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History & Genealogy


A History of the

in the Wars of
1775-1812, 1861-'65,
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


pg. 220

     At the Far West the fires of liberty and union burned no less brightly upon the altar of the negro's devotion than at the North, East and South.  The blacks of Iowa responded with alacrity to the call of the governor to strengthen the Army of the Ohio.  Though the negro population was sparce—numbering in 1860, only 1069—and thinly scattered over the territory, and were enjoying all the rights and privileges of American citizenship, nevertheless they gave up the luxuries of happy homes, threw down their implements of peaceful industry, broke from the loving embrace of wives and children, and with the generous patriotism which has always characterized the conduct of the race, they rushed to the aid of their yet oppressed countrymen, and the defense of the Union.
     The Gibralters of the Mississippi, Vicksburg and Port Hudson, had fallen by the might of the Union armies; the Mississippi was open to the Gulf.  The shattered ranks of the victorious troops, and the depleted ranks of the Phalanx, rent and torn by the enemy during the long siege of Port Hudson, lent an inspiring zeal to the negroes of the country, which manifested itself in the rapidity of the enlistment of volunteers to fill up the gaps.
     In August, 1863, the authorities of the State of Iowa began the enlistment of negroes as a part of her quota.  Keokuk was selected as the place of rendezvous.  On the 11th of the following October nine full companies under the command of Colonel John G. Hudson, took the oath of allegiance to the United States, and became a part of

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the active military force of the National Government.  The regiment was designated the 1st A. D. (African Descent) Regiment Iowa Volunteers, and was mustered for three years, or during the war.  Leaving Keokuk Barracks, the regiment proceeded to St. Louis, Mo., and was quartered in Benton Barracks, as a, part of the forces under command of Major-General J. M. Schofield.  Here company G. joined the regiment, making ten full companies.  A memorable and patriotic incident occurred here: Mrs. I. N. Triplet, in behalf of the ladies of the State of Iowa, and of the city of Muscatine, presented the regiment with a beautiful silk national flag, which was carried through the storms of battle, and returned at the close of the war to the State.
     On the first day of January, 1864, the regiment was ordered to report to General Beaufort at Helena, Ark., becoming a part of the garrison of that place until the following March.
     One Sergeant Phillips, with some others, agitated the propriety of refusing to accept the seven dollars per month offered them by the Government, and of refusing to do duty on account of it.  Sergeant Barton, however, held it was better to serve without pay than to refuse duty, as the enforcement of the President's Emancipation Proclamation was essential to the freedom of the negro race.  To this latter the regiment agreed, and passed concur
rent resolutions, which quelled a discussion which other wise might have led to mutiny.
     While the regiment was at Helena it took part in several skirmishes and captured a number of prisoners.  In July, Colonel W. S. Brooks, in command of the 50th, 60th, and a detachment of the 3rd Artillery Phalanx Regiment, with two field guns, sallied out of Helena and proceeded down the Mississppi River, to the mouth of White River, on a transport.  Here the troops disembarked.  The next morning, after marching all night, Brooks halted his command for breakfast; arms were stacked and the men became scattered over the fields.  Suddenly, General Dobbins, at the head of a superior confederate force, made an

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attack upon them; the confederates at first formed no regular line of battle, but rushed pell-mell on the scattered federals, intending, doubtless, to annihilate them at once.  The Union men soon recovered their arms, but before they got into line, their commander, Colonel Brooks, had been killed, and Captain Ransey of Co. C, 60th Regiment, assumed command.  The men of the Phalanx, though they had had but a short time to rest from a long march, rallied with the ardor of veterans, and fought with that desperation that men display when they realize that the struggle is either victory or death.  It was not a question of numbers with them; it was one of existence, and the Phalanx resolved itself into a seeming column of iron to meet the foe as it rushed over the bodies of their dead and wounded with the rage of madmen.
     The two field guns, skillfully handled by black artillery-men, did good work, plowing huge furrows through the assailants and throwing them into confusion at every charge.   Still the confederates, having finally organized into line of battle, continued to charge after each repulse, pouring a terrific fire upon the United States force at each advance.  It seemed as if the Phalanx must surrender; they were outnumbered two to one, and every line officer was dead or wounded.  Sergeant Triplet was directing the fire of Company C; the artillery sergeant was in command of the field guns, and worked them well for two long hours.  The enemy's sharp-shooters stationed in the trees no longer selected their victims, for one man of the Phalanx was as conspicuous as another.
     Yet another assault was made; firm stood the little band of iron men, not flinching, not moving, though the dead lay thick before them.  The cannon belched out their grape shot, the musketry rattled, and once more the enemy fled back to the woods with ranks disordered.  Thus from six o'clock till noonday did the weary soldiers hold their foes back.  The situation became critical with the Phalanx.  Their ammunition was nearly exhausted; a few more rounds and their bayonets would be their only protection against a massacre; this fact however, did not cool their determination.

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     In front and on their flanks the enemy began massing for a final onset.  For five hours the Phalanx had fought like tigers, against a ruthless foe, and though no black flag warned them, they were not unmindful of the fate of their comrades at Fort Pillow.  General Dobbins was evidently preparing to sweep the field. Several times already had he sent his men to annihilate the blacks, and as many times had they been repulsed.  There was no time for the Phalanx soldiers to manoeuvre; they were in the closing jaws of death, and though they felt the day was lost, their courage did not forsake them; it was indeed a dreadful moment.  The enemy was about to move upon them, when suddenly a shout, - not the yell of a foe, was heard in the enemy's rear, and the next moment a detachment of the 15th Illinois Cavalry, under command of Major Carmichael, broke through the confederate ranks and rushed to the support of the Phalanx, aligning them selves with the black soldiers, amid the cheers of the latter.  Gathering up their dead and wounded, the federal force now began a retreat, stubbornly yielding, inch by inch, each foot of ground, until night threw her mantle of darkness over the scene and the confederates ceased their firing.  The Phalanx loss was 50, while that of the enemy was 150. At the beginning couriers were dispatched to Helena for re-enforcements, and Colonel Hudson, with the remainder of the Phalanx troops, reached them at night too late to be of any assistance, as the confederates did not follow the retreating column.
     Two days later, Colonel Hudson, with all the available men of the two Phalanx regiments, - 60th, 56th and a detachment of the 3rd Phalanx artillery, with two cannons, - went down the Mississippi and up the White river, disembarked and made a three days march across the country, where the enemy was found entrenched.  The Phalanx, after a spirited contest, drove them out of their works, burned their store, captured a few Texas rangers and returned to Helena.  In March, 1865, the 60th Regiment was ordered to join Brig.-Gen. Reynolds' command at Little Rock, where the regiment was brigaded with the

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57th, 59th and 83rd Phalanx regiments.  The brigade was ordered to Texas overland, but the surrender of General Lee to Grant obviated this march.  The gallant 60th was mustered out at Davenport, Iowa, on the 2nd of November, 1865, "where," says Sergeant Burton, the regimental historian, "they were greeted by the authorities and the loyal thousands of Iowa."
     Kansas has undoubtedly the honor of being the first State in the Union to begin the organization of negroes as soldiers for the Federal army.  The State was admitted into the Union January 29, 1861, after a long reign of hostilities within her borders, carried on by the same character of men and strictly for the same purpose which brought on the war of the Great Rebellion.  In fact, it was but a transfer of hostilities from Missouri and Kansas to South Carolina and Virginia. Missouri and the South had been whipped out of Kansas and the territory admitted into the Union as a free State.  This single fact was accepted by the South as a precursor of the policy of the incoming Republican administration, and three Southern senators resigned or left the United States Senate before the vote was taken for the admission of Kansas.  The act of admitting Kansas as a free State, was the torch; that inflamed the South, and led to the firing upon Fort Sumter the following April.  The men of Kansas had long been inured to field service, and used to practice with Sharps' rifles.  The men of Kansas, more than in any other State of the Union, had a right to rush to the defence of the Federal government, and they themselves felt so.
     On the 9th of February, eleven days after the admission of the State into the Union, Governor Robinson took the oath of office, and on the 15th of April President Lincoln called for seventy-five thousand volunteers.  The first regiment responded to the call by the close of May; others speedily followed, until Kansas had in the field 20,000 soldiers.  Of the regiments and companies which represented this State in the Federal army, several were composed of negroes, with a slight mixture of Indians.
     It has been no easy task to learn about these regi-

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ments, but, after a long search, the writer has been enabled, through the patriotic efforts of Governor Crawford, of Kansas, who is also ex-Colonel of the 2nd Kansas Regiment, to find Mr. J. B. McAfee, late chaplain of the same regiment and Adjutant-General of Kansas, now engaged in business in Topeka.  With the finding of Mr. McAfee came another difficulty; the report of the Adjutant-General, containing an account of the regiments in the war, had been accidentaly burned before leaving the printing office.  This difficulty was overcome, however, by the consideration ever shown the negro by Mr. McAfee, who kindly loaned his only volume of the "Military History of Kansas."
     The service rendered by the Phalanx soldiery of Kansas stands second to none upon the records of that State.  Their patriotism was nothing less than a fitting return for the love of liberty shown by the Free State men in rescuing Kansas from the clutches of the slave power.  The discussions at the national capitol pointed Kansas out to the negro as a place where he might enjoy freedom in common with all other American citizens.  He regarded it then as he does now,* the acme of Republican States.  Those negroes who enjoyed and appreciated the sentiment that made her so, were determined as far as they were able, to stand by the men who had thus enlarged the area of freedom.
     Without comment upon the bravery of these troops, the report is submitted of their conduct in camp, field, on the march and in battle, as made by those who commanded them on various occasions.
     "On the 4th day of August, 1862, Captain James M. Williams, Co. F, 5th Kansas Cavalry, was appointed by Hon. James H. Lane, Recruiting Commissioner for that portion of Kansas lying north of the Kansas River, for the purpose of recruiting and organizing a regiment of infantry for the United States service, to be composed of men of African descent.  He immediately commenced the work of recruiting by securing the muster-in of recruiting officers with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, and
by procuring supplies from the Ordance Quartermaster and Commissary

     *Not less than 70.000 negroes—5,000 at least of which fought for the Union - have been driven by persecution into Kansas from the Southern States, and the exodus still continues.

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departments, and by establishing in the vicinity of Leavenworth a camp of rendezvous and instruction.
     "Capt. H. C. Seaman was about the same time commissioned with like authority for that portion of Kansas lying south of the Kansas river. The work of recruiting went forward with rapidity, the intelligent portion of the colored people entering into the work heartily, and evincing by their actions a willing readiness to link their future and share the perils with their white brethren in the war of the rebellion, which then waged with such violence as to seriously threaten the nationality and life of the Republic.
     "Within sixty days five hundred men were recruited and placed in camp, and a request made that a battallion be mustered into the United States service.  This request was not complied with, and the reasons assigned were wholly unsatisfactory, yet accompanied with assurances of such a nature as to warrant the belief that but a short time would elapse ere the request would be complied with.
     "In the meantime complications with the civil authorities in the Northern District had arisen, which at one time threatened serious results.  These complications originated from the following causes, each affecting different classes:
     "1st. - An active sympathy with the rebellion.
     "2nd. - An intolerant prejudice against the colored race, which would deny them the honorable position in society which every soldier is entitled to, even though he gained that position at the risk of his life in the cause of the nation, which could ill afford to refuse genuine sympathy and support from any quarter.
     "3rd. - On the part of a few genuine loyalists who believed that this attempt to enlist colored men would not be approved by the War Department, and that the true interests of the colored man demanded that their time should not be vainly spent in the effort.
     "4th. - A large class who believed that the negro did not possess the necessary qualifications to make efficient soldiers, and that consequently the experiment would result in defeat, disaster and disgrace.
     "Col. Williams, acting under the orders of his military superiors felt that it was no part of his duty to take council of any or all of these classes.  He saw no course for him to pursue but to follow his instructions to the letter.  Consequently, when the civil authorities placed themselves in direct opposition to those of the military, by arresting and confining the men of the command on the most frivolous charges, and indicting their commanders for crime, such as unlawfully restraining persons of their liberty, &c, by enforcing proper military discipline, he ignored the right of the civil authorities to interfere with his military actions in a military capacity and under proper authority.
     "On the 28th of October, 1862, a command consisting of detachments from Captain Seaman's and Captain William's recruits, were moved and camped near Butler.  This command—about two hundred and twenty-five men, under Captain Seaman,—was attacked by a con-


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ordered all along the line, which was made, the enemy falling back slowly before our troops, and finally retired from the field, leaving us in full possession, with a complete victory.
     "Only infantry was engaged on either side except the rebel battery, which my regiment captured.
     "Our cavalry, some five thousand strong, and artillery, about forty pieces, as already stated, were on the North side of the river, and could not be brought into action, to advantage, on account of the dense forest and swampy nature of the ground.  We had about fifteen thousand men engaged, while the enemy had the armies of Price and Kirby Smith, from which our gallant commander, Steele, had for many days been fleeing, as from the wrath to come.  During the entire battle Steele remained on the north side of the river, beyond the reach of the enemy's guns, and at a point from which he could continue his flight with safety in case of defeat.  But the victory was ours, so the march from Saline river to Little Rock was made in peace.
     "During this battle my regiment lost in killed and wounded about eighty men, but we were richly rewarded by the achievements of the day.  We, perhaps, had as much to do with bringing on the battle as any other one regiment. I went into action in the morning without orders. In fact I disobeyed an order to cross the river at daylight, and instead, I formed my regiment and faced the enemy.  The regiment charged the battery by my orders, and against au order from a superior officer, to hold back and wait for orders.
     "My regiment, though among the first in action, and having suffered a greater loss than that of any other, was the last to leave the field.
     "From this time forward until the close of the war, in so far as the Western army was concerned, we heard no more of the question, 'Will they fight?'
     "The reputation of at least one colored regiment was established, and it stands today, in the estimation of men who served in the Western army, as the equal of any other volunteer regiment.
     "After the Saline river battle the regiment moved back to Little Rock and thence to Fort Smith, in western Arkansas.
     "In July 1864, with the 2nd and other troops, 1 conducted an expedition through the Choctaw Nation in the Indian Territory, against, or rather in pursuit of a brigade of rebel forces, driving them out of that country.  During this campaign several light engagements were fought  in each of which the 2nd took a prominent part, and in each of which the 2nd was invariably successful.
     * "In the fall of 1864. I resigned my position as Colonel to assume other duties.
     "What took place from then until the regiment was mustered out of service, I only know from heresay, but it Is safe to say that the regiment maintained its reputation as one of the best infantry regiments in the 7th Army Corps.
     "A short time before I left the regiment, General Marcy, then Inspector General of the U. S. Army, inspected the Kansas Division, to which my regiment belonged, and his report, which is now on file in the War Department, if I am not mistaken, shows that the 2nd Colored in point of drill, discipline and military appearance, stood first of all the regiments in that Division.

          *          *          *          *          *          *
                                                                            Yours truly.
                                                                                             SAMUEL J. CRAWFORD.
Lieutenant-Colonel Gilpatrick, promoted from Major, took command of the regiment succeeding Colonel Crawford, and in December made a forced march to Hudson's crossing on the Neosho river, by way of Fort Gibson, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles, on quarter rations, and returned as escort to a large supply train.  It was then, with all the Phalanx regiments at Fort Smith, ordered to Little Rock, where it arrived with a very large train of refugees under charge, on the 4th of February, after a march of seventeen days.
     Colonel Gilpatrick says :
     "The men suffered severely on the march by exposure to wet and

     * About the middle of October, Colonel Crawford received information of his nomination for the office of Governor, and came from Fort Smith to Kansas, arriving about the 20th instant, just in time to be an active participant in the expulsion of General Price and his army from the border of the State.

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cold and for the want of proper and sufficient food, clothing and shelter.  Many of them were barefooted, almost naked, and without blankets."
     The regiment remained at Little Rock until the spring of 1865, when it formed part of an expedition which proceeded some distance south of Little Rock, and operated against a band of guerillas on the Saline river, which they succeeded in driving out and partly capturing.  On the 25th of July the regiment broke camp and proceeded to Camden, Arkansas, and was mustered out of the United States service, and proceeding by way of Pine Bluff, Ark., Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis, Mo., reached Leavenworth, Kansas, where the men were finally paid and discharged on the 27th of November, 1865.  These brave men immediately returned to their homes to enjoy the blessings of a free government.

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A mode of punishment for slight offences.








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