Friday, January 7, 2011

ARKANSAS: Battles Fought by US Colored Troops

Assault on Ft. Wagner, by the 54th Mass Colored
Source: Library of Congress. Image info:


The Civil War has long been studies and analyzed and each battle has been marked in many gazetteers, atlases and history texts. Upon learning of my ancestors and their involvement in the Civil War, I was interested in learning if they had participated in any actual battles. 

When I began to research the subject, very quickly stories like Ft. Pillow, and Poison Springs, and of course the film Glory illustrated that indeed black soldiers actually fought.  But a majority of soldiers in the US Colored Troops were not in the battle at Ft. Wagner, and since I research the Trans-Mississippi theater of the Civil War, I was curious to know---were there any Civil War battles in those states.

I was surprised when I learned about the incident and the massacre at Poison Springs. Not unlike Ft. Pillow, the action at Poison Springs, became a battle cry for other black regiments that fought in that state.  "Remember Poison Springs!"

When William Gladstone published his book, The United States Colored Troops 1863-1867, I found some of the data to be most interesting, including a list of the battles in which the black soldiers particpated.  There were more than I had imagined from my home state. Some occurred in sm all rural communities and others in the cities. What was even more surprising was that all of the black units that fought were not all from Arkansas originated units, some were from other states.

Therefore, to honor those soldiers, I list the Battles in Arkansas, involving US Colored soldiers, the dates on which they occurred and the regiment engaged in that event.

Arkansas River, Dec 18, 1864 54th Infantry. (note this is not the 54th Mass. This is an Arkansas regiment)
Bayou Boeuf Ark., December 13, 1863, 3rd US Colored Cavalry
Big Creek, Arkansas, July 26, 1864, Battery E, 2nd US Colored Light Artillery, 60th US Colored Infantry
Boggs' Mills, Arkansas January 24, 1865 11 US Colored Infantry (Old)
Camden Arkansas, April 24, 1864, 1st US Colored Cavalry
"Chippewa" Steamer, Ark, February 17, 1865  83rd, US Colored Infantry
Clarksville, Arkansas, January 18, 1865 79th US Colored Infantry (New)
Fort Smith, Arkansas August 24, 1864, 11th US Colored Infantry (Old)
Fort Smith, Arkansas December 24, 1864, 83rd US Colored Infantry (New)
Helena Arkansas, August 2, 1864, 64th US Colored Infantry
Horse-Head Creek, Arkansas, February 17, 1864, 79th US Colored Infantry (New)
Indian Bay Arkansas, April 13, 1864 56th US Colored Infantry
Jenkins Ferry, Arkansas, April 30, 1864, 79th US Col'd (New) & 83rd US Colored Infantry (New) 
Joy's Ford, Arkansas, January 8, 1865 79th US Colored Infantry (New)
Little Rock, Arkansas April 26 and May28, 1864, 57th US Colored Infantry
"Lotus" Steamer Arkansas, January 17, 1865, 83rd US Colored Infantry (New)
Meffleton Lodge Arkansas June 29, 1864, 56th US Colored Infantry
Pine Bluff, Arkansas, July 2, 1864, 64th US Colored Infantry
Poison Springs, Arkansas, April 18, 1864, 79th US Colored Infantry (New)
Prairie D'Ann, Arkansas 79th US Col'd (New) and 83rd US Colored Infantry (New)
Rector's Farm, Arkansas December 19, 1864 83rd US Colored Infantry (New)
Roseville Creek, Arkansas March 20th, 1864, 79th US Colored Infantry, (New) 
Ross' Landing, Arkansas, February 14, 1864 51st US Colored Infantry
Saline River Arkansas, May 4, 1864  83rd US Colored Infantry
Saline River Arkansas, May 1865  54th US Colored Infantry
Wallace's Ferry Arkansas  July 26, 1864  56th US Colored Infantry
White River Arkansas, October 22, 1864  53rd US Colored Infantry

These 27 battles give testament to the burning desire for these soldiers of color to fight for their basic right, to live as free men!  

May they always be remembered.


  1. Thank you for the listing. It certainly helps to put the activity of the US Colored Troops in perspective. It seems that such troops were used in skirmishes and battles more often in Arkansas, and the Indian Territory. Recruits for the various regiments came from Missouri,the Territory, Arkansas,and Mississippi.

  2. Thank you for the post! After much research, I have just found that my great-great grandfather fought in the battle at Ross Landing in the 51st Colored Infantry.

    I will continue to remember what he fought for...ME!