Were USCT reluctant to take prisoners?

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major bill

Colonel
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Aug 25, 2012
I have seen a few authors indicate that USCT did not treat Confederate wounded and prisoners as well as they should. I understand that both the Union and Confederate armies were at time guilty of this but is there any truth to the USCT being any more guilt than either the Union or Confederate other soldiers?
 

AndyHall

Colonel
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
In some cases, yes, there absolutely were recriminations and retaliation, especially after Fort Pillow. As I said in the old blog post below, in wartime one atrocity is used to justify another.

__________

Running through the 1865 compilation, Soldiers’ Letters from Camp, Battlefield and Prison, I was struck by this letter’s clarity and direct, matter-of-fact language.​


Vidalia, La.
May 17th, 1864

There has been a party of guerrillas prowling about here, stealing horses and mules from the leased plantations. A scouting party was sent out from here, in which was a company of colored cavalry, commanded by the colonel of a colored regiment. After marching some distance, they came upon the party of whom they were in pursuit. There were seventeen prisoners captured and shot by the colored soldiers. When the guerrillas were first seen, the colonel told them in a loud tone of voice to “Remember Fort Pillow.” And they did: all honor to them for it.

If the Confederacy wish to fight us on these terms, we are glad to know it, and will try and do our part in the contest. I do not admire the mode of warfare, but know of no other way for us to end the war than to retaliate.

Lieut. Anson T. Hemingway
70th U.S. Col. Regiment
I’ve seen no better example of the way one atrocity is used to justify another in wartime, fueling an endless, violent spiral of reprisal and revenge. And yet, knowing what happened at Fort Pillow, I cannot be sure I’d have tried to stop those cavalrymen. The desire for retribution is very strong, and very human.


athemingway.jpg


Anson Tyler Hemingway was born in East Plymouth, Connecticut in 1844. He moved to Chicago with his family at age ten. Hemingway enlisted in Company D of the 72nd Illinois Infantry and served with that regiment at Vicksburg. Mustered out of the service, he later joined Company H, 70th USCT as 1st Lieutenant and also served as provost martial of the Freedman’s Bureau in Natchez. Hemingway was mustered out of the service in March 1866, after which he attended Wheaton College. Two of Hemingway’s brothers had died in the war. After two years at Wheaton, Hemingway took a position as general secretary of the Chicago YMCA. He later established a real estate business in Oak Park. He died in 1926 at the age of 82.

Anson Hemingway’s grandson Ernest also enjoyed some success as a writer.
 

huskerblitz

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Location
Nebraska
I have seen a few authors indicate that USCT did not treat Confederate wounded and prisoners as well as they should. I understand that both the Union and Confederate armies were at time guilty of this but is there any truth to the USCT being any more guilt than either the Union or Confederate other soldiers?
"Any more guilty" is subjective. If I'm not mistaken there was an incident at the Crater where USCT troops shoot surrendering Confederate soldiers. It would probably come as no surprise, but they were human, just like their white counterparts and mistakes made.
 
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novushomus

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May 23, 2016
I have seen a few authors indicate that USCT did not treat Confederate wounded and prisoners as well as they should. I understand that both the Union and Confederate armies were at time guilty of this but is there any truth to the USCT being any more guilt than either the Union or Confederate other soldiers?
An noteworthy incident is the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry, April 30 1864, in the Camden Expedition in Arkansas. Two of Steele's regiments were the 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry (Thayer's Frontier Division). The 1st Kansas had been the victim of a racially motivated massacre at the Battle of Poison Spring just fourteen days earlier, where 110 were killed and 65 wounded (39 percent of the 438 present for duty before the battle) and the wounded of the regiment were murdered. In the aftermath, the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry met and voted not to give quarter to Confederate prisoners, in light of Poison Spring and Fort Pillow.

At Jenkins' Ferry, the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry were part of the Union rear guard covering Steele's retreating column. They helped to repulse several assaults by Kirby Smith's and Price's rebels. When Mosby Parsons's Confederate division went to assault the Union line, a section of six pounders from Ruffner's Missouri battery (Clark's brigade) unlimbered only a few dozen yards away from the 2nd Kansas, which counterattacked and captured the section with support from Samuel Rice's 29th Iowa.

With a cry of "Poison Springs!", the 2nd Kansas overran the guns and killed most of the gunners, including three who attempted to surrender by bayonet point and began to murder wounded rebels until the arrival of Walker's division and pressure from Churchill's reforming division forced them on the defensive. When Steele abandoned the battlefield and retreated to Little Rock, the Confederates would murder nine wounded soldiers from the 2nd Kansas at their field hospital in retaliation.
 
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brass napoleon

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At the Battle of the Crater, and even two months later at the Battle of New Market Heights, it was a battle cry for the USCT: "Remember Fort Pillow! No Quarter!" It appears as if the officers encouraged that battle cry to try to fire up the black troops who they still feared might be docile in battle. But it turns out they were anything but. And many of the troops took the battle cry literally, whether it was meant that way or not. For example, here's Colonel Delevan Bates' (commander of the 30th USCT) account of the Battle of the Crater (pay particular attention to the section in column 4, aptly titled "Enjoyment in Killing"):
 

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leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Location
los angeles ca
In some cases, yes, there absolutely were recriminations and retaliation, especially after Fort Pillow. As I said in the old blog post below, in wartime one atrocity is used to justify another.

__________

Running through the 1865 compilation, Soldiers’ Letters from Camp, Battlefield and Prison, I was struck by this letter’s clarity and direct, matter-of-fact language.​


Vidalia, La.
May 17th, 1864

There has been a party of guerrillas prowling about here, stealing horses and mules from the leased plantations. A scouting party was sent out from here, in which was a company of colored cavalry, commanded by the colonel of a colored regiment. After marching some distance, they came upon the party of whom they were in pursuit. There were seventeen prisoners captured and shot by the colored soldiers. When the guerrillas were first seen, the colonel told them in a loud tone of voice to “Remember Fort Pillow.” And they did: all honor to them for it.

If the Confederacy wish to fight us on these terms, we are glad to know it, and will try and do our part in the contest. I do not admire the mode of warfare, but know of no other way for us to end the war than to retaliate.

Lieut. Anson T. Hemingway
70th U.S. Col. Regiment
I’ve seen no better example of the way one atrocity is used to justify another in wartime, fueling an endless, violent spiral of reprisal and revenge. And yet, knowing what happened at Fort Pillow, I cannot be sure I’d have tried to stop those cavalrymen. The desire for retribution is very strong, and very human.


View attachment 129192

Anson Tyler Hemingway was born in East Plymouth, Connecticut in 1844. He moved to Chicago with his family at age ten. Hemingway enlisted in Company D of the 72nd Illinois Infantry and served with that regiment at Vicksburg. Mustered out of the service, he later joined Company H, 70th USCT as 1st Lieutenant and also served as provost martial of the Freedman’s Bureau in Natchez. Hemingway was mustered out of the service in March 1866, after which he attended Wheaton College. Two of Hemingway’s brothers had died in the war. After two years at Wheaton, Hemingway took a position as general secretary of the Chicago YMCA. He later established a real estate business in Oak Park. He died in 1926 at the age of 82.

Anson Hemingway’s grandson Ernest also enjoyed some success as a writer.
Good quote. If the USCT troopers were simply killing guerrillas then per the Leiber Code they were just taking out the trash. No harm no foul.
Leftyhunter
 
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huskerblitz

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Good quote. If the USCT troopers were simply killing guerrillas then per the Leiber Code they were just taking out the trash. No harm no foul.
Leftyhunter
Nice detached view of life, eh? I suppose from a certain modern point of view there is a lot of reflection of that in today's society if one group can justify it. Most sane people just call it murder.
 

Don Dixon

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Fairfax, VA, USA
In February 1864, 32 soldiers from the 51st USCT were foraging at Tecumseh Plantation, near Lake Village, Arkansas, when they were overrun by Confederate troopers from Company E, 9th Missouri Cavalry. Recalling the events years later in an article in the Confederate Veteran, Private “Weed” Marshall recalled that the black soldiers got off one volley from their Austrian rifles before they were cut down by the Confederates, who then bayoneted the black soldiers with their own rifles to make sure of the job. Marshall described the 51st’s rifles as being Austrian arms with quadrangular bayonets. Among the souvenirs the Missouri cavalry collected was a saber inscribed “Presented by Friends to Thaddeus K. Cock, 1st Mississippi Regiment, for Bravery.” Cock was a Lieutenant in Company G of the 51st. The 9th Missouri was somewhat less efficient than Private Marshall recollected. The 51st USCT reported 13 men killed, and one officer and six men wounded, after they had surrendered. Lieutenant Cock survived the fight, although wounded.

The 51st may have had its revenge in April 1865 during the Battle at Fort Blakely during the Mobile Campaign. When an assault by a division of black troops took Fort Blakley, the 51st was accused of decling to take prisoners. Second Lieutenant Walter Chapman of the 51st later said that his men “killed all they took to a man.”

In another example, during the Battle of Milliken’s Bend on 7 June 1863: When the 16th Texas Cavalry (Dismounted), 17th Texas Infantry, and 19th Texas Infantry attacked the African Brigade at the Federal camp at Millikin’s Bend, at least one of the Confederate regiments went in carrying a black flag bearing a skull and crossbones. This was a traditional symbol that no quarter would be given the enemy.

Attrocity begits attrocity.

Regards,
Don Dixon
 
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DRW

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How about the obverse question? Were Confederate troops less likely to surrender or retreat in the face of USCT opponents?
 
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leftyhunter

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Nice detached view of life, eh? I suppose from a certain modern point of view there is a lot of reflection of that in today's society if one group can justify it. Most sane people just call it murder.
Both Confederate and Union troops and homeguards were authorized to shoot guerrillas captured or not on sight no questions asked. Unionist and Confederate guerrillas did likewise. The same is true in countless Counterinsurgency wars prior to the Civil War and after. Are all of those soldiers and guerrillas of every race nationality and almost every religion including all the major ones "crazy"?
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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Nice detached view of life, eh? I suppose from a certain modern point of view there is a lot of reflection of that in today's society if one group can justify it. Most sane people just call it murder.
Were the USCT troopers murders? If you were in their shoes wouldn't you do the same? Like the old saying goes " what goes around comes around".
Leftyhunter
 

huskerblitz

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Location
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Both Confederate and Union troops and homeguards were authorized to shoot guerrillas captured or not on sight no questions asked. Unionist and Confederate guerrillas did likewise. The same is true in countless Counterinsurgency wars prior to the Civil War and after. Are all of those soldiers and guerrillas of every race nationality and almost every religion including all the major ones "crazy"?
Leftyhunter
They're all trash so who cares, Lefty? That's how you chose to phrase it. So I stand by my opinion it's a pretty sad detached view of life.
 
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leftyhunter

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They're all trash so who cares, Lefty? That's how you chose to phrase it. So I stand by my opinion it's a pretty sad detached view of life.
No all of the above groups are just ordinary people from all walks of life. Some didn't want to fight but were forced in to some eagerly joined. They did what they had to do and what millions of men involved in COIN or conventional fighting have done prior to the Civil War to this very day.
We can't condemn them unless we were in a similar situation and did the right thing. If someone kills your family or comrades it's not easy to turn the other cheek or fight per some sort of rulebook.
The USCT troopers did what any normal person would do under similar circumstances.
Leftyhunter
 

huskerblitz

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No all of the above groups are just ordinary people from all walks of life. Some didn't want to fight but were forced in to some eagerly joined. They did what they had to do and what millions of men involved in COIN or conventional fighting have done prior to the Civil War to this very day.
We can't condemn them unless we were in a similar situation and did the right thing. If someone kills your family or comrades it's not easy to turn the other cheek or fight per some sort of rulebook.
The USCT troopers did what any normal person would do under similar circumstances.
Leftyhunter
I'm not interested in your COIN stuff. Just not in my interest at this point.

However, USCTs are bound by rules of war just like the Confederates should been. They were not part of your COINage stuff. I get that it happens. But I certainly would not phrase it as "taking the trash out". Suppose I may have a greater respect for life. Shrug.
 

leftyhunter

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los angeles ca
I'm not interested in your COIN stuff. Just not in my interest at this point.

However, USCTs are bound by rules of war just like the Confederates should been. They were not part of your COINage stuff. I get that it happens. But I certainly would not phrase it as "taking the trash out". Suppose I may have a greater respect for life. Shrug.
I am delighted you are morally superior to millions of men who were similarly situated.
Leftyhunter
 
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