African American Vengance

Scott Stabler's picture

I am trying to find out more about United States Colored Troops and freedpeople’s vengeance during and after the Civil War, including the repercussions for their actions.

I assume you have read Andrew Ward, The Slaves' War and of course Been In The Storm. There are also 2 or 3 new books about the 54th and 55th regiments.

I know a gentleman who has done a lot of research regarding this issue. I will pass your interest along to him and perhaps he can assist you. Of course, if he is willing, arrangements will have to be made for you both to communicate.

Forgive my immodesty, but I dealt with this topic in my article that appeared in the September 1996 issue of _Civil War History_ -- "'We Cannot Treat Negroes . . . as Prisoners of War': Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in Civil War Arkansas." That piece can also be found in my edited volume, _Black Flag over Dixie: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in the Civil War_ (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), which contains several related essays. The 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry refused to take Rebel prisoners and killed Rebel wounded at the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry, Arkansas, April 30, 1864, in retaliation for the massacre of the 1st Kansas Colored on April 18, 1864. After Jenkin's Ferry, the Rebels executed ten 2nd Kansas wounded who were left behind under the care of Union surgeons. The racial retaliation at Jenkins' Ferry inspired the opening scene to Steven Spielberg's film, _Lincoln_.

Another pertinent volume is George S. Barkhardt, _Confederate Rage, Yankee Wrath: No Quarter in the Civil War_ (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007).

At the Battle of the Crater, black troops streamed forward to shouts of "Remember Fort Pillow!" Confederate apologists use that to explain the ensuing massacre of USCTs who fell into enemy hands.

While editing a new, annotated edition of A.F. Sperry's 1866 regimental history, _History of the 33d Iowa Infantry Volunteer Regiment 1863-6_ for University of Arkansas Press in 1999, my wife and I found several accounts of black troops refusing to take prisoners when they stormed Fort Blakely in Mobile Bay, April 10, 1865. See p. 316, ns. 3 and 5, which will lead you to those sources.