., Sr.; Korean War;
with full military honors at Arlington National 99th Pursuit/Fighter Squadron; Tuskegee
Cemetery. A memorial service was also held at Airmen; Vietnam War; West Point; World War II
the Bolling Air Force Base chapel that attracted
many former Tuskegee airmen. Alan Gropman, References and Further Reading:
chairman, Grand Strategy Department, Na- Astor, Gerald. The Right to Fight. Novato, CA:
tional Defense University, said: Presidio Press, 1998.
Buckley, Gail. American Patriots: The Story of Blacks
Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. is an American in the Military from the Revolution to Desert
hero. . . . General Davis risked his life for his Storm. New York: Random House, 2001.

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D a v i s , B e n j a m i n O l i v e r, S r.

Cohen, William S. Speech, December 9, 1998. http: the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Yet
//www.defenselink.mil/speeches/1998/c19981209 Davis later said of this commander: “I do not re-
-secdef.html (accessed August 2, 2003). member any instance where he displayed any
Davis, Benjamin O., Jr. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., racial prejudice.”
American: An Autobiography. Washington, DC: However, when the unit was sent to Chicka-
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991. mauga Park, Georgia, Davis encountered the
Lopez, Todd. “Pioneering Tuskegee Airman Laid to
harsh realities of Southern discrimination:
Rest in Arlington.” July 17, 2002. http://www.
defenselink.mil/news/Jul2002/n07172002_
I shall never forget my first visit to that city. It
200207174.html (accessed August 2, 2003).
Nalty, Bernard C. Strength for the Fight. New York: had a most depressive effect upon me. Much
The Free Press, 1986. of my patriotism was dampened. As far as I
Reef, Catherine. Benjamin Davis, Jr. New York: was concerned and all persons classed as col-
Scholastic, 1992. ored, this country, this land for which we were
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: called upon to defend and if necessary make
http://www.nasm.si.edu/features/blackwings/ the supreme sacrifice was ‘not the land of the
hstudent/bio_davis.cfm (accessed August 2, free’. No phase of American life is so discour-
2003). aging to the colored people as segregation.

After the war with Spain ended, Davis was


mustered out of the Volunteer Infantry on
March 6, 1899, but reenlisted two months later
Davis, Benjamin Oliver, Sr. as a private in Troop I, 9th Cavalry of the regu-
(1880–1970) lar army.
Progressing through the ranks of corporal
The first African American general in the U.S. and squadron sergeant major, Davis was com-
Army and a major figure in the fight for the in- missioned a second lieutenant of cavalry on
tegration of the armed forces. February 2, 1901. He was sent to the island of
Benjamin Oliver Davis was born in Washing- Samar in the Philippines with the 9th Cavalry
ton, D.C., on July 1, 1877, into the household but soon after was assigned to the 2d Squadron,
of Gen. John A. Logan, for whom Davis’s father, 10th Cavalry, serving as adjutant at Fort
Louis, worked as a servant. He was also a mes- Washakie, Wyoming. In 1902 Davis married El-
senger for the Department of the Interior. After nora Dickerson, with whom he had two chil-
attending M Street High School, Davis entered dren, Olive (1905) and Benjamin Jr. (1912).
Howard University in 1897. There, he became a Between September 1905 and September
member of the cadet program and enlisted in 1909 Davis served at Wilberforce University,
the African American unit of the District of Co- Ohio, the nation’s oldest private, historically Af-
lumbia National Guard. rican American university, in the role of profes-
During the Spanish American War, Davis en- sor of military science and tactics. For the next
listed in the 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry, in a three years he served as military attaché in
company that had been raised by Robertson Monrovia, Liberia, returning in 1915 to Wilber-
Palmer, on July 13, 1898, serving as a tempo- force as professor of military science for an-
rary first lieutenant. Robertson Palmer was a other two years. During this time at Wilberforce
9th Cavalry veteran who enlisted Davis’s help in University, Davis’s wife Elnora died in child-
the training of the troops. The 9th Cavalry was birth.
commanded by Lt. Col. Archelaus M. Hughes, Davis was then posted to the Philippines as
who had served with Nathan Bedford Forrest in supply officer of the 9th Cavalry based at Camp

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D a v i s , B e n j a m i n O l i v e r, S r.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis watching a Signal Corps crew erecting poles, France, August 8, 1944.
(National Archives)

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D a v i s , B e n j a m i n O l i v e r, S r.

Stotsenburg, where he remained for the next Negro officer above the grade of First Lieu-
three years. It was while he was in the Philip- tenant, he is automatically assigned to another
pines that Davis began writing to a former unit. The announcement of this policy has cer-
Wilberforce colleague, Sadie Overton. When tainly shaken the morale of the 93d Division.
Davis returned to America, the two married. He Negro officers are required to meet the same
then obtained a position as professor of military qualifications, make the same sacrifices as
science and tactics at the Tuskegee Institute, white officers. I cannot believe the War De-
Alabama, remaining there until 1924 when the partment is going to maintain policy that is so
couple moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and Davis unjust or bad. I cannot see why it would be
took a position as instructor of the 372d In- any more degrading or unjust or whatever it
fantry of the Ohio National Guard. may be called, for a white man of lower grade
In July 1929 Davis returned once more to to serve under a Negro officer of a higher
Wilberforce, spending just over a year at this in- grade than for a colored man to serve under a
stitution before being detailed to carry out spe- white man. There certainly should be no ob-
cial duties for the Department of State related jection to Negroes commanding Negroes.
to the Republic of Liberia. Between 1930 and
1933 Davis frequently visited Europe on assign- Soon after this statement, Davis was sent to
ment with the Pilgrimage of War Mothers and the European theater of operations as adviser
Widows, his dedication to which brought him on “Negro problems,” returning to Washington
letters of commendation from the secretary of at the end of this assignment. Davis had been
war and the quartermaster general. Davis then appointed to the War Department Permanent
returned to Tuskegee Institute and Wilberforce Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Policies,
University until 1938. with the responsibility for investigating racial
In August 1938 Davis was given his first in- incidents and solving racial problems. In this
dependent command and was assigned as in- role he became heavily involved in instituting a
structor and commanding officer of the 369th proposal for the retraining of African American
Infantry, New York National Guard, later to be- troops as combat soldiers. In 1945 he received
come the 369th Coast Artillery Regiment, and the Distinguished Service Medal. His citation
subsequently, the 369th Anti-Aircraft Artillery read:
Battalion.
On October 25, 1940, Davis became the first For exceptionally meritorious service to the
African American to be promoted to the rank of Government in a duty of great responsibility
brigadier general and served as brigade com- from June, 1941, to November, 1944, as an In-
mander at Fort Riley, Kansas, with the 2d Cav- spector of troop units in the field, and as spe-
alry Division. In June 1941 he was assigned to cial War Department consultant on matters
Washington, D.C., to serve as assistant to the pertaining to Negro troops. The initiative, in-
inspector general, remaining there until Sep- telligence and sympathetic understanding dis-
tember of the following year. Davis believed played by him in conducting countless investi-
strongly that rank superseded race. He said: gations concerning individual soldiers, troop
units and other components of the War De-
The interpretation by the Commanding Gen- partment brought about a fair and equitable
eral of the 93d Division limits colored officers solution to many important problems which
on duty with the division to the grade of First have since become the basis of far-reaching
Lieutenant unless the 93d Division is desig- War Department policy. His wise advice and
nated as a unit in which Negro officers can counsel have made a direct contribution to the
serve in all grades. Upon the promotion of a maintenance of soldier morale and troop disci-

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Davis, Calvin Clark

pline and has been of material assistance to Davis, Calvin Clark


the War Department and to responsible com- (d. 1944)
manders in the field of understanding person-
nel matters as they pertain to the individual African American Calvin Clark Davis posed as a
soldier. white man when he enlisted in the U.S. Air
Force in May 1941. Posthumously he received
Based in Paris, France, Davis spent the year several medals for his gallantry; neither the Air
from November 1944 until November 1945 as Force nor his fellow aircrew ever knew that he
special assistant to the commanding general, was an African American. He died over Ger-
Communications Zone, European Theater of many in 1944.
Operations. During this time Davis pinned the Davis was born in Bear Lake, Michigan,
Distinguished Flying Cross on his son, Ben- where he was orphaned as a young child and
jamin O. Davis Jr., at the Ramitelli Air Base in raised by his sister. His family could trace their
Italy. ancestry back to an African American slave and
In January 1946, Davis once was serving as a white plantation owner. Davis graduated from
assistant to the inspector general in Washing- Bear Lake High School in 1932, where he ex-
ton, where he remained until his retirement on celled at track.
July 14, 1948. He could pass as white, and consequently
After fifty years serving his country, Davis re- when he enlisted with the 5th U.S. Army Air
ceived tributes at his retirement ceremony from Force in May 1941, he was not challenged and
numerous high-ranking officials, including subsequently joined the 90th Bomber Group of
President Harry S. Truman. After his retire- the 400th Squadron on May 15. The unit was
ment, Davis served as a member of the Ameri- known as the “Jolly Rogers” (not to be confused
can Battle Monuments Commission and re- with a U.S. Navy fighter squadron of the same
ceived multiple honors, including an honorary nickname, VF-17), and Davis became a member
degree from Atlanta University, Georgia, the of the aircrew on board a B-24 Liberator. He
Croix de Guerre with palm from France, the would take part in more than fifty combat mis-
Grade of Commander of the Order of the Star sions in the Pacific. Davis and the rest of the
of Africa from the Liberian government, and the bomber crew were awarded the Distinguished
Bronze Star. Flying Cross for their heroism when they at-
Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr. died November 26, tacked a Japanese airfield in 1943. Davis’s air-
1970, in Chicago. He was buried in Arlington craft had already been damaged, but they con-
National Cemetery with full military honors. tinued the attack out of formation to help
protect the other bombers in their unit. Having
See also African American Officers; Davis, completed the fifty missions, Davis was eligible
Benjamin O., Jr.; 9th Cavalry; Philippine to seek a noncombat role, but instead he volun-
Insurrection; Spanish-American War; teered for service in Europe, joining the 8th
10th Cavalry; World War II U.S. Army Air Force, 570th Squadron, 390th
Bomber Group, known as the Jokers. He would
References and Further Reading now fly combat missions over Europe in a B-17.
Fletcher, Marvin E. America’s First Black General: On November 30, 1944, while the squadron
Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., 1880–1970. Lawrence: was attacking German oil refineries at Merse-
University Press of Kansas, 1989. burg, Germany, his bomber Asterisk collided
Lee, Ulysses. The Employment of Negro Troops. with another American aircraft. Davis, then a ra-
Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center for Military dio operator, and five other members of the crew
History, 1966. were killed, while three managed to bail out.

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Davis, Rodney Maxwell

Davis’s story might well have remained undis- came a corporal and a sergeant, he was sent to
covered had one of his descendents, Calvin Vietnam in August 1967. Davis became the pla-
Murphy, not found a contemporary (2000) toon guide with Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th
newspaper article about Davis and his exemplary Marines, 1st Marine Division and operated in
service. Davis’s records had been destroyed in a the Quang Nam province during Operation
fire in 1973. Nevertheless, Murphy contacted Swift.
Michigan Cong. Peter Hoekstra and John Cony- On September 6, 1967, the 2d Platoon had
ers Jr. to help him in his search for evidence. been pinned down by heavy enemy fire in a
The war hero who had masqueraded as a trench line. Sergeant Davis encouraged the men
white man to serve his country during World and moved up and down the trench in full sight
War II was belatedly honored in February 2002, of the enemy. An enemy grenade landed in the
when posthumously Murphy received on his be- trench, and he threw himself onto the grenade,
half the World War II Victory Medal, the Purple his body absorbing most of the explosion. He
Heart, the European-African-Middle Eastern saved the platoon from certain death.
Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, Davis was posthumously awarded the Medal
the American Defense Service Medal, the Air of Honor. Davis had also won the Purple Heart,
Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense
Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary
See also U.S. Air Force; World War II Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Military
Merit Medal, the Gallantry Cross with palm,
and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
The USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG-60), whose
motto is “by valor and arms,” was commissioned
Davis, Rodney Maxwell on May 9, 1987.
(1942–1967)
See also Anderson, James, Jr.; Austin, Oscar
An African American of Company B, 1st Battal- Palmer; Jenkins, Robert H., Jr.; Johnson, Ralph H.;
ion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, who was Medal of Honor; U.S. Marine Corps; Vietnam War
posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for
saving his platoon during action in Vietnam. References and Further Reading
Rodney Maxwell Davis was born in Macon, Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Defenders of America,
Georgia, on April 7, 1942. Shortly after his 1775–1973. Chicago: Johnson, 1974.
graduation from high school in 1961 he joined
the U.S. Marine Corps on August 31 and was
trained at Parris Island, South Carolina, until
December. He then went on to the Marine
Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Delany, Martin Robison
for combat training with the 2d Battalion of the (1812–1885)
1st Infantry Training Regiment, graduating in
February 1962. Maj. Martin Delany (sometimes spelled De-
Davis joined Company K of the 3d Battalion, laney) was the highest-ranking African Ameri-
2d Marines, 2d Marine Division as a rifleman can to serve during the American Civil War. De-
until May 1964. He then became a private first lany was born a slave in Charles Town, Virginia
class on April 1, 1962, and lance corporal on (now West Virginia), on May 6, 1812. In 1823
January 1, 1964. After serving for three years in his father purchased the family’s freedom. De-
England as a guard, during which time he be- lany’s mother had taught him to read as a child,

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Dorman, Isaiah

and in 1831 he attended the Bethel African cer and military commander in Charleston and
Methodist Church School in Pittsburgh. He later as a subassistant commissioner in the
also worked at this time as an assistant to a lo- Freedmen’s Bureau.
cal doctor. After his wartime service, Delany resigned his
In 1843 Delany launched an antislavery commission on August 5, 1868, and in 1873 be-
newspaper, The Mystery, and four years later he came a customs inspector in Charleston. He
joined Frederick Douglass on the staff of the also became involved with the Liberian Exodus
North Star, the newspaper Douglass had estab- Joint Stock Exchange Company, an organization
lished. Delany briefly (November 1850–March established to facilitate emigration to Liberia.
1851) attended Harvard Medical School; he Delany was later active in South Carolina poli-
was forced to leave by the opposition to his tics, running unsuccessfully for the position of
presence of the white students. He went on to lieutenant governor as an Independent Republi-
practice in Pittsburgh. can in 1874.
Delany traveled widely around the country, Delany died at Wilberforce, Ohio, on January
primarily campaigning against the Fugitive 24, 1885.
Slave Act. In 1852, Delany published the first of
his monographs, entitled The Condition, Eleva- See also American Civil War; Douglass,
tion, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored Frederick; Freedmen’s Bureau
People in the United States, in which he sug-
gested that African Americans should emigrate References and Further Reading
to Africa. Following up his beliefs, he led an ex- Levine, Robert S. Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass
pedition to West Africa—primarily Liberia and and the Politics of Representative Identity. Chapel
what is now western Nigeria—in 1859 to search Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
for suitable places of settlement. Although these Levine, Robert S., ed. Martin R. Delany: A
efforts never bore fruit, Delany considered the Documentary Reader. Chapel Hill: University of
establishment of an African American nation in North Carolina Press, 2003.
Africa to be the foundation of black liberation. Sterling, Dorothy. The Making of An Afro American,
Like his friend Douglass, Delany actively re- Martin R. Delany 1812–1885. New York: Da
cruited African American troops during the Capo Press, 1996.
Civil War, helping to raise the 54th Massachu- Ullman, Victor. Martin R. Delany: The Beginnings of
Black Nationalism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971.
setts. Also like Douglass, he attempted to pro-
mote the formation of truly all-black units, with
African American officers as well as troops, and
in February 1865 he secured an interview with
President Abraham Lincoln to propose such a
corps. Lincoln was favorably impressed with Dorman, Isaiah
Delany and recommended him to Secretary of (1821?–1876)
War Edwin Stanton. Shortly thereafter Delany
received his commission in February 1865 and An African American known to the Lakota Sioux
was sent to South Carolina to organize the rais- as the “Black White Man”; a scout and inter-
ing of the 104th and 105th United States Col- preter who died in action at the Little Big Horn
ored Troops (USCT). The 104th was mustered on June 25, 1876.
into service in June 1865, after Gen. Robert E. Dorman had been earning the then-substan-
Lee surrendered at Appomattox. As a conse- tial pay of $100 per month during the Civil War
quence, the 105th was never fully raised, but as a War Department courier, carrying mail on
Delany remained with the 104th as a staff offi- foot between Fort Rice and Fort Wadworth,

| 129 |
D o r s e y, D e c a t u r

Nebraska (a 200-mile round trip). Dorman had awarded the Medal of Honor at the Crater, in
been in this area since at least 1850, was well the Battle for Richmond, on July 30, 1864.
known to the Sioux, and counted Sitting Bull as Dorsey had been given his freedom by his
a friend. master in Howard County, Maryland, and ulti-
In 1871, as an interpreter and guide, he was mately enrolled with the 39th USCT at Balti-
hired by the U.S. Army to help with the North- more, Maryland. By May 1864 he had become a
ern Pacific Railroad survey. Prior to that he had corporal and in July was promoted to sergeant.
been a woodcutter on the Missouri River and Dorsey was the color bearer for the regiment at
had moved in 1869 to the Standing Rock Indian the Battle of the Crater (July 30, 1864) when a
Agency, where he lived with his Native Ameri- desperate attempt was made to penetrate the
can wife. He remained with the army in the role Confederate lines around Richmond. He surged
of a guide until October 1871, and then he be- forward with the regiment and planted the col-
came an interpreter at Fort Rice. ors on the Confederate entrenchments. When
Due to his knowledge of the Lakota language, the regiment was driven back, Dorsey continued
he was employed by Col. George A. Custer and to show the flag and rally the men.
on May 14, 1876, accompanied him as the 7th Dorsey was given an honorable discharge in
Cavalry interpreter on the Little Big Horn expe- December 1865 while the unit was on garrison
dition for $75 a month. He was accompanied by service in Wilmington, North Carolina. He died
a white scout, Lonesome Charley Reynolds. in 1891. He is buried in Flower Hill Cemetery,
When Custer’s troops encountered the Little North Bergen, New Jersey.
Big Horn camp on the afternoon of June 25,
1876, Custer ordered Maj. Marcus Reno into See also American Civil War; Medal of Honor
the valley to attack the south end of the camp. (appendix); Richmond, Battles of; United States
Dorman, who apparently was recognized by the Colored Troops (appendixes)
Sioux, was killed. Accounts of Dorman’s death
conflict as to whether he was spared the mutila-
tions inflicted on the white soldiers or whether
the Lakota viewed him as a traitor and treated
him accordingly. Double V
In all of the depictions of the Battle of Little
Big Horn, Isaah Dorman’s presence is conspicu- In December 1941 African Americans borrowed
ous by its absence. the “V for Victory” symbol from the British
prime minister, Winston Churchill, and devel-
References and Further Reading oped their own “Double V” campaign calling for
Connell, Evan S. Son of the Morning Star. New York: both military success against Germany, Japan,
Harper and Row, 1984. and Italy and the defeat of racism at home.
Katz, William Loren. The Black West. Garden City, With segregation still in place, both in the
NY: Doubleday, 1973. military and in American society, the African
American press highlighted and agitated against
racism wherever they found it. The African
American press had reached an average circula-
tion of nearly 1.3 million by 1940, double that
Dorsey, Decatur of six or seven years previously. By the end of
(1836–1891) the war it topped 1.8 million. Although increas-
ingly popular, the African American press at-
A sergeant who, while serving in the 39th tracted severe criticism from all sections of the
United States Colored Troops (USCT), was government, from the president to the Post Of-

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Double V

John Sengstacke (right), publisher of the Chicago Defender, a leading African American newspaper.
In January 1941 Sengstacke urged African Americans to become conscientious objectors rather than fight
for a country that denied them equal rights; later he supported black participation in the war if it was
accompanied by progress at home. (Library of Congress)

fice. It was not so much the intent of their criti- the war effort by focusing on criticism of racism
cisms of discrimination; it was that the African in the United States rather than the greater
American press often equated discrimination in evils of Nazism and Fascism.
the United States with Nazi policies against mi- When John Sengstacke, the founder of the
norities. Yet ironically, later some African Ameri- Negro Newspaper Publishers Association and
can servicemen would come to blame their own publisher of the Chicago Defender, in January
press for encouraging them into the war. 1941 urged African Americans to become con-
The African American press became a target scientious objectors as their protest against dis-
of military intelligence, who viewed the cam- crimination in the military, the potential dan-
paign against racism as being contrary to the gers of alienating the African American
best interests of the United States in a time of community were brought into focus. By the
war. Despite discrimination in the armed forces, summer, however, Sengstacke’s editorializing on
government officials believed that African racism had changed. It then supported a more
Americans should be as determined as whites to positive approach, as advocated by Harold M.
protect the United States and not to undermine Kingsley of the Chicago Church of the Good

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Double V

Shepherd. Kingsley had made a speech that every race and creed for the solution of their
summer, which was reported in the Chicago De- problems are a danger to efficiency, discipline
fender. The main point of his argument was: “It and morale and could result in ultimate defeat.”
is sound wisdom that we fight both of these bat- The meeting broke up with the two sides no
tles at the same time.” Kingsley and Sengstacke closer than they had been at the start. The
now supported African Americans’ active in- newspaper representatives were angry and frus-
volvement in any future war, which daily trated.
seemed more probable, coupled with the con- As the United States geared up for war in
tinued struggle against racism and discrimina- those early months, the army remained recalci-
tion at home. trant; greater African American participation
A meeting was called on December 8, 1941, still meant segregation, despite the increasing
with the army, headed by Gen. George C. Mar- number of directives specifically opening
shall, and some twenty African American jour- branches of the army and other armed services
nalists, publishers, editors, and columnists. The to African Americans. In response to this segre-
meeting had been scheduled long before the im- gation, in the armed forces as well as in society
minent threat of the declaration of war, but it in general, the Double V campaign was set off
happened to fall on the day after the Japanese by a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh
attack on Pearl Harbor, which gave greater ur- Courier from a young man named James Thom-
gency to the imperative to settle the issue and son, titled “Should I Sacrifice to Live ‘Half
secure the support of the African American American’?” He proposed a double campaign,
press for the war effort. Marshall expressed his against enemies “without” in the war and ene-
disappointment about the progress being made mies “within”—racism and segregation—at
in the army in its efforts to stamp out discrimi- home. His letter was published on January 31,
nation and enforce a system of equality. He ex- 1942; a week later the Double V insignia ap-
pressed satisfaction with the quality of African peared in the paper—the word “democracy”
American enlisted men and hoped that in time atop two interlocking V’s entwined with “Dou-
an all–African American division would be cre- ble Victory,” above the terms “at home” and
ated. Marshall was admitting that a consider- “abroad.”
able problem remained. Equally, he acknowl- The paper on February 19 reported an over-
edged that any short-term changes would whelmingly positive response to the subtle cam-
involve a continuation of discrimination in the paign from its readers—“hundreds of telegrams
form of segregation and not integration and that and congratulations proving that without any
it was clear that many of those in the African explanation, this slogan represents the true bat-
American press supported this—but condition- tle cry of colored America. . . . in our fight for
ally, as a step toward full integration. freedom we wage a two-pronged attack against
It is unlikely that much of what Marshall told our enslavers at home and those abroad who
the assembled journalists either surprised or would enslave us. We have a stake in this fight. .
placated them, particularly toward the close of . . We are Americans too!”
the meeting, when Col. Eugene R. Householder The campaign gained momentum. Pho-
read a prepared statement that seemed to back- tographs of supporters, including whites both
track about much of what Marshall had said famous and ordinary, filled the paper. Double V
and what had been discussed: “The army is not clubs were formed across the nation; newspaper
a sociological laboratory. To be effective it must columns were devoted to them. Photographs of
be organized and trained according to principles attractive young women, usually multitalented
which will ensure success. Experiments to meet college students, were used to promote the con-
the wishes and demands of the champions of cept. Double V pins, dresses, hats, and even

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Double V

hairdos were devised. Other African American continued to urge them forward but was less
newspapers joined the campaign; the Double V openly hostile. By mid-1942, African Americans
symbol appeared in such places as sheet music were accepted into the Marines, as well as into
and posters. the Coast Guard, and the Women’s Army Auxil-
The U.S. Marines and the U.S. Coast Guard iary Corps. There were also increasing numbers
still adamantly refused to enlist African Ameri- in the air corps, as well as a more welcoming at-
cans. The U.S. Navy accepted them only as titude in the army.
mess workers and stewards, and the army con- On the home front, the degree of alienation
tinued to segregate; there were only a handful felt by the African American press had been
in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Even the Red softened by the fact that U.S. corporations were
Cross, which had finally agreed to accept blood beginning to place advertisements in the Afri-
from African American donors, made it clear can American newspapers with higher circula-
that such donations would remain segregated. tion. Cigarette manufacturers, such as Chester-
The poet Archibald MacLeish led a delega- field and Philip Morris, now routinely ran
tion of administrators from the Office of Facts advertising campaigns in the African American
and Figures, a wartime propaganda agency, in press. Pepsi-Cola, Seagram’s, and Esso also ad-
another meeting with representatives of the Af- vertised.
rican American press, attended by some fifty ed- Biddle, longtime champion of equality, noted
itors and civic leaders, in the spring of 1942. in a September 1943 speech in Philadelphia,
The purpose was to discuss methods to improve “The Negro press throughout the country, al-
the morale of African American civilians and though they very properly protest, and passion-
servicemen. ately, against the wrongs done to members of
In the face of the continued discrimination, their race, are loyal to their government and are
African American newspapers continued to run all out for the war” (Washburn 1986, 186). The
stories that the government considered detri- turning point in the Roosevelt administration’s
mental to the war effort and morale. When J. attitude to the black press had come in May
Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, suggested 1943, when African American reporters were in-
that the African American press institute self- vited into the White House and Congress to
censorship in the interests of the country, the cover the state visit of the Liberian president,
reaction was that they would continue to report Edwin Barclay. In July, at the suggestion of Bid-
racism and discrimination whenever and wher- dle, an African American reporter was perma-
ever they found them. Hoover’s efforts to intim- nently included in the invitations to attend
idate the black press were stymied by Attorney press conferences at the White House. Harry S.
General Francis Biddle, who met with John McAlpin of the Atlanta Daily World became the
Sengstacke in June 1942 and agreed that the first African American correspondent accredited
traditional social criticism and muckraking of at a White House conference. Roosevelt shook
the African American press, of which the Dou- him by the hand and said, “I’m glad to see you,
ble V campaign formed a part, were protected McAlpin, and very happy to see you here.”
by the First Amendment. McAlpin would be the only African American
As the U.S. war commitment deepened, reporter to cover the funeral service of Roo-
change became necessary. Consequently, by the sevelt in April 1945. When Harry Truman took
middle of 1942, African American rights and over, he met with representatives of the African
penetration into the armed services had ad- American press, but he did not admit their re-
vanced markedly. As the progress continued, the porters into the press galleries until 1947.
Double V campaign and coverage became less
critical. Racial policies were changing; the press See also World War II

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D o u g h t y, G e n e

References and Further Reading awarded a Bronze Star and three others the
Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time. New Purple Heart.
York: Simon and Schuster, 1994. On March 3, 1945, Doughty celebrated his
Washburn, Patrick S. A Question of Sedition: The twenty-first birthday on Iwo Jima; he recalled
Federal Government’s Investigation of the Black that he was grateful to be alive and to have fresh
Press During World War II. New York: Oxford food. Indeed a supply ship had arrived, and
University Press, 1986. Doughty’s birthday meal consisted of very wel-
come bacon and eggs.
Sometime later Doughty said: “I believe we
had won something more than the war. We had
proved to the American people that we were as
Doughty, Gene good a Marine as the white Marine. And we said
(b. 1924) maybe they’ll lift all the bans throughout the
country.”
A twenty-year-old African American U.S. Ma-
rine squad leader and acting platoon sergeant See also Iwo Jima, Battle of; Montford Point
who, although part of a support unit, fought at Marines; U.S. Marines; World War II
Iwo Jima in 1945.
Doughty was a Montford Point Marine References and Further Reading
(Montford Point was an all-black Marine Corps Buckley, Gail. American Patriots: The Story of Blacks
training site at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina) in the Military from the Revolution to Desert
from the Bronx, serving in the segregated 8th Storm. New York: Random House, 2001.
Ammunition Company. In February 1945 they Shaw, Henry I., Jr., and Ralph W. Donnelly. Blacks
sailed to Guam, not knowing that their final in the Marine Corps. Washington, DC: History
destination would be Iwo Jima, where they and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S.
would take part in the largest U.S. Marine am- Marine Corps, 1975.
phibious operation in the Pacific War.
Doughty’s unit landed on D-Day plus five
(five days after the initial landings), but the
beachhead was not secure, and almost immedi-
ately the 8th drew Japanese artillery fire and Douglass, Anna Murray
mortars. There was only one landing beach and, (1813–1882)
although five days later the American flag was
symbolically raised on Mount Suribachi, the Anna Murray Douglass was born to recently
fighting would continue between February 19 freed parents near Denton, Carolina County, in
and March 25. eastern Maryland, the first person in her family
On D-Day plus twenty-five, when Doughty’s to be born free. Her parents, Banbarra and
unit was guarding an ammunition cache, Japa- Mary Murray, eventually had twelve children, of
nese and Korean slave laborers emerged from whom Anna was the eighth.
underground caves, some armed with spears At the age of seventeen, she moved to Balti-
and other obsolete weapons. They attacked more, where she worked initially as a maid in a
Doughty’s men throughout the night, and as the prominent household belonging to a French
marines held their perimeter, several of the unit family called Montell. Anna then moved her
and other marines who were fighting in close employment to the home of the postmaster, Mr.
quarters were killed or wounded. At daylight Wells, on South Caroline Street, a position that
Doughty estimated that at least a company of she held for the next seven years. To try to im-
Japanese had been killed. One of his men was prove her knowledge and way of life, Douglass

| 134 |
Douglass, Frederick

began to attend the East Baltimore Improve- paralyzing stroke in 1882. Her daughter later
ment Society. said of her mother: “The heroism of Frederick
It was at one of the meetings of this society Douglass was a story made possible by the
that Douglass met a man called Frederick Au- unswerving loyalty of Anna Murray” (Douglass
gustus Washington Bailey. He was five years Sprague 1896).
younger than she and was intent on escaping
his life of slavery and had plans to leave for New See also American Civil War; Douglass,
York City. After meeting him, Anna decided to Frederick; Underground Railroad
devote all of her energies to assisting Frederick.
In 1838 Anna gave Frederick the money to References and Further Reading
escape. Once he was settled in New York, he Douglass Sprague, Rosetta. “Anna Murray Douglass,
sent for her. The two were married with the My Mother As I Recall Her” (1896). Frederick
help of David Ruggles, who had taken Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress.
into his home when he arrived in New York.
The couple then moved to New Bedford,
Massachusetts, and Nathan Johnson formally
introduced them to their new associates as Mr.
and Mrs. Frederick Douglass. Douglass wrote of Douglass, Frederick
his new wife: “Instead of finding my companion (ca.1817–1895)
a burden, she was truly a helpmeet. She went to
live at service, and I to work on the wharf, and Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey Doug-
though we toiled hard the first winter, we never lass was a prominent African American aboli-
lived more happily.” tionist who was instrumental in convincing
Gradually, Frederick Douglass became Washington during the American Civil War to
prominently involved in the abolitionist move- authorize the recruitment of African Americans
ment and toured the country and Britain, lec- into the military.
turing and raising support for his cause. During Frederick Bailey was born into slavery, proba-
his absences Anna raised their five children and bly in 1817, at Tuckahoe, near Easton, Mary-
cared for the home. Although she was virtually land, to Harriet Bailey and an unknown white
illiterate, she had also become an activist in her father. He adopted February 14 as his date of
own right and belonged to the Massachusetts birth because his mother used to call him “her
circle of reformers. She would meet weekly with little valentine.” He was born on Holmes Hill
antislavery women and annually organized the Farm, which belonged to Aaron Anthony, but he
Anti-Slavery Fair in Boston’s Faneuil Hall. was sent at an early age to live with his grand-
After the couple moved into their new home mother, Betsey Bailey, who lived only a short
in Rochester, New York, in 1847, Anna also be- distance away from Holmes Hill Farm.
came involved in the care and protection of run- It wasn’t until Douglass was six years old that
away slaves. Their home was very close to the he was introduced to his brother, Perry, and two
Canadian border, and eventually it became an sisters, Sara and Eliza. This meeting occurred
important station for the Underground Rail- when his grandmother took him to the Edward
road. Those escaping from bondage in the south Lloyd plantation and abandoned him there to
and en route to freedom in Canada would re- serve the master. In 1826 Douglass was sent to
ceive comfort and shelter in the Douglass Baltimore, Maryland, to work for the Auld fam-
home. Anna also worked as a laundress and ily. It was here that the lady of the house,
shoe-binder. Sophia, began to teach him to read. When her
In 1872 the Douglass family moved to Wash- husband, Hugh, discovered this teaching, he
ington, D.C. Anna died there after suffering a ordered her to stop the lessons for fear that

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Douglass, Frederick

Douglass would become unfit for work as a Philadelphia, he cautiously asked directions to
slave. Determined to master the skills of reading New York City, where he arrived on September
and writing, Douglass began to teach himself 3, a “free man.”
secretly. As his skills increased, he began to read Once Douglass felt secure in the protection
more and more political information, and by the of the home of David Ruggles, an abolitionist
age of thirteen, he began to dream of emancipa- and an officer in the New York Vigilance Com-
tion. mittee, who had taken him in, he sent for Anna,
After the death of Aaron Anthony, Douglass and the two were married on September 15.
returned to the Lloyd plantation for a short time The newlyweds moved to New Bedford, Massa-
to be part of the division of the dead man’s chusetts, where they lodged in the home of
property, but was sent back soon to Hugh and Nathan and Mary Johnson, and it was here that
Sophia Auld in Baltimore. However, within the Frederick Bailey changed his name to Frederick
year he was again forced to leave Baltimore and Douglass (after marrying under the name Fred-
sent to live at Thomas Auld’s farm close to the erick Johnson) in his attempt to start a new life
Lloyd plantation and work as a field hand. After as a free man. Unable to find work in his trade
a short spell of work for Edward Covey in 1833, because of the segregation laws in New Bed-
he was sent to work for a farmer called William ford, Douglass worked as a laborer.
Freedland in January 1834. He had been sent to In June 1839 the Douglasses’ first child,
Covey in an attempt to crush his spirit by being Rosetta, was born, and the following year their
worked and whipped mercilessly. son, Lewis Henry. By now Douglass had become
After he had been at the Freedland farm for a involved in the local black community, the abo-
year, in 1836, Douglass started an illegal school litionist movement, and he also became a mem-
for African American children and began to plan ber of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
his escape to the north. When his planned es- In August 1841 Douglass met the white
cape was discovered, Douglass was imprisoned, leader of the American Anti-Slavery Society,
but he was released by Thomas Auld and set to William Lloyd Garrison, for the first time. Dur-
work for a shipbuilder as an apprentice. He was ing the meeting Garrison approached Douglass
allowed to collect his own pay each week, but it to become an agent for the society as a traveling
was handed over immediately to Thomas Auld lecturer and promoter of the Liberator and Anti-
for his keep, an act that filled Douglass with Slavery Standard periodicals, a job that he en-
resentment. joyed. Touring the northern states, Douglass
In 1837 Douglass joined the East Baltimore told stories of his own slavery experiences ini-
Mental Improvement Society, a black debating tially, but later he began to develop his tales to
club that met in secret, and became involved in incorporate those of hardship he had witnessed
debating, at which he became proficient. At one and racism he had experienced in the north.
of the meetings Douglass met his future wife, During 1842 he continued his lecturing tour
Anna Murray, a free African American woman through Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode
working for a Baltimore family. In 1838 they be- Island along with Garrison and other prominent
came engaged. However, Douglass was still in- speakers.
tent on escaping, and in the late summer of In 1843 Douglass was involved in the Hun-
1838 he borrowed money from Anna and dred Conventions project. This was a six-month
bought a ticket to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. tour throughout the west of the country during
Dressed as a sailor and carrying the papers of a which Douglass and his associates faced hostil-
freed African American seaman, he boarded a ity and proslavery violence. He continued his
train to Wilmington, Delaware, then proceeded work until his reputation began to dwindle, and
to Philadelphia. When Douglass arrived in he started to receive severe criticism in the

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Douglass, Frederick

A letter from Charles Douglass, one of Frederick Douglass’s two sons who enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts.
(Library of Congress)

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Douglass, Frederick

press. During the winter of 1844–1845 Dou- ance Movement. Douglass responded by charg-
glass decided to write his autobiography and in- ing Cox with bigotry and suggesting that many
cluded in the manuscript detailed accounts of of the clergy were guilty of proslavery senti-
his experiences while in the household of the ments.
Auld family. The abolitionist leader, Wendell Reluctantly, Douglass realized that he needed
Phillips, suggested that he should destroy the to return to America and continue his work to
manuscript for fear of being sent back to Mary- free those in bondage. His fear, however, was
land, but Douglass was determined to publish that he would be recaptured if he returned. His
it. Despite his fears of the publication, Wendell freedom came in the form of $710. 96 sent to
Phillips, along with William Lloyd Garrison, Thomas Auld by some of Douglass’s English
contributed to the introduction of the book, friends, and the necessary papers that gave
which was published in May 1845. Narrative of Frederick his freedom were duly signed by Auld
the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American on December 5, 1846.
Slave became a bestseller immediately. Returning to America, once more aboard the
However, although Douglass was overjoyed Cambria, Douglass had earned a reputation for
with the success of the book, it did, in fact, be- his work in Britain, but also received criticism
come another threat to his freedom. Under the for allowing his friends to buy his freedom, an
laws of the country, all of the fugitive slave’s option available to few slaves. He responded
property could be seized by his former master, that although his freedom was a gift, he consid-
Thomas Auld. With this fear uppermost in his ered the Auld family to be his kidnappers, not
mind, Douglass decided to flee the slave catch- his masters.
ers and to visit England to promote the Ameri- In December 1847 the Douglass family
can antislavery movement. By now, Anna Dou- moved to Rochester, New York, a pro-abolition-
glass had given birth to two more children, ist town, where he began publishing a weekly
Frederick Jr. and Charles. newspaper, the North Star. The paper was to be-
Traveling on board the Cambria, a British come the country’s best-known African Ameri-
steamship, Douglass docked in Britain and can newspaper, but initially it received a mixed
spent the next two years being welcomed into response and brought once more to Douglass a
the homes of prominent citizens. Crowds mixture of praise and criticism. Financially the
flocked to hear him lecture, particularly in Ire- family was struggling to survive; their fifth
land where he spoke in favor of Irish indepen- child, Annie, was born in 1849, and Douglass
dence after meeting the Irish Catholic leader, returned to the lecture circuit to sustain both
Daniel O’Connell. Douglass wrote to William the family and the newspaper’s production.
Lloyd Garrison in 1846: “Instead of the bright Slavery was only one of Douglass’s targets in his
blue sky of America, I am covered with the soft newspaper. He wrote: “Those who profess to fa-
gray fog of the Emerald Isle. I breathe and lo! vor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are
The chattel becomes a man. I gaze around in men who want crops without plowing up the
vain for one who will question my equal human- ground.” And when attacking job discrimination
ity, claim me as a slave, or offer me an insult” against African Americans, he wrote: “We need
(Douglass 1881, 248). mechanics as well as ministers; we must build
In 1846 Garrison joined Douglass, and to- as well as live in houses; we must construct
gether they toured England and Scotland. In bridges as well as pass over them” (Douglass
August of the same year, they attended the 1881, 294).
World Temperance Convention in London With a home situated close to the Canadian
where Douglass was attacked by the Reverend border, Douglass became heavily involved in the
Samuel Cox, an American delegate, for his con- Underground Railroad, with his house an im-
troversial speech about the American Temper- portant station for runaway slaves from the

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Douglass, Frederick

south en route to Canada. Douglass became the


superintendent of the Underground Railroad
for the area and, together with his wife, shel-
tered many runaway slaves in their home.
In 1851 the newspaper was renamed Freder-
ick Douglass’s Paper, under which name it began
to prosper and continue to grow in popularity
until the 1860s. At around the same time Dou-
glass also attended the annual general meeting
of the American Anti-Slavery Society. His an-
nouncement at this meeting that he intended to
urge his readers to become involved in politics
forced a split with his former colleague, Garri-
son, who believed in moral suasion rather than
political action to end slavery. In 1855 Douglass
wrote his second book, My Bondage and My
Freedom.
John Brown, the militant white abolitionist,
whom Douglass had met in 1847, was intent on
starting a slave revolt in the south. In August
1859, shortly before his attack on Harper’s
Ferry, Virginia, Brown wrote to Douglass, invit-
ing him to attend a meeting in Pennsylvania and
urging him to join the cause. Although they met
near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Douglass re-
fused Brown’s offer on the grounds that he was Frederick Douglass (National Archives)
convinced this act would only increase opposi-
tion to the abolitionist cause among whites. De- new territories. When South Carolina seceded
spite his refusal to join Brown, the newspapers, from the Union, Douglass and other prominent
which had found evidence of their contacts, im- abolitionists became the targets of angry and
plicated him in the Harper’s Ferry raid. Dou- outspoken mobs who believed that their activi-
glass fled the country, traveling first to Canada ties had caused the division of the country. In
and then sailing to England. It was soon after Lincoln’s inaugural speech in March 1861, he
his arrival in England that Douglass received made it clear that it was his intention to uphold
the news that his daughter Annie had died on the Fugitive Slave Laws and that his priority
March 1860, and he returned home in May. was to restore the Union, not to end slavery,
In addition to his antislavery work, Douglass particularly in the states where it was firmly es-
had also become involved in the women’s rights tablished. Douglass, however, along with other
movement in Rochester, speaking openly and abolitionists, considered that the war was a
urging women to fight for the vote. He also be- fight to end slavery and identified two main ob-
gan campaigning for the end of segregation in jectives. First, he wanted the emancipation of
the schools of Rochester, having employed pri- all slaves in the southern and northern border
vate tutors for his children because they were states and, second, he wanted all African Ameri-
not admitted to the town’s public schools. cans to have the right to enlist in the army of
After the election of Abraham Lincoln in the north.
1860, Douglass supported the new Republican During the Civil War Douglass continued his
president and opposed the spread of slavery into lecturing career and openly called for Lincoln to

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Douglass, Frederick

grant freedom to slaves. On December 31, to the white soldiers. You will be led by able
1862, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Procla- and skilful officers, men who will take a spe-
mation, which declared that from the following cial pride in your efficiency and success. They
day all slaves in areas held by Union troops were will be quick to accord to you all the honor
free. Slavery was not, however, abolished in the you shall merit by your valor, and see that your
border states or in areas that had previously rights and feelings are respected by other sol-
been captured by Union troops. Douglass, jubi- diers (Douglass 1881, 344, 346).
lant at the news of the proclamation, wrote in
Boston: “We were waiting and listening as for a Soon after the formation of the 54th Massa-
bolt from the sky . . . we were watching . . . by chusetts, Douglass began to hear stories of un-
the dim light of the stars for the dawn of a new equal treatment of the African American en-
day . . . we were longing for the answer to the listed men and stopped his recruitment
agonizing prayers of centuries” (Douglass 1881, activities. He published his concerns and re-
358). quested a meeting with Abraham Lincoln to dis-
Still paramount in Douglass’s mind, however, cuss the way African American soldiers were be-
was the question of the enlistment of African ing treated by Union officers. Although
American soldiers, and it took until the follow- uncertain about the assurances he received
ing year before Congress authorized black en- from Lincoln that the situation would be re-
listment in the Union army. Among the first Af- solved, Douglass continued his recruitment ef-
rican American units to be formed was the 54th forts and was offered a commission on the staff
Massachusetts Company B Voluntary Infantry of Gen. Lorenzo Thomas by Edwin Stanton, the
Regiment, and Douglass was asked by the gov- secretary of war. However, apparently determin-
ernor of that state to help with the recruitment ing that Douglass would not be accepted by
of soldiers. His sons, Lewis and Charles, were other officers, Stanton revoked the commission.
among the first to enlist in the African Ameri- Undeterred, Douglass continued with the re-
can regiment, and Douglass urged other blacks cruitment of African American soldiers, and
to also join the unit to eventually they made up about 10 percent of
the Union troops (one-third of whom died in
end in a day the bondage of centuries. . . . A service).
war undertaken and brazenly carried on for the By 1864 Douglass was still not happy with
perpetual enslavement of colored men calls the treatment African American soldiers were
logically and loudly for colored men to help receiving and, he also became concerned that
suppress it. Only a moderate share of sagacity George McClellan, who had shown little inter-
was needed to see that the arm of the slave est in the welfare of those soldiers or in the is-
was the best defense against the arm of the sue of ending slavery, might win the upcoming
slaveholder. . . . Massachusetts now welcomes presidential election. Together with other sup-
you to arms as soldiers. She has but a small porters of presidential contender John C. Fré-
colored population from which to recruit. She mont, Douglass decided it would be prudent to
has full leave of the general government to continue to support Abraham Lincoln. In Au-
send one regiment to the war and she has un- gust Douglass attended another meeting with
dertaken to do it. Go quickly and help fill up Lincoln, who asked him to draw up plans for
the first colored regiment from the North. I leading slaves out of the South in the event that
am authorized to assure you that you will re- the Union did not win the war and slavery con-
ceive the same wages, the same rations, the tinued to exist in an independent South. The
same equipment, the same protection, the plan that Douglass compiled was superseded by
same treatment, and the same bounty, secured the Union victory.

| 140 |
Douglass, Frederick

After Lincoln’s second inaugural address, Douglass’s fight for black suffrage continued
Douglass, along with other black supporters, until an amendment to the Civil Rights Act was
was not invited to the evening reception at the ratified in July 1868, stating that no state could
White House. However, when Douglass con- deny any person his full rights as an American
tacted Lincoln about this exclusion, the newly citizen, although it did not guarantee African
re-elected president personally called for his at- Americans the right to vote. Making it clear
tendance and greeted Douglass in a crowded that he disapproved of President Johnson’s poli-
room with the words “Here comes my friend cies, Douglass refused an offer from the presi-
Douglass.” dent to head up the Freedmen’s Bureau, al-
After the Civil War, the ratification of the though this post would have allowed him to
Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitu- deal first-hand with the needs of Southern Afri-
tion officially abolished slavery in all areas of can Americans.
the country. There were, however, still restric- In 1868 Douglass campaigned for the Repub-
tions on African Americans that Douglass lican candidate, Ulysses S. Grant, and attacked
wanted to see lifted. William Lloyd Garrison the Democratic party for its apparent lack of
proposed at a meeting of the American Anti- concern for African Americans. During his fa-
Slavery Society that the organization be dis- mous speech “The Work before Us,” Douglass
banded, but Douglass opposed this proposal warned of the rise of secret societies and white
strongly, arguing that “slavery is not abolished supremacist organizations, such as the Ku Klux
until the black man has the ballot.” Klan, who were frightening African Americans
Although many abolitionists left the struggle, into giving up the rights they had fought so hard
the society voted to continue, and Douglass be- to obtain. He pleaded in that speech: “Rebellion
gan more travels on lecture tours, but this time has been subdued, slavery abolished, and peace
he was fighting for black suffrage and the need proclaimed, and yet our work is not done . . . we
for change in the southern state governments. are face to face with the same old enemy of lib-
President Andrew Johnson made it clear that erty and progress . . . the South today is a field
his intention was to support the interests of of blood.”
Southern whites and to block voting rights for Once Grant won the election in 1868, the
African Americans. However, the Republican Fifteenth Amendment was passed, guaranteeing
Congress became resistant to Johnson’s plans all men the right to vote, regardless of their
and wanted the former slaveholders’ power to race. Because the amendment excluded women,
end, urging that the estates of the slaveholders Douglass (a major supporter of the amendment)
be broken up and distributed to the African lost the approval of many notables in the
American freedmen. To reinforce their opinion women’s rights movement.
in 1866, Congress passed two significant bills; In 1870 Douglass became the editor and sub-
the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill and the Civil Rights sequently the owner of the New National Era
Bill. The Freedmen’s Bureau had been estab- newspaper. Two years later his home in
lished the previous year, and this new bill ex- Rochester burned to the ground in a case of
tended the powers of this government agency in suspected arson. Douglass and his family moved
the assistance of southern African Americans. to Washington, D.C., where he supported Grant
The Civil Rights Act gave African Americans the in his campaign for re-election. Despite hopes
right of full citizenship in accordance with that that he would be offered a post under Grant,
received by all other American citizens. How- none was forthcoming, so Douglass continued
ever, the question of African Americans having his lecturing career, constantly opposing dis-
the right to vote was still unresolved. Douglass crimination and eventually becoming the fore-
continued to press for that right. most spokesperson for African Americans.

| 141 |
Draft Riots

After Rutherford B. Hayes was elected presi- Douglass An American Slave. Cambridge, MA:
dent in 1877, Douglass received a political posi- Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1960.
tion on the staff, that of U.S. marshal for Wash- ———. My Bondage and My Freedom. New York:
ington, D.C. He and his family moved to Cedar Dover Publications, 1969.
Hill in Washington, and from this new home he Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick
visited his old home in Maryland and met with Douglass: Early Years 1817–1849. New York:
International Publishers, 1950.
Thomas Auld, his former master.
––––––. The Life and Writings of Frederick
James Garfield, the Republican president
Douglass: Pre–Civil War Decade 1850–1860.
who was elected in 1880, appointed Douglass to New York: International Publishers, 1950
the post of recorder of deeds in Washington, a ––––––. The Life and Writings of Frederick
position that he held for the next five years. In Douglass: The Civil War 1861–1865. New York:
1881 he published his third autobiography Life International Publishers 1952.
and Times of Frederick Douglass. His wife, ––––––. The Life and Writings of Frederick
Anna, died after a long illness the following Douglass: Reconstruction and After. New York:
year. International Publishers, 1955.
In 1884, Douglass announced his engage- Gregory, P. Lampe. Frederick Douglass—Freedom’s
ment to a white woman, Helen Pitts, who was Voice, 1818–1845. East Lansing: Michigan State
twenty years his junior. Once again he had University Press, 1998.
shocked society, but this time both black and Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Slave and Citizen: The Life
of Frederick Douglass. Boston: Little, Brown,
white were upset by his actions. However, the
1980.
two embarked on a happy marriage that lasted
Quarles, Benjamin. Frederick Douglass. Washington,
for the remaining nine years of Douglass’s life. DC: Associated Publishers, 1948.
From 1886 to 1887 Douglass and his wife trav-
eled in Europe. In 1889, he was appointed resi-
dent and consul to Haiti and subsequently,
chargé d’affaires for Santo Domingo by Presi-
dent Benjamin Harrison.
On February 20, 1895, Frederick Douglass Draft Riots (1863)
died of a heart attack at the age of seventy-
seven. His body lay in state in Washington, and From July 13 to July 17, 1863, more than one
crowds gathered to pay their last respects. Afri- hundred people were killed and many more in-
can American public schools were closed for the jured in New York City riots sparked by the pas-
day in his honor, and his body was accompanied sage of the Conscription Act of 1863. New York
by Helen Pitts and his surviving children to City was decidedly Democratic, very antiwar
Rochester, where he was buried. and antiblack; Mayor William Marcy Tweed de-
clared the war to be “a rich man’s war and a
See also American Civil War; Douglass, Anna poor man’s fight.” The new Conscription Act al-
Murray; 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment; lowed a man to buy himself out of the draft for
Freedmen’s Bureau $300, an amount out of reach for most ordinary
people. At the same time, the Emancipation
References and Further Reading Proclamation had intensified the feelings of
Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick many working-class, particularly Irish, New
Douglass, His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape Yorkers that they were being forced by the
from Bondage and His Complete History to the Protestant Republican establishment to fight
Present Time. Hartford, CT: Park, 1881. for black freedom, only to lose their jobs to
———. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick blacks after the war. They also did not share one

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Draft Riots

A mob lynching an African American on Clarkson Street during the draft riots in New York City.
(Harper’s Weekly, July 1863)

of the goals of issuing the Emancipation Procla- There will be some black men who can re-
mation—to encourage the enlistment of former member that, with silent tongue, and well-
slaves to swell the ranks of the Union Army. poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on
Although African Americans were not the to this great consummation; while I fear, there
original, and never the only, focus of the rioters, will be some white ones, unable to forget that,
black homes, businesses, and schools were at- with malignant heart, and deceitful speech,
tacked by mobs, including the Colored Orphan they have strove to hinder it.
Asylum, which was reduced to ashes. Several
African American men were lynched; others See also American Civil War
were burned alive or beaten to death.
A month later, in a letter to his friend James References and Further Reading
C. Conkling (August 26, 1863), containing re-
Auchincloss, Louis, ed. The Hone and Strong Diaries
marks to be addressed to those who opposed of Old Manhattan. New York: Abbeville Press,
emancipation and the formation of black fight- 1989.
ing forces, President Abraham Lincoln wrote: McPherson, James M. The Negro’s Civil War. New
York: Pantheon, 1965.
You say you will not fight to free negroes. Newton, Alexander H. Out of the Briars. Miami, FL:
Some of them seem willing to fight for you. Mnemosyne, 1969.

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D r e w, D r. C h a r l e s R i c h a r d

Drew, Dr. Charles Richard His dissertation was to stand him in good
(1904–1950) stead because it focused on blood banks and the
storage of plasma. Drew supervised New York
An African American athlete, a Red Cross doc- City’s Blood Transfusion Association, and he de-
tor, and a medical pioneer, Charles Richard veloped the “Blood for Britain Campaign.” Re-
Drew was born in Washington, D.C., on June 3, frigerated blood plasma was shipped from New
1904. He attended Amherst College and be- York to Britain, which was by then under virtual
came an all-American football player, graduat- siege from Nazi Germany. Drew then became
ing in 1926. He became a biology teacher at the director of the New York City Red Cross
Morgan College and then decided to study at Blood Bank and was in charge of collecting
McGill University in Canada for a medical de- blood for the U.S. Armed Forces.
gree. He taught pathology at Howard College In late 1941, with the United States at war,
and became a resident at Freedman’s Hospital the military authorities ordered “white” blood
in Washington. After working and teaching at from the Red Cross and, as a result, any African
the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New Americans who were wounded and needed
York, he received his medical degree from Co- blood received “white” blood via their transfu-
lumbia University. sions. Drew could not donate blood to his own

After receiving first aid treatment in a practice air raid in Washington, D.C., the “victim” is moved
to the hospital by the Medical Corps of the Office of Civilian Defense. The physician is Dr. Charles Drew.
(National Archives)

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D u B o i s , Wi l l i a m E d w a r d B u r g h a r d t

program. He resigned in the spring of 1942 over bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Harvard.
this policy and became the head of Howard He had earlier studied for two years at the Uni-
University’s Department of Surgery and chief versity of Berlin in Germany. His thesis, The
surgeon at the Freedman’s Hospital. Suppression of the African Slave Trade in Amer-
In 1944 he became the hospital chief of staff ica, remains in print in Harvard’s Historical
and medical director, a post that he held until Studies series.
1948. He was never allowed to join the Ameri- After graduating, Du Bois accepted a teach-
can Medical Association, even though he was a ing position at Wilberforce University in Ohio
surgical consultant to the surgeon general of where he remained for the next two years. In
the United States, a fellow of the International 1896, he was offered and accepted a fellowship
College of Surgeons, and the first African Amer- at the University of Pennsylvania to carry out a
ican examiner on the medical board that certi- research project on racism in the state. He pub-
fied surgeons. lished The Philadelphia Negro (1899) as a result
At the age of forty-six, in 1950, he was in- of his studies before moving to Atlanta Univer-
volved in a car accident in North Carolina. It sity in Georgia, where he remained for the next
was rumored at the time that the local hospital thirteen years. In The Souls of Black Folk
had refused to admit him because he was Afri- (1903), Du Bois made his case against the views
can American. The hospital in fact did admit Af- of Booker T. Washington’s policy of accommo-
rican American patients, although they were dation in the chapter entitled “Of Booker T.
consigned to basement wards and treatment Washington and Others.” Du Bois called in-
rooms, and the three white doctors who treated stead for “ceaseless agitation and insistent de-
him made every effort to save his life, although mand for equality. . . . And the use of force of
they did not know who he was. every sort: moral suasion, propaganda, and
where possible even physical resistance.”
See also World War II In 1909 Du Bois became the director of pub-
lications and research of the newly formed Na-
References and Further Reading tional Association for the Advancement of Col-
Morais, Herbert Montford. History of the Negro in ored People (NAACP), editing the Crisis
Medicine. New York: Publishers Co., 1967. magazine for the next twenty-five years. During
Sterne, Emma Gelders. Blood Brothers: Four Men of World War I, under Du Bois’s leadership, this
Science. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959. magazine’s circulation increased to over 10,000
by 1919. Although he supported U.S. entry into
the war and African American participation in
the war effort, his editorials in the Crisis contin-
ued to press for equitable treatment of black
Du Bois, William Edward troops and the commissioning of black officers:
Burghardt (1868–1963)
We, therefore, earnestly urge our colored fel-
W. E. B. Du Bois was a leading African Ameri- low citizens to join heartily in this fight for
can activist, intellectual, and speaker. Du Bois eventual world liberty; we urge them to enlist
was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Bar- in the army; to join in the pressing work of
rington, Massachusetts. He became the local providing food supplies; to labor in all ways by
correspondent for the New York Globe while in hand and thought in increasing the efficiency
high school and went on to Fisk University and of our country. We urge despite our deep sym-
then to Harvard University. In 1890 Du Bois be- pathy with the reasonable and deep-seated
came the first African American to receive a feeling of revolt among Negroes at the persist-

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Dunmore Proclamation

ent insult and discrimination to which they are Make way for Democracy! We saved it in
subject and will be subject even when they do France, and by the great Jehovah, we will save
their patriotic duty. it in the United States of America, or know the
Let us, however, never forget that this coun- reason why.
try belongs to us even more than to those who
lynch, disfranchise, and segregate. As our In 1919 Du Bois represented the NAACP as
country it rightly demands our wholehearted an observer at the peace conference in France,
defense as well today as when with Crispus where he also investigated the treatment of Afri-
Attucks we fought for independence and with can American troops and helped organize the
200,000 black soldiers we helped hammer out Pan-African Congress. He remained with the
our own freedom. NAACP until 1934, when he resumed his du-
Absolute loyalty in arms and civil duties ties at Atlanta University, completing two major
need not for a moment lead us to abate our works: Black Reconstruction and Dusk of Dawn
just complaints and just demands. Despite the before 1940, followed by The World and Africa.
gratuitous advice of the white friends who In 1945 he served as an associate consultant to
wish us to submit uncomplainingly to caste the American delegation at the founding confer-
and peonage, and despite the more timid and ence of the United Nations in San Francisco.
complacent souls in our own ranks, we de- By 1959 Du Bois had moved to newly inde-
mand and of right ought to demand pendent Ghana, where he became a citizen, and
directed the government-sponsored Encyclope-
1. The right to serve our country on the dia Africana. He died in Accra on August 27,
battlefield and to receive training for 1963, the night before the March on Washing-
such service; ton.
2. The right of our best men to lead troops
of their own race in battle, and to receive See also National Association for the
officers’ training in preparation for such Advancement of Colored People; World War I
leadership;
3. The immediate stoppage of lynching; References and Further Reading
4. The right to vote for both men and Du Bois, W. E. B., et al. Dusk of Dawn. An Essay
women; Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept. New
5. Universal and free common school York: Harcourt, Brace, 1940. Reprint, New
training; Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1991.
6. The abolition of Jim Crow laws; Lewis, David Levering. W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight
7. The repeal of segregation ordinances; for Equality and the American Century,
8. Equal Civil Rights in all public institu- 1919–1963. New York: Henry Holt, 2000.
tions and movements

After the war, Du Bois urged the victorious


African American troops to continue the fight at
home: Dunmore Proclamation
(November 7, 1775)
We return from fighting.
We return fighting. On November 7, 1775, John Murray, the earl of
By the God of Heaven, we are cowards and Dunmore and royal governor of Virginia, des-
jackasses if now that the war is over, we do not perate to raise forces to confront the rebels, is-
marshal every ounce of our brain and brawn to sued a ground-breaking proclamation from his
fight the forces of hell in our own land. . . . headquarters in Norfolk, inviting African Ameri-

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Dunmore Proclamation

can slaves to flee from their masters and to join and willing to bear Arms, they joining His
the British forces. Slaves were promised free- Majesty’s Troops as soon as may be, for the
dom in exchange for their military service. This more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper
contoversial measure, which had not been sanc- Sense of their Duty, to His Majesty’s Crown
tioned by officiala in Britain, served immediat- and Dignity (Black Loyalists website).
ley to stiffen Southern white resistance to colo-
nial rule as well as to promote slaves’ resistance Virginia was outraged, but it still took offi-
to their bondage. Many of the slaves who re- cials there more than a month to respond with
sponded to Dunmore’s call joined the Ethiopian their own declaration, which was signed by the
Regiment, a unit of several hundred African president of the General Convention, Edmund
Americans. Many of them wore uniforms bear- Pendleton:
ing the inscription “Liberty to Slaves.”
The statement was clear and unequivocal: Whereas Lord Dunmore, by his proclamation,
dated on board the ship William, off Norfolk,
As I have ever entertained Hopes, that an Ac- the 7th day of November, 1775, hath offered
commodation might have taken Place between freedom to such able-bodied slaves as are will-
Great Britain and this colony, without being ing to join him, and to take up arms, against
compelled by my Duty to this most disagree- the good people of this colony, giving thereby
able but now absolutely necessary Step, ren- encouragement to a general insurrection,
dered so by a Body of armed Men unlawfully which may induce a necessity of inflicting the
assembled, firing on His Majesty’s Tenders, severest punishments upon those unhappy
and the formation of a Army, and that Army people, already deluded by his base and insidi-
now on their March to attack His Majesty’s ous arts; and whereas, by an act of the General
Troops and destroy the well disposed subjects Assembly now in force in this colony, it is en-
of the Colony. To defeat such treasonable Pur- acted, that all Negro or other slaves, conspir-
poses, and that all such Traitors, and their ing to rebel or make insurrection, shall suffer
Abetters, may be brought to Justice, and the death, and be excluded all benefits of clergy.
Peace, and good Order of this Colony may be We think it proper to declare, that all slaves
again restored, which the ordinary Course of who have been, or shall be seduced, by his
the Civil Law is unable to affect; I have lordships proclamation, or other arts, to desert
thought fit to issue this my Proclamation, their masters’ service and take up arms against
hereby declaring, that until the aforesaid good inhabitants of this colony, shall be liable to
Purpose can be obtained, I do in Virtue of the such punishment as shall hereafter be directed
Power and Authority to me given, by His by the General Convention. And to that end all
Majesty, determine to execute Martial Law, such, who have taken this unlawful and
and cause the same to be executed throughout wicked step, may return in safety to their duty,
this colony: and to restore the Peace and good and escape the punishment due to their
Order may the sooner be restored, I do require crimes, we hereby promise to pardon them,
every Person capable of bearing Arms, to resort they surrendering themselves to Col. William
to His Majesty’s Standard or be looked upon as Woodford, or any other commander of our
Traitors to His Majesty’s Crown and Govern- troops, and not appearing in arms after the
ment, and thereby become liable to the publication hereof. And we do farther
Penalty the Law inflicts upon such Offences; earnestly recommend it to all humane and
such as forfeiture of Life, confiscation of benevolent persons in this colony to explain
Lands, &.&. and I do hereby further declare and make known this our offer or mercy to
that all indented Servants and Negroes, or oth- those unfortunate people (Black Loyalists
ers, (appertaining to Rebels) free that are able website).

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Dunmore Proclamation

Unfortunately for the slaves who joined Dun- slaves who were being used as substitutes for
more, a virulent smallpox outbreak decimated their masters were an integral part of the Conti-
their numbers. Although by March 1776 the nental Army and the various militias.
unit had many men, its numbers were greatly
reduced by the summer of 1776. Dunmore had See also American Revolution
hoped that the Ethiopian regiment would grow
to around 2,000 men, but in August he had to
References and Further Reading
abandon the Potomac River as a result of the
lack of regular reinforcements, smallpox, and Black Loyalists website: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/
poor supplies. blackloyalists/documents/official/dunmore.htm;
http://collections.ic.gc.ca/blackloyalists/
The Dunmore Proclamation’s lasting effect
documents/official/virginia_response.htm
was to force the hand of Washington and the
(accessed August 2003).
Continental Congress. They at last began to Kaplan, Sydney, and Emma Nogrady Kaplan.
recognize that if African American slaves were The Black Presence in the Era of the American
willing to throw their lot in with the British in Revolution. Amherst: University of Massachusetts
exchange for freedom, they might also be will- Press, 1989.
ing to serve in support of the Revolution. By Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the American
January 17, 1777, free African Americans and Revolution. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973.

| 148 |
e
Earley, Charity Adams the WAAC and was assigned to the 3d Com-
(1918–2002) pany, 3d Training Regiment, consisting of two
white and one black platoons. She trained the
The first African American woman to attain the women in a variety of procedures, claiming later
rank of lieutenant colonel in the United States in her autobiography that the African American
armed forces and commander of the 6888th officers were faster learners than white officers.
Central Postal Battalion, Charity Edna Adams Soon after, Earley was promoted from third
was born in Kittrell, North Carolina, in 1918, to first officer (equivalent to second lieutenant
and grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. She and captain, respectively). On a visit to Colum-
was the eldest of four children and the daughter bia, she became involved in the civil rights
of a minister and a teacher. Her father, who was movement while attending a meeting of the lo-
fluent in Greek and Hebrew, instilled in her the cal chapter of the National Association for the
need to study hard to develop through life. She Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), of
graduated from the Booker T. Washington High which her father was president. After the meet-
School and enrolled at an African Methodist ing, her parents’ home was watched all night by
Episcopal institution, Wilberforce University in representatives of the Ku Klux Klan.
Ohio. Earley earned her B.A. in mathematics in In June 1943, now given the responsibility of
1938 and then returned to Columbia, where training officer at the headquarters, Earley was
she embarked on a teaching career, attending transferred to Washington, D.C. From there she
graduate school at Ohio State University during embarked on a tour of Massachusetts, New Jer-
the summer holidays to continue her studies to- sey, and North Carolina. In the following year
ward a master’s degree. she was promoted to training center control of-
In 1942 Earley applied for and was accepted ficer; she was often the only African American
into the first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps officer assigned to the headquarters. Her objec-
(WAAC), stationed at Fort Des Moines and at- tions to the formation of a separate training reg-
tached to the 3d Platoon. She lived in segre- iment for African Americans may well have in-
gated quarters with other African American fluenced the army to abandon the idea.
women and served in a segregated unit. In Au- In December 1944 Earley was sent to Eu-
gust of the same year, she became the first Afri- rope, arriving in London, then moving on to
can American to be commissioned an officer in Scotland and Paris. In March of the following

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1 8 1 2 , Wa r o f

year she was given command of the 6888th Women Against the Odds” list of the 100 most
Central Postal Directory Battalion of 850 important African American women. She also
women with the responsibility for delivering received a Brotherhood Award from the Dayton
mail to African American troops stationed in Area Conference of Christians and Jews and
Europe. Based initially in Birmingham, En- herself established the Charity Edna Earley
gland, she was transferred in April to Rouen, Scholarship at Wilberforce University.
where the 6888th was to be based. The unit was In 1989 Earley published an account of her
the only African American WAAC battalion as- military experiences and travels in her book en-
signed to overseas duty. titled One Woman’s Army, which was reprinted
After World War II ended Earley was ordered in 1996. She died in Dayton, Ohio, on January
back to the United States and the Pentagon 13, 2002.
headquarters of the WAAC. She left the service
in March 1946, having attained the highest See also African American Women in the
rank of any African American woman in the Military; National Association for the
United States military during World War II, that Advancement of Colored People;
of lieutenant colonel. 6888th Postal Battalion; World War II
Earley returned to school in Ohio and earned
a master’s degree in vocational psychology. She References and Further Reading
worked for the Veterans Administration and for Cloyd, Iris, ed. Who’s Who among Black Americans.
the Miller Music Academy before moving to Detroit: Gale Research, 1990.
Nashville, Tennessee, for a brief period. She be- Creamer, Maureen. Black Women in America: An
came the dean of student personnel services at Historical Encyclopedia. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson
Tennessee A&I University there, then held a Publishing, 1993.
similar position at Georgia State University, Sa- Earley, Charity Adams. One Woman’s Army: A Black
vannah. In 1949 she married Stanley A. Earley Officer Remembers the WAC. College Station:
Jr., a medical student, and the two moved to Texas A&M University Press, 1989.
Zurich, Switzerland, where Stanley Earley com-
pleted his medical studies. While there, Charity
learned German at the University of Zurich and
attended the Jungian Institute of Analytical Psy-
chology, also based in Zurich. The couple re- 1812, War of
turned to the United States at the end of Stan-
ley’s studies and settled in Dayton, Ohio. The Treaty of Paris (1783) that ended the Amer-
The couple had a son and a daughter. Earley ican Revolution did not end the friction between
became a supporter of several organizations, in- Britain and its former American colonies. Not
cluding the United Way, the Black Leadership only did a great number of individuals still loyal
Development Program, the Dayton Metro to the Crown leave for Canada, not only were
Housing Authority, the Dayton Opera Company, British troops slow in leaving the western fron-
the American Red Cross, and Sinclair Commu- tier, but Native Americans, still supported by the
nity College. She was also a volunteer with the British, threatened the peace on the frontiers. A
United Negro College Fund, the Urban League, tinderbox remained, only needing a single spark
and the YWCA. to reignite the conflict between the British and
In recognition of her hard work and dedica- the newly independent United States.
tion to public service, Earley was awarded mul- African Americans played a significant role in
tiple honors. In 1979 she was inducted into the what later became known as the War of 1812,
Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 1982 the one of the less well-known conflicts of the
Smithsonian Institute included her in its “Black United States. The war lasted for over two and a

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1 8 1 2 , Wa r o f

half years, ending in stalemate. If nothing else, garry Light Infantry of Upper Canada. It is true
it confirmed that the United States was to re- that, again as had been the case during the Rev-
main independent, but put a temporary hold on olution, wholly African American units did exist:
the new country’s dreams of expansion. The Coloured Corps, also from Upper Canada,
The war began as a direct result of the British which fought at Queenston Heights (October
assertion of a right to stop and search American 1812) and on the Niagara peninsula in 1813,
vessels in their hunt for former members of the was composed of soldiers of African extraction
Royal Navy. As far as the British were con- from the Niagara region. On the whole, how-
cerned, whatever their citizenship, they were ever, the British army remained white.
deserters who should be apprehended and re- The Royal Navy, always desperate to recruit
turned to service. Following immediate re- by whatever means, was not as discriminatory as
sponses from Washington, including the placing the army. There were no restrictions as to the
of punitive tax duties on overseas imports, the racial background or source of their recruits,
war hawks in the administration took the upper and as a consequence a number of African
hand in policy, realizing that an opportunity had Americans from the United States as well as
presented itself to seize Canada from the those who had fled to Canada saw action on
British. What the hawks had underestimated board British vessels during the war. African
was the resolve of the British. Despite the fact Americans made up a small percentage of the
that the British were fully committed to a war in ranks, but a significant one that the British val-
Europe against Napoleon, they were deter- ued and cultivated.
mined to maintain possession of their vast In 1814, when the British attempted to insti-
North American colonies to the north. tute naval operations against New Orleans,
Although there were a number of land en- black British regiments from the West Indies
gagements, much of the war was carried out at were deployed and must have contributed sig-
sea. Here, the U.S. Navy proved itself to be sur- nificantly to the numbers in the invasion force.
prisingly effective. Coupled with the naval vic- Probably the vast majority of African Ameri-
tories against the French following the Jay’s cans from the United States in the British navy
Treaty of 1796, the War of 1812 established were former slaves. British operations along the
American naval traditions for decades. eastern seaboard seem to have been aimed at
The vast majority of African Americans who disrupting the American economy, thus reduc-
became involved in the War of 1812 served as ing the enemy’s capacity to wage war. Certainly
seamen in the U.S. Navy rather than the land part of this policy, along with the burning of
forces. But before any discussion of the role of plantations and the destruction of stocks of ma-
African Americans on the U.S. side, it must be terials, was to free slaves, who could then be
pointed out that many African Americans chose pressed into service in the Royal Navy. During
to fight on the British side, as they had done the war some five thousand slaves fled from the
during the American Revolution. plantations around the Chesapeake Bay area
alone. When in the spring of 1813 the British
mounted an expedition to the area, they were
The African American Role
overwhelmed by the number of slaves wishing
on the British Side
to be evacuated. As far as the African American
As had been the case during the American Rev- slaves were concerned, they were simply re-
olution, African Americans were generally sponding to their belief that the British would
barred from serving as armed soldiers in the once again issue something like Dunmore’s
British army. The main exception to this was Proclamation.
when African Americans served as musicians, Although they were forbidden to instigate
for example, in British units such as the Glen- slave uprisings, the British commanders on the

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1 8 1 2 , Wa r o f

expedition were authorized to offer protection tory at the battle of Bladensburg (August 24,
and freedom to slaves who assisted them. The 1814), the burning of Washington (August 24,
following year the British expedition in the 1814), and the defeat at Baltimore (September
Chesapeake expanded under the command of 13–14, 1814). Both Cochrane and Cockburn
Vice Adm. Sir Alexander Cochrane. The benefi- wanted to step up the recruitment of African
cial effects of the slave desertions had become Americans, but the war was coming to an end,
apparent and in April 1814, Cochrane issued and nothing came of the plans. It is also worth
his own proclamation, which promised that all pointing out that during the march on Washing-
slaves who presented themselves to one of his ton, locals seemed to be more worried about the
vessels would be freed and allowed to serve with possibility that the black marines were the van-
the British army or navy or have the choice of guard of a slave uprising than about the threat
being resettled in Canada or the West Indies. In they presented as an integral unit in the British
order to cope with the expected numbers of po- command. In the longer term, this fear may
tential emigrants, the British set up an outpost have had severe ramifications for African Ameri-
on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. For cans, helping to explain later reluctance to al-
the slaves of the region, Cochrane’s Proclama- low African American units in the military.
tion was in many ways superior to Dunmore’s Although the African Americans who serve
Proclamation. The latter had offered freedom with the British could reason that their service
only to able-bodied men who could serve in a would eventually lead to freedom, it was a
military role during the American Revolution; prospect that was fraught with complications.
Cochrane opened the offer to all slaves regard- As far as the Americans were concerned, the is-
less of their intentions to fight for the British, or sue was clear: Although no blame could be at-
for that matter, their gender and age. tached to those slaves who were kidnapped, the
The expected flood of emigrants materialized, fact that they then donned British uniforms and
and many African Americans chose to serve fought against the United States was another is-
with the British armed forces. Not only did the sue altogether. At the very least, their former
British create a marine unit consisting of 200 owners had been hit economically and would
men, but a considerable number of others were not be disposed to forgiveness or acceptance of
pressed into service as scouts, spies, and labor- their property’s freedom.
ers to help improve the British defensive posi- Accounts differ as to the fate of the African
tions. Americans who served with the British. The U.S.
It was the marine unit, however, that pro- government alleged that the black British ma-
vided the most striking vindication of Coch- rines who fought at Baltimore, Bladensburg, and
rane’s policies. After training on Tangier Island Washington had been misled, that having fought
in May 1814 under Adm. George Cockburn, the long and hard for the British they were rewarded
Corps of Colonial Marines was quickly sent into by being resold into slavery in the West Indies
action. By the end of May, the men had already after the conflict. Documentary evidence to sup-
contributed to the capture of an enemy battery port this allegation is lacking, and it is likely that
at Pungoteague, Virginia. it was merely American propaganda.
British commanders were impressed with the Although some of the African Americans may
Corps’ performance. Capt James Ross, com- have been resold in the West Indies, a consider-
mander of the Pungoteague expedition, wrote able number were given their freedom and relo-
Cochrane, “Their conduct was marked by great cated in Canada. The British had abolished
spirit and vivacity, and perfect obediance” slavery in Canada, and the veterans, along with
(quoted in Cassell 1972, 151). As a result, the their families, were established in new homes,
marines served throughout the Chesapeake particularly in Nova Scotia. Some of the refu-
campaign and were involved in the British vic- gees were simply transported to Halifax and left

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on the docks with no relocation assistance; their United States, as it had fallen on the colonies
fate is unknown. Several hundred African Amer- before independence.
icans, members of the Corps of Colonial When Congress passed the Militia Act of
Marines as well as other refugees, were settled 1792, it did not specifically exempt or exclude
as free farmers in Trinidad. African Americans from the militia. It did call on
the states to enroll all able-bodied white males
between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. The
The African American Role in
act was read in very different ways by the states:
Fighting for the United States
North and South Carolina and Georgia were the
Prior to the outbreak of the war, five of the only states that did not choose to exclude Afri-
northern states had abolished slavery, namely can Americans, and even these three Southern
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, states had different policies: Georgia and South
New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. However, Carolina allowed African American enlistment
the social and political gains that had been as noncombatants, whereas North Carolina al-
achieved by African Americans during the lowed them into the militias as armed troops.
American Revolution were seriously under- Ignoring these three states, the War Depart-
mined by events that took place abroad in 1794. ment chose to follow the lead of the majority of
Slaves revolted in Haiti in 1794. The revolt the states and to exclude African Americans
was successful, and as a result the United from the regular military. This situation, at the
States stepped back from the changes that the time, probably had little impact or bearing on
country had made and proposed to make in im- the army or the Marine Corps. For the navy,
proving the lot of African Americans, both slave however, this policy posed a considerable prob-
and free. At a stroke, slaves in the South faced lem, and so from the outset they ignored it, as a
far harsher conditions and less freedom in order matter of necessity, just as they had done during
to ward off any potential revolt, while free Afri- the American Revolution, and as they continued
can Americans in the North lost their right to to do for many years. Nevertheless, they could
vote. When the United States gained control not recruit African Americans in any numbers
over French Louisiana, it took the immediate until finally in March of 1813 Congress listened
step of disbanding the African American militia, to their pleas and passed legislation allowing
even though it had served the French loyally for them to do so.
many years. The result of the opening up of the U.S. Navy
From the Treaty of Paris in 1783 to the out- produced a number of recruits far beyond the
break of the War of 1812, the United States reg- expectations of the authorities. African Ameri-
ular army consisted of a few hundred soldiers. It cans believed that their continuing participation
was only when the United States faced threats in the defense of the United States would result
from Native Americans that Congress approved in gaining the freedoms and rights of other citi-
an increase in the establishment to around zens. It should be remembered that the vast ma-
three thousand. With the Continental Navy jority of African Americans did not at this time
gone and its vessels sold into private hands, the enjoy the rights enshrined in the Constitution,
opportunities for African Americans in either but the very real hope was that if they flocked to
branch of the military were limited. the flag to maintain U.S. independence, Con-
It had become a tradition, almost an obses- gress and the public in general would recognize
sion, for the United States to avoid having large that African Americans were equal to their
numbers of military personnel on the payroll of white counterparts and deserved to be valued as
the government. The militia and therefore the they were.
initial defense of the United States fell on the In analyzing the figures, it becomes clear that
shoulders of the states that composed the in certain theaters of the war African Americans

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1 8 1 2 , Wa r o f

accounted for anything between 10 and 20 per- creasing number of African Americans, some,
cent of the U.S. Navy. The higher figure has of- like their white shipmates, with distinctly dis-
ten been associated with operations on the reputable backgrounds. But from the U.S. point
Great Lakes, in particular the battle of Lake of view, this move was necessary to increase the
Erie (1813). By 1813, increasing numbers of sea power of the fledgling nation.
African Americans deserted from the Royal As for the African American role on land, at
Navy to serve on U.S. Navy vessels. least for the duration of the first two years of
Not only were the recruitment figures prom- the conflict, African American involvement in
ising as far as the navy was concerned, but the the land engagements was limited. Certainly,
naval commanders were also gratified by the despite the legislation that forbade the involve-
quality of the men who began to serve in in- ment of African Americans in the regular army
creasing numbers on their vessels. Commodore and the militias, some did sneak into the ranks.
Isaac Chauncey said of his African Americans: Largely, what little recruitment was allowed
“I have nearly fifty blacks on this boat, and tended to occur in the state militias, usually at
many of them are among the best of my men” the discretion of the commanding officer or the
(Wilson 1890, 79). company officers. African American recruit-
These words were part of a response to a ment, as had been the case in earlier wars and
complaint Chauncey received from Capt. Oliver emergencies, was an expedient to swell the
Hazard Perry, who objected to the number of ranks to the recommended or required num-
African Americans who had been detailed to bers. Where recruitment of this nature did take
serve in his command. Perry, however, was soon place, it was restricted to free men.
to change his opinion regarding African Ameri- In 1814, New York was the first state to rec-
can sailors, when he faced a British fleet with ognize the fact that they were excluding a ready
his ten vessels at the battle of Lake Erie. In to- supply of able-bodied men who could provide
tal, the men he commanded numbered around the solution to the quotas and demands placed
400, no less than a quarter of whom were Afri- on them by Congress. Two all–African Ameri-
can Americans. can regiments were raised comprising 2,000
The victory was in no small part attributed to free men and slaves (recruited with the permis-
the African Americans’ bravery and skill in bat- sion of their owners). Since military operations
tle. Perry wrote to the secretary of the navy fol- in the northeast of the United States and the
lowing the engagement and told him that his Af- bordering Canadian regions had all but ceased,
rican Americans had faced grave dangers and the African American regiments were dis-
had never shown any signs of cowardice or fear. patched to Sacket’s Harbor, a naval station in
At least one active naval commander had be- New York state on Lake Ontario.
come a convert. In Philadelphia, a number of free African
Recruitment was not the only means of Americans assisted in the construction of forti-
bringing African Americans into the navy. Hav- fications around the city; once the work was
ing virtually dismantled the fleet after the Amer- completed, they on their own initiative formed
ican Revolution, the U.S. Navy was faced with an armed company and were incorporated into
the prospect of combating the immense power the army. They did not, however, have the op-
of the Royal Navy with a sundry collection of portunity to fight for their country, as Philadel-
ships not thought to exceed sixteen. Privateers phia never became a theater of war and it was
were pressed into service to compensate for the not considered necessary to transfer them else-
small official navy. For many years, freedmen where.
and runaways had plied their trade on such One last use of African American troops on
ships. As the war continued, more and more pri- the U.S. side in the War of 1812 provides such
vateers were employed, and with them an in- a striking example, both of white distrust of Af-

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rican American troops and of how little that dis- war for some time, the impending British inva-
trust was deserved, that it must be handled in sion of the South, to be launched from Jamaica
some detail. The situation in Louisiana had a in 1814, brought the war home to Louisiana.
confusing background. The colony had been There was frantic activity in Louisiana, in
French, was then seized by the Spanish, then particular New Orleans, during the summer of
ceded back to the French in 1801, and finally 1814. Commanding the Gulf Theater (U.S. 7th
sold to the United States in 1803. Whether Military District, comprising Louisiana, Ten-
French or Spanish, Louisiana had always had nessee, and Mississippi Territory), Gen. Andrew
both white and African American militia units. Jackson called for all volunteers to rally round
When the first American governor, William the flag, making a particular plea to African
C. C. Claiborne, had to address the militia issue Americans. They would receive the same pay,
within days of taking office, the initiative came conditions, rations, and bounties as white vol-
from African Americans. They asked to con- unteers. Jackson did, however, propose to create
tinue to serve as militiamen, just as they had segregated units, or, as he put it, “a distinct in-
under the Spanish and the French. The first dependent battalion or regiment” (quoted in
problem with this offer was that these militia- Drotning 1969, 43). In this way, he argued, the
men, like their white counterparts, had pledged African Americans would retain their own iden-
their allegiance to a foreign power. Claiborne tity, rather than simply becoming part of an in-
accepted the offer nevertheless, but he ran tegrated unit, in which the American people
afoul of white opinion in Louisiana; whites would not recognize their contribution and give
pointed at the slave insurrection in Haiti and ar- “applause and gratitude” (quoted in Drotning
gued that continuing to arm African American 1969, 43).
militia would place Louisiana in jeopardy. Clai- Honoré and his militia reported to Jackson on
borne failed to win the argument, and the Afri- December 12, 1814. Hundreds more African
can American militia units were disbanded. Americans had heeded Jackson and Claiborne’s
Everything changed in 1812: Louisiana had call to arms. The newly re-instituted Battalion
barely been granted state status, when its in- of Free Men of Color (which had been dis-
habitants found themselves singularly ill pre- banded in 1804) swelled from 64 men in four
pared to contribute to their own defense or the companies to 353 in six companies. The battal-
overall defense against Great Britain. ion formally became part of the U.S. Army on
Claiborne hastily devised a compromise, al- December 16, 1814. It had its own twelve-man
lowing all free men who had paid taxes for two military band, and was commanded by the
years and owned property in excess of $300 to white officer Maj. Pierre Lacoste.
be recruited into the militia. Louisiana still re- Honoré was, however, not alone in being
fused to countenance African American officers, commissioned; Maj. Vincent Populus was ap-
despite the fact that there were a number in the pointed the ranking African American officer of
state who had both the experience and willing- the battalion and thus became the first African
ness to take on the role. Only six months after American to be elevated to this field rank in the
this decision, Claiborne nevertheless commis- U.S. Army.
sioned Isidore Honoré as a second lieutenant; Two weeks later, the battalion was joined by
he was a free man, and like his fellow African Maj. Joseph Savary, also appointed by Jackson,
Americans he was required to muster once a with the task of raising a second battalion of free
month for drill purposes, to serve for ninety days African Americans of 250 men. Savary had a fas-
in the event of a war or emergency, and not to cinating background; he was an émigré from
operate outside the boundaries of Louisiana. Santo Domingo, a former soldier in the French
Although the militia deployment limitations army, and the leading player in recruiting fellow
kept Louisiana African Americans out of the émigrés into the battalion. Savary’s battalion was

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1 8 1 2 , Wa r o f

tacks from a very determined enemy. By the end


of the battle, British casualties had topped
2,000 for the loss of 21 American dead.
Jackson said of the battalions’ contribution in
a letter to Secretary of War James Monroe: “The
two corps of colored volunteers have not dis-
appointed the hopes that were formed of their
courage and perseverance of their duty.” He
went on to say that the British commander, who
had been killed in the battle, “fell from the bul-
let of a freeman of color, a famous rifle shot of
the Attakapas District” (quoted in Drotning
1969, 48).
Although Claiborne and Jackson’s promises
of pay and bounties were honored, Washington
failed to fulfil all the obligations undertaken to
the men. The men had been promised that they
would receive land grants of 160 acres, but
these never materialized. After the conflict had
been concluded, the battalions gradually faded
away and were officially disbanded in 1834. The
advances made by African American militiamen,
Choctaw volunteers and a mixed group of Major
particularly in Louisiana, were lost once more,
Daquin’s Battalion of Free Men of Colour, New
Orleans, Louisiana, 1814. The latter were mostly
and it was not until the American Civil War that
attired in civilian clothes because they had been African Americans were recruited in numbers
organized for only a few weeks. They are led by an once again.
officer distinguishable by his sword and sash. Facing In 1855, African American historian William
them are members of the British 85th Regiment and Cooper Nell tried to draw attention to the Afri-
members of the British 95th Regiment. (U.S. Army) can Americans who had served so valiantly in
both the American Revolution and the War of
officially activated on December 19, 1814, and 1812. Unfortunately, his words fell on deaf ears.
had a combat strength of 256. Initially, the sec- The proof given during the War of 1812, espe-
ond battalion was placed under the command of cially in the naval combats and in the battle of
the white officer, Maj. Louis Daquin, but it was New Orleans, that African Americans could and
Savary who led them into battle. would fight valiantly for the United States, was
When the British landed and made initial ignored by a country with a guilty conscience
probing attacks toward New Orleans before about slavery and a dread of a revolt like Haiti’s.
Christmas 1814, both battalions were deployed Only recently have these early fighters received
to cover the city. However, a much more testing their due.
time for the battalions and the rest of Jackson’s
hastily mustered 4,500 lay ahead. On January 8, See also American Revolution; Coloured Corps;
1815, at the head of 8,000 veteran British sol- Dunmore Proclamation
diers fresh from Europe, Gen. Sir Edward Pak-
enham made his move on New Orleans. References and Further Reading
The two African American battalions were Altoff, Gerard T. Amongst My Best Men: African
deployed into prepared positions on the out- Americans and the War of 1812. Put-in-Bay, OH:
skirts of the city and fought off successive at- Perry Group, 1996.

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8 t h U n i t e d S t a t e s C o l o r e d Tr o o p s

Bennett, Lerone, Jr. Before the Mayflower: A History disastrous results. The 8th was organized at
of Black America. New York: Penguin Books, Camp William Penn, Pennsylvania, between
1982. September 1863 and January 1864. Additional
Cassell, Frank A. “Slaves of the Chesapeake Bay companies were raised at Seaford and Wilming-
Area and the War of 1812.” Journal of Negro ton, Delaware. The enlisted men were, for the
History 57, 2 (April 1972): 144–155. most part, free Pennsylvanian African Ameri-
Drotning, Phillip T. Black Heroes in Our Nation’s
cans, but some came from Maryland, Delaware,
History. New York: Cowles, 1969.
and Indiana, and a few were contrabands, or
Dupuy, R. Ernest, and Trevor N. Dupuy. The
Encyclopaedia of Military History. New York:
runaway slaves, who had come under the pro-
Harper and Row, 1986. tection of the Union Army.
Fields, Elizabeth Arnett. “African American Soldiers The regiment’s commander, Col. Charles W.
Before the Civil War.” In A Historic Context for the Fribley, was a white Pennsylvanian who had
African-American Military Experience, ed. Steven worked his way up from noncommissioned offi-
D. Smith and James A. Ziegler. http://www.denix. cer to become a captain in the 84th Pennsylva-
osd.mil/denix/Public/ES-Programs/Conservation/ nia Volunteers. He was appointed colonel of the
Legacy/AAME/aame1.html (accessed August 15, 8th on November 18, 1863. Some concerns
2003). were raised over his lack of experience, not un-
Foner, Eric, and John A. Garraty, eds. The Reader’s usual at a time when officers were in short sup-
Companion to American History. Boston: ply. He fell out with the commandant of Camp
Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
William Penn. Lt. Col. Louis Wagner preferred
Harley, Sharon. The Timetables of African-American
charges against Fribley, stating that the new
History: A Chronology of the Most Important
People and Events in African-American History.
colonel chose only to obey “orders when it suits
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995. him and disobey . . . when it does not suit him.”
Horton, James Oliver, and Lois E. Horton, eds. A The charges were eventually dropped.
History of the African American People. London: On January 16, 1864, the regiment left Camp
Salamander Books, 1995. Penn and headed for New York, and from there
Lanning, Michael Lee. The African-American they were shipped south to Hilton Head, South
Soldier; From Crispus Attucks to Colin Powell. Carolina, where the commanding general of the
Secaucus, NJ: Birch Lane Press, 1997. Department of the South, Quincy A. Gillmore,
Nalty, Bernard C. Strength For the Fight. New York: reviewed the new arrivals and was much pleased
Free Press, 1986. with what he saw.
Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Making of The 8th was heavily engaged in its first com-
America. New York: Touchstone, 1996.
bat on February 20th at the Battle of Olustee,
Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., ed. The Almanac of
Florida. It was one of three African American
American History. New York: Perigee Books, 1983.
Wilson, Joseph T. The Black Phalanx; African
regiments present. The 8th was the focal point
American Soldiers in the War of Independence, of the initial Confederate attack and suffered
the War of 1812, and the Civil War. 1890. more than 300 casualties. Fribley was killed
Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1968. early in the battle. Although it was charged that
it was not only Fribley’s inexperience but also
that of his men that contributed to the large
number of casualties, the well-trained and de-
termined enemy would have tried the courage
8th United States of any regiment. Some of the 8th fled after ini-
Colored Troops (Civil War) tially holding their positions against a much
more experienced enemy, but many more stood,
An African American infantry regiment thrown fought, and died during the decisive Confeder-
into battle in 1864 with little training and near- ate victory that ended Union attempts to re-

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E l C a n e y, B a t t l e o f

establish a Unionist government in Florida in El Caney, Battle of


time for the 1864 election. (July 1, 1898)
Sgt. Maj. Rufus S. Jones of Pittsburgh ex-
plained what happened shortly after 3 p.m. on The African American 25th Infantry took the
February 20, 1864: leading role in the assault on the heavily de-
fended hill, north of San Juan Hill, in Cuba
The 8th, having been on the railroad for a during the Spanish-American War (1898). On
short distance, was ordered to change direc- July 1, as part of a series of assaults on the San
tion to the right, and received orders to go into Juan Heights, the last major obstacle before the
the fight without unslinging knapsacks, or the Cuban capital, Santiago, the 25th Infantry led
sergeants taking off their sashes, which caused the advance on this strategic position.
nearly all the first sergeants to be killed or They advanced over difficult terrain under
wounded. Only one-half the regiment was heavy fire. Sgt. M. W. Saddler of the 25th de-
loaded, so harmless had been the estimate scribed the attack in the Indianapolis African
placed upon the enemy, that he was not looked American newspaper, The Freeman:
for short of Lake City, and not there, if any
place was left open for retreat. The Battle of On the morning of July 1, our regiment, hav-
Olustee, or Ocean Pond, on the 20th of Febru- ing slept part of the night with stones for pil-
ary, will be long remembered by the 8th, which lows and heads resting on hands, arose at the
suffered terribly in the conflict. No expecta- dawn of the day, without a morsel to eat,
tion of meeting the enemy is apparent, when formed a line, and after a half day of hard
not sufficient ammunition was brought along marching, succeeded in reaching the bloody
to fire over 60 rounds of musketry (Redkey battleground of El Caney. We were the last
1992, 41–42). brigade of our division. As we were marching
up we met regiments of our comrades in white
Later in 1864 the 8th served at Petersburg retreating from the Spanish stronghold. As we
fighting at Chaffin’s Farm (New Market Heights, pressed forward all the reply that came from
September 28–30) and Darbytown Road (Octo- the retiring soldiers was “There is no use to
ber 13), finally being mustered out in Novem- advance further. The Spaniards are entrenched
ber 1865. in block houses. You are running to sudden
death.” But without a falter did our brave men
See also American Civil War; Chaffin’s Farm, continue to press to the front. The first battal-
Battle of; Olustee, Battle of; United States ion of the 25th Infantry was ordered to form
Colored Troops (appendixes) the firing line, in preference to other regi-
ments though the commands were senior to
References and Further Reading ours. The enemy began showering down on us
Redkey, Edwin S. A Grand Army of Black Men: volleys from their strong fortifications and
Letters from African American Soldiers in the numberless sharpshooters hid away in palm
Union Army, 1861–1865. New York Cambridge trees and other places. Our men began to fall,
University Press, 1992. many of them never to rise again, but so steady
was the advance and so effective was our fire,
that the Spaniards became unnerved and be-
gan over-shooting us. When they saw we were
“colored soldiers” they knew their doom was
sealed. The advance was continued until we
were within 150 yards of the intrenchments;

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E l C a n e y, B a t t l e o f

then came the solemn command “charge!” vates J. H. Jones, of Company D. and T. C.
Every man was up and rushing forward at Butler, H Company, Twenty-fifth Infantry, en-
headlong speed over the barbed wire and into tered the fort at the same time and took pos-
the intrenchments, and the 25th carried the session of the Spanish flag. They were ordered
much coveted position. to give it up by an officer of the Twelfth
United States Infantry, but before doing so
Lt. Col. A. S. Daggett, commanding officer of they each tore a piece from it, which they now
the 25th, in his official report to the adjutant have. So much for the facts.
general of the 2d Brigade, 5th Corps, dated July I attribute the success attained by our line
16, 1898, wrote: largely to the bravery and skill of the company
officers who conducted the line to the fort.
Feeling that the Twenty-fifth Infantry has not These officers are: First Lieuts. V. A. Caldwell
received credit for the part it took in the battle and J. A. Moss and Second Lieut. J. E. Hunt.
of El Caney on the first instant, I have the It is my opinion that the two companies first
honor to submit the following facts: deployed could not have reached the fort
I was ordered by the brigade commander to alone, and that it was the two companies I or-
put two companies (H, Lieutenant Caldwell, dered to their support that gave them the
and G, Lieutenant McCorkle) or the firing line power to reach it. I further believe that had we
in extended order. The right being uncovered failed to move beyond the Fourth Infantry the
and exposed to the enemy, I ordered D Com- fort would not have been taken that night.
pany (Captain Edwards) to deploy as flankers. The Twenty-fifth Infantry lost 1 officer
The battalion was commanded by Capt. W. S. killed (First Lieutenant McCorkle killed; Cap-
Scott. The battalion advanced about 300 yards tain Edwards and First Lieutenants Kinnison
under fire, the Fourth Infantry on its left, and Murdock wounded) and 3 wounded and 7
where the line found cover, halted, and opened men killed and 28 wounded (http:www.army.
fire on the blockhouse and intrenchments in mil/cmh-pg/documents/spanam/BSSJH/
front of it. After the line had been steadied and 25Inf2.htm).
had delivered an effective fire I ordered a fur-
ther advance, which was promptly made. As
the Fourth Infantry did not advance, my left See also Buffalo Soldiers; Kettle Hill, Battle of;
was exposed to a very severe fire from the vil- Las Guásimas, Battle of; San Juan Hill, Battle of;
lage on the left. I immediately ordered Com- Spanish-American War
pany C (Lieutenant Murdock), which was in
support, to the front and E Company (Lieu- References and Further Reading
tenant Kinnison) from regimental reserve to Gatewood, Willard B., Jr. “Smoked” Yankees and the
take its place. Thus strengthened the four Struggle for Empire. Letters from Negro Soldiers,
companies moved up the hill rapidly, being 1898–1902. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas
skillfully handled by company officers. On ar- Press, 1987.
riving near the fort the white flag was waved Lynk, Myles V. The Black Troopers or the Daring
toward our men, but the fire from the village Heroism of the Negro Soldiers in the Spanish-
on our left was so severe that neither our offi- American War. New York: AMS, 1971 (originally
cers nor Spanish could pass over the interven- published Jackson, TN: M. V. Lynk Publishing
ing ground. After about twenty minutes some House, 1899).
of the Twelfth Infantry arrived in rear of the
fort, completely sheltered from the fire from
the village and received the white flag but Pri-

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Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation Americans feared the end of slavery, believing it


(January 1, 1863) would lead to racial mixing, the devaluation of
white labor, and a whole host of other problems
One of the most influential documents in Amer- that threatened to undermine white society.
ican history, the Emancipation Proclamation Most Northerners supported the war to reunite
took effect on January 1, 1863, in the midst of the Union but were at best ambivalent about a
the nation’s tremendous civil war. Issued by war to free the slaves. In addition, the border
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, it declared states of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and
those slaves living within states that were cur- Missouri were crucial to the Union war effort,
rently rebelling to be free. The measure gave a and none would tolerate having their slaves set
powerful moral impetus to the Northern cause free by the federal government. Such legislation
and proved a valuable wartime policy that would surely drive them to follow their South-
helped the Union win the war. ern neighbors into the Confederacy.
The issue of freeing the nearly 4 million The more practical aspects of warfare
slaves who resided in the United States in 1860 brought the issue of slavery to the forefront of
had sparked the war in the first place, prompt- government thinking almost as soon as the war
ing eleven Southern states to secede following began. As Northern troops moved into Confed-
Lincoln’s election to the presidency in Novem- erate territory, thousands of slaves fled behind
ber of that year. An antislavery Republican, Lin- Union lines, seeking sanctuary from their
coln actually proved to be more moderate on Southern masters. The Union army was faced
the issue of abolition than many of his contem- with a perplexing question regarding these run-
poraries, both North and South, recognized. away slaves. Should they be treated as refugees
Throughout the presidential campaign and dur- or confiscated property? The issue actually
ing his first few years in office, he adamantly sparked a great deal of controversy, which Con-
maintained that his goal was the preservation of gress sought to quell by passing the First Con-
the Union. Slavery interested him only in so far fiscation Act in August 1861. The legislation
as it affected that goal. supported the action of field commanders like
Once the war began in the spring of 1861, Gen. Benjamin Butler who had already declared
many abolitionists urged Lincoln to outlaw slav- runaway slaves within his jurisdiction to be con-
ery formally, although only in the border states fiscated property, which provided the runaways
did slavery still exist in the Union after the with a form of asylum but technically kept them
South seceded. They argued that with nearly slaves. Notably, several months before Butler’s
the entire South absent from the federal gov- stance, Lincoln had reversed the policy of Gen.
ernment, Lincoln had a unique opportunity to John C. Frémont, who as commander of Union
drive through the necessary legislation that forces in Missouri had abolished slavery in the
would wipe out forever this horrible institution state. Such a step was far too radical for most
on American soil. Furthermore, they posited Northerners to tolerate, particularly the moder-
that slavery provided the Confederacy with ad- ate Republicans who held the reins of political
ditional manpower to wage the war and thus power in the federal government at the time.
should be abolished on these grounds as well. The following year, an alliance of moderate
Throughout 1861 and early 1862, Lincoln re- and Radical Republicans in Congress pushed
fused, believing that such a move complicated through more legislation designed to weaken
rather than clarified the North’s war aims, as the slave system in the United States without
well as prompting dangerous internal dissension dismantling it. First, Congress passed a meas-
within those states still a part of the Union. ure to end slavery within Washington, D.C.,
Abolitionists represented only a small propor- which had long been a source of embarrassment
tion of the Northern population, and most for many Northerners, even those who were not

| 160 |
Emancipation Proclamation

A contemporary depiction of the African American response to the Emancipation Proclamation.


In the center panel, African Americans on hearing the news of the proclamation rejoice, looking at the Bible
being held above them; in the left panel, Lincoln holds the proclamation; and in the right panel, a soldier
on horseback hands out a copy of the proclamation. (Library of Congress)

actively involved in the antislavery cause. Sec- addition, his hopes of restoring the Union
ond, Congress enacted the Second Confiscation quickly and without significant change had
Act in July, which formally allowed the federal faded. Recognizing that the Union could never
government to seize the property of anyone in be put back together as it had been in 1860,
rebellion and freed any slaves that were cap- Lincoln decided to eradicate the blot of slavery
tured in the process. Critics worried, though, when he had the chance, in the hopes that the
that if a case ever came to court under this law, hated institution would not serve as a stumbling
the federal government would have a difficult block to reunion once the war was over. And
time proving that any one individual was actu- perhaps most important, he began to view slav-
ally in rebellion. ery as a powerful military tool for the Confeder-
By this point in the war, Lincoln had also be- acy. If he could undermine it, he would bring
gun to change his mind about the federal gov- the war that much closer to an end. Quietly, he
ernment’s official position on slavery. More and began to draft a proposal to abolish slavery in
more, he felt the need for a stronger moral im- the summer of 1862.
perative to support the North through the cur- On July 22, Lincoln presented the idea of
rent crisis engulfing the nation. Although freeing the slaves to his advisers in a full cabinet
racism was still prominent throughout the meeting. What Lincoln suggested was to free
North, white Northerners’ attitudes toward only those slaves who resided in rebelling states,
blacks had begun to change ever so slightly. In which would leave slavery untouched within the

| 161 |
Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863

By the President of the United States of America:


A Proclamation.
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hun-
dred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing,
among other things, the following, to wit:
That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three,
all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then
be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Exec-
utive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recog-
nize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or
any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States
and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against
the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good
faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections
wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of
strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people
thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.
Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me
vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed re-
bellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war
measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one
thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly pro-
claimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and desig-
nate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion
against the United States, the following, to wit:
(continues)

border states and those areas of the Confeder- tions that would leave Lincoln saddled with a
acy that had fallen under Union control up until Democratic Congress in the midst of the war.
that point. Reactions to the proposal ran the Lincoln listened as his advisors suggested vari-
gamut but generally followed predictable lines. ous revisions to the proposal but made it clear
Those members of the cabinet who identified that he sought the cabinet’s advice for the pur-
with the Radical Republicans supported the pose of refining the language of the document
plan but argued for a broader measure that and deciding when to enact it. Lincoln was al-
would utterly and completely abolish slavery ready fully committed to the idea of emancipa-
everywhere in America; more moderate Repub- tion and could not be swayed from such action.
licans voiced a number of concerns, with the The timing of when to announce the procla-
most dire being that the Northern backlash mation became a crucial issue in the weeks
would result in an catastrophic Republican de- ahead. With the finished document sitting in
feat in the November 1862 congressional elec- his desk unsigned and undated, Lincoln waited

| 162 |
Emancipation Proclamation

(continued)

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John,
St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Or-
leans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina,
North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the
counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, includ-
ing the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely
as if this proclamation were not issued.