MEN OF COLOR
TO ARMS!  TO ARMS!

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USCT BATTLES

Big Bob
Battle of Nashville
Petersburg Va.
Battle of Honey Hill
Battle of Port Hudson
Battle of Saltville
Richmond Va.
New Market Heights

 

In March of 1863 General Butler met with President Lincoln to discuss the Negro problem. The Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect and Lincoln was contemplating what to do with the newly freed slaves. He supported African Colonization as an answer to the Negro problem. The States however had organized 5 black regiments. There were 3 Louisiana regiments, one in Kansas and one in South Carolina. At this time both the 1st South Carolina Volunteers and the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers had proven themselves in battle. Butler mustered the Louisiana Native Guard into the US Army on August 22, 1862 and was therefore experienced with arming Negroes. General Ben Butler was of his own political party and was an aid to the President.

  "We then talked of a favorite project he had of getting rid of the negroes by colonization, and he asked me what I thought of it. I told him that it was simply impossible; that the negroes would not go anyway, for they loved their homes as much as the rest of us, and all efforts at colonization would not make a substantial impression upon the number of negroes in the country."

Reverting to the subject of arming the negroes, I said to him that I thought it might be possible to start with a sufficient army of white troops, and, avoiding a march which might deplete their ranks by death and sickness, to take them in ships and land them somewhere on the Southern coast.  These troops could then come up through the Confederacy, gathering up negroes, who could be armed at first with arms that they could handle, so as to defend themselves and aid the rest of the army in case of rebel  charges upon it. In this way we could establish ourselves down there with an army that would be a terror to the whole South.

  He asked me what I would arm them with.  I told him John Brown had intended, if he got loose in the mountains of Virginia, to arm his negroes with spears and revolvers; and there was a great deal in that. "                   

   " That is a new idea, General," said he.

  "No, Mr. President," I answered, "it is a very old one. Fathers of these negroes, and some of the negroes themselves, fought their battles in Africa with no other weapon, save a club.  Although we have substituted the bayonet for the spear, yet as long as the soldier can shoot he is not inclined to use the bayonet.  "

                                                General Butler

                                               Butler's Book, Benjamin Butler, page 581

 

 Frederick Douglass believed that Black Americans must earn their own freedom and that black youth must not inhered a history of shame. On March 21 1863,  "Men of Color, To Arms!" was published in the Douglass Monthly which called for black men to enlist in the army. In July of 1863 "Men of Color" was modified to include  battles of Port Hudson and Milikens Bend. The following broadside was used by Douglass to recruit free blacks for the Union Army.

MEN OF COLOR
TO ARMS!  TO ARMS!
NOW OR NEVER

...For generations we have suffered under the horrors of slavery, outrage and wrong; our manhood has been denied, our citizenship blotted out, our souls scared and burned, our spirits-cowed and crushed, and the hopes of the future of our race involved in doubts and darkness.  But now the whole aspect of our of our relations to the white race is changed. Now therefore is our most precious moment. Let us, Rush to Arms! Fail Now and Our Race is Doomed on this the soil of our birth. We must now awake, arise, or be forever fallen. If we value liberty, if we wish to be free in this land if we love our country, if we love our families, our children, our homes, we must strike NOW while the Country calls : must rise up in the dignity of our manhood, and show by our own right arms that we are worthy to be freemen. Our enemies have made the country believe that we are craven cowards, without soul, without manhood, without the spirit of soldiers.  Shall we die with this stigma resting on our graves? Shall we leave this inheritance of shame to our children? No! A thousand times No ! We WILL Rise!

 W. A. Gladstone, Men of Color, pg110