With all of the unknowns surrounding the presence of black men in Confederate armies it is easy to lose sight of the fact that roughly 200,000 black Americans volunteered for the United States Army. Their wartime record attest to hardships faced both on and off the battlefield. On this anniversary of the Crater I share one such example. [photograph from the National Archives and Records Administration]
On July 30, 1864 Private Louis Martin of Co. E, 29th U.S. Colored Infantry took part in the battle of the Crater. His discharge form reads as follows: “Loss of right-arm and left-leg by amputation for shell and gunshot wounds received in battle at Petersburg on July 30, 1864 in charging the enemies works. In consequence of which is totally disabled for military service and civil occupation wholly.” (December 2, 1865)
Note: Archivists at NARA are still looking into the origins of the necklace that Martin is wearing. For more on this regiment’s service, see Edward A. Miller, The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois: The Story of the Twenty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry (University of South Carolina Press, 1998).