The USCT – Yankees Behaving as Yankees often do – Badly! (Part 35) by Bill Vallante

A Google search of “USCT AND atrocities” yielded a handful of pages among the first 50 hits which had nothing whatsoever to do with the civil war itself. Two of the first 50 hits, one belonging to a Southron blogger, and another to an SCV camp, dealt with atrocities committed by the USCT. The remaining pages all dealt with Confederate atrocities perpetrated on the USCT. What’s missing here? The answer is – an awful lot of history! Does anyone other than me feel that the presentation is a bit one-sided?

One of the pages I found maintained that the USCT massacre of Confederate soldiers at Fort Blakely in 1865 was at least exaggerated, if not fabricated. Another essentially said that the rebs got what they deserved because they used the the “N” word. Sorry folks, once again, I cannot refute such rationale. It is simply too painful for me to try to think on this guy’s level.

As I said in the Prison Guard story, it’s time for a little equal time and to bring the history books back into balance. There are two sides to every story, and this is the other side that rarely gets told. Hold onto your hats and let’s roll the historical videotape:

****The affair at Fort Blakely is something that I’ve known about for a very long time. What amazed me when I searched for it was the number of “hits” which either denied that atrocities took place or which attempted to minimize them. While atrocity accusations against Confederates these days abound, any similar accusation made against black union troops seems to bring out a small army of historians with their little scrub brushes and spray bottles, hurriedly rushing to clean up the USCT’s reputation. The words quoted below, by the way, were the last words of Lt. Joshua Lazarus Moses, who was commanding an artillery battery at the defense of Fort Blakely, Mobile Alabama, April 9, 1865, and whose command was overrun by USCT soldiers. The USCT did not spare Lt. Moses.

Fort Blakely, April 9, 1865 – “For God’s sake, spare my men, they have surrendered!”
–Lt. Joshua Lazarus Moses, from Monument to Murderers at Fort Blakely? by Lewis Regenstein.


[S# 65] – JANUARY 1-NOVEMBER 13, 1864.–Operations in Charleston Harbor and Vicinity, S.C. No. 32.–Reports of Brig. Gen. Beverly H. Robertson, C. S. Army, commanding Second and Sixth Military Districts, of operations July 7-10. HDQRS. SECOND AND SIXTH MILITARY DISTRICTS, July 14, 1864.

“….For the information of the major-general commanding I desire to state that negro prisoners assert that Colonel Silliman, commanding Twenty-sixth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops, in the presence of Brig. Gen. R. Saxton (who has always commanded negroes), gave orders to show no quarter; also, that on Thursday, when the right of our line was temporarily pressed back, Private Cooper, Company B, Second South Carolina Cavalry, who was wounded, fell into the enemy’s hands. When we recovered the ground it was discovered that he had been bayoneted in six or seven different places. I respectfully recommend that the Yankee General Foster be held to a strict accountability for such violation of civilized warfare….” B. H. ROBERTSON, Brigadier-General, Commanding

***You’ll recall from Part 33, the USCT use of the phrase "No Quarter to Rebels!"

“Dixie After the War, Myrta Lockett Avary,” Pages 141-142
“Newberry South Carolina, Calvin S. Crozier – confederate soldier, released from prison, on his way home, September 8, 1865. At Orangeburg, S.C., a gentleman placed 2 young ladies under his care. To Crozier, the trust was sacred. At Newberry, the train was derailed by obstructions placed on the tracks by negro soldiers of the 33rd U.S. Regiment, which, under the command of Colonel Trowbridge, white, was on its way from Anderson to Columbia. Crozier got out with the others to see what was the matter. Returning, he found the coach invaded by two half-drink negro soldiers, cursing and using indecent language. He called upon them to desist, directing their attention to the presence of ladies. They replied that they “didn’t care a damn”. One attempted gross familiarities with one of the ladies. Crozier ejected him’ the second negro interfered, there was a struggle in the dark’ one negro fled unhurt’ the other, with a slight cut, ran toward camp yelling, “I’m cut by a damned rebel!” Black soldiers came in a mob.

The narrative as told on the monument, concludes, “the infuriated soldiers seized a citizen of Newberry upon whom they were about to execute savage revenge, when Crozier came promptly forward and avowed his own responsibility. He was hurried in the night time to the bivouac of the regiment to which the soldiers belonged, was kept under guard all night, was not allowed communication with any citizen, was condemned to die without even the form of a trial, and was shot to death about daylight the following morning, and his body mutilated.

He had been ordered to dig his own grave, but refused. A hole had been dug, he was made to keel on its brink, the column fired upon him and he tumbled into it, and then the black troops jumped on it laughing, dancing, stamping.”

**** Opportunities to commit atrocities on the battlefield didn’t present themselves to the USCT very often, but what they were unable to do on the battlefield, they seemed to make up for off the battlefield, especially when it came to dealing with unarmed, white Southern civilians, thus, equaling and sometimes surpassing the behavior of their white blue-clad “comrades.”


Maj. T. O. CHESTNEY, Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters:

MAJOR: I have the honor to report that about the 13th of June last a regiment of negroes, commanded by Colonel Draper, of Massachusetts, arrived at Pope’s Creek, in Westmoreland County, Va., accompanied by about fifty regular U.S. Cavalry.(*) They marched to Union Wharf Richmond County, in divided commands, taking negroes, horses, cattle, bacon, wagons, farming utensils, &c., all of which were either carried away or burned. About the 14th, at a place called Hutt’s Store, near the center of Westmoreland County, some of the negro troops went to the house of Private George, of Ninth Virginia Cavalry, and committed a rape upon his wife, who had just been confined with a babe only six weeks old. She is now almost a maniac, and begs that some one will kill her. This atrocious crime can be verified by a number of witnesses who are personally cognizant of the fact. In Warsaw, Richmond County, the negro troops attempted to ravish white ladies, but were foiled by the assistance of the female slaves of the households. In the case of Mrs. Belfield, she escaped by flight to the woods. Many other instances could be mentioned of like atrocities if desired….

JNO. S. BRAXTON, , Captain and Assistant Adjutant-General.

O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME XXXIX/2 [S# 78] UNION CORRESPONDENCE…., U.S. S. MOOSE, Smithland, Ky., June 11, 1864.

Rear-Admiral DAVID D. PORTER,
Commanding Mississippi Squadron:
SIR: …. I am told, in consequence of some gross outrages that was said to have been committed in that neighborhood by a Colonel Cunningham, from Paducah. It is reported that he went up in that section of country with a lot of negro soldiers, and sent them on shore to conscript every negro they could find. These negroes, it is reported, were sent on shore armed and without an officer with them, entered private houses, broke open the doors, and entered ladies’ bedrooms before they were up, insulted women, and plundered and searched generally. If this be as bad as reported, it is certainly a gross outrage and disgrace to our cause. I will, on my way up, stop and see if I can ascertain the truth of the matter. It was said that gun-boat convoyed them up. None of our gun-boats convoyed them or would countenance such disgraceful proceedings; on the contrary, they would have forced respect to women. On my way down I found the people so frightened and excited that to set them aright I thought it only justice to ourselves to send them a communication, of which the inclosed is a copy.(*)

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
LE ROY FITCH, Lieutenant-Commander.

“The Day Dixie Died, Southern Occupation,” By Thomas and Debra Goodrich Page 155

“Maj. J.R. Cook and his family lived about seven miles from Vicksburg, not far from the railroad line. Despite numerous murders in their community, the Cooks felt some sense of security. General Grant himself had guaranteed that Hardtimes Plantation would not be subject to further searches or depredations, The family had retired for the retired for the evening when a party of 25 black soldiers, armed with muskets and carbines, burst into the house. During the confrontation, gunfire erupted and Minerva was struck in the chest. When the major rushed to her aid, he too was shot. Before leaving, the intruders plundered the house and grounds, taking not only valuables, but also every chicken on the farm.”

Page 226 – Near Chattanooga, black troops entered the home of an old man, robbed him, beat him nearly to death, then raped his wife and daughter.

Page 155 – “A company of black soldiers drove off the family’s hogs, Eudora Inez Moore reported from Texas, and when her father tried to stop them, the troops picked up sticks and threatened to “beat his brains out” if he came any closer. ….”

Pages 226–227 – In Augusta, a regular battle ensued when black soldiers were chased from a woman’s home by her son, who wielded a pistol. More troops returned, broke down the door, and stormed upstairs. When it was over, and an officer had finally forced them out, four blacks were dead. (footnote 17)

Pages 226–227 – In Beaufort North Carolina, a squad of black soldiers entered a home near the fort and, reported a Charlotte editor, “while the man of the house and his wife were held, they ravished their daughter, a girl of 15 year of age. ………..“Another squad went to another house and attempted a rape on a child of 10 years of age” At almost the same time, 4 black troops from fort Macon were brought to Raleigh in chains on charges of raping a 13 year old. In Texas, a band of several hundred black soldiers went on a rampage, raiding, robbing and raping…

“Dixie After the War,” Myrta Lockett Avary

Page 22 – “In Raymond Mississippi, Negro troops strung a flag across the street and drove the white children under it.”

Page 273 – “In the hill country of South Carolina, a one-armed ex-confederate, a “poor white”, made a scanty living for his large family by hauling. Once, on a lonely road, when his load was whiskey, he was surrounded by negro soldiers, who killed him, took possession of the whiskey and drank it. Ring leaders were arrested and lodged in jail; some were spirited away to Columbia and released; a plan was afoot to set the rest free, among them, the negro captain who had boasted of his crime, and flouted the whites with their powerlessness to punish him….

Page 267 – “A congregation in another county church was thrown into a panic by balls crashing through the boards and windows; a girl of 14 was killed – negro soldiers marched by.”

Page 267 – “Into a dwelling a squad of black soldiers marched, bound the owner, a prominent aged citizen, pillaged his house, and then before his eyes, bound his maiden daughter and proceeded to fight among themselves for her possession. “Though”, related my informant, “her neck and face had been slobbered over, she stood quietly watching the conflict. At last, the victor came to her, caught her in his arms and started into an adjoining room, when he wavered and fell and she with him. She had driven a knife, of which she had in some way possessed herself, into his heart. The others rushed in and beat her until she too was lifeless. There was no redress.”

“The Coming of the Glory,” By John S. Tilley

Page 171 – “…Even so, the soldiers’ favorite activity of looting at length reached such excesses as to provoke open condemnation from Northern editors and clergymen, among the latter being Henry Ward Beecher.” (from the Tuskaloosa Monitor, copied in Montgomery Weekly Mail, May 6, 1868)

Page 213 – “The crowning humiliation came with the arrival of Colonel Shaw’s negro regiment from Massachusetts, a group which went to great pains to vent its wrath upon the despised slave-holders. A careful student of the period tersely records that the colored soldiers were “lawless, brutish and in not a few instances, murderers.” They swash-buckled through the streets, elbowed men and women alike off the sidewalks, flaunted their authority in the faces of the helpless whites, threatened with their guns, any show of opposition.”

“The Tragic Era,” By Claude G. Bowers, P. 53

From every quarter appeals reached Washington for their [the USCT occupying forces in South Carolina during Reconstruction] removal, for the fears of the whites were not of the imagination. Thus, at Chester they clubbed and bayoneted an old man, at Abbeville white men were ordered from the sidewalks, in Charleston they forced their way into a house, ordered food, and, after partaking, felled the mistress of the household….

“Jefferson Davis, Private Letters 1823 – 1889”, by Hudson Strode, Page 218

….I thank God on my knees for the cloud which directed me the day I sent my poor little boys away from danger. A quarrel with a negro child caused by the negro snatching a toy from its hand which the white child’s father reclaimed from the negro, brought to the rescue two negro soldiers, who, finding that the white man had help, desisted, but came back with 20 more at night and were only prevented from murdering him by his barring his doors and sending secretly for the police…. (a letter from Varina Davis to Jefferson Davis, December 25, 1865)

“DAILY CONSTITUTIONALIST” [AUGUSTA, GA], July 22, 1864, p. 4, c. 1
”Mrs. Mary Beckham, in a letter published in the Atlanta Appeal, furnishes a lengthy narrative of the treatment of her family by Lincoln ’s murderers….

"On Tuesday morning about 9 o’clock, August 4th, 1863, twelve armed negro soldiers came to the house, there being no one there except my husband, father-in-law, Benjamin Beckham, and four of my children, and some of our family negroes. They rushed on my husband and tied him, took off his watch and pin, and rifled his pockets. They then tied my father-in-law, and dragged them to the river, (it being about thirty yards.) They killed my husband on top of the bank by shooting him in the head. They then cut off his shoulder-blade and rolled his body into the river, his clothes looked as if there had been a great struggle.

They then took the old gentleman, stabbed him three times, once in the heart, and cut one of his ears off. After throwing his body into the river, they proceeded back to the house, where two of them had been guarding my dear little children. They spoke to my eldest daughter, Laura, aged fourteen years, telling her to get up and follow her old daddy, at the same time presenting a pistol to her temple. The children then were driven to the waters edge, where their father and grandfather had been murdered, and then they were put to death in the most cruel manner.

The youngest, Richard aged two and a half years, was thrown into the water alive. Laura jumped in and attempted to rescue him, and whilst in the water, waist deep, begging for mercy, she was knocked on the head by the butt end of a gun, entirely separating her forehead, and then stabbed in the side. Kate Ida, eleven years of age, was then disposed of. She was beaten with guns until her head and shoulders were perfectly soft; her body was bruised all over. Caroline, seven years of age was shot through the head, and so disfigured that she did not look like a human. After they had murdered them all and thrown their bodies into the river, they returned to the house, taking everything valuable and all the clothing they could carry."”

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