previous next

Colored soldiers at Port Hudson.

Port Hudson, la., June 24, 1863.
Northern papers have come to hand giving accounts of the fight at Port Hudson on May twenty-seventh, and the part the negro regiments took in it. The description given in the Times of the thirteenth of June is in the main correct. The correspondent of that journal should have stated that some of the line officers of the First Native Guards are colored, instead of saying the field officers are black — the officers composing the field and staff are all white. The Tribune has a few paragraphs about the colored troops in its issue of June eleventh, but they are as far from being correct as the following, which for the sake of comment are extracted from the the New-York Express:

conduct Op the negro troops.--While an occasional shot was being fired, before the battle commenced in its more deadly fury, speculations were rife as to the manner in which the Second Louisiana black troops would act during the conflict. They had been placed in the rear, with white troops leading them. General Banks, however, in order to test their military capacity, ordered them to the front. The negroes at once rushed to the assigned point, and in the midst of the battle they proceeded to storm the rebel position opposite to them. They rushed in a body over the parapets and siege-guns, and reached the interior of the fort, in despite of the opposition of a large number of rebels. The presence of the black soldiers inside, not less than the probability that the pass they had made into the stronghold, seemed to create a spirit of fury in the enemy. They left their guns at all points, and rushed to the quarter where the negroes had prepared to make a vigorous struggle. The whites and blacks in a moment had a hand-to-hand conflict unprecedented for its ferocity.

The negroes in the conflict were soon disarmed, and in defending themselves they rapidly used the weapons of savage humanity. In every position in which the struggle placed them, they fought with their teeth, biting their assailants in every available part or the body, kicking and scratching them. Soon, however, they had to succumb; the bayonet, the trigger, the revolver, and merciless hands on their throats, doing the work for them with fearful fatality. It may be here noted, as a key perhaps to other battles, that the presence of the black troops made the rebels in the fort almost as ferocious as the blacks. In the attack, the enemy did not content himself in wounding the Africans; of eight hundred, six hundred were at once killed; when one was wounded, the assault was repeated till he died. Finding themselves thus over-powered, about two hundred of the negro troops rushed to the siege-guns, jumped headlong over the walls, and were saved.

Now to show how utterly false in every particular the statements of the correspondent of the Express are, I will say that the “Second Louisiana black troops” are on Ship Island, and their commander, Colonel Daniels, is or has recently been in New-Orleans under arrest. The Second regiment Louisiana Native Guards has never been near Port Hudson. The colored regimerits in the fight spoken of were the First and Third regiments Native Guards, (the name of the organization has been changed, and these regiments are, by an order of General Banks issued since the fight, now called the First and Third infantry U. S. volunteers, Corps d'afrique.) The colored soldiers were never placed in “the rear with white troops leading them.”

No soldiers, white or black, “rushed in a body over the parapets and siege-guns, and reached the interior of the fort.” It is not true that they (the colored soldiers) “fought with their teeth” --“kicking and scratching.”

To show that the correspondent of the Express was not present, and that he was ignorant of the actual facts, I will only add that the First regiment went into the fight with a few men short of five hundred. Of this number thirty-one are known to be killed, ninety missing, and one hundred and fifty wounded, most of them severely. The loss of the Third regiment was quite small, as it was not much exposed to the enemy's fire. The loss of both regiments is much smaller than it otherwise would have been, had they not been sheltered by the woods. From the time these colored regiments began to enlist men, last August, till the present, the Northern press has misrepresented the organization and the ability of colored men to become soldiers. No one who has been conversant with either of the four regiments composing the Native Guards, so far as I know, has ever lifted a pen to defend them from the malicious attacks that have been made upon them by many officers in this department, as well as the copperhead press of the North.

The colored soldiers have said from the first: “Let us go into the field, and by the use of arms prove that we are men, and that we are worthy to fight for the flag under which we were born!” Every man of them is a patriot. He does not count the number of days to the end of his enlistment. He has no sympathy with his former oppressor; he feels an honest pride in being a soldier, and has no desire to return to slavery. Any one can imagine the joy of the colored soldiers, after months of drudgery, building forts, repairing bridges, cleansing sinks for white regiments, carrying baggage for white officers, and all sorts of dirty work, when the command was given for them to leave Baton [89] Rouge and march to Port Hudson. The regiment (the First) broke out in cheers for General Butler and Colonel Stafford, and marched off singing the song, “John Brown.”

The correspondent of the Times has told how these colored soldiers fought on the twenty-seventh, and I need not repeat the story here. The unflinching courage shown on that day has been exhibited nearly every day since, for they have had frequent skirmishes with the rebels, and in every instance the latter have been driven back with loss. Only last week one company of the First regiment charged upon a ridge where there was a company of rebels in a rifle-pit who had annoyed our soldiers very much. The rebels were put to flight and driven into their works, with a loss of two killed, and two or three wounded; our loss was the same. The rebels left behind them their supper, canteens, blankets, etc. Our boys were much joyed with their success; and it may be added that they have been constantly advancing on the rebel works, and have never given up an inch of ground that they have once gained. All honor to our brave colored soldiers!

General Banks has spoken in the highest terms of the fighting qualities of the negro soldiers, and it is probable that they will no longer be kept in the background for want of his confidence.

The unflinching courage of the black soldier, as displayed at Port Hudson, shows that we may depend upon him to do his part in the present contest.

The siege is progressing favorably, and will soon end in success to our arms.

J. T. Paine, Surgeon-in-charge First and Third Infantry U. S. Volunteers, Corps d'afrlque.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Banks (3)
Stafford (1)
J. T. Paine (1)
Daniels (1)
Ben Butler (1)
John Brown (1)
Baton (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 24th, 1863 AD (1)
August (1)
June 13th (1)
June 11th (1)
May 27th (1)
27th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: