Buffalo Soldier Regiment: History of the Twenty-Fifth United States Infantry, 1869-1926

By John H. Nankivell | Go to book overview

HISTORY OF THE 25TH REGIMENT OF
UNITED STATES INFANTRY
1869–19296


CHAPTER I
THE COLORED SOLDIER IN THE MILITARY SERVICE OF
THE UNITED STATES PRIOR TO 1866.

Although the primary object of this volume is to chronicle the history of the present 25th Regiment of United States Infantry, nevertheless it is not out of place, and possibly of some interest, to sketch briefly the services of the colored soldiers of the United States prior to the formation of the colored regiments now in the regular service; i. e. the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments and the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments.


THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR

During the Revolutionary War colored men, as individuals, served in many of the regiments raised by the various states, but there is record of only one unit composed exclusively of colored men that served during the war, the so-called Rhode Island “Black Regiment”. This regiment insofar as official records are concerned, is the first colored regiment to be raised for the service of the United States. These troops were recruited in Rhode Island in the spring of 1778 to complete Rhode Island’s quota of continental troops for Washington’s army and were composed mostly of freedmen. The regiment was in fact a battalion of four companies, and never exceeded a total strength of 150 men. It participated in the battle of Rhode Island, August 29, 1778, and later was present at Yorktown in October, 1781. On the night of May 14, 1781, the battalion was surprised and badly cut up by Delancey’s (Tory) Light Horse. The last active service of this organization was in the Oswego Expedition in February, 1783, soon after which it was disbanded.


THE WAR OF 1812–1814

As in the Revolutionary War, scores of colored men, as individuals, served in many of the state regiments but it is impossible at this time to make even an approximate estimate of the number who so served because for the greater part the records of their services are either lost or do not make any distinction as to just what members of the organization were colored or white. The records of units of colored men that were raised for the war are equally as meager, and insofar as the present writer has been able to determine, but four battalions were so raised. Of these, two battalions were raised in New York, and were sent to join the army at Sackett’s Harbor, but there is no positive record that they were ever in action. The other two battalions were raised in New Orleans by General Jackson, and Wilson, in his very interesting book,” The Black Phalanx”, has the following to say of these organizations:

“On the 18th of December, 1814, following the issuing of his proclamation, General Jackson reviewed the troops under his command at New Orleans, amounting to about six thousand, and of this force about five hundred were negroes, organized into two battalions, commanded by Major Lacoste and Major Savory.” (Page 84)

“On January 8th, the short but terrible struggle (Battle of New Orleans) took place. * * * It was in this great battle that two battalions of negroes participated, and helped to save the city, * * * * The two battalions numbered four hundred and thirty men, and were commanded by Major Lacoste and Major Savory.” (Page 85)

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