Recruiting and Arming Blacks as Soldiers

Donald Shaffer, in a post entitled “Working Out the Past and Portents of the Future,” wrote today on General David Hunter’s efforts to, in the spring of 1862, convince the lincoln administration to allow him to recruit and arm blacks in the Department of the South, where he had recently been appointed commander.

“Early April 1862 saw past events working themselves out and portents of things to come along the road to emancipation.

“A portent came on April 3, when the Gen. David Hunter wrote Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton from his headquarters in Hilton Head, S.C. Hunter, recently installed as commander of the Department of the South, had been given the unenviable task of solidifying and expanding the Union toe holds in coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida with minimal personnel and supplies. Although his activities were essential to the northern naval blockade of the South, Hunter got the short stick in competing for resources with high-profile Union commanders, such George McClellan, who was that spring voraciously diverted soldiers and supplies for his Peninsula campaign against the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.”

Many of you may know about Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a New England abolitionist who as a Colonel in the Union army led free black troops in the South, and wrote about this experience in a series of essays published eventually as _Army Life in a Black Regiment_. A poet himself, he had a relationship, as her editor, with Amherst resident Emily Dickinson.


About marcferguson

I teach history, including the American Civil War Era, as an Adjunct at American International College in Springfield, Ma. I also teach survey courses in U.S. history, Western Civilization, and World History, and have taught at other area colleges, including the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, and Holyoke Community College. While my academic background is in European History, my interest in the American Civil War began about a decade ago. Other areas of interest include Modernism, 20th century World Thought and Culture, The Rise of the West after 1400, 19th c. American Society and Culture, Central and Eastern European History and Culture, and Local History. I have in recent years cut back my teaching drastically in order to devote more time raising my kids (15 year old twins now), including working part-time at their elementary/middle school for the past 6 years, they are now launched and off to High School, and I plan to crank up my involvement in teaching history and local history projects, particularly in light of the American Civil War Sesquicentennial.
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