Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Black Bellied Yankees" Made Their Mark at The Battle of Ft. Blakeley

Image of the Battle of Ft. Blakely


Imagine a Civil War battle in which more than 6000 black soldiers emerged victorious. Such is the story of the Battle of Ft. Blakely in Alabama. Just hours from the time of Lee's surrender, there was much activity in many parts of the south including Alabama.

Among the many units involved in this battle was the 46th US Colored Infantry.  One of the white commanding officers was Colonel Frederick Mortimer Crandal.  He described the black soldiers in a personal letter, and described the unit he commanded as "Black Bellied Yankees" who "made their mark."  

Image from letter written by Colonel Frederick Mortimer Crandal

The first Union soldier to advance to the line are said to have been the 73rd and 86th US Colored Infantries. The 73rd US Colored Infantry was known originally as the 1st Louisiana Native Guards, the regiment was later re-designated as the 73rd US Colored Infantry. Both of the units were described as extremely successful in fighting off Confederate forces. One of the black soldiers in that battle happened also to be only black officer known to have been serving on the Blakeley Battlefield.  His name was Captain Louis A. Snaer, who had been a free man of color in Louisiana, before the war.

Portrait of Capt. Louis A. Snaer in Civil War Uniform
Before the war he was a free man of color in Louisiana
Image from descendants of Louis A. Snaer.

He was wounded at the seige of Ft. Blakely, and was treated for his wounds. He did survive the war, and later moved westward to California where he died in 1917.

It is said that after this battle some former slaves encountered former slave masters. In one case the slave and former slave owner expressed some pleasure in encountering each other.  It is also said that in some cases USCTs after the battle and prisoners taken, that some former slaves attacked some of the white prisoners, for deeds administered to them previously while enslaved. 

Today the battle site is an historic park . On the site one can find an organizational list of the USCTs that fought at Ft. Blakeley.  The story of the siege of Ft. Blakely is indeed an interesting one, and it is among the many stories to tell about the history of the US Colored Troops.

This was the last battle of the Civil War in which US Colored Troops were said to have played a major role.

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