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.
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.