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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Voices

Blacks who served in the post-Civil War regular army(l866-98) did not leave much of a written record. Much of what is known about these soldiers comes from the observations and reports of whites, some civilians--but in the main army officers. But these enlisted regulars were not silent, and their "voices" can be found in military pension, medical and court-martial records.

Here's a selection from these records: errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation are as originally written.

"...I jus' wants a gun and a hoss and be a sojer...," Madison Bruin on why he enlisted.

Jerry Jenkins on his motive for reenlisting in the 24th Infantry, "I much wrother souldier then to be any thing else."

George Conrad, 9th cavalry, describing one advantage of military service: "The white folks learned my father how to read and write, but I didn't learn how ... till I enlisted in the U.S. Army in l883."

Sgt.. William Gibson, l0th Cavalry, at the court-martial of 1st Sgt. George Garnett: "He called me a son of a bitch, said I was not fit to be in the service."

"She had some gentleman friends and I was in the way of them, and I would not allow such conduct to go on...," l0th Cavalryman William Johnson explaining why he assualted a woman with a razor.

An anonymous 9th Cavalry trooper described Ft. Washakie as "one one hundred miles from nowhere."

Charles W. Day, 24th Infantrty, while drunk to his 1st Sgt: "Put me in the guard house and be God damned to you. You can't put me in none too soon." This outburst got Day l0 days in the post cooler.

An admission by Hamilton Jackson, 39th Infantry: "I had a private disease. I suppose I got it like all other men by messing around with women."

"Sky-larking with women," was 25th Infatnry Private Jefferson Talton's reply when asked by a medical officer how he developed an acute hernia.

From a letter on conditions at Ft. Bliss to the Secretary of War by a 25th Infantrymen who identified himself as "Justice OK": "I do not think it becomes a soldier to work...from 8 o'clock in the morning until 6 o'clock in the evening and then get ready for perade,witch we do not have time to clean nothing if we do not come out clean we are punished..."

Another anonymous member of the 25th, this time writing from Ft. Shaw in l888: "...the way the Officers carry on at this post they treat the enlisted men wrose than slaves because they are colored and the Officers think they have not sence enough to write the proper authoritys." This soldier sent his complaint to the Secretary of War.

"He called his men damned negro sons of bitches," Pvt. Luther Craven, 9th Cavalry, testifying at the court-martial of his troop commander.

From a broadside prepared by l0th Cavalrymen and l6th Infantrymen stationed at Ft. Concho and distributed to residents of nearby San Angelo, Texas: "We, the soldiers of the U.S. Army, do herby warn Cow-Boys &c of San Angela and vacinity, to recognize our right of way, as just and peaceable men,. If we do not receive justice and fair play, which we must have, some one will suffer--if not the guilty then innocent. It has gone to far. Justice or Death."

On New Year's Day l873 a small detail of the 25th Infantry defended a Texas mail station against an attack by Indians. This is the final sentence in the report of detail commander Sgt. Joseph Luckadoe to his company commander: "Please ask the Col. to send some more ammunition..and please send those beans to the station keeper and some vegetables, if you have some to spare."

"Jobing a round best I can," is how l0th Cavalry veteran William Garrett described his life after leaving the army.

Finally, and one of my all-time favorites. Pvt. Peter White, regiment unknown, called an NCO a "God damned, black, cowardly, buffalo son of a bitch."

If any of you have found the "voices" of black regulars, please post them as I sure would like to expand my collection. Thanks.

Tom Phillips


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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