previous next

[82] colored regiment recruited by any Eastern State was the 54th Mass. (Feb. 9, 1863), commanded by Col. R. G. Shaw, whose subsequent death and burial among his soldiers at Fort Wagner was the most picturesque and striking event in the whole career of this class of troops. This, like the 55th, consisted mainly of free negroes. Later, the large enlistment of colored troops in the slave States was mainly under the charge of Maj.-Gen. G. L. Andrews and Maj. G. L. Stearns, both Massachusetts men. Such also was Maj.-Gen. N. P. Banks, whose organization of the colored troops at New Orleans into the Corps D'Afrique, though in some respects injudiciously planned,1 was a further step. Brig.-Gen. Samuel M. Quincy, who arranged a special system of tactics for their benefit, was also from Massachusetts; and so was, at least by residence, Maj.-Gen. Edward W. Hincks, who commanded colored troops more efficiently, on a large scale, than any one else during the war. All these things gave to the State of Massachusetts a just right to claim that, if she had done more than any other State to give an anti-slavery character to the war, she had at least met that part of the responsibility without shrinking. It must also be remembered that the early organizers and officers of the colored troops fought, in a manner, with ropes round their necks, both they and their black recruits having been expressly denied by the Confederate government the privileges of soldiers.2 They had also to encounter for a long time the disapproval of many officers of high rank, both regular and volunteer; this often leading to a marked inferiority of weapons, to a grudging bestowal of supplies (even of medical supplies) and to a very disproportionate share of fatigue duty, often interfering greatly with proper military training. Every one of the above-named Massachusetts officers had these same obstacles to surmount.

1 His organization of regiments of only half the usual size, with a full complement of officers for each, was peculiarly unfortunate; for it created the impression that the new levies offered peculiar difficulties in respect to drill and discipline, an impression which proved quite opposite to the fact. This mistake added to the social prejudice, already strong enough, against the colored troops; and the prejudice yielded very slowly to the influence exerted by their good behavior, both in camp and under fire.

2 After Fort Pillow “the negroes were not acknowledged as prisoners, and went through with the company as waiters and hostlers.” (John V. Barkley of Co. C, 2d Tenn. Cavalry, Round Table, Nashville, Tenn., March 8, 1890.) Compare Walcott's 21st Mass. Infantry, p. 427. The resolution passed by the Confederate Congress in regard to officers was as follows: ‘Sect. 4. That every white person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as such, who, during the present war, shall command negroes or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate States, or who shall arm, train, organize, or prepare negroes or mulattoes for military service against the Confederate States, or who shall voluntarily aid negroes or mulattoes in any military enterprise, attack, or conflict in such service, shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection, and shall, if captured, be put to death, or be otherwise punished at the discretion of the court.’

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.
A. F. Walcott (1)
G. L. Stearns (1)
Robert G. Shaw (1)
Samuel M. Quincy (1)
Edward W. Hincks (1)
John V. Barkley (1)
N. P. Banks (1)
George L. Andrews (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.
March 8th, 1890 AD (1)
February 9th, 1863 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: