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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum

Re: The Negro Soldier in the Spanish American War

Very informative article, however, the author has omitted an EXTREMELY important fact regarding Negro soldiers in the war with Spain. There is no mention at all of Company L, 6th Massachusetts Infantry, USV - the first and oldest black unit in the National Guard.

They are important for several reasons:

First, Co. L was a 100% BLACK company within an otherwise all-white regiment. This is the only instance of such a unit ever in the history of the National Guard.

Second, Co. L was the ONLY black state unit to see combat in the Spanish-American War. They participated in offensive and defensive actions in Puerto Rico.

Co. L was also one of only two black state units to serve outside the US during the war (the 8th Illinois Infantry was the other).

The true importance of Co. L lies in their overall history. They were directly decended from the FIRST black "National Guard" unit formed during the Civil War. The Unattached Company of Infantry of Boston was formed on Sept. 10, 1863 and served as part of the Massachusetts home guard. Before war's end their number would include invalided veterans of the 54th and 55th regiments.

They were assigned as Company L, 6th Regiment MVM on March 12, 1878. After having served in Puerto Rico and on the Mexican Border they were again called to Federal service on March 30, 1917.

On Nov. 30, 1917, they were detached from the 6th, re-designated First Separate Company, MVM, and sent to Camp Stuart, VA where they would become Co. L, 372nd Infantry. Co. L was the first unit of what would be the 372nd to arrive at Camp Stuart.

After serving with distinction in France with the 372nd, Co. L was demobilized in 1919.They were reorganized several times during the early 1920's before eventually becoming the nucleus of the newly reformed 3rd Battalion, 372nd Infantry. They remained part of the 372nd until the regiment was disbanded in 1946.

After the 372nd was dissolved, the Boston men were again reorganized, this time as the 272nd Field Artillery Battalion. The unit was sent to Germany in 1951 and remained there until disbanded in late 1952.

The unit was never again reorganized or reactivated as by now the Army was integrated, and the proud black soldiers of Boston could henceforth serve in any unit they chose.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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