Tuesday, February 12, 2019

USCT - United States Colored Troops - African American Civil War Museum - Black History Month

Perhaps there is no better way for Civil War historians to celebrate Black History Month than to visit the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, DC. This post contains photographs taken on my 2018 visit to the museum.


According to the museum web site,
The mission of the African American Civil War Museum is to correct a great wrong in history that largely ignored the enormous contributions of the 209,145 members of the United States Colored Troops.  It tells the stories and preserves for posterity the historic roles these brave men of African, European, and Hispanic descent played in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag.  The Museum uses a rich collection of artifacts, documents, primary sources and technology to create a meaningful learning experience for families, students, Civil War enthusiasts and historians about the period from the American Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond.

United States Colored Troops

The United States Colored Troops made up over ten percent of the Union or Northern Army even though they were prohibited from joining until July 1862. They comprised twenty-five percent of the Union navy. Yet, only one percent of the Northern population was African American. Clearly overrepresented in the military, African Americans played a decisive role in the Civil War.
In July of 1862, Congress passed the Militia Act of 1862. It had become an “indispensable military necessity” to call on America’s African descent population to help save the Union. A few weeks after President Lincoln signed the legislation on July 17, 1862, free men of color joined volunteer regiments in Illinois and New York. Such men would go on to fight in some of the most noted campaigns and battles of the war to include, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.
On September 27, 1862, the first regiment to become a United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiment was officially brought into the Union army. All the captains and lieutenants in this Louisiana regiment were men of African descent. The regiment was immediately assigned combat duties, and it captured Donaldsonville, Louisiana on October 27, 1862. Before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, two more African descent regiments from Kansas and South Carolina would demonstrate their prowess in combat.
After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, the War Department publicly authorized the recruiting of African Americans. The first regiment raised with such authority was the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. By the end of 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant viewed the African descent population armed with the Proclamation as a “powerful ally.”
African Americans fought in every major campaign and battle during the last two years of the war earning twenty-five Medals of Honor. USCT regiments captured Charleston, the Cradle of Secession, and Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Lincoln recognized their contributions. He declared, “Without the military help of the black freedmen, the war against the South could not have been won.” And without the Emancipation Proclamation, these soldiers and sailors would have had little reason to fight for the Union.

African-American Civil War Museum Station
Entrance to African-American Civil War Museum
Entrance to African-American Civil War Museum
Civil War to Civil Rights

Seizing the Blessings of Liberty

Slavery and the Union
African-American Troops Fought to
Preserve the Union and to End Slavery
USCT Camps

Teaching the Negro Recruits to Use the Mini Rifle

Drawing Rations at Military Prison
No Quarters Were Given to USCT

These are images are but a sampling of the story of the USCT revealed at the African American Civil War Museum

Across the street from the museum, you will find the African American Civil War Memorial.

Front of Memorial

Back of Memorial

Detail of African-American Sailor
Detail of African-American Soldier

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Sherman on War

General William T. Sherman
(Mathew Brady)
General William T. Sherman is best remembered for his "war is hell" observation, but I recently discovered many more of his quotes on war in The Oxford Dictionary of Civil War Quotations.
  • "You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing!" --- Sherman to Professor David F. Boyd on December 24, 1860
  • "I have seen enough of war not to be caught by its first glittering bait, and when I engage in this it must be with a full consciousness of its real character." --- Letter to Thomas Ewing Jr., January 23, 1861
  • "A fatal mistake in war is to underrate the strength, feeling and resources of an enemy." --- Letter to Thomas Ewing Jr., May 23, 1861
  • "The scenes on this field would have cured anybody of war. Mangled bodies, dead dying in every conceivable shape, without heads, legs; and horses!" --- Letter to Ellen Sherman (his wife), April 11, 1862
  • "I deplore the war as much as ever, but if the thing has yo be done, let the means be adequate." --- Letter to Senator John Sherman of Ohio (his brother), August 13, 1862
  • "I see no end, of even the beginning of the end (of the war)." --- Letter to Senator John Sherman, January 1863
  • "Obedience to law, absolute - yea, even abject is the lesson that this war, under Providence, will teach the free and enlightened American citizen." --- Letter to Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck, September 17, 1863
  • "I would make this war as severe as possible..." --- Letter to Brig, Gen. John Rawlins, September 17, 1863
  • "To make war we must and will harden our hearts." --- Letter to Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana, April 21, 1864
  • "War, like the thunderbolt, follows its laws and turns not aside even if the beautiful, the virtuous and charitable stand in its path." --- Letter to Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana, April 21, 1864
  • "War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want." --- Letter to James Guthrie, August 14, 1864
  • "The only principle in this war is which party can whip." --- Letter to James Guthrie, August 14, 1864
  • "You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." --- Letter to Atlanta mayor James M. Calhoun, September 12, 1864
  • "You might as well appeal against the thunderstorm as against the terrible hardships of war." --- Letter to Atlanta mayor James M. Calhoun, September 12, 1864
  • "I will take infinitely more delight in curing the wounds made by war than in inflicting them." --- Letter to Mrs. Caroline Carson, January 20, 1865 
  • "The legitimate object of war is a more perfect peace." --- Speech in St. Louis, July 20, 1865
  • "War is at best barbarism … Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot, nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell." --- Speech at the Michigan Military Academy, June 19, 1879
  • "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell." --- Quoted in Ohio State Journal, August 12, 1880
General Sherman with Generals Howard, Logan,
Hazen, Davis, Slocum and Mower
(Mathew Brady, May 1865) 
March to the Sea
(Alexander Hay Ritchie, 1868)

William Tecumseh Sherman Monument
(Washington, DC, 1903)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Colonel David Ireland - Binghamton's Civil War Hero

Colonel David Ireland
David Ireland was born on May 9, 1832, in Forfar, Scotland. His family emigrated to New York in 1840. David was apprenticed to his father Charles, a tailor in New York City. In 1858 he joined a regiment of militia, the 79th Cameron Highlanders, officially recognized by New York State on June 9, 1859. Listed in the 1860 census as "Clerk in Express", living at Washington and Gansevoort Street in lower Manhattan. Ireland was named Adjutant of the 79th NY, serving under Colonel James Cameron. The regiment was mustered into Federal Service on May 29, 1861 and retained their designation as the 79th New York Volunteers.
Major General
George B. McClellan
Ireland served as lieutenant and adjutant of the 79th regiment. He fought with the regiment in William T. Sherman's Third Brigade in the First Battle of Bull Run. After James Cameron was killed in action, many of the unit's officers resigned and some of the men mutinied. Major General George B. McClellan put down the mutiny and took away the unit colors. McClellan assigned Ireland command of the 79th New York. On September 11, 1861, he led the regiment in an ambush of Confederate troops at Lewinsville, near Falls Church, Virginia. In recognition of this victory, General McClellan restored the regiment's colors and promoted Ireland to captain of the 15th U.S. Infantry regular army regiment.

The Army transferred Ireland to Newport Barracks in Newport, Kentucky to train new regiments for General Sherman's Department of the Ohio. In December 1861, the Army ordered Ireland to New York State to recruit soldiers for the 15th Infantry. He recruited in New York City in January 1862. Ireland moved to Binghamton, New York, where he had rail and canal access to recruit men in the surrounding communities in New York and Pennsylvania.

137th New York Infantry
Regiment National Flag
In the summer of 1862, Ireland was mustering officer for new regiments training in Binghamton. The governor of New York appointed Ireland colonel of the new 137th New York Infantry Regiment. The governor cited Ireland’s "military experience and ability" and regard as “a kind and gentlemanly officer and a brave soldier." Ireland rigorously trained the regiment at Camp Susquehanna in Binghamton. On September 27, 1862, the 137th New York traveled by train to Washington, D.C. 

The military sent Ireland and his regiment from Washington to join McClellan's Army of the Potomac. McClellan’s army was recovering in camp near Frederick, Maryland after the Battle of Antietam. McClellan assigned the 137th to XII Corps under the command of Brigadier General Alpheus Williams. The XII Corps was part of the reserve during the Battle of Fredericksburg and remained as a reserve unit to the end of 1862.Ireland’s regiment made several raids from its camp at Bolivar Heights above Harpers Ferry, Virginia into northern Virginia in late 1862. 

Brigadier General
George S. Greene
The first major combat service for the 137th was as part of the Third Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General George S. Greene, in the Second Division of the XII Corps at the Battle of Chancellorsville. 

During the Battle of Gettysburg, Ireland's regiment was at the far right of the Union line, defending the trenches on Culp's Hill on July 2, 1863. They withstood numerous attacks by the larger Confederate forces of Major General Edward "Allegheny" Johnson on a vital position in the line. Units from other Union corps aided Ireland's regiment, but it remained at its dangerous post until after the last Confederate assault after 10 p.m. on July 2. 

Union Defenses on Culp's Hill on July 2, 1863
The Confederate attack ended that night ended when the 137th New York made two bayonet charges that stopped the Confederate advance. The casualties in the 137th at Gettysburg exceeded those of any other regiment in the corps. The regiment lost forty killed, eighty-seven wounded, and ten missing, including four dead officers. Colonel W. F. Fox, in his account of this regiment, says: "It won special honors at Gettysburg, then in Greene's brigade, which, alone and unassisted, held Culp's hill during a critical period of that battle against a desperate attack of vastly superior force. amounting to 40 killed, 87 wounded and 10 missing. The gallant defense of Culp's hill by Greene's brigade, and the terrible execution inflicted by its musketry on the assaulting column of the enemy, form one of the most noteworthy incidents of the war."

Union Defenses on July 2, 1863
Brigadier General
John W. Geary
In the fall of 1863, the Army sent the XII Corps to relieve the surrounded Union army at Chattanooga, Tennessee. After General Greene was wounded at the Battle of Wauhatchie, Ireland was placed in command of the Third Brigade. Ireland's brigade served under Brigadier General John W. Geary in Major General Joseph Hooker's attack during the Battle of Lookout Mountain in the Chattanooga Campaign. During the pursuit of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, Ireland's brigade attacked Major General Patrick Cleburne's position at the Battle of Ringgold Gap. This last battle drove the Confederates into north Georgia for the winter. 

When the XI Corps and XII Corps were combined into the XX Corps, Ireland retained command of Third Brigade, Second Division under General Geary. On May 15, 1864, Ireland was wounded by a shell fragment at the Battle of Resaca, Georgia. The Army placed Colonel George A. Cobham, Jr., in temporary command of the brigade. 

Battle of Peachtree Creek
Ireland returned to his brigade on June 6, 1864 and led his men at the crossing of Peachtree Creak on July 19, 1864 and at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. After Ireland commanded his brigade into Atlanta on September 2, 1864, he contracted dysentery and died on September 10, 1864. 

General Geary expressed regret over Ireland’s death in his report on the Atlanta Campaign. Colonel Ireland's fellow officers mourned "his untimely death … on the field of his fame and glory."

Ireland is buried in Binghamton at Spring Forest Cemetery. The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War named Camp 137 in Binghamton the Colonel David Ireland Camp. 

David Ireland Gravesite

Saturday, January 12, 2019

New Year - Fading Hopes

Mary Chestnut in the 1860s

January 2, 1861 – Major Anderson Decides to Hold Fort Sumter <1> 

Before the war had officially begun, Mary Chestnut expressed her concerns in her diary entry on February 18, 1861.

I do not allow myself vain regrets or sad foreboding. The Southern Confederacy must be supported now by calm determination and cool brains. We have risked all, and we must play our best, for the stake is life or death. … Lincoln was elected and our fate sealed. <2>

January 1, 1862 – Union Batteries Fire on Confederate Batteries at Pensacola <3>

On New Year’s Day of 1862, Mrs. Chestnut wrote,

A happy new year to the distant brave
Who combat the foeman or battle the wave:
For each in his home, there is a heart that still burns;
God send them say I ̶ many happy returns.
Sentiment better than the versification. <4>

January 1, 1863 – President Lincoln Signs Emancipation Proclamation <5> 

December 31, 1863 – Richmond Examiner reports “Today Closes the Gloomiest Year of Our Struggle” <6>

Mary Chestnut’s next entry was on January 1, 1864.
After the battles around Richmond, hope was strong in me. All that has insensibly drifted away. I now long, pine, pray, and grieve  ̶  and  ̶  well, I have no hope. <7>

December 30, 1864 – Francis Blair Begins Efforts Leading to Hampton Roads Conference <8>

In January 1865, Mary “… broke down ̶ gave way to abject terror.”

The news of Sherman’s advance ̶ and no new of my husband. Today ̶ wrapped up on the sofa too dismal for moaning, even. There was a loud knock. Shawls and all, I rushed to the door. Telegram from my husband. “All well ̶ be at home on Tuesday.” It was dated from Adams Run. I felt as lighthearted as if the war were over. Then I looked at the date [place] ̶ Adams Run. It ends as it began. Bulls Run ̶ from which their first sprightly running astounded the world. Now if we run who are to run? They ran full-handed. We have fought until maimed soldiers and women and children are all that is left to run. <9>

Mrs. Chestnut’s diary entry on April 22, 1865 contains a prophetic line.

Lincoln old Abe Lincoln killed murdered Seward wounded! Why? By whom? It is simply maddening, all this. See, our army are deserting Joe Johnston. That is the people’s vote against a continuance of the war. And the death of Lincoln ̶ I call that a warning to tyrants. He will not be the last president put to death in the capital, though he is the first. <10>
<1> Johns Bowman, The Civil War (East Bridgewater: World Publications Group, Inc., 2006), 22.
<2> C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chestnut’s Civil War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 3.
<3> Bowman, 52.
<4> Woodward, 273.
<5> Bowman, 90.
<6> Bowman, 133.
<7> Woodward, 519.
<8> Bowman, 185.
<9> Woodward, 702-703.
<10> Woodward, 791.