Serving the Union: U.S. Colored Troops in the Retreat to Appomattox
The union armies under Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant would sever Confederate General Robert E. Lee's supply line to Petersburg on April 2, 1865. Lee would be forced to evacuate the Confederate Capital of Richmond and the fortified supply center of Petersburg thus beginning his final campaign of the war. While most of the United States Colored Troops in the Federal Army were involved with the occupation of Richmond on the morning of April 3rd, some did enter Petersburg when it fell on the same day. Brigadeer General William Birney's second division, XXV Corps, operating south of the Appomattox River, would be among the first units to come into the city from the west. It was noted that the 7th U.S.C.T. regiment, recruited in Maryland, and the 8th U.S.C.T., from Philadelphia, were on the skirmish line that morning and with those who marched into the evacuated railroad center. The 7th's commander, Lt. Colonel Oscar E. Pratt, wrote, "I entered the city of Petersburg at 6 a.m., amidst the joyous acclamations of its sable citizens."
There were seven Black units (approximately 2,000 men, or 3% of the Federal force) which made the journey all the way to Appomattox Court House with Major General Edward Ord's Union Army of the James and arrived in time to be involved in the final fighting.
On their wat they passed through the settlements of Blacks & Whites, Nottoway Court House, Burkeville Junction, Rice's Station, and Farmville. From the latter point they stayed south of the Appomattox River and traveled via Walker's Church (present day Hixburg) to Appomattox. These regiments were of Colonel William W. Woodward's brigade, the 29th and 31st U.S.C.T., along with the 116th U.S.C.T., assigned to them from another brigade. Colonel Ulysses Doubleday's brigade, 8th, 41st, 45th, and 127th U.S.C.T., were also present. The first brigade, under Colonel James Shaw, Jr., would not arrive until the day after the surrender, having march ninety-six miles in four days. His brigade was detached from the others and sent back to Sutherland Station for a period of time, causing their delay.
On the morning of the 9th at Appomattox Court House, the Black units were sent forward to support other Federal units in the closing phase of the battle. Consequently, only Woodward's brigade participated in the final advance on the Confederate line. Some of Doubleday's skirmishers did proceed forward, and the only casualty for the U.S.C.T. brigades was Captain John W. Falconer of Company A, 41st U.S.C.T., a white officer. He was mortally wounded and died on April 23rd.
According to Surgeon-in-Chief Charles P. Heinchhold, during the entire campaign, the U.S.C.T.'s lost 4 men killed, 1 officer (mortally) and 30 men wounded, a total of 35 casualties.
Black Slaveowners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860
An analysis of all aspects and particularly of the commercialism of black slaveowning debunks the myth that black slaveholding was a benevolent institution based on kinship, and explains the transition of black masters from slavery to paid labor.