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These soldiers may have been the first Black troops to wear Union blue

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These soldiers may have been the first Black troops to wear Union blue

A retired Army colonel and his former West Point roommate believe they have discovered a nearly forgotten — and possibly first — black unit in the Civil War and are spearheading efforts to see the history-making soldiers honored nearly 160 years later.

The career soldiers-turned-amateur historians, retired Col. Chris Allen and retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of U.S. Army Europe, say the members of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers of African Descent could be the first black soldiers to wear Union uniforms, perhaps a year before the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, which was profiled in the acclaimed 1989 film “Glory.”

Allen and Hodges presented their findings during a Jan. 27 virtual presentation for the Army Heritage Center Foundation titled, “The Union’s First Black Regiment and the U.S. Army’s Linkage to the Emancipation Proclamation.”

The two are spearheading efforts to see the unit’s role put in proper historical context for future U.S. Military Academy cadets, soldiers and the general public.

More than a mere footnote, the officers see this lost history as a way to further celebrate the role of black service in the Army. These first soldiers were freed slaves, and some of the leaders with whom they fought were West Point graduates.

Some of their efforts include:

  • Purchasing a headstone and placing a historical marker for the unit’s color sergeant, Prince Rivers, at his gravesite in Columbia, South Carolina.
  • Further researching the postwar history of the unit’s members, improving artifacts of the unit currently held at West Point.
  • Working with the South Carolina congressional delegation to declare a day of recognition for the unit.
  • Building a monument in Beaufort, South Carolina.
  • Establishing exhibits at the Pentagon and the International African American Museum.
  • Developing a case study for leader development courses in military officer programs.
  • Establishing an annual commemoration of the unit at its former camp site by the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

Army Times talked with Allen and Hodges before the presentation about how they came upon the story of the 1st SCVAD and their work to see the unit recognized.

Shortly after Allen retired in 2009, he moved to Beaufort, South Carolina, and a few years later, he bumped into the story of the 1st SCVAD by accident, he said.

He was visiting Naval Hospital Beaufort and while walking the grounds, came upon a sign so small, he almost missed it.

Labeled “Emancipation Oak,” the sign shared in a few sentences the history of the 1st SCVAD.

It told how the unit had formed in Hilton Head, South Carolina, in May 1862 and how its members had gone into combat in August 1862 before receiving their colors, more than four months before a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at the spot of the marker on Jan. 1, 1863.

That was also nearly a full year before other black units formed or even began recruiting.

“I said, ‘No way, it cannot be true,’” Allen said. “They must have transposed a number.”

He shared his findings with his friend, even taking Hodges to the Emancipation Tree to see the historic site tucked away in an almost hidden corner.

Both Allen and Hodges say their knowledge of such Civil War units mostly comes from a few history classes and the movie “Glory,” decades ago. They emphasize that in this effort, they are amateur historians simply trying to share what they’ve found.

But Allen did know that the 54th Massachusetts hadn’t started recruiting until February 1863. He decided to do some research.

What he found was as inspiring a story of black history in the Army as he could have imagined.

On Nov. 7, 1861, a Union Navy-Army task force seized and occupied Port Royal, a deep-water port adjacent to what is now Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, as part of the Union blockade of the Confederacy. All of the whites living in the area fled, abandoning an estimated 10,000 slaves.

Army Maj. Gen. Thomas W. Sherman was left to manage the slaves, at that time labeled “human contraband” due to their slave status. By April 1862, Army leaders had requested equipment for a black regiment, initiating the “Port Royal Experiment” that would see former slaves take arms against Confederates.

On May 8, 1862, the first 150 “contraband” volunteers enlisted at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Two months later, in July, Congress passed the Militia Act of 1862, authorizing black armed service.

On Aug. 5, 1862, Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton deployed to the Georgia-Florida region with Company A, 1st SCVAD, and the company conducted the first black unit combat operations on St. Simons Island.

Later that month, the First Kansas Volunteers began forming and later mustered in early 1863. That’s where Allen believes some historical quibbling might emerge from his findings, because the official mustering is what is often used for unit histories and placing such events in a historical context.

He has not found details showing a documented “muster” of the 1st SCVAD as a regiment. In part, Allen and Hodges believe that’s because a lot of the SCVAD’s work was experimental, and, even in the North, arming freed slaves was somewhat controversial, so it wasn’t widely publicized.

Detailed histories of the unit are more difficult to find because many of the former slaves were prohibited by law from learning to read and write, while free men in the North and Kansas often sent letters home recounting their lives in uniform.

Also, the 1st SCVAD was formed at the beginning of the war, deep in enemy territory. As they formed, they were fighting.

But Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a white officer in command of the regiment, wrote in his 1869 book, “Army Life in a Black Regiment,” that the 1st SCVAD can rightfully claim its place as the first black regiment “that ever bore arms in defence of freedom on the continent of America.”

“…[M]y regiment was unquestionably the first mustered into service of the United States,” he wrote. He listed Nov. 7, 1862, as the unit’s muster date, but it followed Company A’s combat experience in August of that year.

As the war progressed, bureaucracy also buried some of the story. More black units were raised and deployed, and as part of a reorganization of the growing number of black troops, the 1st SCVAD was reflagged as the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, which it staked until shortly after the end of the war, when it was disbanded along with many other units in 1866.

Further official oversight caused more damage when, in 1929, an Army board determined the 1st SCVAD Regimental Colors had no historic value and they were destroyed. But, in 1988, artifacts from the 1st SCVAD’s Emancipation Day Ceremony were discovered in the West Point Museum, where they remain preserved.

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Are the Cuomo harassment allegations just political correctness?

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Are the Cuomo harassment allegations just political correctness?

I’m tired of the hypocrisy of calls for Governor Cuomo to step down because of allegations that he made a joke about eating a sausage, or tried to kiss someone. If everyone who has ever made an off-color joke were fired, the unemployment line would extend around the globe. No one is accusing him of sexual assault or that they were fired. We’ve gone too far with political correctness, don’t you think?

This topic is too important and sensitive to do it justice in a pithy way in the space that we have, but here’s what I can say: Most people, bosses and employers, do the right thing. They know how to work together and treat people with respect. I also know that there has always been bad behavior, and it still goes on today. The current backlash is because women have been silenced and unsupported for too long. No more. But the punishment needs to fit the crime, so no, not every transgression deserves to destroy a career. However, with the heightened awareness of these issues, if you are a person in power and make stupid comments with sexual innuendo, then you will find it very difficult to find any sympathy with the excuse that you didn’t mean to offend anyone.

My company shuttered last year due to COVID-19, so I’m seeking a new opportunity. LinkedIn seems the most reputable resource, yet I also receive alerts from other job sites which often don’t correlate with LinkedIn. How accurate are online job listings?

My friends, I know how hard it is to look for a job. There are numerous job sites and it can be difficult to navigate them all. My experience is that the major job boards are credible. However, you and millions of other job seekers are doing the same thing. Your resume is likely being sorted by AI software before reaching a human. Should you scour online listings? Yes. Should you rely on one-click apply, sending off your resume and calling it a day? No. Networking with your contacts (and their contacts) is still the best route for most job seekers. If you apply online, try to find a connection in the company directly and inquire that way, too. Employers will appreciate your tenacity.

Gregory Giangrande has over 25 years of experience as a chief human resources executive and is dedicated to helping New Yorkers get back to work. E-mail your questions to [email protected] Follow Greg on Twitter: @greggiangrande and at GoToGreg.com.

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‘Arses’ on the line? Brits fear for Scrabble crackdown on ‘offensive’ words

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‘Arses’ on the line? Brits fear for Scrabble crackdown on ‘offensive’ words

Toy giant Mattel plans to scrub the U.K. versions of Scrabble of hundreds of “offensive” words — leaving game-loving Brits clutching their “boobies” for fear of losing their “arses.”

Other prized words, such as “goolies,” “wrinklies,” “boffing,” “farting” and “fatso,” may also wind up on the wrong side of the official Scrabble lexicon, British aficionados of the little square tiles now worry.

“The woke brigade is ruining our game,” two-time British Scrabble champ Craig Beevers griped to The Scottish Sun.

“I feel this will be the final nail in the coffin for a lot of competitive players,” Beevers added.
Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble outside the U.S., isn’t tipping its rack of letters just yet — but The Sun claims the game maker’s in-progress list of forbidden words will run to 400, and reportedly be a worldwide push.

“In Scrabble — as in life — the words we choose matter,” a Mattel exec told the outlet.
Brett Smitheram, a rep for the Association of British Scrabble Players, told The Post Saturday that words are indeed “being compiled for deletion” by Mattel.

“It’s not the Scrabble associations doing it — more that Mattel has decided it has to be done and are compiling the list themselves,” said Smitheram, who is the 2016 World Scrabble Champion.

“Scrabble associations are left with the choice of accepting the new list or really ceasing to be able to use the name “Scrabble” at all.”

Mattel seems intent on removing words that might be seen as derogatory or rude, Smitheram said.

But some alleged offenders may well be salvaged.

“I don’t think that ‘farting’ or similar will be removed,” Smitheram said.

The list is still under discussion, he continued — but not by members of his association’s “Dictionary Committee,” which he said has resigned in protest from the effort.

“This decision isn’t being made by lexicographers,” Smitheram scoffed. “So it’s not likely to create a technically robust word list.”

The effort is reminiscent of a purge of “offensive” Scrabble words from the U.S. version of the game last year.

That time, The North American Scrabble Players Association eliminated 236 words, including racial slurs and other bigoted terms from the official Scrabble word list used at tournaments, a culling made with the support of Hasbro, which owns the rights to the game in North America.

Mattel reps did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Al Capone’s niece recalls him fondly, says his $100M is stashed somewhere

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Al Capone’s niece recalls him fondly, says his $100M is stashed somewhere

Al Capone’s 80-year-old great-niece says she believes the legend that $100 million of the Chicago mobster’s money may be stashed somewhere but said knowledge of the location died with him.

“If it’s anywhere it would be Chicago,” Deirdre Capone told the Sun. “I also believe they have a lot of dealings in Cuba. I believe a lot of money was in safety deposit boxes in Cuba. But I have to let that be now.”

She told the Sun from her home in Florida that she’s “probably the last person on this Earth” to have really known him. She spoke of a new movie about her beloved “Uncle Al” being released on Netflix this week.

British actor Tom Hardy, complete with prosthetics, stars in the biopic “Capone.”

Deirdre, who was 7 when Capone died following a stroke in January, 1947, says the gangster had a sweet side and liked to teach her how to make spaghetti.

Al Capone was her grandfather Ralph’s younger brother.

Ralph was nicknamed “Bottles” for his role in the Capone bootleg empire, the Chicago Outfit, which made its fortune during Prohibition. Deirdre said Ralph was in charge but Al was the front man.

“Al loved the limelight, loved to be out with a beautiful woman on his arm. My grandfather hated it,” she said.

She insisted her relatives had nothing to do with the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, in which seven rival mobsters were killed giving Al Capone the title of “Public Enemy No 1.”

Capone wound up in Alcatraz and Deirdre says he loathed his stint in the island prison. “He couldn’t talk about it, it was so horrific,” she says.

Hardy portrays Capone in the period after his release from the prison — the last years of his life. The mobster died on January 25, 1947 at age 48.

According to the movie, Capone is beset with dementia, with the mental age of a 12-year-old.

Deirdre agrees that by the time he was released his mental state had deteriorated shockingly, but insists this was due to mercury injections she claims were given to him to treat syphilis.

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