Monday, March 31, 2014

Impressed Sable Soldiers at the Crater


On the warm morning of 30 July 1864 an enemy artillery barrage accompanied the massive explosion of a mine under Southern lines, followed by a subsequent assault.  The author below relates that "On the Confederate side men quietly sleeping were hurled into eternity, no moment of waking, reflection, or preparation, while their places were filled by the legions of invading [Northern] soldiery." The surviving American soldiers repelled the enemy, though with heavy losses.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"

"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Impressed Sable Soldiers at the Crater

"Many an old Confederate, who had drawn a nice bead on a Yankee in more than a score of battles and skirmishes, could then swear to his man, and could swear to a bayonet crimsoned when before it had served only to glitter on dress parade.  The victory was with us, but dearly had we paid for it, for every company left more than half of its numbers among the dead or wounded.

Among the Negroes captured and sent back to the lines on Monday morning to assist in burying the dead was one who could scarcely speak English.  But in a conversation with the writer, in broken English, he told me that he was born in the West Indies, came to New York on a Spanish ship, got leave of absence to go on shore, got drunk, and when he recovered consciousness he was well on his way to Virginia, snugly buttoned up in a blue uniform and cooped up with a number of his race similarly conditioned.  

He lamented his fate in piteous tones, mingling English and Spanish in due proportion, and with the most emphatic language he declared that if he ever got out of this scrape the American Negro could work out his freedom without hope or expectation of further help from him."

(Sgt. Thomas H. Cross, 16th Virginia Regiment; Philadelphia Weekly Times 5, No. 29, September 10, 1881; New Annals of the Civil War, Cozzins/Girardi, editors, Stackpole Books, 2004,  pp. 392-393)