Pennsylvania Grand Review

Honoring African American Patriots 1865 / 2010

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Civil War Letters of John C. Brock

Posted by: mintzmo

The book Making and Remaking Pennsylvania’s Civil War is a collection of essays about the events and legacies of the Civil War in Pennsylvania.  The essay “The Civil War Letters of Quartermaster Sergeant John C. Brock, 43rd Regiment, United States Colored Troops,” edited by Eric Ledell Smith, focuses specifically on the issue of African-American troops from Pennsylvania.  The first part of the chapter contains a synthesis of the history of African-American troops during the Civil War in general and specifically in Pennsylvania.  The second part contains nine letters written by John C. Brock to the Christian Recorder, a newspaper published in Philadelphia by the African Methodist Church.  Smith gives a good biography of Brock and explains the context and background of each letter.  John C. Brock was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1843, and he enlisted in the army at Camp William Penn in April 1864.   One of the exceptions to the general rule of not assigning colored regiments to combat duty, the 43rd regiment arrived in Virginia as part of the rear guard to the Army of the Potomac and Brock shared, “You cannot imagine with what surprise the inhabitants of the South gaze upon us.”  Later, when his regiment proudly passed through Fairfax, Virginia “armed to the teeth, with bayonets bristling in the sun,” Brock echoed the same sentiment: , “The inhabitants… looked at us with astonishment, as if we were some great monsters risen up out of the ground.”  His letters cover a wide range of topics, from religion to food and supplies to other African-American troops from Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately, although his regiment was present at the Battle of the Crater, Brock does not mention it in his letters, and he also rarely elaborates on the issue of slavery, instead choosing to focus on topics more relevant to his everyday life in the army.  His last letter in March 1865 briefly broaches the topic with eloquence and a great deal of optimism: “The hydra-headed monster slavery which, a few short years ago, stalked over the land with proud and gigantic strides, we now behold drooping and dying under the scourging lash of universal freedom…. The bondmen of the South have heard that single word ‘liberty,’ and they will not heed the siren voice of their humbled masters.”  Brock is clearly proud to have had a part in defeating the South and the institution of slavery.  These letters are a valuable resource for studying the Civil War from a perspective that is often overlooked, that of an African-American soldier in combat duty.

Posted Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 at 3:51 pm.

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Medal of Honor Recipient — Sergeant William Carney

Posted by: sailerd


While William Harvey Carney was born a slave in Virginia in 1840, he escaped to freedom in Massachusetts through the Underground Railroad. He later enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and participated in the assault that took place in July 1863 on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina. Carney received a Medal of Honor in May 1900 for his actions during this battle. The citation for his Medal of Honor states: “When the color sergeant was shot down, this soldier grasped the flag, led the way to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon. When the troops fell back he brought off the flag, under a fierce fire in which he was twice severely wounded.”

Posted Thursday, April 1st, 2010 at 10:26 am.

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“Forgotten Black Hero of Philadelphia”

Posted by: hardings

Temple University professor Dr. Andy Waskie has posted a useful profile of Octavius V. Catto, an  ardent advocate for equal rights for blacks in Philadelphia during and after the Civil War. Catto was also instrumental in recruiting some of the first African American regiments for the Union army. He was assassinated in Philadelphia on an election day in 1871 while attempting to bring more African Americans to the ballot box.

Catto was a fervent believer in the value of education, and founded the Banneker Literary Institute in Philadelphia to promote intellectual activism for young African Americans.

Waskie’s profile also describes roles played by pivotal figures in Catto’s life such as Union General Darius Nash Couch and fellow abolitionist Frederick Douglas.

Posted Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 at 2:55 am.

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Stephen Smith – Businessman, Minister, & Abolitionist

Posted by: sailerd

This former indentured servant became a prominent businessman, minister and leader in the abolitionist movement.

Address:
222 S. 5th St
LANCASTER, PA, 17512

(Courtesy of Pennsylvania Civil War Trails)

Posted Monday, March 22nd, 2010 at 5:00 am.

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Thomas Morris Chester

Posted by: sailerd


One of Harrisburg’s most famous African Americans, a leader in education, journalism, military recruitment, diplomacy and the practice of law.

Chester also served as a recruiter and helped usher Pennsylvania Black men into the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Regiments.

Address:
Market St. and Third St. intersection
HARRISBURG, PA, 17101

(Courtesy of Pennsylvania Civil War Trails)

Posted Monday, March 22nd, 2010 at 4:37 am.

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Reminiscences of My Life in Camp

Posted by: hardings

Susie King Taylor, born 1848, wrote a book in 1902 documenting her time spent enrolled as a laundress with the Union’s 1st South Carolina Volunteers, later named 33rd regiment of the United States Colored Troops, during the Civil War.  Documenting the American South, an online resource at the University of North Carolina, has her entire book online.

The book makes great use of primary sources, such as the General Order No. 1 of Lt. Colonel C.T. Trowbridge, commander of the regiment.

Taylor’s account is remarkably vivid outlining the struggles of African American Union soldiers fighting in the South.  She described how “men and even women would sneer and molest them whenever they met them” while her regiment’s “brave men risked life and limb” to assist the citizens of Charleston, S.C. after the 1865 Confederate retreat and subsequent burning of the city.

This a great online primary resource for anyone interested in the life of African American soldiers during the Civil War. Camp life, battles, occupation, and officer descriptions are all intrinsically linked together in Taylor’s candid narrative of one of the definitive moments in our country’s history.

Posted Friday, February 26th, 2010 at 2:48 pm.

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