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1865 February 4: Wisconsin’s Black Troops in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry

February 7, 2015

The following is a portion of the Wisconsin Adjutant General Report that appeared in the February 4, 1865, issue of The Prescott JournalPart I, Part II.

ADJUTANT GENERAL’S REPORT

What Wisconsin has Done for the War.
How Many Troops She has Sent.
How Many are Sill in the Field.

VOLUNTEERING AND DRAFTING.

Relief for the Sick and Wounded.

THE STATE MILITIA.

Very Interesting Document.

COLORED TROOPS.

Whatever prejudice may have existed in the minds of the people against the employment of colored troops, it has fast given way if it be not now everywhere extinct. Aside from arguments of expediency of necessity, the exhibitions of moral courage and heroic devotion, forgetful of the wrongs and obloquy of the past, unflinching in the face of an enemy with whom, if spared the casualties of battle, capture was certain death, have compelled the admiration of their fiercest opponents. Authority was received from the War Department in October, 1863, to raise a regiment, battalion, or company of colored troops, and a public order was made to that effect ; but owing to the sparseness of colored population in this State, there was little encouragement to any white officer to undertake the raising of even a company. No active exertions were therefore made until early in the present year, Col. John A. Bross, of Chicago, having been appointed Colonel of the 29th United States colored infantry, opened one or two recruiting station in this State, and recruited some two hundred and fifty colored men for his regiment, and for whom this State receives credit from the General Government.

There being no further record of this regiment with the State Department, the following brief sketch of their action is here appended in justice to the men of this State who bravely shared the fortunes of the regiment.

The organization was completed and left camp of rendezvous at Quincy, Illinois, April 26th, arriving at Washington May 1st, was brigaded at Camp Casey with a colored regiment from New York, and Colonel Bross assigned to the command.

About the middle of June the brigade was sent to City Point, from which place, after two weeks of guard duty, it was sent to the front of Petersburg, and joined the 2d brigade, 3d division, 9th army corps, commanded by Gen. Burnside, June 30, 1864.

The mine was sprung and Col. Bross was ordered forward with his regiment. Leading his men, who were now for the first time under fire, he is said to have charged farther within the enemy’s lines than any other regiment on that occasion.

Seeing the utter hopelessness of carrying the enemy’s works on Cemetery Hill, Col. Bross gave orders to his regiment to retire, and catching the colors of his regiment was about to turn when he was struck by a Minie ball in the temple and fell dead, enwrapped in the flag. The regiment retreated through a perfect storm of shot and shell, to the crater, losing in this action most of its officers and nearly two hundred enlisted men in killed, wounded and missing.

I respectfully recommend that the act providing aid from the war fund for families of soldiers from this State, be so amended as to include the volunteers in this and other colored regiments. They are in the immediate service of the United States, and not being in a State organization they are thereby deprived of the benefits accruing from this fund. Their position differs from white volunteers in the regular service from this State, in the fact that there are no colored State organizations, and if they go into the service at all, they must perforce go into the United States regiments. It therefore appears to me but a simple act f justice, to extend to them such benefits as may accrued to their families through the war fund.

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