previous next

[312] morning of the fifth, at the given hour, five o'clock, about seven hundred men reported for duty. A number of them were detailed for special duties, and about five hundred marched with me across the river to Newport, and thence to the cemetery on the Alexandria road in the rear of Newport. A handsome national flag, presented to them by Captain James Lupton, was borne in their midst; and their march was enlivened by strains of martial music, proceeding from a band formed from the ranks of their own motion. They were cheered on the way to their work by the good words of the citizens who lined the streets, and by the waving handkerchiefs of patriotic ladies. As they passed the different regiments in line of battle, proceeding to the fortifications, mutual cheers and greetings attested the good feeling between these co-workers in the same cause.

The section of work assigned to their special care lay between the Alexandria road and Licking River, along the Cemetery ridge and Threemile Creek. It embraced the making of military roads; the digging of rifle-pits and trenches; the felling of forests, and the building of forts and magazines. The men commenced their work in the rifle-pits on their arrival at Cemetery Ridge.

Every thing had to be improvised. The quartermaster and commissary departments required immediate attention, and gave most trouble; but in a few days all was in complete working order. The men discovered a special aptitude for camplife, and with grass, brush, and trees made “Camp Lupton” an agreeable summer residence. New accessions were received to the ranks every day; colored men, singly, in squads and companies, from every part of Southern Ohio, joining them, until the number exceeded seven hundred, independently of the details made for special duties. Upon the section assigned to them, they continued to labor until the twentieth. During this time they worked faithfully, always doing more than was required of them, and receiving again and again the commendation of the engineers in charge, to the effect that they were the most efficient working force in the service. There was no occasion for compulsion, and for discipline but a single instance. They labored cheerfully and joyfully. They made miles of military roads, miles of rifle-pits, felled hundreds of acres of the largest and loftiest forest trees, built forts and magazines. Some of them discovered a high order of intelligence, a ready insight into the work they were doing, making often valuable suggestions. Upon one occasion, one of them suggested a change in the engineering of a military road ascending a steep hill. The value of the change was obvious when named, and admitted by the engineer; yet he ordered the road to be made as originally planned, and deprecated further suggestion.

They committed no trespass on private property. In one instance, upon changing the camp, a German asked me if they could not remain longer, as they protected his grapes!

They were not intimidated by any danger, though compelled to labor without arms for their protection. During the few days that the soldiers stood in line of battle expecting an attack, the Black Brigade was working nearly a mile in front of the line of battle, and with nothing between it and the enemy except the cavalry scouts. Upon the occasion that it moved upon St. John's Hill, overlooking Licking Valley, so far was it in front of the line, that Colonel Jonah R. Taylor, of the Fiftieth Ohio volunteer infantry, then in command as Acting Brigadier-General of the forces nearest it, supposed it was the enemy; sounded the alarm, ordered out a battery to bear upon it, and in his trepidation actually ordered it to be fired upon; but this was prevented by the good sense of the officer in command of the battery, who refused obedience, and when pressed, fired blank cartridges, and then induced the sending of a flag of truce. This was received with becoming formality, and the fears of the redoubtable commander were allayed. The men were fully advised as to their position, but said they would go wherever they were ordered.

During the first week, they labored, as did the entire fatigue force, without compensation. During the second week, they received a dollar a day per man; and during the third week, a dollar and a half; as did, also, all the fatigue force, black and white.

Upon the twentieth, their labors were ended; the siege of Cincinnati had been raised; the banners of rebellion had receded, never to return and the men, with happy hearts, with the goodwill of soldier and citizen, returned to the city and were dismissed to their homes; and thus closed in joy and happiness a service that had been commenced with violence, in anxiety and gloom.

I was much indebted to the intelligent and efficient aid that I received from the gentlemen composing my staff — volunteers to an arduous and then thankless duty. It will not be considered by any of them an unfair discrimination, when I particularize in a single instance. To the constant attention, by day and by night, and to the discreet supervision of James Lupton, as camp commandant, the brigade was greatly indebted for its well-being and comfort.

Many of the members of the brigade have since entered the military service. Many are there still. Some have fallen, and now sleep well amid the sands of Morris Island, and of the banks of the Mississippi; others have been taken prisoners, and their fate is enshrouded in impenetrable mystery. All have done their duty.

It is to be regretted that they were not permitted to enter the service under the auspices of their own State, whose soil they had defended; but this privilege which the authorities of their State denied them, was granted them by the sagacious, patriotic, and noble Governor of the ancient commonwealth of Massachusetts.

But there has been progress; and since then numbers of the Black Brigade have entered the service in their own State.

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 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.
James Lupton (2)
Jonah R. Taylor (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.
5th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: