The Colored Infantry Bringing In The Captured Guns, And The Cheers Of The Ohio Troops, Franks Leslie’s Illustrated, July 09, 1864. White union troops originally believed that Black troops would not fight and they resisted fighting along side of them. As Black troops displayed their valor on the battlefield attitudes changed and the Civil War became a war of liberation.
On May 4, 1864 Ulysses S. Grant attacked Robert E. Lee's Army of North Virginia. Grant moved south towards Richmond engaging in a number of major battles. Ben Butler with The Army of the James attacked from the south. Black troops attacked Petersburg with success but were ordered to stop before taking the city. A ten-month seize of Petersburg followed.
The word "nigger" means slave and Black soldiers did not think of them selves as slaves. Congressional Medal of Honor winner Milton Holland did not like to be called a nigger by rebels at the Battle of Petersburg.
One thing that I must mention which attracted the attention of the whole division. It was that brave and daring but strange personage that rides the white charger. We could see him plainly riding up and down the rebel lines, could hear him shouting from the top of his voice to stand, that they had only niggers to contend with. This peculiar personage seems possessed with supernatural talent. He would sometimes ride his horse at lightning speed, up and down his lines amid the most terrific fire of shot and shell. But when the command was given to us, "Charge bayonets! Forward double quick!" the black column rushed forward raising the battle yell, and in a few moments more we mounted the rebel parapets. And to our great surprise, we found that the boasted Southern chivalry had fled. They could not see the nigger part as the man on the white horse presented it. We captured here one gun and caisson.
Milton M. Holland (Congressional Medal of Honor Winner)
A Grand Army of Black Men pg 106
At the Battle of the Creator on July 30, 1964, General Burnside developed an elaborate plan to tunnel under the Confederate defenses at Petersburg, blow up the defenses then rush in with Black troops to seize the town. Black troops had gained a reputation of fighting with significant determination and tenacity when charging Confederate works. General Grant however was not satisfied with Burnsides reason for using Black troops and substituted them with a more experience but a untrained White division. The switch resulted in a disaster. The Black troops were trained to go around the creator following the explosion. The White troops went into the creator instead of going around it and suffered heavy casualties. General Grant sent the Black troops into the creator to save the White troops but the element of surprise was lost. Black troops pushed the rebel line back but suffered heavy losses when the rebels were reinforced. General Grant was called by Congress to come to Washington and explain.
“ Earlier in his testimony Grant had said: "General Burside wanted to put his colored division in front, and I believe, if he had done so, it would have been a success."
Henry Pleasants, Inferno at Petersburg, p163
General Grant took the blame for the failure of the attack on his decision to switch Black troops for White troops. The Joint Committee agreed with General Grant and suggested that Black troops should be used in advance if dictated by the situation.
"Your Committee desire to say that, in the statement of facts and conclusions which they present in their report, they wish to be distinctly understood as in no degree censuring the conduct of the troops engaged in this assault. While they confidently believe that the selection of the division of colored troops by General Burnside to lead the assault was, under the circumstances, the best that could have been made, they do not intend thereby to have it inferred that the white troops of the Ninth Corps are behind any troops in the service in those qualities which have placed our volunteer troops before the world as equal, if not superior to any known to modern warfare."
I Henry Pleasants, inferno at Petersburg, , p163-164
General Grant also testified that he switched the use of Black troops for White troops in the battle to avoid excessive losses of black troops. A more plausible reason is that General Grant's White troops suffered over 40,000 casualties (The Battle of the Wilderness) on the way to Petersburg just two month earlier. Letting black troops carry the ball into the end zone because they may be better, could have been too humiliating to accept.