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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

It was Camp Shipp, Bennie!

Howdy Bennie you may recall my asking during our Prodigy years about an incident with servicemen at Ft McCellan and residents of the City of Anniston.
Well I had the facts semi correct. It was not McClellan but Camp Shipp. The incident was waaaaay before my time ( I had said age 12) but some of the details remain as I had recalled hearing through the years. Let''s call iy embellished community lore :)

In any event I was recently reading a bit of Anniston history and in the chapter on The Colored Population the author says...

The most serious incidents, however, occurred when Camp Shipp existed in town in 1898 and 1899. During the first month, "bloody riots" broke out between black and white troops, with some locals joining in.

The paymaster arrived for the first time on October 13, and most of the soldiers coming into town after that to spend their money were white. The black soldiers remained in camp, and the next day one Negro reportedly deposited over $600 in "crap winnings" in an Anniston bank. Meanwhile, the barrooms and streetcars were "coining money."

To prevent further rioting, the provost guards camped in the city. By the last week in November, several more incidents had taken place. Some were mentioned briefly in the press; others were described more fully. One Saturday night an armed, drunken Negro soldier was "terrorizing" Tenth Street. When the sheriff attempted to arrest him, the soldier tried to
stab the law officer.

After he was taken prisoner, a large squad of black troops tried to rescue him but were restrained by white troops. In the melee, the sheriff was almost shot.
This incident apparently touched off a more serious affair between the races.

On the night of November 25, a "desperate encounter" took place between the soldiers of the all-black Third Alabama Regiment and the provost guards in West Anniston, resulting in the death of three black soldiers, a white soldier, and a civilian. Numerous others were injured.

The guards, poorly equipped to do battle with armed troops, ran out of ammunition and had to be supplied by citizens. The affair started on Tenth Street and spread all the way to Fifteenth. With the outbreak of the riot, squads of Negro soldiers began coming from the camp to join in. A provost guard miraculously escaped injury after one bullet hit his belt buckle and another tore through his trouser leg.

Following these episodes, the provost guard from Camp Shipp set up a mounted force to patrol the city. In addition, the men were put under stricter regulations. They had to be in their quarters by II :00 p.m. for roll call, and passes into the city at night were limited to sixty men per regiment.

Finally, a camp guard was posted to prevent troops from taking their arms out of camp. With these new orders, tension was simply transferred from town to camp and particularly to the Third Alabama Regiment.

A civilian delivering supplies reported that a new cry of alarm could now be heard in camp. If anyone shouted, "Lay down!", the black soldiers all sought "close proximity to Mother Earth." The merchant heard such a cry when one black began chasing another, and about seventy-five men dropped to the ground, including the one holding his horse's reins.

Among the white soldiers, the call "rough house" meant that all hands should fight. . A few days later, excitement mounted when members of the Third Alabama fired at the pickets surrounding their encampment. It appeared as though the black troops were readying for a general engagement. By the time the commanding general arrived and ordered the troops back, the Fourth Wisconsin, Second Arkansas, and Third Tennessee were in battalion formation to meet the attackers. In the confusion, a few stray bullets hit the hospital. Two days later, an unconfirmed eleven deaths were reported following another attack on the pickets of the Third Alabama.

During the following months, racial differences at Camp Shipp subsided. In town, black soldiers were involved in minor scrapes such as wildly firing pistols and breaking windows, but no further injuries resulted.

The town seemed relieved when the men of the Third Alabama Regiment were mustered out in March 1899. "Now a Negro in a uniform will not be seen around Anniston," the paper reported.

Anniston had never known before and would not see again until World War II days the racial clashes such as those involving the troops at Camp Shipp in November and December 1898. "

Bennie do you have any documentation of the above to point me?

Thanx a whole heap!!!


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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