Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers: Perspectives on the African American Militia and Volunteers, 1865-1917

By Bruce A. Glasrud | Go to book overview

A Flag for the Tenth Immunes

Russell K. Brown

in July 1898 a regiment of African American volunteers for SpanishAmerican War service was organized at Camp Dyer near Augusta, Georgia. The unit was officially known as the Tenth U.S. Volunteer Infantry (USVI), but the men were popularly known as “Immunes” and the regiment was called the Tenth Immunes. The name came from the mistaken belief that the men were of such constitution, heritage or previous exposure that they would be immune to tropical diseases that might be encountered in the Spanish islands in the Caribbean or in the Philippine Islands.

There were ten Immune regiments in all, six of white men and four of black. Each regiment had twelve companies, with about 82 men in each company. The regimental strength approximated 1,000 men. Unique in U.S. service up to this time, the junior officers in each company in the four black regiments would be black men. The regimental staff and all company captains would be white. While disappointed that more of its own would not be commissioned, America’s black community was thrilled at the opportunity to be afforded by the appointment of 96 African American lieutenants. In the event, about 30 percent of the positions went to active and retired regular army noncommissioned officers or black National Guard officers who would provide a leaven of experience for the raw recruits. The rest of the vacancies went to men with no military background but with known or perceived skills in education, intelligence and leadership. Most of the enlisted men would be right off the street or off the farm but some were colored state militia officers who accepted enlisted rank in order to serve on active duty.1

Augusta was not the army’s first choice for a camp for the Tenth Immunes, but after the governor of North Carolina refused to allow the basing of a

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