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.
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56 Illustrations
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Hartford, Conn.:
American Publishing Company
1890

PT II.

CHAPTER V. -
DEPARTMENT of the GULF
pg. 183
 

     When Admiral Farragut's fleet anchored at New Orleans, and Butler occupied the city, three regiments of confederate negro troops were under arms guarding the United States Mint building, with orders to destroy it before surrendering it to the Yankees.  The brigade, however, was in command of a Creole mulatto, who, instead of carrying out the orders given him, and following the troops out of the city on their retreat, counter-marched his command and was cut off from the main body of the army by the Federal forces, to whom they quietly surrendered a few days after.
     General Phelps commanded the Federal forces at Carrolton, about seven miles from New Orleans, the principal point in the cordon around the city.  Here the slaves congregated in large numbers, seeking freedom and protection from their barbarous overseers and masters.  Some of these poor creatures wore irons and chains; some came bleeding from gun-shot wounds.  General Phelps was an old abolitionist, and had early conceived the idea that the proper thing to do was for the government to arm the negroes.  Now came his opportunity to act. Hundreds of able-bodied men were in his camps, ready and willing to fight for their freedom and the preservation of the Union.  The secessionists in that neighborhood complained to General Butler about their negroes leaving them and going into camp with the Yankees.  So numerous were the complaints, that the General, acting under orders from Washington, and also foreseeing that

[Pg. 184]

General Phelps intended allowing the slaves to gather at his post, issued the following order:
   
"NEW ORLEANS, May 23, 1862.
     "GENERAL: - You will cause all unemployed persons, black and white, to be excluded from your lines.
     "You will not permit either black or white persons to pass your lines, not officers and soldiers or belonging to the navy of the United States, without a pass from these head-quarters, except they are brought in under guard as captured persons, with information, and those to be examined and detained as prisoners of war, if they have been in arms against the United States, or dismissed and sent away at once, as the case may be.  This does not apply to boats passing up the river without landing within the lines.
     "Provision dealers and marketmen are to be allowed to pass in with provisions and their wares, but not to remain over night.
     "Persons having had their permanent residence within your lines before the occupation of our troops, are not to be considered unemployed persons.
     "Your officers have reported a large number of servants.  Every officer so reported employing servants will have the allowance for servants deducted from his pay-roll.
  Respectfully, your obedient servant,
B. F. BUTLER
  "Brig. -Gen. PHELPS, Commanding Camp Parapet."
     This struck Gen. Phelps as an inhuman order, though he obeyed it and placed the slaves just outside of his camp lines.  Here the solders, having drank in the spirit of their commander, cared for the fugitives from slavery.  But they continued to come, according to devine appointment, and their increase prompted Gen. Phelpsto write this patriotic, pathetic and eloquent appeal, knowing it must reach the President:
  "CAMP PARAPET, NEAR CARROLLTON, LA., June 16, 1862.
"Capt. R. S. DAVIS, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, New Orleans, La.:
     "SIR:  I enclose herewith, for the information of the major-general commanding the department, a report of Major Peck, officer of the day, concerning a large number of negroes, of both sexes and all ages, who are lying near our pickets, with bag and baggage, as if they had already commenced an exodus.  Many of these negroes have been sent away from one of the neighboring sugar plantations by their owner, a Mr. Babilliard La Blanche, who tells them, I am informed, that 'the Yankees are king here now, and that they must go to their king for food and shelter.'
     "They are of that four millions of our colored subjects who have no king or chief, nor in fact any government that can secure to them the simplest natural rights.  They can not even be entered into treaty stipulations with and deported to the east, as our Indian tribes have been to the west.  They have no right to the mediation of a justice of the peace or jury between them and chains and lashes.  They have no right to wages for their labor; no right to the Sabbath; no right to the institution of marriage; no right to letters or to self-defense.  A small class of owners, rendered unfeeling, and even unconscious and unreflecting by habit, and a large part of them ignorant and vicious, stand between them and their government, destroying its sovereignty.  This government has not the power even to regulate the number of lashes that its subjects may receive.  It can not say that they shall receive thirty-nine instead of forty.  To a large and growing class of its subjects it can secure neither justice, moderation, nor the advantages of Christian religion; and if it can not protect all its subjects, it can protect none, either black or white.
     "It is nearly a hundred years since our people first declared to the nations of the world that all men are born free; and still we have not made our declaration good.  Highly revolutionary measures have since then been adopted by the admission of Missouri and the annexation of Texas in favor of slavery by the barest majorities of votes, while the highly conservative vote of two-thirds has at length been attained against slavery, and still slavery exists - even, moreover, although two-thirds of the blood in the veins of our slaves is fast becoming from our own race.  If we wait for a larger vote, or until our slaves' blood becomes more consanguined still with our own, the danger of a violent revolution, over which we can have no control, must become more imminent every day.  By a course of undecided action, determined by no policy but the vague will of a war-distracted people, we run the risk of precipitating that very revolutionary violence which we seem seeking to avoid.
     "Let us regard for a moment the elements of such a revolution.
     "Many of the slaves here have been sold away from the border States as a punishment, being too refractory to be dealt with there in the face of the civilization of the North.  They come here with the knowledge of the Christian religion, with its germs planted and expanding, as it were, in the dark, rich soil of their African nature, with feel-

[Pg. 185]

Washing in Camp
Washing in Camp
 

[Pg. 186] - BLANK

[Pg. 187]

ings of relationship with the families from which they came, and with a sense of unmerited banishment as culprits, all which tends to bring upon them a greater severity of treatment and a corresponding disinclination 'to receive punishment'.  They are far superior beings to their ancestors, who were brought from Africa two generations ago, and who occasionally rebelled against comparatively less severe punishment than is inflicted now.  While rising in the scale of Christian beings, their treatment is being rendered more severe than ever.  The whip, the chains, the stocks, and imprisonment are no mere fancies here; they are used to any extent to which the imagination of civilized man may reach.  Many of them are as intelligent as their masters, and far more moral, for while the slave appeals to the moral law as his vindication, clinging to it as to the very horns of the alter of his safety and his hope, the master seldom hesitates to wrest him from it with violence and contempt.  The slave, it is true, bears o resentment; he asks for no punishment for his master; he simply claims justice for himself; and it is this feature of his condition that promises more terror to the retribution when it comes.  Even now the whites stand accursed by their oppression of humanity, being subject to a degree of confusion, chaos, and enslavement to error and wrong, which northern society could not credit or comprehend.
     "Added to the four millions of the colored race whose disaffection is increasing even more rapidly than their number, there are at least four millions more of the white race whose growing miseries will naturally seek companionship with those of the blacks.  This latter portion of southern society has its representatives, who swing from the scaffold with the same desperate coolness, though from a directly different cause, as that which was manifested by John Brown.  The trator Muford, who swung the other day for trampling on the national flag, had been rendered placid and indifferent in his desperation by a government that either could not or would not secure to its subjects the blessings of liberty which that flag imports.  The South cries for justice from the government as well as the North, through in a proud and resentful spirit; and in what manner is that justice to be obtained?  Is it to be secured by that wretched resource of a set of profligate politicians, called 'reconstruction?'  No, it is to be obtained by the abolition of slavery, and by no other course.
     "it is vain to deny that the slave system of labor is giving shape to the government of the society where it exists, and that that government is not republican, either in form or spirit.  It was through this system that the leading conspirators have sought to fasten upon the people an aristocracy or a despotism; and it is not sufficient that they should be merely defeated in their object, and the country be rid of their rebellion; for by our constitution we are imperatively obliged to sustain the State against the ambition of unprincipled leaders, and secure to them the republican form of government.  We have positive duties to perform, and should hence adopt and pursue a positive, decided policy.  We have services to render to certain states which they cannot perform for themselves.  We are in an emergency which the framers of the constitution might easily have foreseen, and for which they have amply provided.
     "It is clear that the public good requires slavery to be abolished; but in what manner is it to be done?  The mere quiet operation of congressional law can not deal with slavery as in its former status before the war, because the spirit of law is right reason, and there is no reason in slavery.  A system so unreasonable as slavery can not be regulated by reason.  We can hardly expect the several states to adopt laws or measures against their own immediate interests.  We have seen that they will rather find arguments for crime than seek measures for abolishing or modifying slavery.  But there is one principle which is fully recognized as a necessity in conditions like ours, and that is that the public safety is the supreme law of the State, and that amid the clash of arms the laws of peace are silent.  It is then for our president, the commander-in-chief of our armies, to declare the abolition of slavery, leaving it to the wisdom of congress to adopt measures to meet the consequences.  This is the usual course pursued by a general or by a military power.  That power gives orders affecting complicated interests and millions of property, leaving it to the other functions of government to adjust and regulate the effects produced.  Let the president abolish slavery, and it would be an easy matter for congress, through a well-regulated system of apprenticeship, to adopt safe measures for effecting a gradual transition from slavery to freedom.
     "The existing system of labor in Louisiana is unsuited to the age; and by the intrusion of the national forces it seems falling to pieces.  It is a system of mutual jealousy and suspicion between the master and the man - a system of violence, immorality and vice.  The fugitive negro tells us that our presence renders his condition worse with his master than it was before, and that we offer no alleviation in return.  The system is impolitic, because it offers but one stimulent to labor and effort, viz.: the lash, when another, viz.: money, might be added with good effect.  Fear, and the other low and bad qualities of the slave, are appealed to, but never the good.  the relation, therefore, between capital and labor, which ought to be generous and confiding, is darkling, suspicious, unkindly, full of reproachful threats, and without concord or peace.   This condition of things renders the interests of society a prey to politicians.  Politics ceased to be practical or useful.
     "The questions that ought to have been discussed in the late extraordinary convention of Louisiana, are:  First, What ought the State of Louisiana to do to adopt her ancient system of labor to the present advanced spirit of the age?  And Second, How can a State be assisted by the general government in effecting the change?  But instead of this, the only question before that body was how to vindicate slavery by flogging the Yankees!
     "Compromises hereafter are not to be made with politicians, but with sturdy labor and the right to work.  The interests of workingmen resent political trifling.  Our political education, shaped almost entirely to the interest of slavery, ahs been false and vicious in the extreme, and it must be corrected with as much suddenness, almost, as that with which Salem witchcraft came to an end.  The only question that remains to decide is how the change shall take place.
     "We are not without examples and precedents in the history of the past.  The enfranchisement of the people of Europe has been, and is still going on, through the instrumentality of military service; and by this means our slaves might be raised in the

[Pg. 188]

scale of civilization and prepared for freedom.  Fifty regiments might be raised among them at once, which could be employed in this climate to preserve order, and thus prevent the necessity of retrenching our liberties, as we should do by a large army exclusively of whites.  For it is evident that a considerable army of whites would give stringency to our government, while an army, partly of blacks, would naturally operate in favor of freedom and against those influences which at present most endanger our liberties.  At the end of five years they could be sent to Africa and their places filled with new enlistments.
     "There is no practical evidence against the efforts of immediate abolition, even if there is not in its favor.  I have witnessed the sudden abolition of flogging at will in the army and of legalized flogging at will in the army and of legalized flogging in the navy against the prejudice-warped judgments of both, and, from the beneficial effects there, I have nothing to fear from the immediate abolition of slavery.  I fear, rather, the violent consequences from a continuance of the evil.  But should such an act devastate the whole State of Louisiana, and render the whole soil here but the mere passage-way of the fruits of the enterprise and industry of the Northwest, it would be better for the country at large than it is now as the seat of disaffection and rebellion.
     "When it is remembered that not a word is found in our constitution sanctioning the buying and selling of human beings, a shameless act which renders our country the disgrace of Christendom, and worse, in this respect, even than Africa herself, we should have less dread of seeing the degrading traffic stopped at once and forever.  Half wages are already virtually paid for slave labor in the system of tasks which, in an unwilling spirit of compromise, most of the slave states have already been compelled to adopt.  At the end of five years of apprenticeship, or of fifteen at farthest, full wages could be paid to the enfranchised negro race, to the double advantage of both master and man.  This is just; for we now hold the slaves of Louisiana by the same tenure that the State can alone claim them, viz.: by the original right of conquest.  We have so far conquered them that a proclmation setting them free, coupled with offers of protection, would ddevastate every plantation in the State.
     "In conclusion, I may state that Mr. La Blanche is, as I am informed, a descendant from one of the oldest families of Louisiana.  He is wealthy and a man of standing, and his act in sending away his negroes to our lines, with their clothes and furniture, appears to indicate the convictions of his own mind as to the proper logical consequences an deductions that should follow from the present relative status of the two contending parties.  He seems to be convinced that the proper result of the conflict is the manumission of the slave, and he may be safely regarded in this respect as a representative man of the State.  I so regard him myself, and thus do I interpret his action, although my camp now contains some of the highest symbols of secessionism, which have been taken by a party of the Seventh Vermont volunteers from his residence.
     "Meantime his slaves, old and young condition.  Driven away by their master, with threats of violence if they return, and with no decided welcome or reception from us, what is to be their lot?  Considerations of humanity are pressing for an immediate solution of their difficulties; and they are but a small portion of their race who have sought and are still seeking our pickets and our military stations, declaring that they can not and will not any longer serve their masters, and that all they want is work and protection from us.  In such a state of things, the question occurs as to my own action in the case.  I cannot return them to their masters, who not unfrequently come in search of them, for I am, fortunately, prohibited by an article of war from doing that, even if my own nature did not revolt at it.  I can not receive them, for I have neither work, shelter, nor the means or plan of transporting them to Hayti, or of making suitable arrangements with their masters until they can be provided for.
     "It is evident that some plan, some policy, or some system is necessary on the part of the government, without which the agent can do nothing, and all his efforts are rendered useless and of no effect.  This is no new condition in which I find myself; it is my experience during the some twenty-five years of my public life as a military officer of the government.  The new article of war recently adopted my congress, rendering it criminal in an officer of the army to return fugitives from injustice, is the first support that I have ever felt from the government in contending against those slave influences which are opposed to its character and to its interests.  But the more refusal to return fugitives does not now meet the case.  A public agent in the present emergency must be invested with wider and more positive powers than this, or his services will prove as valueless to the country as they are unsatisfactory to himself.
     "Desiring this communication to be laid before the president, and leaving my commission at his disposal, I have the honor to remain, sir.
  "Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
    J. W. PHELPS, Brigadier-General.
     On the day on which he received this letter, Gen. Butler forwarded to Washington this dispatch:
   
    "NEW ORLEANS, LA., JUNE 18, 1862
     "Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
     "SIR: - Since my last dispatch was written, I have received the accompanying report from General Phelps.
     "It is not my duty to enter into a discussion of the questions which it presents.
     "I desire, however, to state the information of Mr. La Blanche, given me by his friends and neighbors, and also Jack La Blanche, his slave, who seems to be the leader of this party of negroes.  Mr. La BlancheI have not seen.  He, however, claims to be loyal, and to have taken no part in the war, but to have lived quietly on

[Pg. 189] - BLANK

[Pg. 190]

Cooking in Camp
Cooking in Camp

[Pg. 191]

his plantation, some twelve miles above New Orleans, on the opposite side of the river.  He has a son in the succession army, whose uniform and equipments, &c., are the symbols of sucession of which General Phelps speaks.  Mr. La Blanche's house was searched by order of General Phelps, for arms and contraband of war, and his neighbors say that his negroes were told that they were free if they would come to the general's camp.
     "That thereupon the negroes, under the lead of Jack, determined to leave, and for that purpose crowded into a small boat which, from overloading, was in danger of swamping.
     "La Blanche then told his negroes that if they were determined to go, they would be drowned, and he would hire them a large boat to put them across the river, and that they might have their furniture if they would go and leave his plantation and crop to ruin.
     "They decided to go, and La Blanche did all a man could to make that going safe.
     "The account of General Phelps is the negro side of the story; that above given is the story of Mr. La Blanche's neighbors, some of whom I know to be loyal men.
     "An order against negroes being allowed in camp is the reason they are outside.
     "Mr. La Blanche is represented to be a humane man, and did not consent to the 'exodus' of his negroes.
     "General Phelps, I believe, intends making this a test case for the policy of the government.  I wish it might be so, for the difference, of our action upon this subject is a source of trouble.  I respect his honest sincerity of opinion, but I am a soldier, bound to carry out the wishes of my government so long as I hold its commission, and I understand that policy to be the one I am pursuing.  I do not feel at liberty to pursue any other.  If the policy of the government is nearly that I sketched in my report upon the subject and that which I have ordered in this department, then the services of General Phelps are worse than useless here.  If the views set forth in his report are to obtain, then he is invaluable, for his whole soul is in it, and he is a good soldier of large experience, and no braver man lives.  I beg to leave the whole question with the president, with perhaps the needless assurance that his wishes shall be loyally followed, were they not in accordance with my own, as I have now no right to have any upon the subject.
     "I write in haste, as the steamer 'Mississippi' is awaiting this dispatch.
     "Awaiting the earliest possible instructions, I have the honor to be,
  "B. F. BUTLER, Major General Commanding."
     Gen. Phelps waited about six weeks for a reply, but none came.  Meanwhile the negroes continued to gather at his camp.  He said, in regard to not receiving an answer, "I was left to the inference that silence gives consent, and proceeded therefore to take such decided measures as appeared best calculated, to me, to dispose of the difficulty."  Accordingly he made the following requisition upon head-quarters:
    "CAMP PARAPET, LA., July 30, 1862.
"Captain R. S. DAVIS, A. A. A. General, New Orleans, La.:
     "SIR: - I enclose herewith requisitions for arms, accoutrements, clothing, camp and for the defense of this point.  The location is swampy and unhealthy, and our men are dying at the rate of two or three a day.
     "The southern loyalists are willing, as I understand, to furnish their share of the tax for the support of the war; but they should also furnish their quota of men, which they have not thus far done.  An opportunity now offers of supplying the defficiency; and it is not safe to neglect opportunities in war.  I think that, with the proper facilities, I could raise the three regiments proposed in a short time.  Without holding out any inducements, or offering any reward, I have now upward of three hundred Africans organized into five companies, who are all willing and ready to show their devotion to our cause in any way that it may be put to the test.   They are willing to submit to anything rather than to slavery.
     "Society in the South seems to be on the point of dissolution; and the best ay of preventing the African from becoming instrumental in a general state of anarchy, is to enlist them in the cause of the Republic.  If we reject his services, any petty military chieftain, by offering him freedom, can have them for the purpose of robbery and plunder.  It is for the interests of the South, as well of the North, that the African should be permitted to offer his block for the temple of freedom.  Sentiments unworthy of the man of the present day - worthy only of another Cain - could alone prevent such an offer from being accepted.
     "I would recommend that the cadet graduates of the present year should be sent

[Pg. 192]

to South Carolina and this point to organize and discipline our African levies, and that the more promising non-commissioned officers and privates of the army be appointed as company officers to command them.  Prompt and energetic efforts in this direction would probably accomplish more toward a speedy termination of the war, and an early restoration of peace and unity, than any other course which could be adopted.
     I have the honor to remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
    J. W. PHELPS, Brigadier-General."
     This reply was received:
    NEW ORLEANS, July 31, 1862.
     "GENERAL: - The general commanding wishes you to employ the contrabands in and about your camp in cutting down all the trees, &c., between your lines and the lake, and in forming abatis, according to the plan agreed upon between you and Lieutenant Weitzel when he visited you some time since.  What wood is not needed by you is much needed in this city.  For this purpose I have ordered the quartermaster to furnish you with axes, and tents for the contrabands to be quartered in.
  "I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
    "By order of Major-General BUTLER.
     "R. S. DAVIS, Capt. and A. A. A. G.
"To Brigadier-General J. W. PHELPS, Camp Parapet."

     General Butler's effort to turn the attention of Gen. Phelps to the law of Congress recently passed was of no avail, that officer was determined in his policy of warring on the enemy; but finding General Butler as firm in his policy of leniency, and knowing of his strong pro-slavery sentiments prior to the war, - notwithstanding his "contraband" order at Fortress Monroe, - General Phelps felt as though he would be humiliated if he departed from his won policy, and became what he regarded as a slave-driver, therefore he determined to resign.  He replied to General Butler as follows:
   
"CAMP PARAPET, LA., July 31, 1862.

"Captain R. S. Davis, A. A. A. General, New Orleans, La.:
     'SIR: - The communication from your office of this date, signed, 'By order of Major General Butler,' directing me to employ the 'contrabands' in and about my camp in cutting down all the trees between my lines and the lake, etc., has just been received.
     "In reply, I must state that while I am willing to prepare African regiments for the defense of the government against its assailants, I am not willing to become the mere slave-driver which you propose, having no qualifications in that way.  I am, therefore under the necessity of tendering the resignation of my commission as an officer of the army of the army of the United States, and respectfully request a leave of absence until it is accepted in accordance with paragraph 29, page 12, of the general regulations.
     "While I am writing, at half-past eight o'clock P. M., a colored man is brought in by one of the pickets who has just been wounded in the side by a charge of shot, which he says was fired at him by one of a party of three slave-hunters or guerillas, a mile or more from our line of sentinels.  As it is some distance from the camp to the lake, the party of wood-choppers which you have directed will probably need a considerable force to guard them against similar attacks.
  "I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
    "J. W. PHELPS, Brigadier-General."
     Phelps was one of Butler's most trusted commanders, and the latter endeavored, but in vain, to have him reconsider his resignation.  General Butler wrote him:
    NEW ORLEANS, August 2, 1862.
     "GENERAL: - I was somewhat surprised to receive your resignation for the reasons stated.
     "When you were put in command at Camp Parapet, I sent Lieutenant Weitzel, my chief engineer, to make a reconnoissance of the lines of Carrollton, and I understand it

[Pg. 193]

was agreed between you and the engineer that a removal of the wood between Lake Pontchartrain and the right of your intrenchment was a necessary military precaution.  The work could not be done at that time because of the stage of water and the want of men.  But now both water and men concur.  You have five hundred Africans organized into companies, you write me.  This work they are fitted to do.  It must either be done by them or my soldiers, now drilled and disciplined.  You have said the location is unhealthy for the soldier; it is not to the negro; it is not best that these unemployed Africans should do this labor?  My attention is specially called to this matter at the present time, because there are reports of demonstrations to be made on your lines by the rebels, and in my judgment it is a matter of necessary precaution thus to clear the right of your line, so that you can receive the proper aid from the gun-boats on the lake, besides preventing the enemy from having cover.  To do this the negroes ought to be employed; and in so employing them I see no evidence of 'slave-driving' or employing you as a 'slave-driver.'
     "The soldiers of the Army of the Potomac did this very thing last summer in front of Arlington Heights; are the negroes any better than they?
     "Because of an order to do this necessary thing to protect your front, threatened by the enemy, you tender your resignation and ask immediate leave of absence.  I assure you I did not expect this, either from your courage, your patriotism, or your good sense.  To resign in the face of an enemy has not been the highest plaudit to a soldier, especially when the reason assigned is that he is ordered to do that which a recent act of congress has specially authorized a military commander to do, i. e., employ the Africans to do the necessary work about a camp or upon a fortification.
     "General, your resignation will not be accepted by me, leave of absence will not be granted, and you will see to it that my orders, thus necessary for the defense of the city, are faithfully and diligently executed, upon the responsibility that a soldier in the fields owes to his superior.  I will see that all proper requisitions for the food, shelter, and clothing of these negroes so at work are at once filled by the proper departments.  You will also send out a proper guard to protect the laborers against the guerilla force, if any, that may be in the neighborhood.
             "I am your obedient servant.
"BENJ. F. BUTLER,
Major-General Commanding.
     "Brigadier-General J. W. PHELPS, Commanding at Camp Parapet."

     On the same day, General Butler wrote again to General Phelps:
 
    "NEW ORLEANS, August 2, 1862.
     "GENERAL" - By the act of congress, as I understand it, the president of the United States alone has the authority to employ Africans in arms as a part of the military forces of  the United States.
     "Every law up to this time raising volunteer or militia forces has been opposed to their employment.  The president has not as yet indicated his purpose to employ the Africans in arms.
     "The arms, clothing, and camp equipage which I have here for the Louisiana volunteers, is, by the letter of the secretary of war, expressly limited to white soldiers, so that I have no authority to divert them, however much I may desire so to do.
     "I do not think you are empowered to organize into companies negroes, and drill them as a military organization, as I am not surprised, but unexpectedly informed you have done.  I cannot sanction this course of action as at present advised, specially when we have need of the services of the blacks, who are being sheltered upon the outskirts of your camp, as you will see by the orders for their employment sent you by the assistant adjutant-general.
     "I will send your application to the president but in the mean time you must desist from the formation of any negro military organization.
    I am your obedient servant,
  "BENJ. F. BUTLER, Major-General Commanding.

     "Brigadier-General PHELPS,
commanding forces at Camp Parapet."

     General Phelps' resignation was accepted by the Government.  He received notification of the fact on the 8th of September and immediately prepared to return to his farm in Vermont.  In parting with his officers, who were, like his soldiers, much attached to him, he said:  "And now, with earnest wishes for your welfare, and aspirations for the success of the great cause for which you are here, I bid you good bye."   Says Parton:

[Pg. 194]

 
     
 
     
 
 
     
 
     
 
     

[Pg. 195]

 
     
 
     
 
 
     
 
     
 
     

[Pg. 196]

mand of these troops exclusively.  By November these three regiments were in the field, where in course of time they often met their former masters face to face and exchanged shots with them.  The pro-slavery men of the North and their newspapers endeavored to make the soldiers in the field believe that the negroes would not fight; while not only the papers and the soldiers, but many officers, especially those from the West Point Academy, denounced General Butler for organizing the regiments.  General Weitzel, to whose command these regiments were assigned in an expedition up the river, object to them, and asked Butler to relieve him of the command of the expedition.  Butler wrote him in reply:


















 
     
 
 
     
 
     
 
     

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Point Isabel, Texas
POINT ISABEL, TEXAS
Phalanx soldiers on duty, throwing up earthworks.

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     General Butler continued General Weitzel in command but placed the negroes under another officer.  However, General Weitzel, like thousands of others, changed his mind in regard to the colored troops.  "If he was not convinced by General Butler's reasoning" says Parton, "he must have been convinced by what he saw of the conduct of those very colored regiments at Port Hudson, where he himself gave such a glorious example of prudence and gallantry."
     Notwithstanding these troops did good service, it did not soften or remove very much of the prejudice at the North against the negro soldiers, nor in the ranks of the army.  Many incidents might be cited to show the feeling of bitterness against them.*  However, General Butler's example was followed very soon by every officer in command, and by the time the President's Emancipation Proclamation was issued there were not less than 10,000 negroes armed and equipped along the Mississippi river.  Of course the Government knew nothing of this.(?)  Not

-------------------------
     * In November, while the 2nd Regiment was guarding the Opelousas railway, about twenty miles from the Algiers, La., their pickets were fired upon, and quite a skirmish and firing was kept up during the night.  Next morning the cane field along the railroad was searched but no trace of the firing party was found.  A company of the 8th Vermont (white) Regiment was encamped below that of the 2nd Regiment, but they broke camp that night and left.  The supposition was that it was this company who fired upon and drove in the pickets of the Phalanx regiment.

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only armed, but some of them had been in skirmishes with the enemy.  That as the Phalanx they were invaluable in crushing the rebellion, let their acts of heroism tell.  In the light of history and of their own deeds, it can be said that in courage, patriotism and dash, they were second to no troops, either in ancient or modern armies.  They were enlisted after rigid scrutiny, and the examination of every man by competent surgeons.  Their acquaintance with the country in which they marched, encamped and fought, made them in many instances superior to the white troops.  Then to strengthen their valor and tenacity, each soldier of the Phalanx knew when he heard the long roll beat to arms, and the bugle sound the charge, that they were not to go forth to meet those who regarded them as opponents in arms, but who met them as a man in his last desperate effort for life woud meet demons; they knew, also, that there was no reserve - no reinforcements behind to support them when they went to battle; their alternative was life or death.  It was the consciousness of this fact that made the black phalanx a wall of adamant to the enemy.
     The not unnatural willingness of the white soldiers to allow the negro troops to stop the bullets that they would otherwise have to receive was shown in General Bank's Red River Campaign.  At Pleasant Grove, Dickey's black brigade prevented a slaughter of the Union troops.  The black Phalanx were represented there by a brigade attached to the first division of the 19th Corps.  When the confederates routed the army under Banks at Sabine Cross Roads, below Mansfield, they drove it for several hours toward Pleasant Grove despite the ardor of the combined forces of Banks and Franklin.  It became apparent that unless the confederates could be checked at this point, all was lost.  General Emory prepared for the emergency on the western edge of a wood, with an open field sloping toward Mansfield.  Here General Dwight formed a brigade of the black Phalanx across the road.  Hardly was the line formed when out came the gallant foe driving 10,000 men before them.  Flushed with two days' victory, they came

[Pg. 201]

The Recruiting Office
THE RECRUITING OFFICE
Negroes enlisting in the army, and being examined by surgeons.

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charging at double quick time, but the Phalanx held its fire until the enemy was close upon them, and then poured a deadly volley into the ranks of the exultant foe, stopping them short and mowing them down like grass.  The confederates recoiled, and now began a fight such as was always fought when the Southerners became aware that black soldiers were in front of them, and for an hour and a half they fought at close quarters, ceasing only at night.  Every charge of the enemy was repulsed by the steady gallantry of General Emory's brigade and the black Phalanx, bering three to one.  During this memorable campaign the Phalanx more than once met the enemy and accepted the face of their black flag declarations.  The confederates knew full well that every man of the Phalanx would fight to the last; they had learned that long before.
     As early as June, 1863, General Grant was compelled in order to show a bold front to Gens. Pemberton and Johnston at the same time, while besieging Vicksburg, to draw nearly all the troops from (Milliken's Bend) to his support, leaving three infantry regiments of the black Phalanx and a small force of white cavalry to hold this, to him an all important post.  Millikens Bend was well fortified, and with a proper garrison was in condition to stand a siege.  Brigadier-General Dennis was in command, and the troops consisted of the 9th and 11th Louisiana Regiments, the 1st Mississippi and a small detachment of white cavalry, in all about 1,400 men, raw recruits.  General Dennis was in command, and the troops consisted of the 9th and 11th Louisiana Regiments, the 1st Mississippi and a small detachment of white cavalry, in all about 1,400 men, raw recruits.  General Dennis looking upon the place more as a station for organizing and drilling the Phalanx, had made no particular arrangements in anticipation of an attack.  He was surprised, therefore, when a force of 3,000 men, under General Henry McCulloch, from the interior of Louisiana, attacked and drove his pickets and two companies of the 23d Iowa Cavalry, (white) up to the breast works of the Bend.  The movement was successful, however, and the confederates, holding the ground, rested for the night, with the expectation of marching into the fortifications in the morning, to begin a massacre, whether a resistance should

[Pg. 204]

be shown them or not.  The knowledge this little garrison had of what the morrow would bring it, doubtless kept the soldiers awake, preparing to meet the enemy and their own fate.  About 3 o'clock, in the early grey of the morning, the confederate line was formed just outside of the intrenchments; suddenly with fixed bayonets the men came rushing over the works, driving everything before them and shouting, "No quarter!  No quarter to negroes or their officers!"  In a moment the blacks formed and met them, and now the battle began in earnest, hand to hand.  The gunboats "Choctaw" and "Lexington" also came up as the confederates were receiving the bayonets and the bullets of the Unionists, and lent material assistance.  The attacking force had flanked the works and was pouring in a deadly, enfilading musketry fire.  The defenders fell back out of the way of the gunboat's shells, but finally went forward again with what was left of their 150 white allies, and drove the enemy before them and out of the captured works.  One division of the enemy's troops hesitated to leave a redoubt, when a company of brave black men dashed forward at double-quick time and engaged them.  The enemy stood his ground, and soon the rattling bayonets rang out amid the thunders of the gunboats and the shouts of enraged men; but they were finally driven out, and their ranks thinned by the "Chocktaw" as they went over the works.  The news reached General Grant and he immediately dispatched General Mower's brigade with orders to re-enforce Dennis and drive the confederates beyond the Tensas river.
     A battle can be best described by one who observed it.  Captain Miller who not only was an eye-witness, but participated in the Milliken's Bend fight, writes as follows:

     "We were attacked here on June 7, about three o'clock in the morning, by a brigade of Texas troops, about two thousand five hundred in number.  We had about six hundred men to withstand them, five hundred of them negroes.  I commanded Company I, Ninth Louisiana.  We went into the fight with thirty-three men.  I had sixteen killed, eleven badly wounded, and four slightly.  I was wounded slightly on the head, near the forefinger; that will account for this miserable style of penmanship.
     "Our regiments had about three hundred men in the fight.  We had one colonel wounded, four captains wounded, two first and two second lieutenants killed, five lieutenants wounded, and three white orderlies killed, and one wounded in the hand, and two fingers taken off.  The list of killed and wounded officers comprised nearly all the officers present with the regiment, a majority of the rest being absent recruiting.
     "We had about fifty men killed in the regiment and eighty wounded; so you can judge of what part of the fight my company sustained.  I never felt more grieved and
                                                        

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BATTLE of MILLIKEN'S BEND

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sick at heart, than when I saw how my brave soldiers had been slaughtered, - one with six wounds, all the rest with two or three, none less than two wounds.  Two of my colored sergeants were killed: both brave, noble men, always prompt, vigilant, and ready for the fray.  I never more wish to hear the expression, 'The niggers wont fight.'  Come with me, a hundred yards from where I sit, and I can show you the wounds that cover the bodies of sixteen as brave, loyal, and patriotic soldiers as ever drew bead on a rebel.
     "The enemy charged us so close that we fought with our bayonets, hand to hand, I have six broken bayonets to show how bravely my men fought.  The Twenty-third Iowa joined my company on the right; and I declare truthfully that they had all fled before our regiment fell back, as we were all compelled to do.
     "Under command of Col. Page, I led the Ninth and Eleventh Louisiana when the rifle-pits were retaken and held by our troops, our two regiments doing the work.
     "I narrowly escaped death once.  A rebel took deliberate aim at me with both barrels of his gun; and the bullets passed so close to me that the powder that remained on them burnt my cheek.  Three of my men, who saw him aim and fire, thought that he wounded me each fire; One of them was killed by my side, and he felt on me, covering my clothes with his blood; and, before the rebel could fire again, I blew his brains out with my gun.
     "It was a horrible fight, the worst I was ever engaged in, - not even excepting Shiloh.  The enemy cried, 'No quarter!' but some of them were very glad to take it when made prisoners.
     "Col. Allen of the Sixteenth Texas, was killed in front of our regiment, and Brig. Gen. Walker was wounded.  We killed about one hundred and eighty of the enemy.  The gunboat "Choctaw" did good service shelling them.  I stood on the breastworks after we took them, and gave the elevations and direction for the gunboat by pointing my sword; and they sent a shell right into their midst, which sent them in all directions.  Three shells fell there and sixty-two rebels lay there when the fight was over.
          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
     "This battle satisfied the slave-masters of the South that their charm was gone; and that the negro as a slave, was lost forever.  Yet there was one fact connected with the battle of Milliken's Bend which will descend to posterity, as testimony against the humanity of slave-holders; and that is, that no negro was ever found alive that was taken a prisoner by the rebels in this fight.

     The Department of the Gulf contained a farm greater proportion of the Phalanx than did any other Department, and there were very few, if any, important engagement, and there were very few, if any, important engagements fought in this Department in which the Phalanx did not take part.
     It is unpleasant here, in view of the valuable services rendered by the Phalanx, to be obliged to record that the black soldiers were subjected to many indignities, and suffered much at the hands of their white fellow comrades in arms.  Repeated assaults and outrages were committed upon black men wearing the United States' uniform, not only by volunteers but conscripts from the various States, and frequently by confederate prisoners who had been paroled by the United States; these outrages were allowed to take place, without interference by the commanding officers, who apparently did not observe what was going on.
     At Ship Island, Miss., there wee three companies of the 13th Maine, General Neal Dow's old regiment, and seven companies of the 2nd Regiment Phalanx, commanded by Colonel Daniels, which constituted the garrison at that point.  Ship Island was the key to New Orleans.  On

[Pg. 208]

the opposite shore was a railroad leading to Mobile by which re-enforcements were going forward to Charleston.  Colonel Daniels conceived the idea of destroying the road to prevent the transportation of the confederate troops.  Accordingly, with about two hundred men he landed at Pascagoula, on the morning of the 9th of April.  Pickets were immediately posted on the outskirts of the town, while the main body marched up to the hotel.  Before long some confederate cavalry, having been apprised of the movement, advanced, drove in the pickets, and commenced an attack on the force occupying the town.  The cavalry made a bold dash upon the left of the negroes, which was the work of but a moment; the brave blacks met their charge manfully, and emptied the saddles of the front rank, which caused the rear ones first to halt and then retire.  The blacks were outnumbered, however, five to one, and finally were forced to abandon the town; they went, taking with them the stars and stripes which they had hoisted upon the hotel when entering it.  They fell back towards the river to give the gunboat "Jackson" a chance to shell their pursuers, but the movement resulted in an apparently revengeful act on the part of the crew of that vessel, they having previously had some of their number killed in the course of a difficulty with a black sentry at Ship Island.
     The commanding officer of the land force, doubtless from prudential reasons, omitted to state in this report that the men fought their way through the town while being fired upon from house-tops and windows by boys and women.  That the gunboat opened fire directly on them when they were engaged in a hand to hand conflict, which so completely cut off a number of the men from the main body of the troops that their capture appeared certain.  Major Dumas, however, seeing the condition of things, put spurs to his horse and went to their succor, reaching them just as a company of the enemy's cavalry made a charge.  The major, placing himself at the head of the hard-pressed men, not only repulsed the cavalry and rescued the squad, but captured the enemy's stand-

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[Pg. 210]


UNLOADING GOVT. STORES

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ard-bearer.  The retreating force reached their transport with the loss of only one man; they brought with them some prisoners and captured flags.  Colonel Daniels, in his report, speaks as follows of the heroism of the soldiers:
     *         *          *          *          *          *          *

     "The expedition was a perfect success, accomplishing all that was intended; resulting in the repulse of the enemy in every engagement with great loss; whilst our casualty was only two killed and eight wounded.  Great credit is due to the troops engaged, for their unflinching bravery and steadiness under this their first fire, exchanging volley after volley with the coolness of veterans; and for their determined tenacity in maintaining their position, and taking advantage of every success that their courage and valor gave them; and also to their officers, who were cool and determined throughout the action, fighting their commands against five times their numbers, and confident throughout of success, - all demonstrating to its fullest extent that the oppression which they have heretofore undergone from the hands of their foes, and the obloquy that had been showered upon them by those who should have been friends, had not extinguished their manhood, or suppressed their bravery, and that they had still a hand to wield the sword, and a heart to vitalize its blow.
     "I would particularly call the attention of the Department to Major F. E. Dumas, Capt. Villeverd, and Lieuts. Jones and Martin, who were constantly in the thickest of the fight, and by their unflinching bravery, and admirable handling of their commands, contributed to the success of the attack, and reflected great honor upon the flag under and for which they so nobly struggled.  Repeated instances of individual bravery among the troops might be mentioned; but it would be invidious where all fought so manfully and so well.
               "I have the honor to be, most respectfully your obedient servant,

                                                                            "N. U. DANIELS,
"Col. Second Regiment La. N. G. Vols., Commanding Post.
     The 2nd Regiment, with the exception of the Colonel, Lieut. Colonel and Adjutant, was officered by negroes, many of whom had worn the galling chains of slavery, while others were men of affluence and culture from New Orleans and vicinity.
     The 2nd Regiment had its full share of prejudice to contend with, and perhaps suffered more from that cause than any other regiment of the Phalanx.  Once while loading transports at Algiers, preparatory to embarking for Ship Island, they came in contact with a section of the famous Nim's battery, rated as one of the finest in the service.  The arms of the 2nd Regiment were stacked and the men were busy in loading the vessel, save a few who were doing guard duty over the ammunition stored in a shed on the wharf.  One of the battery-men attempted to enter the shed with a lighted pipe in his mouth, but was prevented by the guard.  It was more than the Celt could stand to be ordered by a negro; watching for a chance when the guard about-faced, he with several others sprang upon him.  The guard gave the Phalanx signal, and instantly hundreds of black men secured their arms and rushed to the relief of their comrade.  The battery-men

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jumped to their guns, formed into line and drew their sabres.  Lieut. Colonel Hall, who was in command of the 2nd Regiment, stepped forward and demanded to know of the commander of the battery if his men wanted to take the men the guard had arrested.  "Yes," was the officer's reply, "I want you to give them up."  "Not until they are dealt with, " said Colonel Hall.  And then a shout and yell, such as the Phalanx only were able to give, rent the air, and the abortive menace was over.  The gunners returned their sabres and resumed their work.  Col. Hall, who always had perfect control of his men, ordered the guns stacked, put on a double guard, and the men of the 2nd Regiment resumed their labor of loading the transport.  Of course this was early in the struggle, and before a general enlisted of the blacks.
     The first, second and third regiments of the Phalanx were the nucleus of the one hundred and eighty that eventually did so much for the suppression of the rebellion and the abolition of slavery.  The 1st and 3rd Regiments went up the Mississippi; the 2nd garrisoned Ship Island and Fort Pike, on Lake Ponchartrain, after protecting for several months the Opelousa railroad, so much coveted by the confederates.
     A few weeks after the fight of the 2nd Regiment at Pascagoula, General Banks laid siege to Port Hudson, and gathered there all the available forces in his department.  Among these wee the 1st and 3rd Infantry Regiments of the Phalanx.  On the 23rd of May the federal forces, having completely invested the enemy's works and made due preparation, were ordered to make a general assault along the whole line.  The attack was intended to be simultaneous but in this it failed.  The Union batteries opened early in the morning, and after a vigorous bombardment Generals Weitzel, Grover and Paine, on the right, assaulted with vigor at 10 A. M., while Gen. Augur in the center, and General W. T. Sherman on the left, did not attack till 2 P. M.
     Never was fighting more heroic than that of the federal army and especially that of the Phalanx regiments

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If valor could have triumphed over such odds, the assaulting forces would have carried the works, but only abject cowardice or pitiable imbecility could have lost such a position under existing circumstances.  The negro regiments on the north side of the works vied with the bravest, making three desperate charges on the confederate batteries, losing heavily, but maintaining their position in the advance all the while.
     The column in moving to the attack went through the woods in their immediate front, and then upon a plane, on the farther side of which, half a mile distant, were the enemy's batteries.  The field was covered with recently felled trees, through the interlaced branches of which the column moved, and for two or more hours struggled through the obstacles, stepping over their comrades who fell among the entangled brushwood pierced by bullets or torn by flying missiles, and braved the hurricane of shot and shell.
     What did it avail to hurl and few thousand troops against those impregnable works?  The men were not iron, and were they, it would have been impossible for them to have kept erect, where trees three feet in diameter were crashed down upon them by the enemy's shot; they would have been but as so many ten-pins set up before skillful players to be knocked down.
     The troops entered an enfilading fire from a masked battery which opened upon them as they neared the fort, causing the column first to halt, then to waver and stagger; but it recovered and again pressed forward, closing up the ranks as fast as the enemy's shells thinned them.  On the left the confederates had planted a six-gun battery upon an eminence, which enable them to sweep the field over which the advancing column moved.  In front was the large fort, while the right of the line was raked by a redoubt of six pieces of artillery.  On after another of the works had been charged, but in vain.  The Michigan, New York and Massachusetts troops - braver than whom none ever fought a battle - had been hurled back from the place, leaving the field strewn with their dead and woun-

[Pg. 214]

ded.  The works must be taken.  General Nelson was ordered by General Dwight to take the battery on the left.  The 1st and 3rd Regiments went forward at double quick time, and they were soon within the line of the enemy's fire.  Louder than the thunder of Heaven was the artillery rending the air shaking the earth itself; cannons, mortars and musketry alike opened a fiery storm upon the advancing regiments; an iron shower of grape and round shot, shells and rockets, with a perfect tempest of rifle bullets fell upon them.  On they went and down, scores falling on right and left.  "The flag, the flag!" shouted the black soldiers, as the standard-bearer's body was scattered by a shell.  Two file-closers struggled for its possession; a ball decided the struggle.  They fell faster and faster; shrieks, prayers and curses came up from the fallen and ascended to Heaven.  The ranks closed up while the column turned obliquely toward the point of fire, seeming to forget they were but men.  Then the cross-fire of grape shot swept through their ranks, causing the glittering bayonets to go down rapidly.  "Steady men, steady," cried bold Cailloux, his sword uplifted, his face the color of the sulphureous smoke that enveloped him and his followers, as they felt the deadly hail which cam apparently from all sides.  Captain Caillous* was killed with the col-

-------------------------
     *Captain Andre Callioux fell, gallently leading his men (Co. #) in the attack.  With many others of the charging column, his body lay between the lines of the Confederates and Federals, but nearer the works of the former, whose sharp-shooters guarded it night and day, and thus prevented his late comrades from removing it.  Several attempts were made to obtain the body, but each attempt was met with a terrific storm of lead.  It was not until after the surrender that his remains were recovered, and then taken to his native city, New Orleans.  The writer of this volume, himself wounded, was in the city at the time,and witnessed the funeral pageant of the dead here, the like of which was never before seen in that, nor, perhaps, in any other American city, in honor of a dead negro.  The negro captains of the 2nd Regiment acted as pall-bearers, while a long procession of civic societies followed in the rear of detachments of the Phalanx.  A correspondent who witnessed the scene thus describes it:
     "*     *     *     *     *     The arrival of the body developed to the white population here that the colored people had powerful organizations in the form of civic societies; as the Friends of the Order, of which Capt. Callioux was a prominent member, received the body, and had the coffin containing it, draped with the American flag, exposed in state in the commodious hall.  Around the coffin, flowers were strewn in the greatest profusion, and candles were kept continually burning.  All the rites of the Catholic Church were strictly complied with.  The guard paced silently to and fro, and altogether it presented as solemn a scene as was ever witnessed.
     "In due time, the band of the Forty-second Massachusetts Regiment made its appearance, and discoursed the customary solemn airs.  The officiating priest, Father Le Maistre, of the Church of St. Rose of Lima, who has paid not the least attention to the excommunication and denunciations issued against him by the archbishop of this

[Pg. 215]


PORT HUDSON.
Brilliant charge of the Phalanx upon the Confederate works.
 

[Pg. 216] - BLANK

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ors in his hands; the column seemed to melt away like snow in sunshine, before the enemy's murderous fire; the pride, the flower of the Phalanx, had fallen.  Then, with a daring that veterans only can exhibit, the blacks rushed forward and up to the brink and base of the fortified elevation, with a shout that rose above it.  The defenders emptied their rifles, cannon and mortars upon the very heads of the brave assaulters, making of them a human hecatomb.  Those who escaped found their way back to shelter as best they could.
     The battery was not captured; the battle was lost to all except the black soldiers; they, with their terrible loss,
---------------

this diocese, then performed the Catholic service for the dead.  After the regular services, he ascended to the president's chair, and delivered a glowing and eloquent eulogy on the virtues of the deceased.  He called upon all present to offer themselves, as Callioux had done, martyrs to the cause of justice, freedom, and good government.  It was a death the proudest might envy.
     "Immense crowds of colored people had by this time gathered around the building and the streets leading thereto were rendered almost impassable.  Two companies of there to act as an escort; and Esplanade Street, for more than a mile, was lined with colored societies, both male and female, in open order, waiting for the hearse to pass through.
     "After a short pause, a sudden silence fell upon the crowd, the band commenced playing a dirge; and the body was brought from the hall on the shoulders of eight soldiers, escorted by six members of the society, and six colored captains, who acted as pall-bearers.  The corpse was conveyed to the hearse through a crowd composed of both white and black people, and in silence profound as death itself.  Not a sound was heard save the mournful music of the band, and not a head in all that vast multitude but was uncovered.
     "The procession then moved off in the following order:  The hearse containing the body, with Capts. J. W. Ringgold, W. B. Barrett, S. J. Wilkinson, Eugene Mailleur, J. A. Glea, and A. St. Leger, (all of whom, we believe, belong to the Second Louisiana Native Guards), and six members of The Friends of the Order, as pall-bearers; about a hundred convalescent sick and wounded colored soldiers; the two companies of the Sixth Regiment; a large number of colored officers of all native guard regiments; the carriages containing Capt. Callioux's family, and a number of army officers; followed by a large number of private individuals, and thirty-seven civic and religious societies.
     "After moving through the principal down-town streets, the body was taken to the Beinville-street cemetery and there interred with military honors due his rank." *  *

     The following lines were penned at the time:

ANDRE CAILLOUX.

He lay just where he fell,
Soddening in a fervid summer's sun.
Guarded by an enemy's hissing shell,
Rotting beneath the sound of rebels' gun
Forty consecutive days,
In sight of his own tent,
And the remnant of his regiment.

He lay just where he fell,
Nearest the rebel's redoubt and trench,
Under the very fire or hell,
A volunteer in a country's defence,
Forty consecutive days.
And not a murmur of discontent,
Went from the loyal black regiment

A flag of truce couldn't save,
No, nor humanity could not give
This sable warrior a hallowed grave,
Nor army of the Gulf retrieve.
Forth consecutive days,
His lifeless body, pierced and rent,
Leading in assault the black regiment.

But there came days at length,
When Hudson felt their blast,
Though less a thousand in strength,
for "our leader" vowed the last;
Forty consecutive days
They stormed, they charged, God sent
Victory to the loyal black regiment.
He lay just where he fell,
And now the ground was their's
Around his mellowed corpse, heavens tell,
How his comrades for freedom swears.
Forth consecutive nights
The advance pass-word went,
Captain Cailloux of the black regiment.

 

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had won and conquered a much greater and stronger battery than that upon the bluff.  Nature seems to have selected the place and appointed the time for the negro to prove his manhood and to disarm the prejudice that at one time prompted the white troops to insult and assault the negro soldiers in New Orleans.  It was all forgotten and they mingled together that day on terms of perfect equality.  The whites were only too glad to take a drink from a negro soldier's canteen, for in that trying hour they found a brave and determined ally, ready to sacrifice all for liberty and country.  If greater heroism could be shown than that of the regiments of the Phalanx already named, surely the 1st Regiment of Engineers displayed it during the siege at Port Hudson.  This regiment, provided with picks and spades for the purpose of "mining" the enemy's works, often went forward to their labor without any armed support except the cover of heavy guns, or as other troops happened to advance, to throw up breastworks for their own protection.  It takes men of more than ordinary courage to engage in such work, without even a revolver or a bayonet to defend themselves against the sallies of an enemy's troops.  Nevertheless this Engineer Regiment of the black Phalanx performed the duty under such trying the perilous circumstances.  Many times they went forward at a double-quick to do duty in the most dangerous place during an engagement, perhaps to build a redoubt or breastworks behind a brigade, or to blow up a bastion of the enemy's  "They but reminded the lookers on," said a correspondent of a Western newspaper, "of just so many cattle going to a slaughterhouse."
     A writer, speaking of the other regiments of the Phalanx, says:

     "They were also on trial that day, and justified the most sanguine expectations by their good conduct.  Not what they fought better than our white veterans; they did not and could not."

     But there had been so much incredulity avowed regarding the courage of the negroes; so much wit lavished on the idea of negroes fighting to any purpose, that Gen.

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eneral Banks was justified in according a special commendation to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments, and to the 1st Engineer Regiment, of the Phalanx, saying, "No troops could be more determined or daring."  The 1st lost its Cailloux, the 2nd its Paine, but the Phalanx won honor for the race it represented.  No higher encomium could be paid a regiment than that awarded the gallant 2nd by the poet Boker:

"THE BLACK REGIMENT, OR THE SECOND LOUISIANA AT THE STORMING OF PORT HUDSON.
-----
 

Dark as the clouds of even,
Banked in the western heaven,
Waiting the breath that lifts
All the dread mass, and drifts
Tempest and falling brand,
Over a ruined land -
So still and orderly
Arm to arm, and knee to knee
Waiting the great event,
Stands the Black Regiment.

Down the long dusky line
Teeth gleam and eyeballs shine;
And the bright bayonet,
Bristling and firmly set,
Flashed with a purpose grand,
Long ere the sharp command
Of the fierce rolling drum
Told them their time had come -
Told them what work was sent
For the Black Regiment

'Now,' the flag sergeant cried,
'Through death and hell betide,
Let the whole nation see
If we are fit to be,
Free in this land; or bound
Down like the whining hound -
Bound with red stripes of pain
In our old chains again!'
Oh! what a shout there went
From the Black Regiment.

'Charge!' trump and drum awoke;
Onward the bondmen broke
Bayonet and sabre stroke
Vainly opposed their rush
Through the wild battle's crush,
With but one thought a flush,
Driving their lords like chaff,

In the gun's mouth they laugh;
Or at the slippery brands
Leaping with open hands,
Down they tear, man and horse,
Down in their awful course;
Trampling with bloody heel
Over the crashing steel,
All their eyes forward bent,
Rushed the Black Regiment,

'Freedom!' their gallant cry,
'Freedom! or live or die@
Ah! and they meant the word,
Not as with us its heard,
Nor a mere party shout,
They gave their spirits out;
Trusted the end of God,
And on the gory sod
Rolled the truimphant blood,
Glad to strike one free blow,
Whether for weal or woe;
Glad to breathe one free breath,
Though on the lips of death
Praying - alas! in vain!
That they might fall again,
So they could once more see
That burst of liberty!
This was what 'Freedom' lent
To the Black Regiment.

Hundreds on hundreds fell;
But they are resting well;
Scourges and shackles strong
Never shall do them wrong.
Oh! to the living few,
Soldiers, be just and true!
Hail them as comrades tried;
Fight with them side by side;
Never in field or tent
Scorn the Black Regiment."

[See Appendix for further matter relating the the Department of the Gulf.]

[Pg. 220] - CHAPTER VI. - THE ARMY OF THE FRONTIER
 

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