Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What an Impression They Must Have Made: the 11th US Colored Troops of Ft. Smith Arkansas

Rare Image of US Colored Troops on Parade
1st US Colored Cavalry on Parade
Source: Library of Congress

In November 1864, the US Colored Troops were on parade in Ft. Smith Arkansas where they were organized.  An article appeared in the newspaper describing them and the impression that was made on the local population in the community.  

FORT SMITH NEW ERA  November 5, 1864, 

The Second Brigade.

 Last Monday the colored troops were in all their glory.  The 2d Brigade was on review, and presented an appearance that made every loyal heart throb with pleasure, and every rebel that saw the "darks," tremble when he remembered that "God is just," and that it was for the perpetual enslavement of these black patriots that this rebellion was inaugurated.  Every man was in his place, and stepped with the music as if he felt the whole thing depended on himself.
The 1st and 2d colored are as well drilled as any regiments in the District, if not better than any, and their movements on Monday were a credit to the blacks as well as the noble men who command them.  The 11th and 54th are of more recent organization, but are well drilled and ready for double their number of rebs at any time.
 It is but two years since the 1st colored was raised and then months passed before it was fully organized and its officers commissioned.  Then but few thought it possible for any good to come out of the movement, and the whole Copperhead fraternity and a good many weak kneed Republicans cried out against it.  "It was well enough to put them in the ditches with spades in their hands, but to arm and drill the nigger and thus make them the equals of white soldiers was outrageous," while at the same time the colored man is by far the superior of any copperhead or rebel.  They said the "nigger was a coward, wouldn't fight, and that a white man with a whip in his hand could run a dozen blacks though armed with the minnie."  How has it turned out?  Has any company of the 2d Brigade ever showed the least sign of cowardice though some of them have at different times been attacked by three times their numbers?  No!  and every man that saw them last Monday acknowledged to himself that they were more than a match for the same number of rebels in any open field fight.

 Two years ago none but men of true moral as well as physical courage would accept positions in colored regiments.  All honor to the Officers of the 1st Colored, who, disregarding the sneers of the world, and risking their chances of being commissioned and the threats of assassination by the rebels if they were ever taken, went forward in the path of duty and won for themselves and their men an honorable positon in the grandest army in the world.
"Look out dar" rebels, when you come in contact with the 2d Brigade, for they're "gwyne to shoot." 
(The article appeared on page 2 column 2 in the newspaper in 1864.)

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A Tennessee Regiment on Parade
Source:  Library of Congress

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