GENEALOGY EXPRESS

 

Welcome to
Black
History & Genealogy

The
BLACK PHALANX;

A History of the

NEGRO SOLDIERS OF THE UNITED STATES
in the Wars of
1775-1812, 1861-'65,
By
Joseph T. Wilson
Late of the 2nd Reg't. La. Native Guard Vols. 54th Mass. Vols.
Aide-De-camp to the Commander-In-Chief G. A. R.
Author of
"Emancipation," "Voice of a New Race,"  "Twenty-Two Years of Freedom," etc., etc.
-----
56 Illustrations
-----
Hartford, Conn.:
American Publishing Company
1890

PART III

APPENDIX
HISTORY OF THE 29TH CONNECTICUT NEGRO VOLUNTEERS

"HEAD-QUARTERS 29TH CONNECTICUT COLORED VOLUNTEERS,
     HARTFORD, CONN., November 29th, 1865 }

pg. 518 - 528
 

"Brigadier-General H. J. Morse, Adjutant-General, State of Connecticut.
    
"GENERAL:  In obedience to your request I have the honor to submit the following as the history of the 29th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers (Colored):
     "Recruiting for this " Recruiting for this regiment began early in the autumn of 1863, and by the latter part of January, 1864, the maximum number had been enlisted. During its organization the regiment was stationed at Fair Haven, Conn. On the 8th of March, 1864, the regiment was formally mustered into the service of the United States.
     "No field officer had as yet reported, but on the 12th of March William B. Wooster, formerly lieutenant-colonel of the 20th Connecticut Volunteers, reported to the regiment, and soon after assumed command.
     "On the 19th day of March the regiment formed in line, and after the presentation of a flag by the colored ladies of New Haven, marched on board the transport " Warrior."
     "On the 20th we steamed out of New Haven harbor, and after a pleasant voyage disembarked at Annapolis, Md.
     "The regiment was as yet unarmed, but on the 7th of April we received the full complement of the best Springfield rifled muskets.
     "At this time the 9th Corps was assembling at Annapolis, and to it we were assigned, but on the 8th of April the regiment received orders to proceed to Hilton Head, S. C, and on the 9th of April we left Annapolis
for that place.  Arriving at Hilton Head we were ordered to Beaufort, S. C, where we disembarked on the 13th of April.  The regiment had, up to this time, learned nothing of drill or discipline, so that there was plenty of work to be done.
     "After a fine camp had been laid out the work of converting the raw material of the regiment into good soldiers was vigorously and systematically commenced.  The men learned rapidly, and were faithful in the performance of their duties.  While here, although the utmost attention was paid to all that pertained to the health of the regiment,

[Pg. 519]
much sickness prevailed, the change of climate telling severely upon the untried soldiers. In less than two months a decided improvement in drill and discipline had been effected, and our dress parades began to attract marked attention.  But as yet our soldiers had not fired a shot at the rebellion, and had still to be tried in the fiery ordeal of battle.  At last events on the bloody fields of Virginia determined our destiny.
     "The battles fought during the summer campaign had demonstrated that negro troops could fight well ; they had also shown that more men were required in Virginia, and that we could not await the slow process of a draft to get them.  The success of the entire campaign seemed dubious, and the army, after all its gigantic toils and losses, found itself confronted by strong lines of works, manned by a brave and resolute foe. Under these circumstances the only policy was concentration in Virginia.  Accordingly all the troops that could be spared from other points were ordered to Virginia.
     "Among the number was the 29th Connecticut Volunteers (colored).  On the 8th day of August, 1864, the regiment left Beaufort, S. C, and disembarked at Bermuda Hundreds, Va., on the 14th of the same month.  This regiment was brigaded with the 7th, 8th, and 9th United States Colored Troops, forming with other colored regiments a division of the 10th Army Corps.  We arrived just as the active movements terminating in the capture of the Weldon Railroad had commenced.  That railroad being on the then extreme left of our line it was deemed advisable, as a feint, to keep the enemy well engaged on our right.  For this purpose the 2d and 10th Army Corps had been assembled, as secretly as possible, near Bermuda Hundreds, and on the morning of August 14th had advanced upon the enemy's works near Deep Bottom.
     "This regiment accompanied the force as far as Deep Bottom, where, with the 7th United States Colored Troops and one light battery, it was left to defend the post, under command of Colonel Wooster.  The two corps moved farther to the right and front, and soon became warmly engaged.  During the fighting General Butler, desirous to ascertain the strength and position of the enemy immediately in our front, ordered Colonel Wooster to make a reconnaissance with this regiment and the 7th United States Colored Troops.
     "This was successfully accomplished, the men in this their first encounter with the enemy, displaying great coolness and bravery.  Soon after this we were relieved and ordered to join our brigade, then actively engaged at the front.
     "We set out in a drenching rain storm, and after n tiresome march reached the battle-field about dark.  Our forces had suffered a bloody repulse, and had just finished burying our dead under a flag of truce.  The burial parties with their bloody stretchers were returning, and the sharp crack of the rifle began again to be heard, and so continued with more or less fierceness during the night.
     "At daylight hostilities, except on the picket line, were not resumed.  The opposing forces lay and narrowly watched each other's movements.

[Pg. 520]
Towards night, however, it was discovered that the enemy was massing in our immediate front, and just before sunset they commenced the attack.  The content was sharp and short; a fierce roar of musketry, mingled with wild yells and the deep bass of cannon; a fainter yell and volleys less steady; finally a few scattering shots and the attack was repulsed.  As this movement of the two corps on the right was merely a feint to cover more active operations on the left, it was resolved to with draw the forces during the night.  The movement begun just after dark.  We marched to the Bermuda Hundreds front, and pitched our camp near Point of Rocks.  On the 24th of August, 1864, the 10th Corps relieved the l8th Corps in front of Petersburg.  Here we remained, doing duty in the trenches, until the 24th of September, at which time the 10th Corps marched to the rear to rest a few days preparatory to an advance upon Richmond then in contemplation.  While here our ragged, dirty, and shoeless men were clad, washed, and shod as rapidly as possible.
     "At length, at about sundown, September 28th, the corps broke camp, and we once more started for Deep Bottom, which place we reached about four a. M., September 29th.
     "Just as the first faint glimmerings of light were visible the movement against Richmond commenced.  After pushing through a deep wood our brigade formed in line of battle near the New Market Road, under fire of a rebel battery.  We had scarcely formed when it was found that the rebel lines had been broken further to the left, and we were ordered forward in pursuit of the flying foe.  Three successive lines had been carried by impetuous charges, and during that summer forenoon the enemy on all sides was pressed steadily back.  By noon Fort Harrison, a large powerful work, and a key to a large portion of the rebel line, had been carried at the bayonet point by the I8th Corps, and we found ourselves in front of the strongest line of the outer defenses of Richmond.  An assault was immediately ordered.  Two regiments of the brigade to which this regiment was attached,—the 7th Maryland and 8th Pennsylvania—were selected to make the attack on Fort Gilmer, the 29th Connecticut and 9th Maryland being held in reserve.  A charge was made on the double-quick through a felled forest, half a mile in extent.  They were met by a murderous enfilading fire, and after an obstinate struggle were forced buck.  They re-formed quickly and again charged, this time up the very guns of the fort.  After a most heroic fight they were again compelled to retire. Some of the companies sprang into the ditch, and refused to surrender even after their companions had been driven back.  They continued the unequal contest until dark, when we were forced to leave the brave men to their fate.
     "After the repulse of the second charge, the brigade formed under a galling fire, preparatory to another charge, but after a careful survey of the enemy's position, it was deemed advisable to delay the attack for the present. Darkness soon after coming on, the troops were quietly withdrawn to one of the captured lines a short distance in our rear.  Next morning vigorous measures were at once taken to reverse this line,

[Pg. 521]
and to render it impregnable against a counter attack, which was constantly expected.  While busily engaged in this work the rebels opened upon us with a fierce artillery fire.  A powerful force, said to be under the direction of General Lee in person, had been silently massed in front of Fort Harrison, screened from our view by the inequality of the ground.  They soon made their presence known, however, and advanced with determination.  They were met by a fire that sent them reeling back with immense loss.  Again they formed, and were again driven back.  Another charge more furious, and another repulse more bloody, finally convinced them that the attempt was useless, and we were left in possession of our victories of the previous day.  After this, comparative quiet reigned for a few days, but they were not days of idleness; the captured lines had to be reversed and heavy picket duty to be done, and of these duties this regiment had its full share.
     "On the 7th of October, the enemy made a dash on our right, and at first met with considerable success. This regiment was detached from the brigade, and ordered to the right to assist in repelling the attack.  Before reaching that point the attack had been repulsed and the fighting was nearly over. We formed a skirmish line and remained until midnight, when we returned to the brigade.
     "On the 13th of October a reconnaissance was made upon the enemy's lines in front of our right, in which this regiment took an active part.  The fighting was severe, and the loss considerable. The men behaved like veterans: but the wary foe behind his strong works bade defiance to our small force, and so, after fifteen hours of fighting, at night we returned to camp.  On the 27th of October a movement commenced on our extreme left which required the active co-operation of the Army of the James, that the enemy might be kept busily engaged at all points.  Tins regiment, as part of the force selected for this purpose, set out early on the morning of the 27th, and came in contact with the outposts of the enemy.  Deploying as skirmishers, after a short, sharp action, we drove the enemy within entrenchments.  After driving in the skirmish line, we remained in front of the enemy's works, picking his men as opportunity offered, and keeping him engaged generally.  We were in an open field, exposed to the fire of au enemy protected by strong earthworks.  The men behaved very well; for twenty-three hours they held this position, exposing themselves with the most reckless indifference, taking the ammunition from the bodies of their dead and wounded companions when their own was exhausted, and in all respects, if valor be any criteron of manhood, proving themselves to be 'good men and true.' At length on the morning of the 28th, the troops were withdrawn, and we returned to camp.
     "On the 19th day of November, the regiment was ordered to garrison certain detached forts on the New Market road, which were considered of great importance on account of the relation they bore to the whole line north of the James.  That this regiment was sent to hold them, was certainly a marked tribute to its valor and efficiency, and was

[Pg. 522]
expressly given to it on that account.  We remained here until the formation of the 25th Army Corps, when on the 5th day of December, 1864 we removed to the left of Fort Harrison, forming a part of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of that Corps.
     "Here we remained during the rest of the winter, picketing, drilling, building forts, and making roads, and preparing for the spring campaign.  One division had been sent to Fort Fisher, and but two were with the Army of the James.  At length, late in the month of March, 1865, one of the remaining divisions was sent to the left, while the division to which this regiment was attached, together with one division of the 24th Army Corps, was left to guard the defences north of the James.  The campaign opened vigorously.  The last week in March brought a series of splendid victories to the Union armies, and we began to feel that the 'end' so ardently desired was near at hand.  This regiment had been placed in Fort Harrison, the most important position on our line. The fort was said to be mined, and it was feared that the rebels would make an attack in force near that point.  On Saturday and Sunday, April 1st and 2nd, the fighting on the left had been terrific but generally favorable to us.  We were ordered to observe with great care all movements of the enemy in our front.
     "At sunset of April 2nd, we witnessed the last rebel dress parade in Virginia from the magazine of Fort Harrison. Early on the morning of April 3rd, 1865, the picket fires of the enemy begun to wane, and an ominous silence to prevail within his lines.  Very soon deserters began to come within our lines who reported that the lines in our front were being evacuated.  In a little while we saw the barracks of Fort Darling in flames, and tremendous explosions followed each other in rapid succession.  The earliest dawn revealed to us the deserted lines, with their guns spiked and their tents standing.  We were ordered to advance at once, but cautiously. The troops jumped over the breast-works, and, avoiding the torpedoes, filed through the rebel abbatis, and then began the pace for Richmond.
     "No words can describe the enthusiasm of the troops as they found themselves fairly within the rebel lines, and tramping along the bloody roads lending to the 'capitol of secessia.'  The honor of first entering that city was most earnestly contested; many regiments threw away everything but their arms, while this regiment 'double-quicked' in heavy marching orders.  Two companies of this regiment—G and C—had been sent forward as skirmishers reaching the city close on the heels of our cavalry, and were, without the slightest doubt, the first companies of infantry to enter the city.  Through the heat and dust the troops struggled on, and at Inst, as we came in full view of the city, the air was rent with such cheers as only the brave men, who had fought so long and so nobly for that city could give. Since that time our history has been blessedly unfruitful in stirring events.  We remained in Richmond for a few days, and were then ordered to Petersburg; from here we went to Point Lookout, Md., where we remained until the 25th Corps

[Pg. 523]
was ordered to Texas. We embarked for Texas on the 10th day of June 1865, arriving at Brazos de Santiago July 3rd, 1805.  Prom Brazos we marched to Brownsville, on the Rio Grande, where we continued until ordered to Hartford, Conn., to be mustered out.  On the 20th day of October, 1865, we left Brownsville for Hartford, where the regiment was discharged and paid on the 25th day of November, 1805.
     "The following is a report of changes and casualties in the 29th
Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, (colored), from date of organization
to date of discharge:

Gain by recruits...................... 8 officers, 210 enlisted men.
Loss by discharge.................. 5 officers, 121 enlisted men.
Loss by dismissal .................. 1 officer, - enlisted men
Loss died of disease .............. 1 officer, 103 enlisted men.
Loss died of wounds ............. 1 officer, 153 enlisted men.
Loss died of wounds .............. 1 officer, 21 enlisted men.
Loss by killed in battle ........... _ officer, 24 enlisted men.
Promotion into other organizations ------- 5 officers ___ enlisted men
         Total gain 8 officers, 210 enlisted men
         Total loss 13 officers 422 enlisted men
Wounded, officers, 6; men, 102.  Captured, officer, 1; missing, none.

     "It will be necessary to remark here that fully one hundred per cent of our desertions occurred while at New Haven, and during the organization of the regiment very few desertions occurred after we left the State.  Our total of killed and wounded was—enlisted men, 123; officers, 6.  The officer who was captured eventually re-joined us. The officers lost by promotion into other organizations were—Lieutenant-Colonel H. C. Ward, promoted to be colonel of the31st United States Colored Troops; Major F. E. Camp, promoted to be lieutenant-colonel of the 29th United States Colored Troops; Captain E. W. Bacon, promoted to be major of the 117th United States Colored Troops; Assistant Surgeon Crandall, promoted to be surgeon of the 33d United States Colored Troops; 1st Lieutenant H. H. Brown, promoted to be captain of the 1st United States Colored Troops ; 2d Lieutenant Edward Coe, promoted to be 1st lieutenant and adjutant of the 27th United States Colored Troops.
     "Thus have I attempted to trace the history of this regiment.  I have done this with some degree of minuteness, owing to the fact that, as we were considered a United States organization less can be learned concerning ns from the reports of the adjutant-general of the State than concerning any other Connecticut organization. And as the employment of colored troops was at first tried ns a grand experiment, the people of Connecticut may be desirous to know how far, in the case of their colored regiment, that experiment has been successful.  Justice, too, demands that those who are the most competent judges—those who have been with the colored troops on the march and in the battle—should give their testimony to the loyalty and valor of this despised race. They went forth to fight the battles of the Union when there was every thing to discourage even the bravest.  Both officers and men knew, that should they escape death on the battle-field a fate awaited them, if captured,

[Pg. 524]
from which death on the battle-field would have been a glorious relief.  The poor rights of a soldier were denied to them.  Their actions were narrowly watched, and the slightest faults severely commented upon.  In spite of all this the negro soldier fought willingly and bravely, and with his rifle alone he has vindicated his manhood, and stands confessed to-day as second in bravery to none.
     "I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                      "DAVID TORRANCE,
     "(Late) Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding 29th C. V."

DIARY OF THE THIRD REGIMENT DURING THE SIEGE OF PORT HUDSON.

     "May 1st, 1863.—Regiment broke camp at Fort William, Baton Rouge, at 5 a.m.; marched out of Bayou Monticino on the road to Port Hudson.  In the evening Company G, under Lieutenant Quinn, was detailed for picket duty on the Clinton Road.  Colonel promised to encamp close by with the rest of the regiment, but instead of doing so he fell back to the junction of the Clinton and Port Hudson Roads, thus leaving the rebels a fine chance to cross the bayou and cut off Company G from all support.  Lieutenant Quinn was doubtful of the colonel, and to satisfy himself sent 2d Lieutenant Frederick Dame with twenty men back to the woods to see how things were. Lieutenant Dame found that Colonel Nelson had retreated back to Baton Rouge and  reported. Lieutenant Quinn, feeling that if attacked during the night he would not Receive aid from the regiment, changed his position from the place assigned in the woods by Colonel Nelson, to one 300 yards further down in the woods, and on the road-side.  He then threw out his pickets in all directions, but only a short distance from the remainder of the company who were held in reserve. Every man was on that night.  Occasionally horsemen were seen in the clearing, but as they did not appear to know of our company's proximity the pickets did not fire on them.
     "2th.— Had a slight skirmish.
     "13th.—Companies G and E, under Lieutenant Quinn, went on a reconnoissanre; returned at midnight.
     "14th.—All quiet in camp.
     "15th.—Fell back to Bayou Monticino.
     "16th.—Commenced to build a second bridge at Monticino Bayou.
     "17th.—Company G, Lieutenant Dame, and Company E, Lieutenant John Keefe, went on a scout under command of Lieutenant Quinn, captured one horse, cattle, and had a skirmish with rebel pickets.
     "18th.—Company G on picket ordered to block the road with felled trees, connecting the Clinton and Bayou Sara roads, to prevent the rebel cavalry and artillery getting in the rear of Dudley's brigade, who were camped near Plains Store.
     "19th.—Colonel Nelson and Lieutenant Quinn rode to Dudley's head-quarters. The regiment marched two miles nearer to Port Hudson in the evening; were ordered back and bivouacked that night.
     "20th.—At 10 p. m. again for Port Hudson.  After hours of hard marching in heavy order in a hot sun on dusty roads and very little water to drink, the regiment camped at dark in the left of the Union line on the road leading to Springfield landing.
     "21st. — Rattle of Plains Store. During the morning there were rumors of a fight, as the rebels were determined to prevent a junction of of the force under Augur and Grover, of Banks' army, who were moving down from St. Francis.  This brought on the above-named battle, in

[Pg. 525]
which the negro regiment held the extreme left, and thus prevented the rebels getting in the rear of the Union troops.
     " 22d.—Companies A and U drove back some rebel pickets, capturing one man, horse, equipments, and two rifles. The man was thrown by his horse and was badly hurt, his head striking against a tree.
     "23d.—We formed a junction to-day with Hanks, and Port Hudson is invested.
     "24th.—Companies E and G, under Captain Blake, on a scout.
     "25th.—To-day the regiment marched from the extreme left to the extreme right of the Union line, a hard long tram]) again in heavy order.  At night we encamped near Sandy Creek, close to the Mississippi.  Each man had to carry his own baggage.  This regiment was never given any wagons.
     "26th.—At Sandy Creek protecting men laying the pontoon bridge.  Skirmishing all day with the rebels.  The boys are getting used to lighting.
     "27th.—Storming the batteries.  The negro soldiers prove the bravest of the brave.  To-day was fought one of the most desperate battles on record.  Our brigade, six companies of the 1st, and nine companies of 3rd Regiment Louisiana Native Guards, commenced fighting at quarter of an hour before 6 a. m.  The 1st, under Lieutenant-Colonel Bassett, advanced in skirmish line up through the wood and soon drew the enemy's fire.  The 3rd under Lieutenant-Colonel Finnegass, were in line of battle about fifty yards in rear of the first, the whole command under Colonel John A. Nelson, of the 3rd Regiment.  The rebels opened with infantry fire and shells at short range, and their fire was very effective and for a short time the first, which was in danger of utter destruction, wavered, when Colonel Bassett and his colored officers moved among the men encouraging them by their own fearless examples.  At this crisis, Colonel Finnegass sent forward his four left companies, under Captain John E. Quinn, to support the 1st. Captain Quinn moved up in good order, placing his left company under Lieutenant John O'Keefe so as to face the bridge on his left, held by the rebels in rifle-pits, Finnegass keeping the other five companies well in hand, to use them when most needed.  When within pistol shot of the fortifications, to their dismay they were stopped—not by the rebels, but by a back flow of the river.  The water was not. more than forty feet across, but over eight feet deep.  To cross this without boat or bridge was impossible, particularly under such a terrible fire as the rebels poured upon them in front and on both flanks.  On the left the rebels were actually in their rear
so far had the gallant fellows advanced.  The slaughter was now be coming fearful.  Colonel Finnegass at this juncture asked Captain Quinn if he could cross the water; Quinn called on volunteers to follow him. The whole that was left of his own company, G, and Lieutenant O'Keefe with Company E, responded to his call, and in they plunged, the men holding their rifles and cartridge boxes above their heads.  In the mean time Bassett and Finnegass (whose men were lying down) kept a continual fire on the rebel gunners and drove them from their guns, but the water was too much for the men, and only 35 or 40—with Quinn and O'Keefe and Lieutenants Burnham and Dame—succeeded in crossing.  This handful actually followed their reckless leader up to the very cannon's mouth, and for 15 or 20 minutes held the whole rebel battery in their hands.  Colonel Finnegass seeing that in a few minutes more his brave, men would be destroyed, rushed into the water and ordered Quinn to fall back, as a regiment of rebels were clambering over the works to get in their rear.  The brave fellows fell back, but alas, few of them ever answered roll-call again. Out of the band but six re-crossed alive, and of these, Lieutenants O'Keefe, Burnham and Sergeants Vincent and Taylor, who were wounded; Quinn and Dame were the only

[Pg. 526]
ones unhurt. The whole regiment now fell back about 600 yards, in the shelter of the woods.  Six times we advanced, hoping to find some spot where the men could cross, but in vain.  We entered tins fight with 1080 men, and lost 371 killed and 150 wounded; total loss, 421. The rebels shelled us with their heavy guns,  On our front were artillery und infantry; on our left u wooded ridge full of riflemen.  We had two six-pounders; one of them was dismounted early in the fight, and the other the gunners ran out of range, it being of no use.
     "Now, why were the colored troops left unsupported?  Why were they sent on such hopeless missions?  Why were the officers informed by General Dwight that there were clear grounds beyond Sandy Creek?  There were white troops who could have been sent to their support; the officers expected to fight the rebels but met the river.  Colonel Nelson played General to perfection; during the whole battle he remained on the safe side of Sandy Creek, and had his corps of orderlies to attend him; in plain words he kept his men under fire from quarter before six A. M., till seven P. M. During the day he never saw a rebel's face or back. * * * The heroes of the day were the men; not one of them showed the "white feather." Colonel Bassett and his colored officers of the 1st were as brave as any men who ever drew a sword, and so were Finnegass, Lieutenant-Colonel of the 3rd, and Captains Smith, Daly, Masterson and others.  Lientenants O'Keefe, Burnham, Wiley, Griggs, Emory, Westervelt and Dame of the 3rd, and Captain Quinn, who commanded the left wing and led the storming column of the 3rd.  Lientenant-Colonel Bassctt was formerly of the 4th Mississippi Regiment; Colonel Nelson and Lientenant-Colonel Finnegass, were both of Irish parentage; Captain Daily and Lieutenant Emory,of the 31st Massachusetts, Lientenant O'Keefe of the 9th and Burnham, of the 13th Connecticut, Masterson and Wiley, of the 20th Massachusetts, Company A, of the 3rd, were on detached service.  Captain John K. Quinn is a native of Lowell, Mass.; born April 22nd, 1837 came from the 30th Massachusetts, in which he was orderly of Company B.

-----

     A correspondent of the New York Tribune writing, says: "The more I see of our colored regiments, and the more I converse with our soldiers, the more convinced I am that upon them we must ultimately rely as the principle source of our strength in these latitudes.  It is perfect nonsense for any one to attempt to talk away the broad fact, evident as the sun at noonday, that these men are capable not only of making good soldiers, but the very best of soldiers.  The Third Louisiana Native Guard, Colonel Nelson, are encamped here, and a more orderly, disciplined, robust, and effective set of men I defy anyone to produce.
     "An old European officer, one who has followed the profession of arms from his very boyhood, said to me to-day:  'In one essential respect, sir, 1 believe that in a short time these colored soldiers will surpass any we have in our army— I mean in subordination —without which no army can be effective.  We are in the habit of carrying our citizenship with us into the field, and that begets an amount of undue familiarity between officers and men that is often destructive of obedience.  Toward the black man we feel none of these delicate sentiments of equality, and he, on his part, has always been accustomed to be commanded.  Beside this he is acclimated, knows the country thoroughly, and if milled upon to fight will light in earnest, for he knows that if taken prisoner he will meet no mercy.'
     "Colonel Nelson, anxious to have an opportunity of exhibiting to the world what his command is capable of. and thus put their manhood beyond all question, has implored General Banks to put him in the fore

[Pg. 527]
most point of danger in the coming struggle, and says that his men are as ready as himself to stake their lives upon the result; but the general —doubtless acting upon explicit orders—says they must, at present at least, be confined to manning the fortifications here.
     "I am happy to say that the feeling toward these colored regiments throughout the army is undergoing the most rapid and extraordinary changes. Soldiers that only a few months, nay, weeks ago, would have flown into a furious passion at the bare idea of a black man carrying a musket like themselves, now say, ' O, if you are going to give them white officers that is another affair altogether.' "
     The following letter gives some interesting recollections of the military events of the Department of the Gulf:
                                                        "New Orleans, January 18th, 1883.
     "To Colonel J. T. Wilson, Norfolk, Va.:
     "Friend: Your two circulars issued from Cailloux Post No. 2 on the 13th inst. are received. It is quite a compliment to Louisiana to have named your Post after the hero of Port Hudson, who immortalized himself in those celebrated charges in May, 1863.
     " It is over twenty years ago that I took a commission in the 3d Louisiana Native Guard as a senior lieutenant of Company H.  I was quite intimate with Captain Andre Cailloux.
     "Grave doubts had been expressed by Banks, the nominal commander, and his officers regarding the fitness of colored men as soldiers.  The perplexing question was, ' Will they stand their christening under such a hail storm as will come from those bristling Port Hudson heights?'  In fact those three colored regiments—the 1st, 2d, and 3d Louisiana Native Guards, organized in 1862, and afterward incorporated in the Ullman Brigade as the 73d, 74th, and 75th —had become more a subject of test than of real dependence at the critical juncture of trial.
     "General Osterhaus solved the mystery by taking command of a division, including the 1st and 3d Native Guards.  Those magnificent series of charges were made by these two regiments.  The first charge was made on a Sunday, the 27th day of May, 1863, supported on the right by the celebrated Duryea's Zouaves, of New York, which were mowed down like grass before a scythe. It was then and there that Captain Cailloux gloriously died in advance of his company while cheering his men.  It was also on that day that the immortal color-bearer, Anselino, was killed, and fell within the folds of his regimental flag, which was besmeared with his blood, with the broken flag-staff in his hand.  Other strong arms came to the rescue of the flag only to meet death until the honor of the flag alone cost the lives of sixteen men or more.  The gallant Lieutenant Crowder was killed on the field of honor at the flower of his age.  Captain Sauer was wounded in the foot while charging.  The 3d Native Guards also sustained its reputation, and many deeds of valor were performed by its officers and men.  But when after those engagements the roll-call was made we had many friends to mourn.  You are aware, I suppose, of an historical fact.  Jefferson Davis had issued a proclamation that any colored officer captured at the head of black troops would not be exchanged, but immediately hung.  It was thus that Lieutenant Oscar Orillion, when captured at Jackson, La., was hung and shot to pieces.
     " Port Hudson was surrendered by General Pemberton the 8th of July, 1863. General Osterhaus became very proud of his colored regiments after what he had seen at Port Hudson.

[Pg. 528]
" Had these two regiments failed, or destiny betrayed their courage, the colored troops would have been universally condemned, and would not have been employed as soldiers, but used as servants, drivers, and laborers, on fortifications, bridges, and ditches. To the 2d Louisiana Native Guards belongs the honor of having had the first colored major in the army, and it is Major Ernest Dumas, now living and actually in New Orleans.
     "The most terrible engagement (1st and 2d) was at Spanish Fort in Mobile Bay, Ala., shortly after Fort Pillow's massacre.  General Osterhaus told the colored troops the night previous to the attack that at break of day they had to charge and take Spanish Fort. It was customary with the general to tell the troops by what regiments they would be sustained. The men did not seem to be very enthusiastic, but when they were told how the rebels had murdered men of their own color and their white fellow-soldiers without mercy, they sprang to their guns and 'called unanimously for 'revenge.' Great God! they had their revenge, sure enough! The charge was made, the fort taken, and nearly every rebel slaughtered amid the deafening yells of the colored and white troops of 'Remember Fort Pillow.'  The 1st and the 3d regiments cleared Alabama up to Selina.
     ''As it is impossible for me to devote my time any longer, and to turn over the leaves of the past in my clouded memory, which is quite impaired lately on account of my declining years, besides the metacarpal bone of my right hand, which was broken by a musket in the army, is always painful when 1 write too much, I will refer you to Sergeant Calice Dupie, of Company H, 1st Louisiana Native Guards, Captain Sauer, who is employed in the custom house.  I am told that Captain H. Isabell, of the 2d Louisiana Native Guards, has taken a memorandum of all the historical incidents of those three regiments.  They are all Louisianians, and reside in New Orleans.  As for the officers of my regiment (the 3d Native Guards) they an; all dead nearly, which makes me think that my time soon will he on hand.
     "Though my information is limited, I have strictly confined myself to facts which I am sure will be corroborated by others, I court investigation upon my statements, and will always be glad to furnish witnesses to sustain them.

                                          "Fraternally yours, E. LONGPIE,

"Ex-lst Lt. Co. H 3d L. N. G., Ex-officer of Anselino Post No. 6G.A.R."

-* FINIS*-

 

END OF THIS BOOK.

 

---

CLICK HERE TO RETURN TO
BLACK HISTORY INDEX PAGE

CLICK HERE TO RETURN TO
GENEALOGY EXPRESS

GENEALOGY EXPRESS
FREE GENEALOGY RESEARCH is My MISSION

This Webpage has been created by Sharon Wick exclusively for Genealogy Express  ©2008
Submitters retain all copyrights