The USCT in Combat (Part 32) by Bill Vallante
To listen to modern day historians, one would think that the Confederate army had a take-no-prisoners policy when it came to black union soldiers and that the always courageous/always well-behaved USCT won the war for the Union. We are bombarded about stories of confederate atrocities perpetrated against United States Colored Troops, but we seldom hear anything about the behavior of the USCT themselves. We are left with the impression that the USCT were brave and well behaved and of course, were cruelly discriminated against by their opponents simply because of their color. While it is common these days for neo-abolitionist historians these days to criticize our “Civil War Memory”, it would appear that they have some memory deficits of their own.
The following are excerpts from the old Confederate Veteran Magazine about the action at Tishomingo Creek, which was part of the sprawling battle of Brice’s Crossroads. The first story was written by a soldier whose home was in the path of Sturgis’ advance. It appears that the behavior of the USCT there was anything but angelic. It also appears that the USCT was unaware that once you raise the Black Flag, there is no taking it down and you will inevitably receive what you asked for!! Once again, let’s roll the historical videotape!
401 Confederate Veteran September 1900 — "BATTLE OF TISHOMINGO CREEK."
…When I saw these things I knew that Forrest had gained a great victory, but my heart sank at the prospect of our own losses. The Yankees had taken every grain of corn and every ounce of meat, leaving us nothing to eat. The family had not eaten anything since the previous morning, and the house had been plundered. Everything was turned upside down, and much was missing. Dead and wounded, men were lying in the house, upstairs and downstairs. Bullets had penetrated the walls in various places. Negroes and white men had both plundered our dwelling. Nothing could move their pity, but with vandal hands they rifled trunks and bureaus, entering every room. Destruction seemed to be their aim. They even entered the negro cabins, and robbed them of their clothing. They cut the rope, and let the bucket into the well. As they went back, panting with heat and suffering with thirst, they were glad to drink such dirty slop as they could find…..
…The negro troops were specially insolent. As they passed down they would shake their fists at the ladies and say that they were going to show Forrest that they were his rulers. As they returned, their tune was changed. With tears in their eyes, some of them came to my mother and asked her what they must do, would Mr. Forrest kill them? On the retreat Sturgis was in the front, going at a trot….
…The pursuit was continued beyond Salem. On Monday, the 13th, many soldiers returned from the pursuit. Eight hundred prisoners were marched down the road that day. Some officers were among them, and they were nice looking men. It is certain that a great many negroes were killed. They wore the badge, "Remember Fort Pillow," and it was said that they carried a black flag. This incensed the Southern soldiers, and they relentlessly shot them down…
153 Confederate Veteran April 1901 — "STORY OF OUR GREAT WAR." — BY THE LATE MERCER OTEY, OF SAN FRANCISCO.
….Immediately orders were issued to the three brigades to retrace their steps, and we started to find the enemy. Couriers were constantly arriving from Gen. (Stephen) Lee, uring all possible haste, as the column was devastating the country and committing outrages of the most fiendish kind. Women and children alone were encountered, all the men being in the ranks, and these noncombatants were made to feel the heavy hand of the spoilers. The larger part of the Federal troops were negroes that had been enlisted in Memphis, and now sent out on this raid as mounted infantry. They came breathing death and destruction, proclaiming "no quarter" to Forrest and his whole command. Their battle cry was: "Remember Fort Pillow!"
A forced march brought us in front of the column at Tishomingo Creek on the morning of January 10, and we immediately attacked, though our men and horses were badly jaded by the constant ten days in the saddle, through heavy rains and miry roads. The fight took place at Guntown, a small country post office, sometimes called Bryce’s Cross Roads. It was a hot and stubborn one, but out men were maddened to fury by the news of the atrocities perpetrated by the negroes all along the line of their march from Memphis, and as the enemy had declared themselves for extermination, but little attention was given to capturing prisoners.
They say that there are two sides to every story and that both sides need to be heard. Someone forgot to tell that to the “State”, the corporate-owned Pravda-like rag which masquerades as a South Carolina newspaper. Last year they published an article about Harriet Tubman’s “Combahee Raid”, glorifying the raid as an act which freed slaves, etc., etc. Here’s the other side to the Combahee Raid from the perspective of a Confederate officer. Again, it appears that not all the slaves thought or behaved in exactly the same way. Since there are two sides to every story, this one needs to be examined and considered. Of course, “the State” simply ignored me when I sent them a copy of this report. I wonder why?
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXVIII/2 [S# 47]
Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To Operations On The Coasts Of South Carolina And Georgia, And In Middle And East Florida, From June 12 To December 31, 1863.
CONFEDERATE CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.–#5
HDQRS. FOURTH BRIGADE, SOUTH CAROLINA MILITIA,
Charleston, August 3, 1863.
Brig. Gen. THOMAS JORDAN,
Chief of Staff:
SIR: I beg leave to submit to you, for your consideration, the following extract from a letter just received from one of Brig. Gen. W. S. Walker’s staff, dated McPhersonville, August 2, 1803:
A recent raid was made, by order of General Walker, on Barnwell Island by some of our troops, under command of Capt. M. J. Kirk. Thirty-one negroes were captured, 4 of whom are men, the rest women and children. Three of the men had been drafted for the Second South Carolina Regiment, but had run away; 2 of them were there a week and 1 three weeks. They represent many of the negroes as being very unwilling to be made soldiers of, but say they are forced to be, and are even hunted down in the woods and marshes to be taken. Several have been shot in the effort to take them. They say the Fernandina negroes are active soldiers, and are used against them. Some of our own negroes volunteer. Most of the negroes are left on the plantations, and plant provisions under a white superintendent. The task they do is about the same they did for us. One-half of the produce goes to the Yankees, the rest to the negroes. They are not clothed or fed by the United States Government. Most of them have, they say, the clothes their owners gave them, except what they have purchased for themselves. They make a little money by selling eggs, chickens, watermelons, &c. They represent that many of the negroes would be very willing to come back to their owners if they could, but that their boats have all been taken, and they are told if they come to us we will shoot them. Others are perfectly content to remain.
The negroes from the Combahee raid were all carried to Beaufort. The infirm men, women, and children were left there, and the prime men, without being allowed to go on shore, were carried to Hilton Head, and from there to Folly Island, to work on the batteries. Most of them objected to be made soldiers of or work on the intrenchments, but were forced off.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WILMOT G. DE SAUSSURE, Brigadier-General, Comdg. Fourth Brig. S.C. Militia.
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