Indiana's Civil War 150th Commemoration - 2011-2015
The Indiana Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee was appointed by the Indiana History Collaborative to encourage Hoosiers to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War (1861-1865), to provide online resources to help Hoosiers gain a better understanding of Indiana’s part in this most devastating conflict in the nation’s history, and to encourage communication among interested individuals, groups, and organizations.
One noted historic marker commemorating the 28th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops was installed in Indianapolis at Virginia Avenue and McCarty Street in 2004.
Text: In April 1864, six companies were organized and activated. The 28th regiment served valiantly in the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia on July 30, 1864, when nearly half of the men were killed or wounded. The 28th returned to Indianapolis January 6, 1866 to a reception in its honor; officers and men were discharged January 9.
Text: Indiana's only African-American Civil War regiment served as part of the 28th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops. African-American infantry was authorized in 1863 to help fill federal quota for soldiers. The Reverend Willis Revels was recruiting officer. Recruits trained at Camp Fremont, established on land near here owned by Calvin Fletcher.
A letter from Chaplain Garland White, Indiana's first African American officer
From the first African American officer of Indiana's 28th regiment upon entering Richmond:
Richmond, Virginia, April 12, 1865; CR, April 22, 1865
I have just returned from the city of Richmond; my regiment was among the first that entered that city. I marched at the head of the column, and soon I found myself called upon by the officers and men of my regiment to make a speech, with which, of course, I readily complied. A vast multitude assembled on Broad Street, and I was aroused amid the shouts of ten thousand voices, and proclaimed for the first time in that city freedom to all mankind. After which the doors of all the slave pens were thrown open, and thousands came out shouting and praising God, and Father, or Master Abe, as they termed him. In this mighty consternation I became so overcome with tears that I could not stand up under the pressure of such fullness of joy in my own heart. I rested to gain strength, so I lost many important topics worthy of note.
Among the densely crowded concourse there were parents looking for children who had been sold south of this state in tribes, and husbands came for the same purpose; here and there one was singled out in the ranks, and an effort was made to approach the gallant and marching soldiers, who were too obedient to orders to break ranks.We continued our march as far as Camp Lee, at the extreme end of Broad Street, running westwards. In camp the multitude followed, and everybody could participate in shaking the friendly but hard hands of the poor slaves.
Among the many broken-hearted mothers looking for their children who had been sold to Georgia and elsewhere, was an aged woman, passing through the vast crowd of colored, inquiring for one by the name of Garland H. White, who had been sold from her when a small boy, and was bought by a lawyer named Robert Toombs, who lived in Georgia. Since the war has been going on she has seen Mr. Toombs in Richmond with troops from his state, and upon her asking him where his body-servant Garland was, he replied: "He ran off from me at Washington, and went to 'Canada. I have since learned that he is living somewhere in the State of Ohio." Some of the boys knowing that I lived in Ohio, soon found me and said, "Chaplain, here is a lady that wishes to see you." I quickly turned, following the soldier until coming to a group of colored ladies. I was questioned as follows:
"What is your name, sir?" "My name is Garland H. White." "What was your mother's name?" "Nancy." "Where was you born?" "In Hanover County, in this State." "Where was you sold from?" "From this city." "What was the name of the man who bought you?" "Robert Toombs." "Where did he live?" "In the State of Georgia." "Where did you leave him?" "At Washington." "Where did you go then?" "To Canada." "Where do you live now?" "In Ohio." "This is your mother, Garland, whom you are now talking to, who has spent twenty years of grief about her son."
I cannot express the joy I felt at this happy meeting of my mother and other friends. But suffice it to say that God is on the side of the righteous, and will in due time reward them. I have witnessed several such scenes among the other colored regiments.
Late in the afternoon, we were honored with his Excellency, the President of the United States, Lieutenant-General Grant, and other gentlemen of distinction. We made a grand parade through most of the principal streets of the city, beginning at Jeff Davis's mansion, and it appeared to me that all the colored people in the world had collected in that city for that purpose. I never saw so many colored people in all my life, women and children of all sizes running after Father, or Master Abraham, as they called him. To see the colored people, one would think they had all gone crazy. The excitement at this period was unabated, the tumbling of walls, the bursting of shells, could be heard in all directions, dead bodies being found, rebel prisoners being brought in, starving women and children begging for greenbacks and hard tack, constituted theorder of the day. The Fifth [Massachusetts] Cavalry; colored, were sfill dashing through the streets to protect and preserve the peace, and see that no one suffered violence, they having fought so often over the walls of Richmond, driving the enemy at every point.
Among the first to enter Richmond was the 28th U.S.C.T. better known as the First Indiana Colored Volunteers. Some people do not seem to believe that the colored troops were the first that entered Richmond. Why, you need not feel at all timid in giving the truthfulness of my assertion to the four winds of the heavens, and let the angels re-echo it back to the earth, that the colored soldiers of the Army of the James were the first to enter the city of Richmond. I was with them, and am still with them, and am willing to stay with them until freedom is proclaimed throughout the world. Yes, we will follow this race of men in search of liberty through the whole Island of Cuba. All the boys are well, and send their love to all the kind ones at home."
Chaplain Garland H. White, 28th USCT, Richmond, Virginia, April 12, 1865; CR, April 22, 1865
Information and image below courtesy of the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum, Washington, D.C. Visit their site at http://afroamcivilwar.org/about-us/memorial-a-museum-history.html for more information.
United States Colored Troops
The United States Colored Troops made up over ten percent of the Union or Northern Army even though they were prohibited from joining until July 1862, fifteen months into the war. They comprised twenty-five percent of the Union navy. Yet, only one percent of the Northern population was African American. Clearly overrepresented in the military, African Americans played a decisive role in the Civil War.
In July of 1862, Congress passed the Militia Act of 1862. It had become an “indispensable military necessity” to call on America’s African descent population to help save the Union. A few weeks after President Lincoln signed the legislation on July 17, 1862, free men of color joined volunteer regiments in Illinois and New York. Such men would go on to fight in some of the most noted campaigns and battles of the war to include, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.
On September 27, 1862, the first regiment to become a United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiment was officially brought into the Union army. All the captains and lieutenants in this Louisiana regiment were men of African descent. The regiment was immediately assigned combat duties, and it captured Donaldsonville, Louisiana on October 27, 1862. Before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, two more African descent regiments from Kansas and South Carolina would demonstrate their prowess in combat.
After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, the War Department publicly authorized the recruiting of African Americans. The first regiment raised with such authority was the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. (Leading many to report that it was the first African descent regiment.) By the end of 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant viewed the African descent population armed with the Proclamation as a “powerful ally.”
African Americans fought in every major campaign and battle during the last two years of the war earning twenty-five Medals of Honor. USCT regiments captured Charleston, the Cradle of Secession, and Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Lincoln recognized their contributions. He declared, “Without the military help of the black freedmen, the war against the South could not have been won.” And without the Emancipation Proclamation, these soldiers and sailors would have had little reason to fight for the Union.
Last updated Monday, February 27, 2012