Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

Correspondence from L. Thomas to Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War


Washington, D. C., November 7, 1864.

Secretary of War:

Sir: Under your special instructions of March 25, 1864, to proceed to the Mississippi River and organize colored troops, I have the honor to report the following thus far;

Iowa, near the Missouri line - One regiment of infantry
Arkansas- Six regiments of infantry
Tennessee- Two regiments of heavy artillery, one company of light artillery, and two regiments of infantry
Mississippi- One regiment of cavalry, two regiments of heavy artillery, and five regiments of infantry.
Louisiana- One regiments of cavalry, three companies of light artillery, and six regiments of infantry.
Alabama- Three regiments of infantry
Florida- One regiment of infantry
Kentucky - Two regiments of cavalry, two regiments of heavy artillery, and eleven regiments of infantry.


Four regiments of cavalry4,800
Six regiments of heavy artillery10,800
Four companies of light artillery 720
Forty regiments of infantry40,000
Total 56,320

All of the above regiments were organized on the maximum standard, and when entirely complete would give the above-specified number. That number was undoubtedly on the rolls, through some of the regiments may not have been entirely filled when ordered to the field as the loss by death and other casualties were in many cases made up by recruits. At the present time the aggregate is about 50,000.

In the above enumeration, I make no mention of other regiments organized in Tennessee, as they were raised under specific orders from the War Department addressed to others.

No organization were made in North Georgia, as the few negroes who came within our lines were assigned to regiments in Tennessee. In Louisiana, only one regiment was organized, because the infantry regiments raised in that State by General Banks were limited to 500 men each, and orders were subsequently given to raise them to 1,000 each. All the recruits, therefore, were necessary for this purpose.

In Kentucky the number on the rolls on the 15th of October was about 17,000, which number would be increased to 20,000 as other organizations had been authorized and were going forward. When this number is obtained, it is recommended that no further regiments be ordered, but that the subsequent recruits be assigned to those already in the service, to keep them up to the maximum standard.

More troops would have been put into the Army but for the processing demands of the several departments on the Mississippi and for laborers with the troops operating in the field. The number of blacks used in this way, including cooks and servants, must be very large. Most of the labor is done by this class of men, and the forts on the Mississippi River have been mainly thrown up by them. Where white and black troops come together in the same command the latter have to do the work. At first this was always the case, and in vain did I endeavor to correct it, contending that if they were to be made soldiers, time should be afforded for drill and discipline, and that they should only have their fare share of fatigue duty. The prejudice in the Army against the employment as troops was very great; but now, since the blacks have fully shown their fighting qualities and manliness, it has greatly changed.

All of the regiments have white officers, who are selected with care and are subject to an examination, and even a second one if deemed necessary. Great difficulty was experienced in the early part of the work in getting medical officers, but this has been remedied by sending a medical officer through the New England States, who induced a number of physicians to appear for examination and receive appointments.

The non-commissioned officers are generally appointed from white regiments, but as intelligent blacks are found they are made sergeants and corporals and ultimately they will fill all these positions. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series III, Volume 5. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Correspondence | Tags: Mississippi River , Mississippi , Tennessee , Georgia , Florida , Alabama , Louisiana , Washington , Kansas , Iowa , Missouri
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1864, 1880, 1901, Alabama, Arkansas, Army, Cavalry, Edwin M. Stanton, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Mississippi River, Missouri, Sergeant, Tennessee, The War of the Rebellion (Book), United States War Department, War Department, Washington (DC),