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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

A snap shot, not a portrait

I put the following together several years ago. Figured I'd post it on this message board.

Use your imagination--you have discovered a long rank representing the some 2,300 blacks who were in the regular army in June, l883.
Take a good close look at these fellows and ask them some questions. This is what you'd see and learn:

About 40% are infantrymen (average strength of the 9th and l0th Cav was 780, 490 for the 24th and 25th Infantry).

Most are in their early twenties (some as young as l6) and are serving an initial 5-year enlistment

More than half are illiterate

Many knew slavery; nearly all are the children of slaves

The majority are from the border states of Md, KY, TN and MO; also the District of Columbia

Not many are from the Deep South; fewer still are Northern-born

There is a small group of foreign-born: Canadians and West Indians

About a third are in their second enlistment, some in their third or fourth

There are still a few Civil War veterans in this rank

These men are paid exactly the same as the approximately 20,2200 white enlisted men

In the main they are housed, fed, uniformed and armed/mounted the same as white troops

Like the bulk of the army (all of the cavalry and 2/3 of the infantry) these troops are posted west of the Mississippi

You could lengthen this rank by about 50 men if you included staff NCOs (such as Post Quartermaster, Commissary and Ordnance Sergeants) and Hospital Corpsmen

One man is in the Signal Corps

At least one of these black regulars wore glasses

Now, force your imagination to time travel forward a year to June, l884. Here's what happened to these soldiers during the previous twelve months:

438 were discharged at the end of their enlistment

74 received a medical (disability) discharge

53 were dismissed by verdict of a General Court-Martial

l9 died from "all causes"

None were killed, and apparently none were wounded, in action

75 deserted (by comparison 3,597 white soldiers took "the grand bounce")

89 reenlisted: 26 NCOs, 58 privates, and 5 musicians

As I said in the beginning of this posting: this is a snap shot--not a portrait. Still-take a good look.

Messages In This Thread

A snap shot, not a portrait
More snap shot data
Re: More snap shot data
Re: More snap shot data

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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