Remembering The 116th and the U
Remembering The 116th and the U.S.C.T.
Reprinted by permission from RALLY 'ROUND CAMP NELSON - The Newsletter of the Camp Nelson Restoration & Preservation Foundation, Volume 6, Number 2 - Spring/Summer 2002
The U.S.C.T 116th Infantry Regiment was organized at Camp Nelson between June 5 and July 12, 1864. During its 2 1/2 years of service, it was attached to the Department of the Ohio, Army of the James, Department of Texas, and Department of the Gulf. The 116th took part in the defense of Hickman's Bridge at Camp Nelson and participated in the October 1864 siege operations in Petersburg and Richmond, VA. Part of the Appomattox Campaign from March 28 to April 9, 1865, it participated in the fall of Petersburg, VA on April 2, 1865, the pursuit of C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee April 3-9, 1865, and the surrender of Lee's army at Appomattox Courthouse, VA on April 9, 1865. From April 9 to May 24, 1865, the 116th was on garrison duty at Petersburg, VA. On May 25, 1865, it was ordered to Texas as part of the U.S. build-up of troops along the Mexican border to stave off French operations in Mexico. In Texas, the regiment saw garrison duty at Brazos Santiago, White's Ranch, Rome, and the sub-district of the Lower Rio Grande. In September, 1866, it was sent to New Orleans, LA, where it remained until January 1867. Finally, on January 17, 1867, the 116th was mustered out in Louisville, KY.
[Note: Foundation Board member and chair of the annual U.S. C. T training week-- end held in September at Camp Nelson, Jim Hunn is a direct descendant on both sides of his family of members of the 116th Infantry Regiment.]
Beginning with the establishment of the Bureau of Colored Troops in May 1863, the Union Army organized 160 regiments and 10 batteries of light artillery and designated them United States Colored Troops. Eight of these units, including the 116th, were formed and trained at Camp Nelson. At first, these black soldiers were limited to military labor details, building fortifications, working on roads and bridges, and providing all sorts of manual labor, including cooking, throughout the area, but they soon proved their worth in action, taking part in skirmishes, battles, major campaigns, and finally in garrison, fatigue, and guard duty. These eight valuable Camp Nelson regiments were:
- 5th Cavalry, October 24, 1864 - March 20, 1866
- 6th Cavalry, October 24, 1864 - April 15, 1866
- 12th Heavy Artillery, July 15, 1864 - April 24, 1866
- 13th Heavy Artillery, June 23, 1864 - November 18, 1865
- 114th Infantry, July 4, 1864 - April 2, 1867
- 116th Infantry, June 6, 1864 - January 17, 1867
- 119th Infantry, January 18, 1865 - April 27, 1866
- 124th Infantry, January 1, 1865 - December 20, 1867
These African-American troops served throughout Kentucky, including Ghent, Paducah, LaGrange, Crab Orchard, Bowling Green, Smithland, Lexington, Wildcat, Danville, New Haven, Catlettesburg, Covington and Louisa. They saw action in southwestern Virginia, Saltville, Virginia, Harrodsburg, Kentucky, Marion, Virginia, Hatcher's Run, Virginia, Petersburg, Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, and Appomattox, Virginia. In addition, they were assigned to duties in Helena, Arkansas, Duvall's Bluff, Arkansas, City Point, Virginia, Petersburg, Virginia, Brownsville, Texas, Rome, Texas , Rio Grande area, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana. It should also be noted that five of these U.S.C.T. regiments were not mustered out of the Army until well after the Civil War had ended, even after Camp Nelson itself was officially closed. All in all, Camp Nelson trained over 10,000 black soldiers. It was the largest recruitment and training camp for black troops in Kentucky and the third largest in the United States. Today, it is the largest undisturbed Civil War depot and training center site in the nation.
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