character, qualifications and proficiency of
the men, who, as officers, commanded the
negro troops, may be judged by the process
which they had to undergo in order to obtain
commissions. Unlike the officers of
the white volunteers (with whom loyalty and
dash were the essential qualifications) they
were required to possess much more than an
ordinary knowledge of military tactics.
Major-General Hunter, by whose order
the first negro regiment with white officers
was organized, commencing May, 1862, had an
eye single to make up of the men who should
be placed in command of the regiments.
As a beginning, Gen. Saxton addressed
the following letter to Capt. T. W.
Higginson, of the 51st Reg't. Mass.
Volunteers, Beaufort, S. C., Nov. 5th, 1862:
- I am organizing the First Regiment of
South Carolina Volunteers, with every
prospect of success. Your name has
been spoken of in connection with the
command of this regiment, by some friends in
whose judgment I have confidence. I take
great pleasure in offering you the position
of Col. in it, and hope that you may be
induced to accept. I shall not fill
the place until I hear from you, or
sufficient time shall have passed for me to
receive your reply. Should you accept
I enclose a pass for Port Royal, of which I
trust you will feel disposed to avail
yourself at once. I am, with sincere
Brig. Gen., Mill. Gov."
This was an excellent selection, and
Captain Higginson's acceptance
rather assured a fair trial for the men who
should compose this regiment, as well as the
quality of its officers.
[Pg. 168] - BLANK
first Kansas regiment which recruited in
that State, commencing in August, 1862, was
also fortunate in having Colonel R. J.
General Butler, at New Orleans, was prevented by
circumstances surrounding him at the time,
from choosing among the friends of the negro
race, as was the case in the before
mentioned regiments, men to command the
first and second regiments organized by him
in the above named city, in August, 1862.
He was only too glad to find white men of
military capacity to take charge of the
drilling and disciplining of the troops.
As an experiment he was more than lucky in
the appointment of Colonels
Stafford and Daniels to the
command of these regiments, seconded by
Lieut. Cols. Bassett and
Hall, and Finnegass of the 3rd
Regiment. These officers proved
themselves worthy of the trust reposed in
them, and made these regiments, in drill and
discipline, second to none in the Department
of the Gulf. Notwithstanding the
captains and subordinate officers of the
first and second regiments were men, who
like those in a large majority of the white
regiments had never made arms a profession,
and, who, through American prejudice, had
but very limited opportunities for acquiring
even the rudiments of a common English
education. Several of them, however,
being mulattoes, had had some training in
the schools of the parishes, and some few in
the higher schools of France, and in the
Islands of the Carribean Sea. Maj.
Dumas, of the 2nd Regiment, whose
slaves composed nearly one whole company,
was a gentle man of fine tact and ability,
as were others.
Considering that they were all negroes, free and slave,
their dash and manly courage, no less than
their military aptitude, was equal, and in
many instances superior, to those found in
the regiments of Maine and New York.
The 3rd Regiment was officered by soldiers
of undoubted character and pluck, as they
proved themselves to be, during the seige of
Port Hudson, especially Capt.
Quinn, who won distinction and
promotion, as the record shows. The
regiments raised thereafter were officered,
more or less, by the non-commissioned
officers of the white regiments,
as a reward for gallantry and meritorious
the field, or on account of proficiency in
drill. This rule of
selection held good throughout all the
departments in the
organizing of negro troops. In May, 1863,
President Lincoln, with a view of correcting an abuse
that a certain
commanding general had begun to practice in
inferior, though brave, men to the command
of negro regiments ; and in keeping with his new policy
of arming the
negroes, for which Gen. Lorenzo
Adjutant General of the Army, had gone into the
Mississippi Valley region to raise twenty regiments, he
appointed a Board
for the examination of those applying for
The "Record of the 7th Reg't. U.S. Colored Troops," in
regard to the matter, says: "That the labors
Board contributed very materially to the
success of the
experiment of raising this class of troops,
no one cognizant with the facts can doubt. The operations
of the Board
can best be shown by quoting the following
from Gen. Casey in reply to some enquiries
on the subject:
"BROOKLYN, Nov. 30th,
* * *
"The Board for the Examination of candidates
for officers in
colored regiments, of which I was President,
was appointed in May,
1863, and continued its duties about two
years. This movement was,
at first, very unpopular with a portion of
the people of the country, as
also with a large portion of the army. I,
although doubting at first
with regard to the expediency of operating
in large bodies with this
species of force, determined, that so far as
I was concerned, it should
have a fair trial.
"A system was adopted for the examination of candidates
not allow influence, favor or affection to
interfere with the enforcement
of its provisions. The Board examined nearly
three thousand candidates, seventeen hundred of whom they
recommended for commissions in
various grades, from colonel down.
" From my knowledge of the officers of white
volunteers, gained in my
duties connected with receiving and
organizing, in the city of Washington, 300,000 of them, and also as commander
of a division on the
Peninsula, I have no hesitation in saying
that the officers of the colored
regiments, who passed the Board, as a body
were superior to them,
physically, mentally and morally.
"From the concurrent reports received from
various sources, there is but little doubt
that the success of the colored troops in
the field was brought about in no small
degree by the action of the Board.
"The following is the copy of a letter which I
addressed to a gentle man of Philadelphia,
and which you may find of interest:
'In conversation with you a few days since, I promised
to elaborate somewhat the ideas which I
expressed with regard to the appointment of
officers of colored troops.
'Military men, whose opinion is worth having, will
agree in this, that to have good and
efficient troops it is indispensable that we
should have good officers. The
material for soldiers which the loyal States
have furnished during this rebellion, I have
no hesitation in saying, is the best that
the world has ever seen. Such men deserve to
have officers to command them who have been
educated to the military profession.
But few men are really fit to command men
who have not had such an education. In
default of this, as a sufficient number of
such men cannot be found in the country, the
number has to be made up from the best
available material. In order to ascertain
whether or not the aspirant possesses the
proper knowledge and capacity for command,
it is necessary that he be examined by a
board of competent officers. The fact
that the life and death of the men of the
regiment is intimately connected with the
competency of its officers, is not
sufficiently appreciated by the community.
'The Board for the examination of officers of colored
troops over which I preside, considers three
things as indispensable before recommending
a candidate, viz.: A good moral character,
physical capacity, true loyalty to the
country. A person possessing these
indispensable qualifications is now
submitted to an examination as to his
knowledge of tactics and capacity for
'The following grades are entertained, viz.:
- 1st, 2d and 3d Class.
1st Lieut. -
Lieut.-Colonel - 1st, 2d and 3d
2d Lieut. -
and the recommendations for
appointment made according to the
'We have endeavored, to the best of our ability, to
make this recommendation without partiality,
favor or affection. We consider alone,
in making our awards, the ability of the
person to serve his country in the duties
appertaining to the office. If, in the
opinion of the Board, the person is not
possessed of sufficient knowledge or
capacity to fill either of the above named
to the advantage of his country, he is
rejected, notwithstanding any influence he
may be able to bring to bear in the ease.
Let it be remembered that zeal alone is not
sufficient; but what we require for a good
officer is zeal combined with knowledge.
No ordinary man can properly fill the office
of colonel of a regiment. To acquire
that knowledge of tactics as would fit him
to command his regiment, as it ought to be
in all situations, requires much study and
practice, and is by no means easy. He
should, besides, possess good administrative
qualities, in order that affairs should run
smoothly in his command, and the officers
and privates be as contented and happy as
Nor can too much trouble be taken properly to prepare
persons to fill the responsible position of
officers. Each State should have its
military academy. In the meantime much good
can be done by instituting a school for the
instruction of persons (especially those who
have had some experience in the service) who
may have the requisite capacity and zeal to
serve their country with advantage.
Eschew all humbuggery and mere pretension,
and let merit be the test of advancement.
'Let it be impressed deeply on the conscience of every
man of influence and authority that when he
places in command an incompetent officer he
is guilty of manslaughter. The country
has lost millions of treasure and thousands
of lives by the incompetency of officers.
We have many enemies on earth besides the
Southern rebels. The fate of free
institutions, not only in our own country,
but in other lands, the destiny of millions
unborn, depend upon our ability to maintain
this contest to a successful issue against
all our enemies, both foreign and domestic.
'The system of examination instituted by this Board, in
my opinion, should be extended to the white
as well as colored troops.
'Many of those who have been unsuccessful in the
examination before the Board have, no doubt,
in some cases, felt aggrieved, as also their
'We have established a system of examination for
officers, the good effects of which are
already apparent in the colored
organizations in the field. In the
performance of this responsible, and not
always agreeable duty, of presiding over
this Board, I have always endeavored to be
guided by conscientious regard for the good
of the country, and I have every confidence
that a just and intelligent people will
award their approbation.
Of course this did not apply to regiments raised at the
North, generally. They were officered
by the elite, such as Col. lt. G. Shaw,
of the 54th Massachusetts, a former member
of the 7th New York Regiment, and upon whose
battle monument his name is carved.
Cols. James C. Beecher, Wm. Birney and a
host of others, whose names can now be found
on the army rolls, with the prefix General,
commanded these regiments. Of those
who commanded Southern regiments this is
equally true, especially of those who served
in the 9th, 10th, 18th and 19th Corps. Col.
Godfred Weitzel, who in March,
1865, had been promoted to Major General of
Volunteers, commanded the 25th Corps of
30,000 negro soldiers. The select
corps of officers intended to officer
Gen. Ullman's brigade of four regiments
to be raised at New Orleans by order of the
[Pg. 174] - BLANK
Department, dated January 1863, as well as
the battalion, which he was also ordered to
raise for scouting purposes, the following
March, included many men of rank. To
command a negro regiment or company was at
date a coveted prize, for which men of
wealth and education contended. The
distinction which they were continually
winning for their officers, frequently
overcame the long-cherished prejudice of
West Point, and the graduates of this caste
institution now vied for commissions in
negro regiments, in which many of them
served during the Rebellion and since.
It was the idea of Gen. Banks when
organizing the Corps d' Afrique to appoint
even the non-commissioned officers from the
ranks of white regiments, and he did so in
several instances. His hostility to
negro officers was the cause of his removing
them from the regiments, which Major
General Butler organized at New Orleans
in 1862. In organizing the Corps d'
Afrique, the order, No. 40, reads:
"The Commanding General desires to
detail for temporary or permanent duty, the
best officers of the army, for the
organization, instruction, and discipline of
this Corps. With them he is confident that
the Corps will render important service to
the Government. It is not established
upon any dogma of equality or other theory,
but as a practical and sensible matter of
business. The Government makes use of
mules, horses, uneducated white men in the
defence of its institutions; why should not
the negro contribute whatever is in his
power, for the cause in which he is as
deeply interested as other men? We may
properly demand from him whatever service he
can render. "
At first it was proposed to pay the officers of negro
troops less than was paid the officers of
white soldiers, but this plan was abandoned.
Toward the close of the war nearly all the
chaplains appointed to negro regiments were
negroes; non-commissioned officers were
selected from the ranks, where they were
found as well qualified as those taken from
the ranks of white regiments. In the 10th
and 18th Corps it was a common thing for the
orderly sergeants to call their company's
roll from memory, and the records of many
companies and regiments are kept at the War
Department in Washington, as mementoes of
Such were the men who commanded the Black
Phalanx. The following are the names
of the negro commissioned officers of the
Butler Louisiana Regiments:
ROSTER OF NEGRO OFFICERS OF THE LOUISIANA
" Henry L. Rey
" James Lewis,
Lieuts. Lewis Petit,
" J. E. Moore,
" F. Kimball,
" Louis D. Lucien
James H. Ingraham,
J. G. Parker,
J. D. Paddock,
F. E. Dumas,*
Capts. E. A. Bertinnean,
" W. P. Barrett,
" William Bellez,
" Samuel J. Wilkerson
Lieuts. Octave Rey,
" Ernest Murphy,
" Louis Degray,
" Alphonso Fluery,
" Theo. A. Martin,
" Peter O. Depremont,
S. W. Ringgold,
R. H. Isabella,
J. P. Lewis,
George T. Watson,
E. P. Chase,
P. B. S. Pinchback,
" Joseph C. Oliver,
" John J. Holland,
Lieuts. Paul Paree,
" Eugene Rapp,
" E. Moss,
" G. W. Talmon,
Charles W. Gibbons,
Morris W. Morris,
E. T. Nash,
Chester W. Converse,
G. B. Miller,
74th U. S. C. T. Co. I, 2d LA. N. G.
" Louis Martin,
Corpls. Paul Bonne,
" Joseph Toolmer,
" As "muster in"
jessy C. Wallace,
74th U. S. C. T. Co. D, 2nd
Sergts. Joseph Francois,
Corpls. Dorsin Sebatier,
" Adolphe Decoud,
" Joseph Armand,
" As "muster out: rolls show.
75th U. S. C. T. Co. F, 3rd
" Frank Nichols,
*Capt. F. E. Dumas organized a company of his
own slaves, and attached it to this
regiment. He was promoted to the rank
of Major, and commanded two companies at
Paseagoula, Miss., during the fight.
He was a free negro, wealthy, brave and
Top: Capt. P. B. S. Pinchback 2d
L. A. Vols.
Middle Left: Surgeon A. G. Augusta
Middle Right: Lt. James M. Trotter
55th Mass. Vol.
Bottom: Lt. W. H. Dupree 55th Mass.
[Pg. 178] - BLANK
As mustered out.
73rd U. S. C. T. Co.
A. 1st LA. N. G.
Joseph R. Forstall,
" Numa Brihou,
Corpls. John G. Seldon,
" Joseph Francois
" Francois Remy
Edward P. Ducloslange,
Thelesphore J. Sauvinet,
73rd U. S. C. T. Co. B, 1st
LA. N. G.
" Joseph Alfred
Arthur Gaspard was a Sergeant
at "muster in" of company;
discharged for wounds.
Corpls. Alphonse Barbe,
" Louis Gille
Wm. John Baptist
These were non-commissioned officers
of Co. B. at "muster out."
73rd U. S. C. T.
Co. H. 1st LA. N. G.
Henry L. Rey.
1st Sergt. Henry Mathien,
4th Sergt. Felix Mathien
Corpls. Ernest Hewlett,
" Felix Santini,
" Narcis Hubert,
Sergt. Armand Daniel,
3rd Sergt. J. B. Dupre.
D. J. Marine,
As "muster in."
73rd U. S. C. T.
Co. G, 1st LA. N. G.
" Gustave St. Leger,
Corpls. Edward Louis,
" John Thompson,
" John Marshall
Armand Le Blanc.
The above were the non-commissioned
officers at "muster out' of Company.
Corporal W. Heath, killed at Port Hudson.
74th U. S. C. T.
Co. G, 2nd LA. N. G.
" Louis Martin,
Corpls. Martin Forstals,
" Joseph Naroce,
" Ernest Butin,
J. B. Lavigne,
Deserted Oct. 5th, 1863.
Surgeons U. S. Army. - Dr. W. P.
||Dr. A. T. Augusta.
Major, Martin R. Delaney.
||Capt. O. S. B. Wall
Lieuts. 55th Regt. - James M.
Chas. L. Mitchell,
W. H. Dupree,
J. F. Shorter.
There were a number of negroes commissioned
during the war whose record it has not been
possible to obtain. Quite a number of
mulattoes served in white regiments, some as
officers; they were so light in complexion
that their true race connection could not be
told. This is true of one of the
prominent Ohioans of to-day, who served on
the staff of a Major General of volunteers.
There were several among the Pennsylvania
troops, and not a few in
the New York and Massachusetts regiments. While lying
on a battle-field wounded and exhausted, an
officer of the
brigade to which the writer belonged, rode
up, passed me
his canteen, and enquired if I knew him. A
negative answer was given. "I am Tom Bunting," he
know me now, don't you? We used to play
our boyhood days in Virginia; keep the
canteen. I will let
your people know about you." So saying he
to his command; he belonged to a
Massachusetts regiment. There was quite a large number of
enlisted under Butler, at New Orleans, and
served in white
regiments ; this is also true of the
confederate army. The
writer has an intimate acquaintance now
living in Richmond, Va., who served in a New York
while marching along with his regiment
street, after the capture of that city, was
recognized by his
mother, and by her was pulled from the ranks
and embraced. A man who became United States
Marshal of one of the Southern States after
the war, was Captain in the 2nd Louisiana
Native Guards Regiment. Numerous instances of this kind could be cited.
[Pg. 182] - BLANK
[Pg. 183] -
CHAPTER V. -
DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF