Pennsylvania Grand Review

Honoring African American Patriots 1865 / 2010

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US Colored Troops

Posted by: pinsker

Company E, 4th USCT

Over 180,000 black men fought for the Union army during the Civil War.  Most of them served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) which  came into existence after the Emancipation Proclamation finally provided presidential endorsement for the much-discussed proposals for arming free blacks and former slaves in what had become the great conflict over slavery.  This section provides information on how to learn about the evolution and experiences of the USCT in places such as Camp William Penn (pictured above), the great training ground in historic La Mott (Cheltenham, Pa) where more than 11,000 black  soldiers mobilized for service.

Posted Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 at 9:20 am.

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Camp William Penn

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Camp William Penn in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania opened as a training ground for African-American troops on June 26, 1863 with about eight men present. Approximately eleven thousand former slaves and free African-Americans received training here under the leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Wagner. Over the course of the war at least eleven regiments formed at Camp William Penn including the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 22nd, 24th, 25th, 32nd, 41st, 43rd, 45th, and 127th Infantries. Led by Colonel Benjamin C. Tilghman, the 3rd Regiment United States Colored Troops became the first to depart from camp on August 13, 1863. The soldiers from Camp William Penn went on to fight at Fort Wagner , the Battle of Olustee, and the Battle of New Market Heights (Chaffin’s Farm). The Civil War Preservation Trust’s website offers an article regarding the participation of USCT Troops in the Battle of New Market Heights and a detailed map of the area. George Washington Williams said, “The regiments that went from this camp were among the best in the army. Their officers had been carefully selected and specially trained in military school under competent teachers, and the troops themselves were noted for intelligence, proficiency, and pluck.” Famous historical figures such as Frederick Douglass and Lucretia Mott lived near the camp or visited the troops occasionally. Many appeals were made to African- Americans to join the Union Army in newspapers such as The Liberator in Boston:

“Men of color! We speak to you of your country, of the land where God in his mysterious providence has placed you to work out his inscrutable purposes. Yet you have been strangers in a land of strangers, and it is now for you to decide whether that land shall be to you and your children more in the future than it has been in the past. We can make no promises, but we have an abiding faith that the Almighty has not visited us with tribulation in wrath, but in mercy; that you and we, thus tried in the fiery furnace, if true to ourselves and to Him, shall emerge purified and redeemed from the sins and the wrongs of the past.”

Another resource that may be of value for teachers is Donald Scott’s article titled “Camp William Penn’s Black Soldiers in Blue” that gives a concise overview of the troops stationed at the camp as well as an insight into the interaction between the African-American and white soldiers. Also available in limited view through Google Books is Cheltenham Township which provides some background information and photographs on the area where the camp formed, and includes mention of Camp William Penn and its basic purpose.

Posted Friday, June 11th, 2010 at 2:29 pm.

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The 54th Massachusetts

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On September 8, 1865, the New York Tribune commented on the unusual amount of fanfare the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry received on their return to Boston. The author of the editorial explained the public response reflected the 54th’s status as the first northern regiment of black soldiers and the reputation the regiment earned as being “the one on whose good conduct depended for a long time the success of the whole experiment of arming black citizens in defence of the Republic.” Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War, gave Massachusetts governor John A. Andrew permission to begin recruiting black troops on January 26, 1863. Andrew carefully hired officers to lead the black regiment, including the regiment’s future commander Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, because the 54th was in his opinion “perhaps the most important corps to be organized during the whole war.” The 54th is well known for their participation in the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina on July 18, 1863. The same Tribune article equated the battle’s significance to African-Americans as “Bunker Hill has been for ninety years to the white Yankees.” Captain Luis F. Emilio of Company E published a reflective history of the 54th, A Brave Black Regiment… (1894), which is partially available on Google Books. HistoryNet, as mentioned in this previous post, has also published a background article on 54th regimental history that originally appeared in the October 2000 issue of American History magazine.
Members of the 54th who resided in Pennsylvania include:
Sergeant William Harvey Carney of Company C (1840-1908): received a Medal of Honor in 1900 for keeping the regiment’s colors from falling to the ground after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was shot during the assault on Fort Wagner, the earliest African-American action to be recognized with a Medal of Honor.
Private John Henson of Company C (1843-1880): reassigned to the Ordinance Department of his regiment from November 1864 to February 1865.
Private George Ellender of Company G (1830- ): wounded on February 20, 1864 during the Battle of Olustee, Florida.
Sergeant Albanus S. Fisher of Company I (1831- ): became a district deputy grand master in 1867 of the First Independent African Chapter of North American (the black freemasons) in Pennsylvania.
Private George Brummzig of Company I (1843- ): buried in the Zion Union Cemetery in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Private Jacob Christy of Company I (1844- ): wounded on July 18, 1863 during the assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina.
Private Wesley Krunkleton of Company K (1839-1902): wounded just above right knee in the engagement on James Island on July 16, 1863.
Private John Shirk of Company K (1843-1913): wounded in foot when helping to remove a canon near Mount Pleasant by Charles City, South Carolina in August 1865.

Posted Friday, June 11th, 2010 at 2:06 pm.


Front and Center: Some Who Served in the United States Colored Troops

Posted by: willsa

Author of Front And Center

Author Anita Wills Blog About her Civil War Ancestors

“No officer in this regiment now doubts that the key to the successful prosecution of this war lies in the unlimited employment of black troops. Their superiority lies simply in the fact that they know the country, while white troops do not, and that they have peculiarities of temperament, position, and motive, which belong to them, alone. Instead of leaving their homes and families to fight they are fighting for their homes and families, and they show the resolution and sagacity which a personal purpose gives.”[1]

Approximately 180,000 African-Americans, comprising One Hundred sixty-three units, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and many more served in the Union Navy.  Native Americans served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT), while some, mainly in the south, fought for the Confederates.  Black Indians, served in colored regiments with other African American and Native American soldiers.[2]

After the Civil War, many USCT veterans struggled for recognition and had difficulty obtaining the pensions rightful to them. The Federal government did not address the inequality until 1890 and many of the veterans did not receive service and disability pensions until the early 1900’s. My ancestors, Henry Green and Uriah Martin, applied for Pensions, and left documents of their lives before and after the Civil War.  When it came to Henry Green, and Uriah Martin, my mother told us they came from the Welsh Mountains. She passed down what she was told, and we did not doubt that what she said was true. The census records and documents on our ancestors, are proof that her version was correct. She stated that, Uriah Martin’s brother, William Penn Martin settled in California after the Civil War.

I found information on a William Martin in Yolo County California, who was born in Pennsylvania. He fit the profile somewhat but I have not proved him to my satisfaction. I was thrown off by the racial designation of white on the 1870 census. There was another William Martin at Michigan Bar, in Sacramento, and he too was from Pennsylvania, and is listed as white. Great Uncle William Martin’s trail in California has grown cold, and remains a mystery to our family.

The Martin and Green men, lived closer to the land then Walter Samuel, and were a little more rugged. Henry Green had tattoos of Anchors on both forearms, a fact that was mentioned in his Civil War Records.  They were remnants of the Natives, Free Blacks, and whites, who lived in and around the Welsh Mountains. The Welsh Mountain is a Community, which cuts through Lancaster and Chester County in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  The Mountains were a place of refuge for escaped slaves, free blacks, and Natives avoiding deportation to reservations. Many of the whites who fled into the mountains were criminals, or running from Indentured Servitude. During Pennsylvania’s slave period, African slaves and indentured whites both sought freedom in the Mountains. They soon made up a rugged group, now known as, Tri-Racial Isolates.

My mother passed the history of our ancestors through stories she told, when we were children. It was a means of keeping us occupied during the cold Pennsylvania Winters.  She spoke of the Civil War and our ancestors who were part of the Colored Troops. We learned about the Civil War in History Class, and looked through the books, for mention of the Colored Troop.  There was no mention of them in the history books, nor in the books in our library.  I knew that my mother would not make up tales about the family.  It was not until 1983 that I ordered copies of Uriah Martin and Henry Greens Civil War Records.  My mother and I poured over those records to glean information.

The Green and Martin families, were descendants of those rugged mountain folks, but lived in both worlds. They would come down and work on area farms and then head back to the mountains.  In later years, the young people came down, married, and/or joined the Military. My Grandfather Martin was the last of our line to live in the Mountains.  I remember going up there and seeing the haze over the trees. It was absolutely beautiful, and breathtaking, something that is hard to find words to describe. There were cases of people who wandered in the Welsh Mountains told Harrowing tales, of seeing Ghost like figures, and being shot at. There are even stories about people going in the Mountains and disappearing without a trace. These days there are only a few descendants, of the original people left on the Mountain. Developers have swept in, building upscale homes for Middle Class Families.

The Underground Railroad Colored Soldiers and the Welsh Mountains

My mother spoke about our Welsh Mountain ancestors, having been under the protection of William Penn. Her Paternal grandfather was named William Penn Martin, after his fathers brother, William Penn Martin Senior.  They and their ancestors, considered themselves, “Penn’s Indians”, even after the land was taken, and most Natives were shipped to Reservations out west. They were the Conestoga and Susquehanna who lived along the Rivers and Creeks in Chester and Lancaster County.

The area where they hunted, and fished, was also part of the Underground Railroad, which led from Southern States like, Virginia and Maryland to points north.  The Underground Railroad had many stops throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, because of it’s proximity to the south. My Great-Great Grandfather, Robert Pinn, was one of the unsung heroes of the Underground Railroad. He and his family were free blacks living in Virginia, until 1853, when the fled to Columbia (Lancaster County), Pennsylvania. He was a vocal Baptist Minister in Virginia and continued to Minister in Columbia, until he was forced to flee to Burlington New Jersey.  Robert Pinn was from a long line of Virginia’s Free Colored Population.  His grandfather, Rawley Pinn was a Revolutionary War Soldier, who fought at The Siege of Yorktown. His wife, Elizabeth Jackson-Pinn, was also a descendant of Free Persons of  Color, and her grandfather, Charles Lewis was a Sailor and Soldier during the Revolutionary War. Continue Reading…

Posted Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 at 3:21 am.


“The Escaped Slave and the Union Soldier”

Posted by: admin

This short editorial published in Harper’s Weekly describes two pictures of the same man – one shows him as a fugitive slave from Alabama and the other as a Union soldier. While at first he was a “poor fugitive oppressed with the weariness of two hundred long miles of dusty travel,” Harper’s Weekly explains that he enlisted in the USCT and became a “solder crowned with freedom and honor.” You can read the full editorial here.

See the images described in this editorial in the Slideshow below –
[nggallery id=12]

(Courtesy of the House Divided Project – “The Escaped Slave and the Union Soldier,” Harper’s Weekly, July 2, 1864, p. 422: 1.)

Posted Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 at 3:45 pm.

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“A Gross Injustice”

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African American soldiers in the United States Colored Troops originally did not receive equal pay. Some northerners demanded that Congress take action and change the policy. This editorial, which was published in Harper’s Weekly on February 13, 1864, asked readers to consider the issue:

  • “But the point for every honest man to ponder is this: We invited the colored man to fight for us: they have shown themselves brave, clever, and obedient, and we refuse to pay them what we pay other soldiers. Not to speak again of the sheer breach of faith and wanton injustice of such conduct, a distinction like this, even if it were honorably made, tends to maintain a feeling of caste which would be fatal to the army. All that we ask is fair play for every man who will risk his life for the country; and against foul play…we shall not fail to protest as earnestly and persistently as we can.”

Congress eventually instituted equal pay in June 1864.

(Courtesy of the House Divided Project – “A Gross Injustice,” Harper’s Weekly, February 13, 1864, p. 98: 2.)

Posted Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 at 2:24 pm.

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32nd USCT Regiment

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The 32nd USCT Regiment was organized in March 1864 at Camp William Penn outside Philadelphia. After training was completed, the regiment was sent to South Carolina in late April 1864. These men participated in a number of engagements while assigned to the Department of the South.

  • “Towards the close of November [1864], General Foster, in command of the Department [of the South], was directed by General Halleck to make a demonstration in the direction of Pocotaligo, for the purpose of diverting attention from General Sherman’s front, who was now approaching the sea. Foster could spare but five thousand troops for this purpose, and with these, ascending the Broad River in transports to Boyd’s Neck, he landed and hurried forward a force under General J. P. Hatch, to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. The Thirty-second was in Hatch’s command. On the morning of the 30th, Hatch encountered a rebel force under command of General Gustavus W. Smith, at Honey Hill, three miles from Grahamsville, in a commanding position behind breast works. Hatch immediately attacked, and though pushing his advance with obstinacy and bravery, he was compelled to fall back, sustaining heavy losses .The Thirty-second had nine killed and forty two wounded.”

After Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in April 1865, this regiment remained in South Carolina on “garrison duty.” The 32nd USCT returned to Philadelphia in mid-August 1865. You can read the full summary of the 32nd USCT Regiment’s actions during the Civil War as well as see the complete muster roll here.

(Courtesy of Google Books – Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5 (Harrisburg: B. Singerly, 1871), 5: 1047-1065.)

Posted Friday, April 30th, 2010 at 9:11 am.


43rd USCT Regiment

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After being assembled at Camp William Penn, the 43rd USCT Regiment, composed mainly of Pennsylvania recruits, was assigned in April 1864 to the Ninth Corps of the Army of the Potomac.  Continuing on through Washington, where the African-American regiment “attracted special attention,” the regiment became involved in the Wilderness Campaign in rural Virginia.  On July 30, 1864, at the Battle of the Crater during the Siege of Petersburg, the regiment stepped in after the confusion of the explosion caused the division leading the charge to take cover:

  • “The consternation created by the horrors of the explosion, enabled Ledlie’s Division to advance to, and take shelter in, the crater without serious loss… Finally when the enemy had fully recovered from his fright, had brought supports to cover the threatened point, and was fully prepared to repel further assaults, the Colored Division was ordered to advance.  It was a forlorn hope; but the division moved gallantly forward, in the face of a decimating fire, and passing to the right of the crater, charged towards the crest beyond.  Here so deadly was the fire of infantry and artillery which it met, that it was soon swept back in disorder amongst the debris of the demolished fort, though it succeeded in bringing in some prisoners, Captain Albert D. Wright taking, with his own hands, a rebel battle flag.  Little protection was afforded even here, the enemy soon getting the range, and mercilessly slaughtering the helpless victims huddled together.  A charge made upon them by the enemy, was bloodily repulsed; but it was madness to attempt to hold the position, and almost certain destruction to attempt to go back, every inch of the ground being raked by the enemy’s concentric fire.”

The regiment remained around Petersburg, doing fatigue duty and also fighting in the Battle of Hatcher’s Run in October 1864.  Later, the War Department reassigned the regiment, and it was employed on the front lines in active duty around Richmond (especially at Dutch Gap Canal) until the fall of the Confederate capital.

You can read the full summary of the 43rd USCT Regiment’s actions during the Civil War as well as see the complete muster roll here.

(Courtesy of Google Books – Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5 (Harrisburg: B. Singerly, 1871), 5: 1081-1105.)

Posted Thursday, April 29th, 2010 at 4:24 pm.


6th USCT Regiment

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The 6th USCT Regiment was composed mainly of Pennsylvania men, and was organized at Camp William Penn between July and September 1863.  In October, the regiment was assigned to the Army of the James and stationed near Yorktown, Pennsylvania.  The regiment was also part of a plan to release Union prisoners from Belle Isle near Richmond, Virginia.  After a grueling march in early February 1864, the Union forces arrived to find the Confederate forces prepared to meet them, and the battle was lost.  Afterwards, the regiment was posted near Petersburg building earthworks which Confederate forces attacked in May, prompting a successful counterattack in June 1864:

  • “On the 15th of June, the Sixth, together with the Fourth, Fifth, and Twenty second Colored, attacked the left of the rebel earth works in front of Petersburg, and by a determined charge carried the position, resting at midnight within the enemy’s strong fortifications. Early on the morning of the 16th, the colored soldiers of the Army of the James, hailed for the first time, the battle flags of the Army of the Potomac, a division under General Birney, marching in to their relief. The capture of these strong works by the colored troops, was well calculated to inspire respect among the veterans, now rapidly arriving from the Wilderness campaign, for none knew better than they how to appreciate valor. Until near the close of August the Sixth was kept almost constantly on duty in the trenches in front of Petersburg.”

On September 29, 1864, the 6th USCT Regiment fought in the Battle of Chapin’s Farm, which resulted in disastrous casualties for the regiment (of the 367 men entering the battle, 210 were killed, wounded, or missing by the end).  After this battle, the regiment was sent to North Carolina, where it served until the Confederate surrender in April 1865.

You can read the full summary of the 6th USCT Regiment’s actions during the Civil War as well as see the complete muster roll here.

(Courtesy of Google Books – Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5 (Harrisburg: B. Singerly, 1871), 5: 943-964.)

Posted Thursday, April 29th, 2010 at 3:56 pm.


45th USCT Regiment

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After being assembled at Camp William Penn in the summer of 1864, the 45th USCT Regiment was sent to Washington, DC, where it had the distinct honor of being the only African-American regiment in the procession for the second inauguration of President Lincoln.  In September 1864, the regiment was moved to Petersburg, Virginia, where it participated in the Siege of Petersburg.  The regiment took part in skirmishes at Fort Harrison and the Battle of Darbytown Road, and remained stationed on picket duty at Fort Harrison until the spring 1865.  When the spring campaign opened, the regiment was ordered into active duty with the Army of the Potomac, and it participated in the Battle of Hatcher’s Run.  The regiment was present for the fall of Petersburg, and followed the Confederate forces to Appomattox Court House, where it was present for the Confederate surrender on April 9, 1865.

You can read the full summary of the 45th USCT Regiment’s actions during the Civil War as well as see the complete muster roll here.

(Courtesy of Google Books – Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5 (Harrisburg: B. Singerly, 1871), 5: 1106-1124.)

Posted Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 at 12:15 pm.

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