Black Regiments

Black Regiments

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On 15th April, 1861, Abraham Lincoln called on the governors of the Northern states to provide 75,000 militia to serve for three months to put down the insurrection. Some states responded well to Lincoln's call for volunteers. The governor of Pennsylvania offered 25 regiments, whereas Ohio provided 22. Most men were encouraged to enlist by bounties offered by state governments. This money attracted the poor and the unemployed. Many black Americans also attempted to join the army. However, the War Department quickly announced that it had "no intention to call into service of the Government any coloured soldiers." Instead, black volunteers were given jobs as camp attendants, waiters and cooks.

On 30th August, 1861, Major General John C. Fremont, commander of the Union Army in St. Louis, proclaimed that all slaves owned by Confederates in Missouri were free. Abraham Lincoln was furious when he heard the news as he feared that this action would force slave-owners in border states to help the Confederates. Lincoln asked Fremont to modify his order and free only slaves owned by Missourians actively working for the South. When Fremont refused, he was sacked and replaced by General Henry Halleck.

In May, 1862, General David Hunter began enlisting black soldiers in the occupied districts of South Carolina. He was ordered to disband the 1st South Carolina (African Descent) but eventually got approval from Congress for his action. Hunter also issued a statement that all slaves owned by Confederates in the area were free. Abraham Lincoln quickly ordered Hunter to retract his proclamation as he still feared that this action would force slave-owners in border states to join the Confederates. However, unlike the case of Major General John C. Fremont in Missouri the previous year, Lincoln did not relieve him of his duties.

In January 1863 it was clear that state governors in the north could not raise enough troops for the Union Army. On 3rd March, the federal government passed the Enrollment Act. This was the first example of conscription or compulsory military service in United States history. The decision to allow men to avoid the draft by paying $300 to hire a substitute, resulted in the accusation that this was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.

Abraham Lincoln was also now ready to give his approval to the formation of black regiments. He had objected in May, 1862, when General David Hunter began enlisting black soldiers into the 1st South Carolina (African Descent) regiment. However, nothing was said when Hunter created two more black regiments in 1863 and soon afterwards Lincoln began encouraging governors and generals to enlist freed slaves.

John Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, and a passionate opponent of slavery, began recruiting black soldiers and established the 5th Massachusetts (Colored) Cavalry Regiment and the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) and the 55th Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry Regiments. In all, six regiments of US Colored Cavalry, eleven regiments and four companies of US Colored Heavy Artillery, ten batteries of the US Colored Light Artillery, and 100 regiments and sixteen companies of US Colored Infantry were raised during the war. By the end of the conflict nearly 190,000 black soldiers and sailors had served in the Union forces.

We appeal to you, sir, as the executive of the nation, to have us justly dealt with. The regiment do pray that they be assured their service will be fairly appreciated by paying them as American soldiers, not as menial hirelings. Black men, you may well know, are poor; $3 per month, for a year, will supply their needy wives and little ones with fuel. If you, as chief magistrate of the nation, will assure us of our whole pay, we are content. Our patriotism, our enthusiasm will have a new impetus to exert our energy more and more to aid our country. Not that our hearts ever flagged in devotion, spite the evident apathy displayed on our behalf, but we feel as though our country spurned us, now we are sworn to serve her.

In the spring of 1863, I had another conversation with President Lincoln upon the subject of the employment of negroes. The question was, whether all the negro troops then enlisted and organized should be collected together and made a part of the Army of the Potomac and thus reinforce it.

We then talked of a favourite project he had of getting rid of the negroes by colonization, and he asked me what I thought of it. I told him that it was simply impossible; that the negroes would not go away, for they loved their homes as much as the rest of us, and all efforts at colonization would not make a substantial impression upon the number of negroes in the country.

Reverting to the subject of arming the negroes, I said to him that it might be possible to start with a sufficient army of white troops, and, avoiding a march which might deplete their ranks by death and sickness, to take in ships and land them somewhere on the Southern coast. These troops could then come up through the Confederacy, gathering up negroes, who could be armed at first with arms that they could handle, so as to defend themselves and aid the rest of the army in case of rebel charges upon it. In this way we could establish ourselves down there with an army that would be a terror to the whole South.

I know, as fully as one can know the opinions of others, that some of the commanders of our armies in the field who have given us our most important successes believe the emancipation policy and the use of the colored troops constitute the heaviest blow yet dealt to the rebellion, and that at least one of these important successes could not have been achieved when it was but for the aid of black soldiers. Among the commanders holding these views are some who have never had any affinity with what is called Abolitionism or with the Republican Party politics, but who hold them purely as military opinions.

The downfall of the Confederacy left more than three million black people free under the Proclamation of the President,

but without ground enough to stand upon. They were congregated in large camps or remained in little slave-huts under the shadow of their former masters' mansions, and continued to toil, in most cases with the promise of some compensation. No one could tell what their status would be in the future. The black population of the country had furnished nearly two hundred thousand men who served in the Union army and navy, and who performed their duty with fidelity and fortitude. Their dead and wounded fell on many hard-fought fields, notwithstanding the threat of the enemy, of no quarter for the officers and slavery for the men in case of capture. Although at the close of the war many believed that free labor would be a failure in the South, yet it has proved a success. It has furnished the principal labor element in those States for the development of the great resources of that part of our country. No one can tell what is to be the future of a race that has nearly trebled its numbers in the last four decades, and in point of education, general intelligence, and acquired property, has vastly exceeded its increase in numbers. The great problem is yet to be solved, but its solution will be best accomplished if absolute even-handed justice prevails. The race is not responsible for its being here, nor for its present condition. Its future will depend largely upon its own people.

On the 12th April, the rebel General Forrest appeared before Fort Pillow, near Columbus, Kentucky, attacking it with considerable vehemence. This was followed up by frequent demands for its surrender, which were refused by Major Booth, who commanded the fort. The fight was then continued up until 3 p.m., when Major Booth was killed, and the rebels, in large numbers, swarmed over the intrenchments. Up to that time comparatively few of our men had been killed; but immediately upon occupying the place the rebels commenced an indiscriminate butchery of the whites and blacks, including the wounded. Both white and black were bayoneted, shot, or sabred; even dead bodies were horribly mutilated, and children of seven and eight years, and several negro women killed in cold blood. Soldiers unable to speak from wounds were shot dead, and their bodies rolled down the banks into the river. The dead and wounded negroes were piled in heaps and burned, and several citizens, who had joined our forces for protection, were killed or wounded. Out of the garrison of six hundred only two hundred remained alive. Three hundred of those massacred were negroes; five were buried alive. Six guns were captured by the rebels, and carried off, including tow 10-pound Parrotts, and two 12-pound howitzers. A large amount of stores was destroyed or carried away.

With a fine tact of simple honesty the President, in his little speech at the opening of the Fair in Baltimore, said exactly what we all wished to hear. The massacre at Fort Pillow had raised the question in every mind, does the United States mean to allow its soldiers to be butchered in cold blood? The President replies, that whoever is good enough to fight for us is good enough to be protected by us: and that in this case, when the facts are substantiated, there shall be retaliation. In what way we can retaliate it is not easy to say.

There is no evidence from Richmond, and there will be none, that Forrest’s murders differ from those of Quantrell. On the other hand, we must not forget that the same papers which brought the President’s speech promising retaliation brought us also the return of the rebel General in Florida, containing, for the relief of friends at home, the names and injuries of our wounded men in his hands, and the list included the colored soldiers of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts regiments. But if public opinion has justified a stronger policy from the beginning - if the criminally stupid promises of M’Clellan and Halleck to protect slavery and to repel the negroes coming to our lines had never been made, we should not now be confronted with this question, because the rebels would never have dared to massacre our soldiers after surrender. But yet to be deterred from retaliation from fear of still further crimes upon the part of the rebels is simple inhumanity.

Let us either at once release every colored soldier and the officer of their regiments from duty, or make the enemy feel that they are our soldiers. It is very sad that rebel prisoners of war should be shot for the crimes of Forrest. But it is very sad, no less, that soldiers fighting for our flag have been buried alive after surrendering, and it is still sadder that such barbarities should be encouraged by refraining from retaliation. Do we mean to allow Mr. Jefferson Davis, or this man Forrest, or Quantrell, to dictate who shall, and who shall not, fight for the American flag? The massacre at Fort Pillow is a direct challenge to our Government to prove whether it is in earnest or not in emancipating slaves and employing colored troops. There should be no possibility of mistake in the reply. Let the action of the Government be as prompt and terrible as it will be final. Then the battles of this campaign will begin with the clear conviction upon the part of the rebels that we mean what we say; and that the flag will protect to the last, and by every means of war, including retaliation of blood, every soldier who fights for us beneath it.

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry

The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Infantry was a volunteer Union regiment organized in the American Civil War. Its members became known for their bravery and fierce fighting against Confederate forces. It was the secondਊll-Black Union regiment to fight in the war, after the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

From the beginning of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln argued that the Union forces were not fighting to end slavery but to prevent the disintegration of the United States. For abolitionists, however, ending slavery was the reason for the war, and they argued that Black people should be able to join the fight for their freedom. However, African Americans were not allowed to serve as soldiers in the Union Army until January 1, 1863. On that day, the Emancipation Proclamation decreed that “such persons [that is, African American men] of suitable condition, will be received into the armed services of the United States.”

Historical Context: Black Soldiers in the Civil War

By early 1863, voluntary enlistments in the Union army had fallen so sharply that the federal government instituted an unpopular military draft and decided to enroll black, as well as white, troops. Indeed, it seems likely that it was the availability of large numbers of African American soldiers that allowed President Lincoln to resist demands for a negotiated peace that might have including the retention of slavery in the United States. Altogether, 186,000 black soldiers served in the Union Army and another 29,000 served in the Navy, accounting for nearly 10 percent of all Union forces and 68,178 of the Union dead or missing. Twenty-four African Americans received the Congressional Medal of Honor for extraordinary bravery in battle.

Three-fifths of all black troops were former slaves. The active participation of black troops in the fighting made it far less likely that African Americans would remain in slavery after the Civil War.

While some white officers, like Robert Gould Shaw (1837-1863), who commanded the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, were proud to lead black troops in battle, others exhibited a deep resistance.

Black soldiers participated in the war at great threat to their lives. The Confederate government threatened to summarily execute or sell into slavery any captured black Union soldiers--and did sometimes carry out those threats. Lincoln responded by threatening to retaliate against Confederate prisoners whenever black soldiers were killed or enslaved.

In July 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the first black regiment raised in the North, led an assault against Fort Wagner, which guarded Charleston, South Carolina's harbor. Two of Frederick Douglass's sons were members of the regiment. Over forty percent of the regiment's members were killed or wounded in the unsuccessful attack, including Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, a member of a prominent antislavery family, who was shot dead in the charge.

During the war, African American troops also faced a different kind of battle: a battle against discrimination in pay, promotions, and medical care. Despite promises of equal treatment, blacks were relegated to separate regiments commanded by white officers. Black soldiers received less pay than white soldiers, inferior benefits, and poorer food and equipment. While a white private was paid $13 a month plus a $3.50 clothing allowance, blacks received just $10 a month, out of which $3 was deducted for clothing. Furthermore, black soldiers were not provided with the enlistment bonuses commonly given to white soldiers, and, until the end of the war, the federal government refused to commission black officers.

Within the ranks, black troops faced repeated humiliations most were employed in menial assignments and kept in rear-echelon, fatigue jobs. They were punished by whipping or by being tied by their thumbs if captured by the Confederates, they faced execution. But despite these trials, African American soldiers won their fight for equal pay (in 1864) and in 1865 they were allowed to serve as line officers. Drawing upon the education and training they received in the military, many former troops became community leaders during Reconstruction.

One Union captain explained the significance of black military participation on the attitudes of many white soldiers. "A great many [white people]," he wrote, "have the idea that the entire Negro race are vastly their inferiors. A few weeks of calm unprejudiced life here would disabuse them, I think. I have a more elevated opinion of their abilities than I ever had before. I know that many of them are vastly the superiors of those. who would condemn them to a life of brutal degradation."


The source of the regiment's name is uncertain. In 1725, following the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, General George Wade was authorised by George I to form six "watch" companies to patrol the Highlands of Scotland, three from Clan Campbell, one from Clan Fraser of Lovat, one from Clan Munro and one from Clan Grant. These were to be "employed in disarming the Highlanders, preventing depredations, bringing criminals to justice, and hindering rebels and attainted persons from inhabiting that part of the kingdom." The force was known in Gaelic as Am Freiceadan Dubh, "the dark" or "black watch". [4]

This epithet may have come from the uniform plaids of dark tartan with which the companies were provided. Other theories have been put forward for instance, that the name referred to the "black hearts" of the pro-government militia who had sided with the "enemies of true Highland spirit", [5] or that it came from their original duty in policing the Highlands, namely preventing "blackmail" (Highlanders demanding extortion payments to spare cattle herds). [6]

The regiment was created as part of the Childers Reforms in 1881, when the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch) was amalgamated with the 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment of Foot to form two battalions of the newly named Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). The 42nd became the 1st Battalion, and the 73rd became the 2nd Battalion. [7]

The 1st Battalion saw action at the Battle of Tel el-Kebir in September 1882 during the Anglo-Egyptian War. It was in combat again during the Mahdist War, at the First and Second Battles of El Teb in February 1884, the Battle of Tamai in March 1884 and at the Battle of Kirbekan in February 1885. [7] [ dead link ] They were stationed in India from 1896, but was sent to South Africa for service during the Second Boer War. After the war ended in June 1902 with the Peace of Vereeniging, 630 officers and men left Cape Town on the SS Michigan in late September 1902, arriving at Southampton in late October, when they were posted to Edinburgh. [8]

The 2nd Battalion was posted to South Africa in October 1899, following the outbreak of the Second Boer War. The battalion suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Magersfontein in December 1899. [9] After the end of the war, about 730 officers and men left Point Natal for British India on the SS Ionian in October 1902, where after arrival in Bombay it was stationed in Sialkot in Umballa in Punjab. [10]

In 1908, the Volunteers and Militia were reorganised nationally, with the former becoming the Territorial Force and the latter the Special Reserve [11] the regiment now had one Reserve and five Territorial battalions. [12] [13]

First World War Edit

Regular Army Edit

The 1st Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 1st Brigade in the 1st Division in August 1914 for service on the Western Front. [14] It saw action during the Retreat from Mons in August 1914, the First Battle of the Marne in September 1914 and the First Battle of the Aisne later in September 1914 it also took part in the advance to the Hindenburg Line in September 1918. [15]

The 2nd Battalion landed at Marseille as part of the Bareilly Brigade in the 7th (Meerut) Division in October 1914 for service on the Western Front. [14] It took part in the defence of Givenchy in December 1915 [15] and then moved to Mesopotamia later that month and saw action during the siege of Kut in Spring 1916, the fall of Baghdad in March 1917 and the Battle of Istabulat in April 1917. [15] It transferred to Palestine in January 1918 and took part in the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918. [15]

Territorial Force Edit

The 1/4th (City of Dundee) Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the Bareilly Brigade in the 7th (Meerut) Division March 1915 for service on the Western Front and, following heavy losses at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 and the Battle of Festubert in May 1915, [15] amalgamated with 2nd Battalion in September 1915. [14] The 1/5th (Angus and Dundee) Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 24th Brigade in the 8th Division for service on the Western Front. [14] It also saw action at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 and the Battle of Festubert in May 1915. [15] The 1/6th (Perthshire) Battalion and the 1/7th (Fife) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 153rd Brigade in the 51st (Highland) Division in May 1915 for service on the Western Front. [14] They saw action at the Battle of the Ancre Heights in October 1916. [15]

New Army Edit

8th (Service) Battalion Edit

The 8th (Service) Battalion was raised in Perth by Lord Sempill of Fintray who had previously served with the Black Watch in the Sudan. Recruiting commenced on 21 August 1914 and the ranks were filled by 3 September 1914. The 8th was the senior battalion in the 26th Infantry Brigade, which in turn was the leading brigade of the 9th (Scottish) Division, the very first division of Lord Kitchener's New Army. As such, the 8th (Service) Battalion can claim to be the vanguard of the "First Hundred Thousand" men in Kitchener's K1 Army. The battalion officially formed at Albuera Barracks in August 1914 before moving to Maida Barracks in September 1914. A core cadre of experienced regular and ex-regular officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers formed the backbone of the new unit. The enlisted men came mainly from the cities, farms and collieries of Fife and Forfarshire. 16 January 1915 saw the 26th Infantry Brigade move from Aldershot to Hampshire with the 8th Battalion billeted at Alton. On 22 January 1915 Lord Kitchener inspected the battalion, along with the rest of the 9th (Scottish) Division during downpour of rain on Laffan's Plain (now Farnborough Airport). The battalion marched to Oxney Farm Camp near Bordon on 21 March 1915 to undertake a final musketry course where the 8th Battalion Machine Gun Section obtained the highest score in the brigade. In early May 1915 the battalion received the long awaited orders to proceed overseas to France. [16]

The machine gun section and battalion transport led the way, sailing to Le Havre via Southampton on 9 May with the bulk of the battalion following on 10 May sailing to Boulogne via Folkestone. The whole battalion then travelled on by train to Arques near Saint-Omer arriving in the early hours of 11 May, from here they heard the distant rumble of the guns at Ypres for the first time. The battalion entered the trenches for the first time on 4 July 1915, relieving the 5th (Service) Battalion of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders in the front line East of Festubert, they were relieved in turn on 7 July 1915 by 10th (Service) Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. In this short four day introduction to trench warfare the battalion lost three men killed and seven wounded. [17]

On 25 September 1915 the battalion took a leading role in the opening actions of the Battle of Loos. During three hard days of fighting at Loos the battalion lost 19 officers and 492 other ranks either killed or wounded. This included the Commanding Officer Lt Col Lord Sempill, the Second in Command Major J.G. Collins, three of the four Company Commanders and the Regimental Sergeant Major W.H. Black. Another notable casualty at Loos was Captain The Hon. Fergus Bowes-Lyon, the older brother of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon who would later marry the future King George VI. [18]

The 8th (Service) Battalion spent the rest of the war in the trenches of the Western Front and took part in a number of key battles.

Following the armistice demobilization began on the 27 December 1918 and men were released in batches during the following months. In mid August 1919 the remnants of the battalion returned to England, sailing from Calais to Folkestone before marching to Shorncliffe where trains were boarded to Brocton Camp. Demobilzations continued and on 15 November 1919 the battalion was reduced to Cadre strength. Following dispersal of the remaining officers and other ranks, the Commanding Officer, Adjutant and Quartermaster returned to the Black Watch Depot in Perth where the battalion was officially disbanded in mid December 1919. [20] During active service between 1915-1918 the 8th (Service) Battalion lost a total of 169 officers (69 killed/93 wounded/8 missing) and 3,597 other ranks (1,123 killed/1,673 wounded/510 missing). [21] The bravery of the 8th is reflected in the number of gallantry decorations awarded, this includes 7 Distinguished Service Orders, 32 Military Crosses, 38 Distinguished Conduct Medals, 6 Meritorious Service Medals and 137 Military Medals. [22]

9th (Service) Battalion Edit

The 9th (Service) Battalion was raised from a initial draft of 200 men sent from Perth to join the 8th (Service) Battalion at Aldershot on 6 September 1914. As the 8th Battalion was already fully manned permission was granted to form a second unit from the drafts reaching the 8th Battalion between 6 September and 9 September, forming part of Kitchener's K2 Army. This became the 9th (Service) Battalion under the command of Major T.O. Lloyd, an ex-regular Black Watch officer who had retired from 1st Battalion in 1909. The new battalion lacked experienced officers and Lord Sempill, the Commanding Officer of 8th Battalion, consented to transfer one of his three regular officers to 9th Battalion to act as Adjutant. At company level almost all of the officers were newly commissioned Second Lieutenants with no prior military experience. The same was true of the non-commissioned officers, with the exception of the RSM, two former Colour Sergeants and a few old and bold ex soldiers, all NCO's were new to the army and promoted to acting rank on the recommendation of their company commander. September to November was spent training at Albuhera Barracks in Aldershot, where on 26 September the battalion paraded for the first time as a complete unit in front of the King, Queen and Lord Kitchener as part of the 44th Brigade in the 15th (Scottish) Division. It is notable that on this first formal parade all of the division wore civilian clothes as uniforms had yet to be issued, it was not until the middle of October that the men were all dressed alike and kilts did not arrive until 20 January 1915 by which time the battalion had taken up billets in the village of Liss in Hampshire. On 23 February 1915 the battalion moved to Chiseldon Camp and commenced musketry training on 1 March, at this point only 25 service rifles were available. 12 May 1915 saw the battalion move with the rest of the 44th Brigade to Parkhouse Camp on Salisbury Plain to conduct brigade maneuvers. The King inspected the 15th Division a second time on 21 June 1915 and was greatly impressed at the progress made in such a short space of time. [23]

On 4 July 1915 the battalion received embarkation orders for France, the machine gun and transport sections led the way and departed Parkhouse Camp on 7 July sailing on the SS Mount Temple that night from Southampton to Le Havre. The bulk of the battalion left Parkhouse Camp early on 8 July sailing on the SS Invicta from Folkestone and arriving in Boulogne that same evening. [24] The 9th (Service) Battalion first entered the trenches on 2 August 1915 when it relieved 23rd/24th Battalions of the London Regiment in a section of the line East of Maroc and opposite the famous 'Double Crassier'. [25] The battalion was in turn relieved on 9 August 1915 by 10th Battalion Scottish Rifles. To their credit the battalion suffered no casualties during this first introduction to trench warfare. [26] On 25 September 1915 the battalion went in to action at the Battle of Loos where it suffered severe losses in two days of hard fighting. Of the 940 officers and men who went in to action on 25 September only 98 returned to their billets when the battalion was relieved by 21st Division on 26 September. The battalion lost a total of 701 men at Loos - 11 officers killed and 10 officers wounded with 360 other ranks killed or missing and 320 other ranks wounded. [27]

The 9th (Service) Battalion spent the rest of the war in the trenches of the Western Front and took part in a number of key battles.

On 11 May 1918 the original 9th (Service) Battalion left the line for the final time and was merged with the 4/5th Territorial Battalion. This amalgamation was part of measures taken to address the drain on manpower across the British Army. [29] Whilst the bulk of the 9th went to the 4/5th a small training cadre of 10 officers and 51 other ranks remained and were initially employed training newly arrived American troops. Later that month the cadre returned to Aldershot where they spent two months raising and training a new unit which became 2/9th (Service) Battalion assigned to the 47th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division. The 2/9th left Aldershot on 30 July 1918 sailing from Folkestone to Boulogne and reaching billets at Hodecq the following day. The next eighteen days were spent training before 2/9th entered the battle area at Noeux-les-Mines on 19 August 1918 where it relieved the 1st Battalion. On 21 August the battalion proceeded by rail to Sailly-Labourse where it supported the 14th Leicesters and 18th Welch holding the line in the Hohenzollern Sector. On 2 September 1918 the battalion was involved in a costly trench raid losing 31 men. The battalion advanced with the 16th Division until 20 October 1918 when it was assigned the task of repairing roads around Escoeuilles where it was when the armistice was declared on 11 November 1918. Following the armistice the battalion started the process of demobilization and found itself at Fretin by 27 November 1918 where it remained until Spring 1919 when it was reduced to cadre strength and moved to Pont-a-Marcq. The cadre returned to Scotland in July 1919 where the 2/9th was finally disbanded. [30] During active service between 1915-1918 the battalion lost 140 officers (46 killed/88 wounded/6 missing) and 2,899 other ranks (645 killed/2,029 wounded/225 missing). [31] The bravery of the 9th is reflected in the number of gallantry decorations awarded, this includes 3 Distinguished Service Orders, 28 Military Crosses, 7 Distinguished Conduct Medals, 2 Meritorious Service Medals and 65 Military Medals. [32]

10th (Service) Battalion Edit

The 10th (Service) Battalion was raised in Perth at the beginning of September 1914 under Lt Col Sir William Stewart Dick-Cunyngham, 8th Baronet of Lambrughton. By 20 September 1914 a core body of 400 men had volunteered and were sent South to train at Shrewton on Salisbury Plain where the 10th was to form part of the 77th Infantry Brigade alongside the 10th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 11th Battalion Scottish Rifles and 8th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers as part of Kitchener's K3 Army. Officers were gradually appointed to the battalion, some with previous Regular or Territorial military experience but the majority had none. November saw the battalion move to Bristol where the men practiced trench digging in Ashton Park. The men were comfortably quartered in several public buildings, A and C companies occupied Colston Hall, B the Victoria Gallery and D the Coliseum (a large ice skating rink) the officers were billeted at the Colston Hotel. In the New Year makeshift uniforms were finally replaced by the coveted kilt and sporran. March 1915 saw the 77th Infantry Brigade move to Sutton Veny to engage in brigade and divisional maneuvers with the 26th Division. Training was completed by the end of July 1915 and during August three days 'farewell' leave was granted to officers and men. On 10 September 1915 embarkation orders were received and on 17 Steptember an advance party of 5 officers and 109 other ranks left for France, arriving at Longueau on 20 September before marching 20 miles to Bougainville to arrange billets for the battalion. The bulk of the battalion soon followed, leaving Folkestone at 6pm on 20 September aboard the SS La Marguerite and arriving at Boulogne around midnight. The rest of the night was spent under canvas at Ostrahove Camp, the next morning the battalion boarded trains to Sallux before marching the final fifteen miles to rendezvous with the advance party at Bougainville. [33]

On 23 September 1915 the battalion received orders to march to Salouël which was reached at midnight after seven hour's march in torrential rain. The following morning the 77th Infantry Brigade marched on to Villers-Bretonneux and were inspected on the road by the XII Corps Commander Lt-Gen Sir Henry Fuller Maitland Wilson who congratulated the 10th battalion on its march discipline and fine appearance. The battalion spent five days training at Villers-Bretonneux where the men could hear the distant rumbling of guns, this was artillery supporting the Battle of Loos for which 10th Battalion was held in reserve. On 29 September 1915 the battalion left for Proyart and the companies entered the front line trenches for the first time for forty eight hours of instruction with the resident units. A and D companies joined 2nd Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in the line at Fontaine-lès-Cappy with B and C companies rotating in on 2 October with the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The battalion took responsibility for its first stretch of the line on 14 October when it relieved the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry around Bray with battalion HQ located in the town of Carnoy. On 5 November the battalion received orders to prepare for immediate deployment to Salonika to participate in operations on the Macedonian front. On 10 November the battalion marched to Longueau from where they boarded trains to Marseilles which they reached soon after midday on 12 November. The battalion marched straight to the quay to begin boarding HMS Magnificent alongside two companies from 11th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and two companies from 12th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The course followed was North of Corsica, passing Elba, South through the Straits of Messina, along the coast of Sicily and on to Alexandria which was reached on 18 November 1915. At Alexandria the men disembarked and spent the night at Maritza Camp before re-embarking on HMS Magnificent and sailing for Salonika which was reached on 24 November 1915. [34]

The 10th Battalion spent the rest of 1915 and early 1916 constructing and manning part of the 'Birdcage Defensive Line' in the hills surrounding Salonika, the stretch of line allocated to the 10th ran between the villages of Aivatli and Laina. June 1916 saw the battalion move 'up country', spending time in division reserve and manning trenches in the Vladaja Line. On 8 May 1917 the 10th Battalion took part in the Battle of Doiran. Out of 600 men engaged in this action the 10th lost 5 officers killed and 6 wounded with 63 other ranks killed and 309 wounded. [35] Due to losses incurred as a result of the German spring offensive it was decided that one battalion in each brigade would be withdrawn from Greece and transferred to the Western Front. On 14 June 1918 the 10th Battalion received orders to move to France with the men embarking on the French transport Odessa at Itea on 6 July bound for Taranto. From Italy the battalion traveled by train to Abancourt, finally reaching the rest camp on 14 July and were attached to 197th Infantry Brigade in the 66th Division. On 20 September the battalion were informed that they were to be disbanded with orders received on 29 September to send one complete company to each of the 1st, 6th and 14th Black Watch Battalions to replace losses. On 15 October the disbandment of 10th (Service) Battalion was reported as complete to 197th Infantry Brigade. [36] During active service between 1915-1918 the 10th (Service) Battalion lost a total of 18 officers (8 killed/10 wounded) and 435 other ranks (122 killed/311 wounded/2 missing). [37] The bravery of the 10th is reflected in the number of gallantry decorations awarded, this includes 2 Distinguished Service Orders, 6 Military Crosses, 3 Distinguished Conduct Medals, 3 Meritorious Service Medals and 10 Military Medals. [38]

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The black-robed regiment of the Revolutionary Period were men of God who spoke out concerning the issues of the day. The name was given to a name of pastors, especially in colonial America that were very instrumental in America winning their independence. The reason why they were called Black-Robed regiment is because every Sunday they would mount their pulpits wearing their long black clerical robes, that&rsquos how preachers would preach in that day. They would get in their pulpits wearing these long black robes, and they would preach the Word of God without fear or favor. These men of God would get in their pulpits and they would basically tell people what or who they should and should not vote for, because they understood that in order to have a great government, then you must have great citizens. The way that you have great citizens is by having great people that are rooted in the foundation of the Word of God. Week after week after week, they expounded upon the principles of the proper role of government, the proper role of individuals, all underneath the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Black “Immune” Regiments in the Spanish-American War

(Library of Congress)

In April 1898 Congress declared war on Spain, and patriotic Americans of all colors rallied to the flag. The rampant discrimination that characterized race relations in this country during the Gilded Age caused some black citizens to question America’s crusade to end Spanish oppression of dark-skinned Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos, when they were facing similar conditions of injustice in the United States. Many other African Americans, however, hoped that they could gradually expand opportunities for racial equality by supporting the “splendid little war.”

The soldiers of the Regular Army’s four black regiments–the 9th and 10th Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantry–performed their duty without question. They deployed to Cuba and made significant contributions to the speedy victory, earning five Medals of Honor and twenty-nine Certificates of Merit for their gallantry under fire. Thousands of other African Americans also served in the 200,000-man Volunteer Army that was specially raised to augment the regulars. President William McKinley asked each of the states, territories, and the District of Columbia to provide a quota of units based upon their respective populations, and eight governors–from Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia–included segregated black units in their contributions to that force. Ohio’s Governor Asa S. Bushnell offered command of his state’s black battalion to 1LT Charles Young, the Regular Army’s only black line officer, and Young’s acceptance earned him a temporary promotion to major in the Volunteer Army.

Concerned about the health risks that tropical diseases would pose for American troops when they deployed to the Caribbean theater of operations, the War Department almost immediately began to consider organizing specialized units. In late April, the New York Times reported that Secretary of War Russell Alger wanted to recruit “at least half a dozen special regiments of yellow fever immunes for service in Cuba.” Alger asked Senator Donelson Caffery (D-LA) whether 6,000 immunes could be recruited in the Gulf states, and Caffery optimistically responded that “he could raise 20,000 such volunteers in New Orleans alone, as practically all the natives had had the fever, and all would volunteer.”

Congress settled for half the number of men offered by Senator Caffery, and in early May it empowered President McKinley to authorize Secretary Alger to organize “an additional volunteer force of not exceeding ten thousand enlisted men possessing immunity from diseases incident to tropical climates.” The resulting ten infantry regiments were popularly known as the “Immunes,” and they soon attracted volunteers–primarily from the South–who had been unwilling or unable to enlist in Regular Army or state units. The Washington Post ridiculed the concept, saying: “Among all the fallacies and crack-brained nonsense bred by the war, we know of none so extravagant as the ‘immune regiment.’” The New York Times pointed out, however, that efforts would be made to secure recruits who, if they had not passed through yellow fever epidemics, at least would be “thoroughly acclimated to a hot climate and…accustomed to outdoor life. When so made up[,] it is considered that these regiments will be far superior for rough and ready campaigning in Cuba to the ordinary volunteers.”

Many erroneously believed that African Americans were naturally immune to tropical diseases or at least were better suited for service in the tropics. Booker T. Washington wrote the Secretary of the Navy that Cuba’s climate was “peculiar and danger[o]us to the unaclimated [sic] white man. The Negro race in the South is accustomed to this climate.” Other black leaders lobbied in Washington to reserve all ten regiments for their race. Although they lacked the political clout to accomplish that lofty goal, President McKinley was well aware that most states had refused to accept black volunteers, and he wanted to recognize the martial spirit of the minority that staunchly supported his Republican party. On 26 May, the adjutant general’s office issued General Orders, No. 55, indicating that five of the Immune regiments would be composed of “persons of color.” Shortly thereafter, that number was reduced to four, and the 7th through the 10th U.S. Volunteer Infantry (USVI) were designated for black enlisted men and lieutenants. Company commanders and “field and staff” officers were to be white, a policy that angered most African Americans.

The issue of commissioning black officers was a sensitive one, because many Americans doubted that a people only one generation removed from slavery could produce effective military leaders. More than 100 black men had “worn shoulder straps” during the Civil War–one surgeon had even earned the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel–but they all had left the service during or shortly after the war concluded. Since that time, the Regular Army had commissioned eight African Americans–three line officers and five chaplains–but Charles Young and four chaplains were the only ones remaining on active duty. Governors from twenty-two states and the District of Columbia also had commissioned hundreds of black officers in the segregated units that served in their respective militias. Many of these units were still serving in 1898, and the African American community reasonably expected that they should be accepted into the Volunteer Army without leadership changes. John Mitchell Jr., the outspoken editor of the Richmond Planet, expressed this view as “No officers, no fight!”

All the officers in the Volunteer Army’s black state units were African Americans, except for those in the 3d Alabama and the commander and one assistant surgeon in the 6th Virginia. The War Department, however, decided that it would only authorize 100 black officer billets for the Immunes–twenty-four lieutenants and a chaplain in each black regiment. Officials hoped that this policy would not create problems, but many doubted the efficacy of commissioning so many African Americans. The New York Times reported that “Army experts” regarded black officers as “an experiment which may or may not turn out well,” and it also noted that “there is some doubt whether colored troops will follow one of their own race as well as they would a white officer.” Virginia’s Richmond Dispatch offered a blunter assessment that “the presence of shoulder-strapped Negroes in our army would be a constant source of embarrassment and weakness.”

To organize the Immune regiments, the War Department divided the South into recruiting regions. General Orders, No. 60, issued on 1 June 1898, designated the commanders for eight of the ten units–all but the 1st and 2d USVI–and assigned them geographic areas in which to recruit, as well as specific cities in which to locate their regimental headquarters. The states of Arkansas, Missouri, and western Tennessee were assigned to the 7th Immunes, and CPT Edward A. Godwin of the 8th Cavalry was selected as the regimental commander. The 8th Immunes would recruit in Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and West Virginia, and be commanded by MAJ Eli L. Huggins of the 6th Cavalry. The 9th Immunes would come from Louisiana and be commanded by CPT Charles J. Crane of the 24th Infantry. The 10th Immunes would recruit in Virginia and North Carolina. The regiment’s first commander would be MAJ Jesse M. Lee, of the 9th Infantry, but he would be replaced by CPT Thaddeus W. Jones, from the 10th Cavalry. The order failed to indicate which units would accept black volunteers, but Adjutant General (BG) Henry C. Corbin had already sent the new colonels a confidential letter informing them that their lieutenants and enlisted men were to be “persons of color.”

CPTs Godwin, Jones, and Crane were West Point graduates–Godwin having graduated in 1870, Jones in 1872, and Crane five years later. Godwin and Huggins had seen enlisted service during the Civil War, and in 1894 Huggins had received the Medal of Honor for his “great boldness” fighting Sioux Indians in Montana in 1880. Lee had served with black regiments for four years in the 1860s. Crane and Jones had each been assigned to black regiments for more than twenty years, and Jones accompanied the 10th Cavalry to Cuba and earned a Silver Star citation before joining the Immunes. All of the officers were seasoned professionals and well qualified to command volunteer regiments, but many Southern congressmen resented their selection, as well as the six colonels designated to command the white regiments. The politicians complained that while most enlisted Immunes came from their region, only one of the colonels–the 6th USVI’s Laurence D. Tyson, of Tennessee–could be “credited properly to the South.”

Promoted to colonel in the Volunteer Army, Edward Godwin proceeded from Fort Meade, South Dakota, to Memphis, Tennessee, the city designated as his regimental headquarters. In mid-June, however, he moved his headquarters 250 miles north to St. Louis, instructing his company commanders to gather at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, a picturesque army post overlooking the Mississippi River, a few miles south of the city. COL Godwin eventually accepted seven companies from Missouri, three from Arkansas, one from Tennessee, and one from Iowa. Some of these units had been raised by black men, who were forced to step aside and allow white captains to command them.

Each Immune company was authorized three officers and eighty-two enlisted men and was slightly smaller than state volunteer companies. Regiments had an additional “field and staff” (headquarters) of ten officers and eight enlisted men, for a total authorized strength of 46 officers and 992 enlisted men. Recruits between the ages of eighteen and forty-five were enlisted for two years of service (unless sooner discharged), and those whose leadership abilities impressed their company commanders were appointed as noncommissioned officers (NCOs)–a first sergeant, a quartermaster sergeant, four sergeants, and eight corporals. Two musicians, an artificer (mechanic), a wagoner, and sixty-four privates rounded out each unit. As the regiment’s twelve companies were mustered into federal service, they were lettered from A to M (J was not used).

COL Godwin’s first companies came from St. Louis, which had a black population approaching 35,000. Because the War Department refused to commission black officers above the rank of lieutenant, the city’s recruits initially gave the new regiment “the cold shoulder.” According to the Post-Dispatch, the recruiting was “the flattest thing which has struck St. Louis recently.” Professor Obadiah M. Wood, a local black high school principal whose earlier offer to raise a regiment with himself as its colonel had been rejected, actually hindered the recruiting and expressed doubts that a single black company would be raised in Missouri. In spite of obstacles created by him and other disgruntled black leaders, three St. Louis companies (A-C) were mustered into service by mid-July. Four other Missouri companies came from Moberly (E), Columbia (F), Kansas City (K), and Springfield (L). Little Rock, Arkansas, also provided three units (G-I), while Company D came from Memphis. Company M, from Des Moines, Iowa, completed the regiment’s organization on 23 July.

Godwin selected a fairly impressive group of black officers. There were at least six college graduates (two with professional degrees) and seven had invaluable military experience–three in the Regular Army and four in the National Guard. When Godwin reported his unit’s status to BG Corbin, he indicated that the question of appointing lieutenants had given him “more trouble than everything else connected with the organization of the regiment.” He added that his black officers were “industrious and willing,” but they had “everything to learn, as well as the men.” Godwin also opined: “I believe that the regiment is composed of good material, and will in time do good service.”

Meanwhile, COL Eli Huggins was consolidating his 8th Immunes at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, which overlooked the Ohio River about three miles southeast of Cincinnati. COL Huggins accepted four companies from Tennessee, which were recruited in Greenville (C), Harriman (D), Murfreesboro (E), and Columbia (F). Three units came from the Kentucky cities of Louisville (H) and Winchester (I and K), and two from Charleston (L) and Parkersburg, West Virginia (M). Two companies also came from Washington, D.C. (B and G), while Newark, New Jersey, provided Company A. The Newark Evening News covered its volunteers’ well attended departure for Kentucky, reporting that as the train pulled out, “a rousing cheer went up …and every face that looked out of the car was seemingly a happy one.”

Huggins’s staff included a black assistant surgeon, 1LT William W. Purnell, a graduate of Howard University Medical School in the nation’s capital. Six other black Washingtonians also secured commissions in the regiment, including Company G’s first lieutenant, Benjamin O. Davis, who would later enlist in the 9th Cavalry, earn a commission in the Regular Army in 1901, and end his exemplary military career by becoming the Army’s first black general in 1940. 1LT William McBryar, of Company M, was one of more than a score of talented black NCOs from the Regular Army who were commissioned in the Immune regiments. McBryar, from the 25th Infantry, had been awarded the Medal of Honor in 1890 for his bravery pursuing Apache Indians in Arizona.

The men who enlisted in the 8th Immunes were primarily semi-skilled and unskilled workers–the case in all four of the black regiments–with only about two percent of them having white-collar jobs. More than three out of five men worked as laborers, which was the main occupation listed for each company. Farmer, cook, miner, and waiter were the next four most common occupations, although they were not found in every unit. Almost half the regiment’s farmers enlisted in Company K, from Winchester, while the miners only served in the companies raised in Harriman (D), and Charleston (L). More than one-third of the men were illiterate, as evidenced by the “Xs” they placed on company muster-in rolls. Only about one-sixth of them were married.

On 20 August, COL Huggins proudly notified BG Corbin that “the regiment is now ready to go on short notice.” Two weeks later, the 8th Immunes was joined by the African American portion of Indiana’s Volunteer Army quota–two companies, primarily recruited from Indianapolis and Evansville. Indiana had included two black companies in its militia since the mid-1880s and had even assigned them to otherwise white regiments until 1896 (a rare instance of militia integration). Governor James A. Mount had been willing to raise a black regiment in addition to his assigned troop quota, but Secretary Alger told him that such a unit could only be accepted as part of Indiana’s quota. Mount was not that indebted to black voters, so he only allowed about 200 black Hoosiers–Companies A and B, 1st Indiana Volunteers–to be mustered into federal service in mid-July. These men would remain attached to the 8th Immunes, as a provisional fourth battalion, for four-and-a-half months.

In October COL Huggins and his men were transferred to Camp George H. Thomas, at Chickamauga Park, Georgia. A few days after arriving there, the Immunes were inspected by a three-man team of officers, led by LTC Marion P. Maus, who found that “[t]he men appeared and marched fairly well, and seemed to be respectful, and generally well contented.” He also reported, however, that the regiment “would not be fit for duty” on account of its “very poor and insufficient clothing” and “badly worn and unfit shoes.” Maus judged the officers to be “fairly well fitted for the performance of their duties” but recommended that three black lieutenants be discharged, one dishonorably.

Maus also inspected the two Indiana companies and found them to be as well drilled as the Immunes. He reported, however, that their six officers, with the exception of one first lieutenant, were “very poorly and insufficiently educated to hold commissions” and that “there was an objection shown to having these companies with the 8th, as it might be considered that they were a part of their organization.” Maus recommended that the Hoosiers be mustered out and that “such of the men that desire to remain in the service” should be assigned to Immune regiments.

The 8th Immunes had strained relations with the local white community, and in November the New York Times reported that the mayor of Chattanooga had informed Secretary Alger that “their presence near the city is undesirable and prejudicial to good order.” COL Huggins explained to the adjutant general that one of the most serious incidents involved one of the Hoosier volunteers, who refused “to leave the ‘white’ car and take the one assigned to colored people.” Huggins added that “[t]he distorted and exaggerated press reports of this affair” falsely attributed the disturbance to his regiment. Chattanooga’s mayor asked that the 8th Immunes be transferred, but it remained at Camp Thomas.

The Indiana companies were mustered out of service in January 1899, and COL Huggins’s regiment followed suit in March. As a train left Chattanooga carrying about half of the discharged soldiers home, it was reported that “a number of the men, who had in some way secured revolvers, began to discharge them in the air and into sheds and vacant houses.” Three local men were wounded. Police roughed up the Immunes when their train passed through Nashville, and the New York Times reported that they “presented a battered appearance” when they reached Louisville, Kentucky.

The 9th Immunes’ designated headquarters was New Orleans, and COL Charles Crane arrived there on 3 June. Crane was not pleased with the War Department’s decision to integrate his regimental officers, a racist attitude shared by most of the “Crescent City’s” white population. A New Orleans Daily Picayune editorial underscored this attitude: “Any association of black with white officers must be official only, and not in any way social. This is the only way to prevent demoralization.” Crane sent a telegram to BG Corbin advising: “If the Lieutenants are to be colored it will be hard to get good men for Captains.” Corbin wisely responded: “Go slow in the matter and wait results without reaching hasty conclusions. It may be much easier and much better than you think.”

New Orleans was the largest city in the South, with more than 70,000 black citizens, but COL Crane initially encountered the same recruiting problem that had confronted the 7th Immunes in St. Louis–local African American leaders were angry that no black officers above first lieutenant would be accepted, and they threatened to boycott the 9th Immunes’ recruiting if that policy was not changed. This situation did not concern Crane, however, and he informed BG Corbin that he could raise the regiment “outside of Louisiana, if necessary, accepting only companies from Texas and Mississippi and Alabama.”

New Orleans eventually provided the vast majority of the 9th Immune’s recruits, but two companies from Texas did join COL Crane’s regiment. There was a five-company Battalion of Colored Infantry in the Texas Volunteer Guard, but Governor Charles A. Culberson refused to include any black units in the Lone Star State’s Volunteer Army quota, so black Texans eager to serve asked Representative Robert B. Hawley of Galveston to use his influence to get them added to the ranks of an Immune regiment. Hawley contacted the War Department, and on 6 June Secretary Alger notified COL Crane that he wanted him to accept at least two companies from Texas and to correspond with Hawley about the matter.

In late June, Crane and his mustering officer rode the train to Galveston and Houston to muster-in two newly raised volunteer companies–the Hawley Guard and the Ferguson Rifles. The man selected to command the latter unit was CPT Claron A. Windus, from Brackettville, Texas. Born in Wisconsin in 1850, Windus had served as a drummer boy during the Civil War and then lied about his age so that he could enlist in the 6th Cavalry in 1866. Four years later, his bravery as a company bugler during a fight with Kiowa Indians on the Little Wichita River in northern Texas earned him a Medal of Honor. After leaving the Army and becoming a deputy sheriff, Windus gunned down a suspected murderer while trying to arrest him in Brackettville. Ironically, the lawman’s victim was another Medal of Honor recipient–former Seminole-Negro Indian Scout Adam Payne.

The two Texas units joined the 9th Immunes as Companies G and I. The men in the other ten units all came from New Orleans, except for some Louisianans from Donaldsonville and New Iberia, who enlisted in the regiment’s last two companies. As the citizens of the Crescent City celebrated the Fourth of July, COL Crane called upon his personal connection with BG Corbin (they had served together in the 24th Infantry), asking him in a letter to “please see that my regiment is given a place among those sent to Cuba.” Four days later, Corbin replied: “The moment you are ready for assignment, telegraph me and [the] order will be made.”

On 19 July Crane notified Corbin that his regiment was complete, and four weeks later the Picayune made the surprising announcement that “Crane’s Black Band” would be leaving for Cuba immediately, in lieu of COL Charles S. Riche’s 1st USVI. Colonel Riche’s Immunes, which had been recruited in Galveston, had already begun to load equipment on the steamship Berlin when the unit was directed to disembark and make way for the 9th Immunes. The newspaper said “the conclusion seem[ed] inevitable that [the substitution] was intended as a slight to the white Texans.” It noted that Secretary Alger had done everything possible “to snub and slight the Southern troops and the Southern States.” The Picayune concluded that “immunes from the overwhelmingly Democratic State of Texas [were] not good enough for the Secretary’s political partisan purposes, and so they [were] set aside for negroes.”

COL Riche’s Immunes had many disciplinary problems while they were in New Orleans, but COL Crane’s friendship with the adjutant general may have been the key factor in causing the substitution. Whatever the true reasons for the regimental switch were, Crane’s men were happy to be sailing to Cuba. On 17 August, the proud members of the 9th Immunes marched from Camp Corbin, their encampment at the city fairgrounds, down Esplanade Avenue, arriving at the levee in mid-afternoon to board the Berlin “amid the cheers and farewells of a multitude of negroes.” The Times-Democrat said “it was a day long to live in the annals of New Orleans negrodom.” The 1st USVI was the only white Immune regiment that did not deploy overseas, and as it prepared for its humiliating return to Galveston, the 9th Immunes sailed down the Mississippi River, crossed the Gulf of Mexico, and arrived in Santiago, Cuba, on 22 August 1898.

Crane’s unit was the fourth (and only black) Immune regiment to deploy to the island, where fighting had ceased, but scores of American troops were dying from tropical diseases. Shortly after guarding Spanish prisoners on San Juan Hill for a few days, “a wave of tropical fevers” passed through the regiment, killing almost thirty enlisted men and one lieutenant. By mid-September, the men appeared to be stronger, and the unit relocated to a new camp located just outside San Luis, a city about eighteen miles north of Santiago. In San Luis, the 9th Immunes formed a brigade with two other black units–the 8th Illinois and the 23d Kansas.

Neither of the state regiments had white officers, and this caused friction with the Immunes. One member of the 8th Illinois was not impressed with Crane’s “superior and selfish southern white officers” and wrote that as far as they were concerned, “the man who did the most grinning…and could dance the best or make the best monkeyshines, was the best Negro soldier.” In his memoirs, COL Crane reached quite a different conclusion, noting that his regiment was better disciplined than either of the state units.

In mid-November, several drunken Immunes tried to steal a pig, and a member of the newly organized rural police attempted to arrest them. Later, unidentified Immunes shot at the policeman’s house, and he and several other Cubans were killed, as well as one soldier. COL Crane was away from San Luis at the time and hurried back to investigate the incident, but without success. All three of the black units were ordered to new camps outside San Luis, and the American press gave the affair much bad publicity. The Boston Globe reported that the Immunes belonged to “a command that, from the first, has been disorderly and inefficient.”

In early 1899, Cuban bandits began burning sugar cane fields and robbing plantations, so Crane’s regiment was broken up, and eight of its companies were stationed in towns outside San Luis. Houston’s Company I exchanged its Springfield rifles for carbines and horses and became one of three units that was mounted to pursue the lawbreakers. The men earned the nickname “Bandit Chasers,” and Crane later noted that they killed several of the “Cuban banditti” and thanks to their frequent operations “were fast becoming good soldiers.” When the regiment finally left Cuba in late April, MG Leonard Wood presented Crane with a letter stating that his unit’s work in suppressing bandits had been “especially worthy of commendation.”

The 9th Immunes sailed from Santiago on 26 April, having lost three officers and seventy-three enlisted men to disease. Six days later, after passing through the Staten Island quarantine station, the regiment arrived at Camp George G. Meade, near Middletown, Pennsylvania, for its final muster out of federal service. The War Department allowed volunteers to purchase their weapons, but aware of the problems that the 8th Immunes had encountered in Tennessee, Crane convinced his men to ship them separately. Thanks in part to this preventive measure, his Immunes had no problems as they rode trains to Louisiana and Texas, although one sergeant was killed in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, railway station when another veteran accidentally fired a revolver.

The 10th Immunes had been assigned the states of Virginia and North Carolina for its recruiting. COL Jesse Lee had originally designated Raleigh, North Carolina, as his headquarters, but he claimed that Governor Daniel L. Russell discouraged him from doing this. Lee then considered Charlotte, North Carolina, before finally settling on Augusta, Georgia. In addition to one company from that city (G), Lee accepted two other Georgia units from Atlanta (A) and Rome (I) four Virginia companies from Richmond (B), Alexandria (C), Pocahontas (E), and Hampton (F) three South Carolina units from Spartanburg (H), Darlington (K), and Aiken (M) Company D from Washington, D.C., and Company L from Jacksonville, Florida.

The integration of the 10th Immunes’ officers’ mess attracted national attention in July. In “Jim Crow” America, it was deemed socially unacceptable for the unit’s black and white officers to dine together. According to the New York Times, when COL Lee learned that his officers’ mess would be integrated, he decided to resign his temporary commission in the Volunteer Army and return to the 9th Infantry as a major. The Times approved of Lee’s action, saying that: “His course is simply the course taken by practically the entire white population of the country…as often as the occasion for it arises…The delusion that the two races are socially assimilable is a little too antiquated.”

Two of the 10th Immunes’ first lieutenants, Floyd H. Crumbly and Thomas Grant, had been lieutenant colonels in the Georgia militia–some of the few black militia officers who had been willing to accept demotions to secure commissions in the Immune regiments. Another subaltern, 1LT Edward L. Baker, Jr., reported to the regiment after spending six years as the 10th Cavalry’s sergeant major. In 1902 Baker would receive a belated Medal of Honor for leaving cover and, under fire, rescuing a wounded comrade from drowning at Santiago, Cuba, on 1 July 1898.

By 13 July, half of the 10th Immunes’ companies had arrived at Camp Dyer, the regimental headquarters established near Augusta. Under the watchful eye of LTC Charles L. Withrow, a New York lawyer in civilian life and the senior officer present, the new recruits pitched tents and learned what “soldiering” was all about. According to the Augusta Chronicle, they were eager to learn, but the large number of “green men” made the training very trying for the officers who were patiently attempting to instruct them.

A correspondent from the New York Times visited the regiment and pronounced that its men were “the finest specimens of physical manhood that can be found in the volunteer service.” Noting that visitors of both races came to the camp on Sunday afternoons, he wrote: “Handsomely gowned women mingled on the parade ground with the wives and sisters of the soldiers–their cooks and chambermaids–and thus a black and white tout ensemble is presented, which is rare, indeed, in an old-time Southern city.”

The War Department quickly designated Thaddeus W. Jones as the new commander of the 10th Immunes, and on 2 August–still weak from a bout with malaria that he had contracted in Cuba–COL Jones arrived at Camp Dyer. A North Carolinian with about twenty-five years of service with the “buffalo soldiers,” Jones was fully sensitized to racial issues and an excellent choice to replace Lee. The Augusta Chronicle reported that being a Southerner, “he would naturally understand the negro.”

September brought news that the 10th Immunes was being transferred to Lexington, Kentucky, where it would form a brigade with the 7th Immunes and perhaps eventually be shipped to the Philippines, since Spanish forces in Cuba had already surrendered. The first elements of COL Jones’s regiment arrived in Lexington on 18 September, and the men established a camp at Weil’s Farm, a few miles west of the city.

In October LTC Maus’s team inspected the 7th and 10th Immunes at Weil’s Farm. Maus was impressed with the number of COL Godwin’s men who were present for inspection, reporting: “I doubt whether another regiment in the volunteer service could show as many men present for duty.” He found that the unit’s marching was excellent, but the men “were very poorly dressed.” Maus also recommended that all three of the officers from Memphis’s Company D be discharged. After the team inspected the 10th Immunes, Maus reported that the men’s clothing was “in a shameful condition.” He found that many of the men “were in rags, while a number had civilian trousers. In some cases the feet of the men were showing through their shoes.” Maus reported that the officers seemed “to perform their duties acceptably” but recommended that four of them–LTC Withrow, a major, a captain, and a lieutenant–be discharged.

The 10th Immunes only stayed in Lexington until mid-November, when it returned to Georgia, this time reporting to Camp Haskell, a few miles from Macon. There were eventually four black regiments assigned to the camp–the 3d North Carolina, the 6th Virginia, and the 7th and 10th Immunes. The men in these units dreaded the oppressive discrimination that characterized race relations in the deep South. It only took some of them a few days to get into trouble with the local authorities, who refused to modify the Jim Crow restrictions that they routinely imposed on Macon’s black community. One member of the 7th Immunes wrote that “the hatred of the Georgia cracker for the Negro cannot be explained by pen.”

None of the black troops responded well to Macon’s racism, but unlike the state units, the 10th Immunes avoided making headlines. In December, a 6th Virginia private was shot and killed by a street car conductor, because he refused to ride in the “trolley” for black passengers that was attached to the rear of the regular car. Later, two men from the 3d North Carolina were shot and killed in a Macon street fight. Such incidents caused one Virginian to describe Macon as “this pest hole of the South,” where a week never passed without some black soldiers being “justifiably homicided.”

The Virginia and North Carolina regiments were finally mustered-out of federal service in late January and early February, and the 7th Immunes followed suit at the end of February. COL Godwin’s men were able to travel to their respective cities without major incidents, and most of the units were joyously welcomed home by friends and family. St. Louis’s three companies were officially welcomed by their mayor, who tendered them the freedom of the city. Recalling his unpleasant stay in the South, one lieutenant told the crowd: “If I owned both Macon, Georgia, and hell, I would rent Macon and live in hell.”

The 10th Immunes suffered through an additional week at Camp Haskell and finally mustered-out on 8 March, as news arrived that two days before, the 8th Immunes had encountered problems after it mustered out of federal service 200 miles to the northwest. This story marked the beginning of national press coverage painting a picture of violence and destruction left in the wake of two black Immune regiments as they traveled home from Georgia.

When the train carrying the first increment of the 10th Immunes reached Griffin, about halfway between Macon and Atlanta, the men began firing small arms and yelling like Indians. The New York Times reported that the city was “at the mercy of the negroes, who kept up a fusillade of shots until the train carried them beyond the city limits.” Before the regiment’s second increment reached the town, Griffin’s mayor activated the local militia company, and its men were issued five rounds of ammunition and marched to the railroad station, where they were joined by nearly 100 deputized civilians.

About two hundred heavily armed and angry Georgians met the next trainload of Immunes and ordered them to be quiet, but as the train pulled out of the station, the soldiers began shooting again, and the militia company reportedly fired a volley into the last car. This resulted in a white brakeman being fatally wounded, while one of the Immunes suffered a slight wound. The Immunes’ lack of discipline resumed as they traveled farther north through the Carolinas. According to the New York Times, “the riotous troops forced their way into stores and saloons, taking whatever they wanted. A switchman who failed to run at their command was fired upon and people on the streets [were] insulted.” When the four companies of Virginians finally arrived in their hometowns–Alexandria, Hampton, Pocahontas, and Richmond–there were no reported incidents, nor were there problems with the Washington unit’s homecoming.

Because the 10th Immunes had already mustered out of federal service and was no longer subject to military discipline, the War Department did not investigate or make amends for the Griffin affray or any of the other alleged incidents. There were few doubts that some of the homeward bound black veterans had been drinking and firing privately owned weapons, but the extent of their misconduct and whether white citizens had overreacted remained subject to interpretations that were predictably divided along racial lines. A few of the 10th Immunes’ white officers publicly supported their men, including LTC Withrow, who wrote a widely publicized letter to Georgia’s Governor Allen D. Candler criticizing the Griffin militiamen, “who disgrace[d] the uniform of your state and demonstrate[d] their total unfitness to bear your commissions and your arms.” Governor Candler strongly supported the actions of his white constituents and later attempted to justify a lynching at Palmetto, Georgia, by complaining that the Immune regiments had “placed in the mind of the negro a spirit of boldness.”

Thus, the overall record of the black Immune regiments was forever tainted by the San Luis, Chattanooga, and Griffin affrays. White Americans, especially in the South, would always remember the units as undisciplined mobs, and racists would cite their indiscipline as clear proof that African Americans were unsuitable for military service. The Atlanta Constitution declared: “The modern negroes are now in a transition state and it will be years to come before they come around to that conception of citizenship which enables the whites to submit to the discipline necessary to make good troops.” A New York Times editorial maintained that enlisting “the so-called immune regiments was a mistake,” because “[t]hey were not ‘immune’ from anything but the obligations of law and discipline and decency.”

The War Department was much fairer in its assessment of the black Immunes. Although neither black nor white Immune regiments had shown any immunity to diseases–a total of seven officers and 241 enlisted men had succumbed to them–it was still commonly believed that black soldiers performed better than white troops in tropical climates, so in September 1899 the last two of twenty-five new volunteer regiments organized for service in the Philippine War–the 48th and 49th USVI–were reserved for African American enlisted men and company officers.

Thad Jones became the lieutenant colonel of the 48th USVI, while Charles Crane held the same rank in the 38th USVI, and COL Edward Godwin commanded the 40th USVI. More than thirty former Immune lieutenants served as officers in the new black regiments, and several former Immune NCOs also were able to secure shoulder straps. Scores of other black Immunes also headed for the Philippines by enlisting in the 48th and 49th USVI or in one of the Regular Army’s four black regiments. Reporting on the leadership of the two black volunteer units, the adjutant general noted: “It is believed that the best equipped men of our colored citizens have been commissioned in these regiments.” An even greater demonstration of official confidence, however, was the fact that all of the companies in the 48th and 49th USVI were commanded by black captains. This was a small but important step in the advancement of the race, not only in the Army, but within society as well.

A Brave Black Regiment: The 54th Massachusetts

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S. let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.”

- Frederick Douglass, “Address for the Promotion of Colored Enlistments, delivered at a mass meeting in Philadelphia, July 6, 1863.”

Following the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln called for the raising of African American regiments. Massachusetts Governor John Andrew quickly answered Lincoln’s call and began forming the 54 th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first Black regiments to fight in the Civil War. Black men from across the city, state, country, and even other nations, traveled to Boston to join this historic regiment, some of them responding to recruitment efforts of such luminaries as Frederick Douglass. Through their heroic, yet tragic, assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina in July 1863, the 54 th helped inspire the enlistment of more than 180,000 Black men…a boost in morale and manpower that Lincoln recognized as essential to the victory of the United States and the destruction of slavery throughout the country.

Explore and discover the soldiers and stories of this Brave Black Regiment.

The United States Colored Troops (1863-1865)

The United States Colored Troops (USCT) was the designation given to the approximately 175 regiments of non-white soldiers that served during the Civil War. The troops were primarily African American, but Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders were all included within the ranks, as well. By the end of the war, nearly a tenth of the entire Union Army consisted of member of the USCT, which peaked at 178,000 individuals. These regiments were the precursors for the now famous Buffalo Soldiers who served throughout the West following the conclusion of the war.

Before January 1, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, President Abraham Lincoln was cautious about the recruitment of African Americans into the Union Army, due to politics and prejudice throughout the North, especially among Democrats loyal to the Union who resided in Border States that allowed slavery. Once January 1 came, however, and the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, full scale recruitment of black troops began.

In May 1863, the United States War Department created the Bureau of Colored Troops, and the USCT was officially established. The USCT consisted of 135 regiments of infantry soldiers, six regiments of cavalry, one regiment of light artillery, and 13 regiments of heavy artillery. An addition nineteen thousand African Americans served in the United States Navy. Furthermore, thousands of black women, who were not allowed to formally enlist, worked for the military as cooks, spies, nurses, and scouts the most famous of these women was Harriet Tubman.

The United States Colored Troops fought in every major military campaign and battle the Union Army was involved in during the last two years of the Civil War. These included three of the most costly battles of the entire war, the Battle of Nashville, the Battle of Chickamauga, both in Tennessee, and the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia. Throughout the war, the USCT suffered a total of 68,178 casualties while contributing to the Union victory. Moreover, members of the USCT received numerous awards and commendations from the United States Government, including a total of eighteen Congressional Medals of Honor, the highest award a member of the armed forces can receive.

Racial discrimination, which was ever present, even in the North, infiltrated into the army during this time. Almost all of the black troops were led by white officers, some of whom were not happy with their assignment. For a period of time, black soldiers, who were asked to perform no fewer duties than their white compatriots, earned a net pay of $7 a month, while whites earned $13. This was the case from 1863 until mid-1864 when Congress passed a law requiring equal pay to those in the military, regardless of race, along with retroactive payments to those who had been discriminated against. African American prisoners of war were also given much harsher treatment by the Confederacy than white captives.


The Iron Brigade initially consisted of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiments, the 19th Indiana, Battery B of the 4th U.S. Light Artillery, and was later joined by the 24th Michigan. This particular composition of men, from the three Western states, led it to be sometimes referred to as the "Iron Brigade of the West". They were known throughout the war as the "Black Hats" because of the black 1858 model Hardee hats issued to Army regulars, rather than the blue kepis worn by most other Union Army units.

The all-Western brigade, composed of Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana troops, earned their famous nickname, while under the command of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, who led the brigade into its first battle. On August 28, 1862, during the preliminary phases of the Second Battle of Bull Run, it stood up against attacks from a superior force under Maj. Gen Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson on the Brawner farm. The designation "Iron Brigade" is said to have originated during the brigade's action at Turners Gap, during the Battle of South Mountain, a prelude to the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, commanding I Corps, approached Army of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, seeking orders. As the Western men advanced up the National Road, forcing the Confederate line all the way back to the gap, McClellan asked, "What troops are those fighting in the Pike?" Hooker replied, "[Brigadier] General Gibbon's brigade of Western men." McClellan stated, "They must be made of iron." Hooker said that the brigade had performed even more superbly at Second Bull Run to this, McClellan said that the brigade consisted of the "best troops in the world". Hooker supposedly was elated and rode off without his orders. There are a few stories related to the origin, but the men immediately adopted the name, which was quickly used in print after South Mountain. [1]

The unit that eventually became known as the Iron Brigade was activated on October 1, 1861, upon the arrival in Washington, D.C., of the 7th Wisconsin. It was combined into a brigade with the 2nd and 6th Wisconsin, and the 19th Indiana, under the command of Brig. Gen. Rufus King and were originally known as King's Wisconsin Brigade. The governor of Wisconsin, Alexander Randall, had hoped to see the formation of an entirely Wisconsin brigade, but the Army unwittingly frustrated his plans by transferring the 5th Wisconsin from King's brigade and including the Hoosiers instead. [2] This brigade was initially designated the 3rd Brigade of Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell's division of the Army of the Potomac, and then the 3rd Brigade, I Corps. [3]

McDowell's I Corps did not join the bulk of the Army of the Potomac in the Peninsula Campaign. In June 1862 it was redesignated the III Corps of Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia. Now under the command of John Gibbon, a regular Army officer from North Carolina who chose to stay with the Union, [4] King's brigade was designated the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, III Corps, and it saw its first combat in the Northern Virginia Campaign. Almost immediately following the Union defeat in the Second Battle of Bull Run, the III Corps was transferred back to the Army of the Potomac and redesignated the I Corps, under the command of Joseph Hooker Gibbon's brigade became the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps.

The 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment joined the brigade on October 8, 1862, prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg in December. On February 27, 1863, the brigade, now under the command of Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith, was redesignated the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps.

The brigade commanders, disregarding temporary assignments, were:

Brig. Gen. Rufus King: September 28, 1861 – May 7, 1862
Brig. Gen. John Gibbon: May 7, 1862 – November 4, 1862
Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith: November 25, 1862 – July 1, 1863 (wounded at Gettysburg)

The Iron Brigade lost its all-Western status on July 16, 1863, following its crippling losses at Gettysburg, when the 167th Pennsylvania was incorporated into it. However, the brigade that succeeded it, which included the survivors of the Iron Brigade, was commanded by:

Col. William W. Robinson (of the 7th Wisconsin): July 1, 1863 – March 25, 1864
Brig. Gen. Lysander Cutler (6th Wisconsin): March 25, 1864 – May 6, 1864
Col. William W. Robinson: May 6, 1864 – June 7, 1864
Brig. Gen. Edward S. Bragg (6th Wisconsin): June 7, 1864 – February 10, 1865
Col. John A. Kellogg (6th Wisconsin): February 28, 1865 – April 27, 1865
Col. Henry A. Morrow (24th Michigan): April 27, 1863 – June 5, 1865

In June 1865, the units of the surviving brigade were separated and reassigned to the Army of the Tennessee.

The brigade took pride in its designation, "1st Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps", under which it played a prominent role in the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. It repulsed the first Confederate offensive through Herbst's Woods, capturing much of Brig. Gen. James J. Archer's brigade, and Archer himself. The 6th Wisconsin (along with 100 men of the brigade guard) are remembered for their famous charge on an unfinished railroad cut north and west of the town, where they captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi and took hundreds of Confederate prisoners. [5] The Brigade survivors defended the north slope of Culp’s Hill on July 2,3, where the 6th Wisconsin made a night counterattack to restore Union positions previously lost to Confederate troops.

The Iron Brigade, proportionately, suffered the most casualties of any brigade in the Civil War. For example, 61% (1,153 out of 1,885) were casualties at Gettysburg. Similarly, the 2nd Wisconsin, which suffered 77% casualties at Gettysburg, suffered the third highest total throughout the war it was third behind the 24th Michigan (also an Iron Brigade regiment) as well as the 1st Minnesota in total casualties at Gettysburg. The Michigan regiment lost 397 out of 496 soldiers, an 80% casualty rate. The 1st Minnesota actually suffered the highest casualty percentage of any Union regiment in a single Civil War engagement during the battle of Gettysburg, losing 216 out of 262 men (82%). [ citation needed ]

The last surviving member of the Iron Brigade, Josiah E. Cass of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, died on 2 December 1947 of a fractured hip suffered in a fall. He was 100 years old. [6]

The Iron Brigade prepared for battle, at Gettysburg, by anchoring the Union Army's southern flank, 10:00–10:45 a.m., on Day 1.

Death of General John F. Reynolds as he supervised the deployment of the Iron Brigade early on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg

The uniform of the Iron brigade differed some what to the standard uniform of the Union army at the time. It was designed to be more of a dress uniform that resembled a suit rather than the more common infantry men's kit. It consisted of:

A Hardee black hat: A tall blocked, brimmed black hat, featuring a brass infantry bugle, a red I Corps circle patch and brass numbers/letters of the front to indicate units and companies. A brass eagle badge on the side used to hold the brim up in a slouch, and finally an ostrich feather plume.

Union Frock coat.: A long, dark blue coat that came down to the mid thighs, resembling that of an officers coat. Fitted with a single breasted row of nine brass buttons, each with the federal eagle on them. The cuffs and collars had light blue trimming and two smaller brass buttons on the cuffs. The inside of the coat was lined with cotton to make a better fit.

Light/dark blue trousers: depending on the period of the war and unit, trousers versed from light, sky blue to a dark blue the same colour as the coat. The trouser extended from the mid waist down to the ankles and had a pocket on either side.

White canvas gaiter: white canvas leggings with leather straps to prevent stones and dirt getting into the shoes whilst in the field.

All other equipment not mentioned included standard field equipment of the Union army consisting of canteens, belts, cartridge box, bayonet and scabbard, haversack and other various items of kit.

The Springfield Model 1861 rifled musket, firing the .58 caliber projectile, was issued to the 6th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, and 24th Michigan regiments. This single-shot, muzzle loading, percussion cap rifle weighed nine pounds with a barrel length of forty inches. It was the most widely issued infantry weapon used by Federal troops. The Second and Seventh Wisconsin used the Lorenz Rifle.

"On the Union side, continental European firearms were mostly distributed to the Western armies--as such, the Lorenz Rifle was relatively uncommon in the Army of the Potomac (although two regiments of the famous Iron Brigade carried them) but heavily used by the Army of the Cumberland and Army of Tennessee." [ who? ]

Union Army Edit

There have been other brigades known by the same name. Another brigade in the Army of the Potomac had previously been known as the Iron Brigade, later the "Iron Brigade of the East" or "First Iron Brigade", to avoid confusion. This unit was the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps, prior to Meredith's brigade getting that designation. It consisted of the 22nd New York, 24th New York, 30th New York, 14th Regiment (New York State Militia), and 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters. Although this Iron Brigade of the East served in the same infantry division as the Iron Brigade of the West, press attention focused primarily on the latter. Most of the Eastern regiments were mustered out before the Battle of Gettysburg, where the remaining Eastern Iron Brigade Regiments and the Iron Brigade of the West arguably achieved their greatest fame.

Recent scholarship [7] identifies two other brigades referred to by their members or others as "The Iron Brigade": 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, III Corps (17th Maine, 3rd Michigan, 5th Michigan, 1st, 37th, and 101st New York) Reno's Brigade from the North Carolina expedition (21st and 35th Massachusetts, 51st Pennsylvania, and 51st New York)

The Horn Brigade, a unit serving in the Western Theater, was known as the "Iron Brigade of the Army of the Cumberland." [8]

Confederate Army - Shelby's Iron Brigade Edit

Shelby's Iron Brigade was a Confederate cavalry brigade also known as the "Missouri Iron Brigade". The Confederate Iron Brigade was part of the division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Joseph O. "Jo" Shelby, in the Army of Arkansas and fought in Maj. Gen. Sterling Price's Missouri Expedition, in 1864.

Modern U.S. Army Edit

The 2nd Brigade of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division has carried the Iron Brigade moniker since 1985 and was previously called the "Black Hat" Brigade.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division was known as the Iron Brigade from its formation in 1917 through World War I, World War II and Vietnam, until some time in the early 2000s when, for reasons that are still unclear, the name was changed to Duke Brigade. The unit crest was an Iron Cross in a triangle, it appears that that was also changed. The 3rd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division is also known as the Iron Brigade. Its unit crest is similar to the medals issued to veterans of the both Western and the Eastern Iron Brigades of the Army of the Potomac. [9] The 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division (United States) is known as the Iron Brigade as well. Located at Camp Casey, South Korea, the brigade has a critical role of military deterrence on the Korean Peninsula.

The 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead), formerly stationed on Coleman Kaserne in Gelnhausen, Germany.

The 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, also known as the Iron Brigade, is based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was formerly known as the 57th Field Artillery Brigade, at which time its subordinate organizations included the 1st Battalion, 126th Field Artillery Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery Regiment from the Wisconsin Army National Guard, plus the 1st Battalion, 182nd Field Artillery Regiment of the Michigan Army National Guard. Not to be confused with the famous "Iron Brigade" of the Civil War, the 57th Field Artillery Brigade is also known as the "Iron Brigade," a nickname traditionally given to crack artillery units in the Civil War. It was during World War I that the 57th Field Artillery Brigade earned its nickname as it spent many hours at the front and fired more artillery rounds than any brigade in the American Army.

The 32nd Infantry Division was an infantry division of the United States Army National Guard that fought primarily during World War I and World War II. It was formed with units from the states of Wisconsin and Michigan. With roots as the Iron Brigade in the American Civil War, the division's ancestral units came to be referred to as the Iron Jaw Division. The division was briefly called up during the Berlin Crisis in 1961. In 1967, the division was deactivated and reconstituted the 32nd Infantry Brigade of the Wisconsin Army National Guard only to be reorganized in 2007 as the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The shoulder sleeve insignia currently worn is a red line shot through with a red arrow, giving them the nickname Red Arrow Brigade, which was earned in World War I where the 32nd Division was fighting the Germans alongside the French, who noted the unit's tenacity by punching through the German lines, like an arrow and calling the unit Les Terribles, meaning The Terrors.

Sports Edit

The name "Iron Brigade" has also been used to describe the offensive line of the University of Wisconsin Badger Football Team. The line is known for its size, strength, and dedication to the protection of the backfield. The Badgers play in Camp Randall Stadium, a site used to train Wisconsin volunteers during the Civil War.

Articles Featuring African Americans In The Civil War From History Net Magazines

&ldquoWhat shall we do with the Negro?&rdquo was a question posed in Northern newspapers as early as the summer of 1861. The question, of course, revealed an underlying attitude&mdash white people still regarded African Americans as objects, not equals, and not a part of the polity. The status of freed slaves clearly presented a problem for the North. But in fact it played an important role in Confederate war councils as well. And ultimately the conflict proved how unready either side was to deal with it constructively.

The first serious proposal to overturn the Confederacy&rsquos system of racial slavery came from a surprising source: Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne, a zealous supporter of Southern independence, who was supported in his views by 13 other high-ranking officers in the Army of Tennessee. An Irish immigrant who had established himself as a successful lawyer in Arkansas, Cleburne became one of the Confederate Army&rsquos finest commanders. By January 1864, however, he viewed the Confederacy&rsquos dimming prospects with dismay.

Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne. Library of Congress

Others Southerners had earlier voiced concern about the future of former slaves. After the fall of Vicksburg in July, a few citizens of Mississippi and Alabama had also felt the despair that weighed on Cleburne. In September 1863, the Jackson Mississippian had opined, &ldquoWe must either employ the negroes ourselves, or the enemy will employ them against us.&rdquo The Mobile Register decried the &ldquodanger to the South&rdquo from Northern use of black soldiers. Its editor asked, &ldquoWhy not, if necessity requires, meet them with the same fighting material?&rdquo The Montgomery Weekly Mail urged its readers to bow to that same necessity, even if it was &ldquorevolting to every sentiment of pride, and to every principle that governed our institutions before the war.&rdquo

But no one developed as thorough an argument for arming and freeing the slaves as Cleburne. The &ldquopresent state of affairs&rdquo was grim, the general pointed out in a proposal that he sent to his immediate superior. Confederates had sacrificed &ldquomuch of our best blood&rdquo and immense amounts of property, yet they were left with &ldquonothing but long lists of dead and mangled.&rdquo The South&rsquos forces, &ldquoHemmed in&rdquo and menaced &ldquoat every point with superior forces,&rdquo could &ldquosee no end to this except in our own exhaustion.&rdquo A &ldquocatastrophe&rdquo lay &ldquonot far ahead unless some extraordinary change is soon made.&rdquo Cleburne felt the South must act to avoid &ldquosubjugation&rdquo and &ldquothe loss of all we now hold most sacred.&rdquo

&ldquoThree great causes,&rdquo he wrote, were &ldquooperating to destroy us.&rdquo Most fundamental was the Army&rsquos inferiority in numbers. Closely related to that problem was the Confederacy&rsquos &ldquosingle source&rdquo of manpower compared to the enemy&rsquos &ldquoseveral sources.&rdquo Cleburne&rsquos third cause was the most controversial: &ldquoslavery, from being one of our chief sources of strength at the commencement of the war, has now become, in a military point of view, one of our chief sources of weakness.&rdquo

Jefferson Davis had recently proposed several steps to increase the size of the Army, but Cleburne said these were simply inadequate, listing the reasons why. Many deserters were outside Confederate lines and would not make reliable soldiers, even if captured. Ending substitution would merely bring into the Army an &ldquounwilling and discontented&rdquo element. Drafting young boys and old men would &ldquoswell the sick lists more than&rdquo augment the ranks. The South&rsquos economy needed most of the men who were currently exempt, so few additional men could be gained from that source. Only Davis&rsquo idea of using black men &ldquoas wagoners, nurses, cooks, and other employe[e]s&rdquo made sense to Cleburne.

But he and his fellow officers also urged a far more drastic step: &ldquoWe propose that we immediately commence training a large reserve of the most courageous of our slaves, and further that we guarantee freedom within a reasonable time to every slave in the South who shall remain true to the Confederacy in this war.&rdquo To make that shocking proposal more palatable, Cleburne claimed that &ldquoevery patriot&rdquo would surely prefer to lose slavery rather than his own independence&mdashchoose to &ldquogive up the negro slave rather than be a slave himself.&rdquo

More eyebrow-raising assertions followed. Slavery, the general declared, &ldquohas become a military weakness,&rdquo and in point of fact the Confederacy&rsquos &ldquomost vulnerable point.&rdquo Not only were black soldiers swelling the Union ranks, but slavery was also undermining the South from within. &ldquoWherever slavery is once seriously disturbed&rdquo by Union advances, whites ceased to &ldquoopenly sympathize with our cause,&rdquo he claimed. &ldquoThe fear of their slaves is continually haunting them,&rdquo and &ldquothey become dead to us.&rdquo Meanwhile, the slaves worked as &ldquoan omnipresent spy system,&rdquo aiding Union troops. Cleburne added, &ldquofor many years the negro has been dreaming of freedom,&rdquo and it would be &ldquopreposterous&rdquo to &ldquoexpect him to fight against it.&rdquo It was equally preposterous to expect him to fight for the Confederacy without it. &ldquoTherefore when we make soldiers of them we must make free men of them beyond all question, and thus enlist their sympathies also.&rdquo The South, Cleburne emphasized, had to face &ldquothe necessity for more fighting men.&rdquo After countering possible objections and arguing that slaves could make good soldiers, he closed by urging prompt action on what he described as a &ldquoconcession to common sense.&rdquo

Throughout most of 1864, Cleburne&rsquos proposal went nowhere. His superior, General Joseph E. Johnston, declined to forward it to Richmond on the grounds that &ldquoit was more political than military in tenor.&rdquo But another Army of Tennessee officer, scandalized by the notion of interfering with slavery, sent the document to Jefferson Davis in protest. At that point the Confederate president directed that Cleburne&rsquos idea should not even be discussed. With an eye on the 1864 elections in the North, Davis wanted to avoid dissension in the Southern ranks. He was hoping that the image of a strong, resolute Confederacy might help to defeat President Abraham Lincoln. But after the fall of Atlanta in September 1864, Davis knew his strategy had failed. The Army had to be enlarged.

On November 7, 1864, Davis urged Congress to in­crease the number of slaves used by the Army to 40,000. To reach that number he recommended purchasing the slaves and &ldquoengaging to liberate the negro on his discharge after service faithfully rendered.&rdquo This amounted to proposing a sizable program of compensated emancipation. More significant was his statement that &ldquoshould the alternative ever be presented of subjugation or the employment of the slave as a soldier, there seems no reason to doubt what should then be our decision.&rdquo

This message was the cautious opening move in the Davis administration&rsquos plan to arm and free the slaves. Within a few weeks Davis and his allies were pressing forward with their maneuver, both inside the Confederacy as well as abroad. In hopes that emancipation might help the South to gain European support, Davis sent Duncan Kenner to England and France. A wealthy Louisiana slaveholder who had independently advocated enlisting and freeing slave soldiers, Kenner readily accepted his diplomatic instructions.

On the home front, the administration used Robert E. Lee, whose pres­tige within the Confederacy surpassed the president&rsquos, as its primary advocate. At the suggestion of Secretary of State Judah Benjamin, Lee invited his men to speak out, and most declared that they needed and wanted black reinforcements. More important, Lee himself called for bold steps. In January he wrote a Virginia legislator that the Confederacy should raise African-American troops &ldquowithout delay.&rdquo Lee not only had confidence that they could &ldquobe made efficient soldiers,&rdquo he also argued that the Confederacy should capture their &ldquopersonal interest&rdquo by &ldquogiving immediate freedom to all who enlist, and freedom at the end of the war to the families of those who discharge their duties faithfully (whether they survive or not), together with the privilege of residing at the South. To this might be added a bounty for faithful service.&rdquo A similar letter, this one to Mississippi Congressman Ethelbert Barksdale, became public in February.

By February 1865, Lee had become the South&rsquos last remaining hope. The Richmond Examiner, which op­posed arming slaves, imagined that &ldquoin the present position&rdquo of affairs, &ldquothe country will not venture to deny to General Lee anything he may ask for.&rdquo The Richmond Sentinel predicted that &ldquo[w]ith the great mass of our people, nothing more than this letter [to Congressman Barksdale] is needed to settle every doubt or silence every objection.&rdquo But both papers were wrong. Even Lee&rsquos great prestige was not potent enough to determine a question so fundamental to Southern society.

The idea of arming and freeing the slaves horrified many prominent Southerners. &ldquoIf slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong,&rdquo objected Howell Cobb of Georgia. North Carolina Senator William A. Graham blasted the administration&rsquos ideas as &ldquoinsane proposals&rdquo and &ldquoconfessions of despair.&rdquo The Charleston Mercury insisted that African Americans were &ldquoinferior&rdquo and &ldquoprone to barbarism.&rdquo It denounced Davis&rsquo &ldquoextraordinary suggestion&rdquo as &ldquounsound and suicidal&rdquo and issued a racist warning that &ldquoswaggering buck niggers&rdquo would ruin the country. A Galveston, Texas, newspaper repeated the familiar argument that &ldquoslavery is the best possible condition for the slave himself&rdquo and opposed any &ldquoabandonment&rdquo of that &ldquofoundation principle.&rdquo Davis, charged the Richmond Examiner, had adopted &ldquothe whole theory of the abolitionist.&rdquo Lee did not escape criticism in the course of the controversy, the Examiner arguing that his military genius did not make him &ldquoan authority&rdquo on moral, social or political questions. It even questioned whether the general could be considered &ldquoa &lsquogood Southerner&rsquo&rdquo&mdashthat is, one who was &ldquothoroughly satisfied of the justice and beneficence of [N]egro slavery.&rdquo

A few Confederates were willing to pursue independence without slavery. But most of the leadership elite valued slavery above all else. Although the South was in a truly desperate situation by that juncture, the Confederate Congress delayed on a decision for months, its members unwilling to act. Finally, in March 1865, the House passed a bill sponsored by Congressman Barksdale authorizing the president to call for one-quarter of any state&rsquos male slaves between the ages of 18 and 45. Opposition to the measure was strong in the Senate, and the bill would not have passed had Virginia&rsquos legislature not finally instructed its state&rsquos senators to vote yes.

Even so, this tardy measure referred only to using slaves as soldiers it emancipated no one. The final clause speci­fied that &ldquonothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in the relation which the said slaves shall bear toward their owners.&rdquo Freedom, as a reward for service, could come only if individual owners and the states in which they lived allowed it, as had always been the case in the Confederacy.

Davis tried to require a pledge of emancipation from any owner who offered his slave for service. But recruitment proved difficult, as resistance continued to making soldiers of slaves. A small number of black recruits began drilling in Richmond, but since the war soon came to an end, the Confederate proposal to arm and free slaves amounted to nothing. Most Confederate slaveholders did not want to give up slavery.

From a 21st-century vantage point, this refusal seems all the more noteworthy in view of the Richmond adminis­tration&rsquos ultra-conservative plans for race relations. When Davis and Benjamin were seeking allies for their measure, they made it clear that freedom would not bring equality. The government would have to emancipate soldiers &ldquoas a reward for good services.&rdquo But for their famil­ies, &ldquoserfage or peonage&rdquo would not follow until after the war. In this way, Southern whites would &ldquovindicate[e] our faith in the doctrine that the negro is an in­feri­or race and unfitted for social or political equality with the white man.&rdquo The Southern states should adjust the status of soldiers&rsquo families &ldquoby degrees.&rdquo

Davis&rsquo plan envisioned &ldquocautious legislation providing for their ultimate emancipation after an intermediate stage.&rdquo While these families remained serfs, the Con­federacy could legislate &ldquocertain rights of property&rdquo and provide legal protection &ldquofor marital and parental relations.&rdquo These steps would not only improve &ldquoour institutions&rdquo but also blunt external criticism. No longer could critics point to aspects of slavery &ldquocalculated to draw down on us the odium and reprobation of civilized man.&rdquo

Thus racism dominated the thinking of even those Confederates willing to consider arming and freeing slaves. Even after emancipation, no dramatic im­provement in their social or political status would occur. African Americans might be better off after the war, but in a markedly limited way. Though they were technically free, they would remain inferior and subordinate within society.

Such low expectations were not restricted to the South. Racism, in fact, had always been a national problem. Though today the North is popularly credited with fighting the war for the sake of freedom and equality, such was not the case. This misconception had its origin in postwar cultural battles over the meaning of the Civil War, when Northerners often used emancipation to claim the moral high ground. Lincoln won adulation as the Great Emancipator in the decades following the conflict, and more recently some have argued that he was a &ldquofervent idealist&rdquo and &ldquomoral visionary&rdquo who labored and schemed for racial equality. But during the war years the North shrank from giving a morally inspired answer to the question &ldquoWhat shall we do with the Negro?&rdquo

At best, a minority of Northerners adopted racially progressive views, while most of those supporting the Union cause continued to hold racist beliefs. Although Lincoln wanted an end to slavery, neither he nor his party was committed to racial equality. The Northern president was more focused on conciliating Southern whites, to gain their participation in reunion, than on improving the postwar status of African Americans.

A few facts can help to bring into perspective the larger picture of the American view of slavery. The Republican Party came into being to oppose slavery&rsquos expansion, and carefully distanced itself from the abolitionists. When Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861, he gave his support to a proposed constitutional amendment that would have guaranteed the existence of slavery against federal interference forever. This was in accord with his party&rsquos pledge to maintain &ldquoinviolate the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively.&rdquo This provision, Lincoln said, was &ldquoa law to me.&rdquo

Once the conflict started, many Northerners soon concluded that an attack on slavery was necessary to win the war. Moving slowly, Lincoln repeatedly proposed measures of gradual, compensated emancipation. These plans envisioned voluntary action by the states and colonization of the freed slaves somewhere outside the nation. Lincoln particularly urged the border slave states to adopt such measures, as a means of dashing Confederates&rsquo hopes and bringing the war to a speedier end.

He justified the Emancipation Proclamation as a necessary war measure, taken under his authority as commander in chief, to preserve the Union. Thereafter the Republican Party and Republican newspapers, such as The New York Times, stressed that emancipation was a &ldquomilitary expedient,&rdquo a &ldquoweapon of warfare.&rdquo The war was &ldquoStill to be Prosecuted for the Restoration of the Union.&rdquo Lincoln&rsquos &ldquoone fixed aim&rdquo was &ldquothe salvation of the Republic.&rdquo Emancipation and elevation of the slaves were &ldquosecondary in importance to the salvation of the Union, and not to be sought at its expense.&rdquo Or as Lincoln told Horace Greeley, &ldquoMy paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union,&rdquo and whatever he did about slavery he did &ldquobecause I believe it helps to save the Union.&rdquo

Many Republicans believed that African Americans would have to remain in a deeply degraded status, deprived of most rights. The Times contemptuously rejected the idea that emancipation would lead to the African American becoming &ldquoa voting citizen of the United States.&rdquo Blacks were &ldquoincapable&rdquo of exercising the right of suffrage, and &ldquofor many generations to come&rdquo suffrage for the freedmen would bring about &ldquothe destruction of popular institutions on this continent.&rdquo It was &ldquolittle short of insane&rdquo to think otherwise. At the end of 1864 the Times was still declaring that the &ldquoblack masses of the South, of a voting age, are as ignorant upon all public questions as the driven cattle.&rdquo

Lincoln&rsquos views were not quite so negative. He said little throughout the war about elevating freedmen, but a few days before his death he did express a preference for giving the ballot to a few black men&mdash&ldquothe very intelligent&rdquo and &ldquothose who serve our cause as soldiers.&rdquo Nevertheless, he did not envision or promote rapid improve­ment in the practical conditions and social status of the freed people. What he expected was revealed in a letter to General John McClernand that is seldom quoted, since it does not support the idea of Lincoln as a fervent idealist.

Writing on January 8, 1863, Lincoln noted that in his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation he had given Southern states 100 days to return to the Union. Had they returned, they could have avoided emancipation. Even then he was willing to allow &ldquopeace upon the old terms&rdquo if they acted &ldquoat once.&rdquo Moreover, the rebelling states &ldquoneed not to be hurt&rdquo by his proclamation. &ldquoLet them adopt systems of apprenticeship for the colored people, conforming substantially to the most approved plans of gradual emancipation, and, with the aid they can have from the general government, they may be nearly as well off, in this respect, as if the present trouble had not occurred.&rdquo

This idea of apprenticeships, or &ldquotemporary arrangements&rdquo (as he also called it), was a fundamental part of Lincoln&rsquos thinking about the postwar future. When he issued his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction at the end of 1863, he sought to reassure white Southerners. He would not object to Southern states adopting measures for the freed people that &ldquoshall recognize and declare their permanent freedom, provide for their education, and which may yet be consistent, as a temporary arrangement, with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless class.&rdquo He explained that he feared &ldquoconfusion and destitution&rdquo resulting from emancipation and would acquiesce in &ldquoany reasonable temporary State arrangement&rdquo for the former slaves. Southern whites, the &ldquodeeply afflicted people in those States,&rdquo might be &ldquomore ready to give up the cause of their affliction [slavery], if, to this extent, this vital matter be left to themselves.&rdquo

Looking past the war, Lincoln wanted to engage Southerners in reconstruction, to induce them to participate rather than resist at every turn. For this reason he consistently reiterated his view that formerly rebellious states should be readmitted to the Union promptly. He did not call for changes in their constitutions, as the majority in Congress felt was necessary, and he staunchly backed his &ldquoten-percent&rdquo government in Louisiana, despite the fact that it was widely criticized and had done little to improve the status of African Americans.

In fact, in his desire to appeal to Southern whites and respect states&rsquo rights, Lincoln supported a method of rati­fying the 13th Amendment that would have made its success doubtful. Charles Sumner and other advocates of black rights feared that the defeated South would block the 13th Amendment. The Confederacy had more than enough states to defeat it, and a few states in the Union voted heavily Democratic and were unlikely to support the measure. For that reason Sumner argued that ratification should be determined only by the loyal states. In his last public statement, on April 11, 1865, Lincoln demurred, saying &ldquosuch a ratification would be questionable, and sure to be persistently questioned.&rdquo On the other hand, &ldquoa ratification by three-fourths of all the States would be unquestioned and unquestionable.&rdquo

A more detailed analysis of Lincoln&rsquos policies augments this picture considerably, but the larger point about American society in 1865 is already clear. Racism pervaded the social landscape in both North and South. Although the war settled the question of secession vs. union, it failed to bring equal rights to African Americans. Before 1865 had passed, three Northern states&mdashConnecticut, Wisconsin and Minnesota, all of which had very few black residents&mdashvoted against giving suffrage to African-American men. Equality for blacks would have to be sought in Reconstruction, and it would remain an elusive goal for many decades following the war&rsquos end.

Paul D. Escott is the Reynolds Professor of History at Wake Forest University. This article is adapted from his most recent book, &ldquoWhat Shall We Do With the Negro?&rdquo: Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War. For more on Patrick Cleburne, turn to &ldquoResources,&rdquo P. 73.

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