Tuesday, August 25, 2009

1st Civil War Black Unit Ordered into Existence Today

This is the picture of General David Hunter, the commander of the 1st South Carolina Infantry, the first black unit to be legally raised during the Civil War.

On this day in 1862, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issued orders for General Hunter to assemble up to 5,000 men into army service.

Hunter had petitioned the War Department in April 1862 to muster black regiments. After a month, he received no response.

In May 1862, Hunter decided on self-help and dragooned thousands of contrabands in the Union-controlled Sea Islands. Many protested at being forced into the service against their will. Hunter allowed those unwilling to serve to go home. Those who stayed remained unofficially in the Army.

Word of Hunter's action reached Washington and caused an outcry. On August 9th, the War Department ordered him to disband his units. The reversal came on August 25th after Stanton and President Lincoln met with Robert Small and Mansfield French in the White House.

Hunter formed his regiment and the first of over 200,000 black soldiers began their service with the Union Army.

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