Opinions on the Fighting Ability of Black Soldiers at the Siege of Petersburg

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in News and Notes

Black Soldiers Capture Confederate Cannon (Library of Congress)

I’ve collected a lot of information on the Siege of Petersburg in the last decade plus. As you do this sort of collecting, themes often arise in the material.  I’ve tagged my published posts for things like weather, the Election of 1864, Christmas and others.  As I collected more and more accounts, I soon became interested in the controversial topic of the performance of Black units at the Siege of Petersburg.  Remember, in the Civil War, units were not fully integrated.  Black soldiers answered to White officers in the United States Colored Troops (USCT for short). and other regiments composed mainly of African-Americans (29th Connecticut and some others). By my count, there were at least 35 African-American units at the Siege of Petersburg, and they fought hard at such battles as Second Petersburg, the Crater, New Market Heights, Fort Gilmer, and Second Fair Oaks. These fights produced a lot of opinions on both sides.  I have always been intrigued by this facet of the Siege, so I have been “tagging” published posts with the tag “fighting ability of black soldiers” wherever I notice someone commenting.

I have FINALLY reached a point where I have enough examples to be able to publish this page.  Below, you will find every mention I have published of someone (Union, Confederate, Black, White) mentioning how the USCTs did in a given fight from a wide variety of sources (with MANY, MANY more to come).  Keep in mind, at this site I publish EVERYTHING VERBATIM, with no apology.  I believe it is important to see everything to truly understand the past.  You will see offensive and unflattering accounts below.  However, you will also see glowing reviews.  And in both cases they may be coming from someone entirely unexpected.

 

Opinions on the Fighting Ability of African-American Units at the Siege of Petersburg

 

 

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Janet Chase December 10, 2020 at 12:41 pm

I’m very interested in the 22nd USCT regiment. My g-g-grandfather was a captain of Company C, William W. Burke.
Although I have read many accounts about his regiment, and I have some CdVs of other officers in this regiment, I don’t have any specific accounts of his personal actions. Any letters he may have written during his time at Petersburg, have not survived our family’s memorabilia.
With your extensive research into this phase of the war, where would be the best place for me to begin looking for surviving personal account information about him?
Thank you for considering my request,
Janet Chase
chasejan4@aol.com

Brett Schulte December 10, 2020 at 12:52 pm

Janet,

The odds of a specific soldier’s personal letters surviving unfound until this point are astronomically low. With that said, here is my unit page for the 22nd USCT:

http://www.beyondthecrater.com/resources/units/union-u/union-inf/us-vol-inf/022nd-usct-infantry/

Here are my suggestions. First, look for any published regimental history of the 22nd USCT and purchase it. Scour the bibliography for the sources the author used and their locations. Contact museums and archives the author used and ask them if they know of any accounts by your ancestor. In addition, find out which counties the 22nd USCT came from. Check the County Museums/Archives for those counties and see what they have available. Also check newspapers published in those counties at the time. soldiers often wrote back to their hometown papers. Even if it isn’t an account written by your ancestor, you will at least gain better insight into what he experienced.

Brett

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