Were Black Troops Regularly Placed on the Front Lines Due to the Danger of that Position? (poll)

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Were Black Troops Regularly Placed on the Front Lines Due to the Danger of that Position?

  • Yes

    Votes: 4 17.4%
  • No

    Votes: 18 78.3%
  • Don't Know

    Votes: 1 4.3%

  • Total voters
    23

gem

2nd Lieutenant
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Oct 26, 2012
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In follow-up to a post I made earlier the following statement was made by Kyle in the article:

"Did you know that black soldiers were put on the front line in the North and Southern front lines so they would be killed first?"

Is there truth to this?

Were Black Troops Regularly Placed on the Front Lines Due to the Danger of that Position?
 

Lampasas Bill

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Sep 24, 2018
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No. If anything they were often deliberately prevented from serving on the "front line" because they were considered unreliable. The Black division that was selected to lead the charge into the crater after the mine was sprung at Petersburg trained extensively for that duty but were replaced at the last moment by a white unit, not familiar with the plan. Chaos resulted, and the rest is history.
 
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WJC

Major General
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Answered the Call for Reinforcements
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Actually, the record shows just the opposite. There was a belief that Black troops were not as good as White troops, so they were generally assigned tasks in the rear to free up White troops for front line assignments. Commanders of USCT units were frequently stymied in attempting to get their units into combat. When they did, the Black troops proved themselves the equal of any White troops.
Questions like this arise in part because until relatively recently, the contribution of Black troops in the Civil War- as well as the Indian Wars and Spanish-American War- was seldom mentioned.
 

7thWisconsin

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Messages
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No. In fact they did a lot of digging and garrison duty. If the USCT had spearheaded the Crater assault, as they'd been prepared to do, the war would have been over in a week. As it was, they were deliberately withdrawn from the line to avoid the very charge of using them as cannon fodder.
 

CanadianCanuck

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Nov 21, 2014
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The USCT were repeatedly denied the chance to fight, and often unfairly treated as 'second rate' troops. This despite proving their bravery on numerous fields and giving as good as they got for less pay. Can anyone say that they performed poorly at Mound Island, Port Hudson, Fort Wagner, or Nashville?

The big tragedy is that plain old racism kept black soldiers from being properly treated or respected until 1948!
 
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LSBusch

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No, not in my (admittedly) limited research of the Red River Campaign. They were at the rear of the column in every march. They were skirmishers at the battle of Pleasant Hill before it began, and I learned that almost by accident because only one of the many reports of that battle even mentioned them. This is evolving into the topic of lack of appreciation, but I have to share General A. J. Smith's comment after the Battle of Harrisburg/Tupelo: "The colored brigade, under Colonel Bouton, fought excellently well, and showed the effect of discipline and drill, and I am free to confess that their action has removed from my mind a prejudice of twenty years' standing."
 

LSBusch

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Location
Reno, Nevada
Another comment, not a poll answer. Disclaimer: I do not share my great-great-grandfather's opinion. He was a Union soldier in the 14th Iowa. If he had had his way, the colored troops would have been placed on the front lines. He wrote about the Fourth U.S. Artillery Colored in his diary Aug. 29, 1863:

"As we came in off dress perade there was about 30 more negroes came in to the hospital head quarters for examination. Some comes in every few days in Squads of 30 to 50. They are conscripted. Mind they are not Vols. However some of them is very willing to go into the army but according to my knouledge the majority of them plays off or trys to. The blacks that they are taking in at this place is for heavy artilery service. Very good service I think for them."

 
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Bruce Vail

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Jul 8, 2015
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A recent documentary I saw on Sherman stated he would not send black troops into battle. I had never heard that before, although I did know that he took no black troops with him in the March to the Sea.
 
Last edited:

leftyhunter

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May 27, 2011
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los angeles ca
The USCT were repeatedly denied the chance to fight, and often unfairly treated as 'second rate' troops. This despite proving their bravery on numerous fields and giving as good as they got for less pay. Can anyone say that they performed poorly at Mound Island, Port Hudson, Fort Wagner, or Nashville?

The big tragedy is that plain old racism kept black soldiers from being properly treated or respected until 1948!
If we get into post 1948 US military history one finds significant issues regarding racial military equality well after 1948. I have if you're interested a PM thread that addresses those issues.
Leftyhunter
 
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FedericoFCavada

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Jan 27, 2015
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Location
San Antonio, Texas
In the case of the 54th Massachusetts? Yes! Clearly so.

As a general rule? See above. I think there was more of a tendency to use USCT as labor levies and construction battalions and other menial "un-soldierly" tasks rather than as "bullet catchers."
 
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