Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era

By John David Smith | Go to book overview

10
PROVEN THEMSELVES
IN EVERY RESPECT
TO BE MEN
Black Cavalry in the Civil War

Noah Andre Trudeau

In the course of one terrible night in 1865, Fannie Walker, a copying clerk in the Confederate Bureau of War, saw her whole world collapse. It began with her new nation. Most of the key personnel and agencies making up the Confederate States of America had fled when word arrived from besieged Petersburg that General Robert E. Lee was abandoning his lines. At once, a proudly defiant government became a woeful caravan of refugees on a road leading nowhere. If that were not enough, beautiful Richmond, a city Fannie had come to love, had been rocked throughout the night of April 2 by fires and explosions as if heaven itself had tried to wipe the Rebel capital from the map.

The crowning symbol of the changed order of things came at dawn on April 3, when Fannie looked out the window of the Valentine House, where she had sought safety while the city burned. What she saw, on the street below her, was something utterly unimagined in the culture of the white South. There, in blue uniform and on horseback was a Union cavalryman, a black Union cavalryman. Even as the terrified woman fought back the surge of racial horror bred of a lost world of genteel mores and the rigid caste system of slavery, she heard the Yankee trooper exclaim, “Richmond at last!”1

That lone African American mounted soldier represented a small and often overlooked group of black military outfits in the Civil War. While virtually all the glory and the lion's share of attention has been given to the

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