Military Activities & U.S. Civil War

  • Black Soldiers of the West India Regiment, 1850s

    Captioned, New Uniforms of our West India Regiments. See image reference NW0268 for details on these Zoave uniforms and the West Indian regiments.
  • The Maroons in Ambush on the Dromilly Estate in the Parish of Trelawney, Jamaica

    The scene shows a group of about thirty Maroons hiding among trees as a troop of British soldiers approaches on a road. The maroons carry rifles and one blows a horn. This illustration of an apparent ambush against a British military detachment by a group of Maroons seems to be a depiction of an incident in July 1795, which ignited the Second Maroon War. Or, it may be intended to depict one of many ambushes, the Maroon's most common military tactic, during this approximately five-month war. The dedication reads "To the Hon[ora]ble Gen[eral] Walpole, this plate is with permission respectfully dedicated by his obliged and obedient servant, Rob[ert] Cribb. George Walpole was the commanding field officer of the British military forces. See Clinton V. Black, The Story of Jamaica (London, 1965), pp. 124-127. For a discussion of this engraving, see also T. Barringer, G. Forrester, B. Martinez-Ruiz, et al., Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2007), p. 289.
  • Pacification with the Maroon Negroes

    This image shows a group of men laying down their arms in front of British army officers. The place is not identified on the engraving, but because it was published in Edwards, who discusses the Jamaican Maroon wars at length, this scene was associated with 1739 and 1740 treaties signed between the British and Maroons in Jamaica. However, the original painting from which the engraving derives was done by Agostino Brunias and most probably depicts the end in 1773 of the First Carib War on St. Vincent, when a treaty was signed between the British and the Black Caribs, whose major chiefs are shown in the painting/engraving. The engraving has also been used to illustrate Maroon confrontations in Dominica and, as noted above, Jamaica. The catalog of the Nicholas M. Williams Collection (Boston College, 1932) holds a colored engraving of this image with the entry, Pacifications with the Maroon Negroes, by Scott from a painting by Agostino Brunyas. London, 1801. For background on Brunias and his romanticized paintings of West Indian scenes, see image NW0016. Compare images of Black Caribs shown here with those in image reference Bilby-4.
  • The Fort Pillow Massacre

    This chromolithograph was an artist's rendition showing black Union soldiers and civilians being killed by white Confederate soldiers. On April 12, 1864, Confederate troops attacked Fort Pillow, Tennessee, then occupied by Union troops, many of them black. Kurz and Allison were a major publisher of chromolithographs in the late nineteenth century and they depicted battles of the American Civil War in the 1880s. This was a period of recollection among veterans, and the publishing company of Kurz and Allison capitalized on this sentiment. A veteran of the war and native of Salzburg, Austria, Louis Kurz (1835–1921) designed a set of thirty-six battle scenes. The prints were highly inaccurate and considered fantasies. They did not pretend to mirror the actual events but rather attempted to tap people's patriotic emotions. Several of the Kurz and Alison Civil War prints featured black militiamen, which was unusual at this time.
  • Soldiers in Uniform

    This watercolor from the American War of Independence is by Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger (1762-1851), a French artist who himself fought in the war as a sub-lieutenant in a French regiment and who kept an illustrated journal of his experiences in the war. The watercolor, which appears in the journal, shows the variety of soldiers fighting for American independence, depicting, from left to right, a black soldier of the First Rhode Island Regiment, a New England militiaman, a frontier rifleman, and a French officer. An estimated 5,000 African-American soldiers fought in the Revolutionary War. Although most black soldiers from New England fought in integrated regiments, the First Rhode Island was an exception - it was made up of 197 black men commanded by white officers. Nevertheless, it was considered an elite unit, and saw action at the Battle of Rhode Island and the Siege of Yorktown.
  • Un agent de police, deux bastiens ou conducteurs d'esclaves, et un esclave du gouvernement

    "A Police Agent, Two Bastions or Slave Supervisors, and a Government Slave" (caption translation). This engraving shows a group of soldiers, one of whom is black, standing around armed with muskets. These soldiers of the Dutch garrison included "one in the company composed of free people of color." Pierre Jacques Benoit (1782-1854) was a Belgian artist, who visited the Dutch colony of Suriname on his own initiative for several months in 1831. He stayed in Paramaribo, but visited plantations, maroon communities and indigenous villages inland.
  • Black Soldiers in the Union/Federal Army, ca. 1863-64

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  • Bloodhounds Being Killed by Black Union Soldiers, 1862

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  • Peter Salem at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Boston, 1775

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  • Black Soldiers in the Union/Federal Army, ca. 1863-64

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  • Black Soldiers in the Union/Federal Army, ca. 1863-64

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  • Rebel Negro Pickets as Seen through a Field Glass

    This circular image shows two black soldiers, one is sitting and the other standing. These two men were soldiers in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The author of the accompanying article discusses the debate between Southern slave owners and Northerners as to the involvement of slaves in the civil war. Some Northerners questioned the practice, while many slave owners found Negroes to be quite useful. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization was an American political magazine based in New York City and published by Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916. It featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects and humor, alongside illustrations. It covered the American Civil War extensively, including many illustrations of events from the war.
  • Colored Troops under General Wild, Liberating Slaves in North Carolina

    This image depicts members of Wild's battalion freeing slaves from the Terrebee plantation. These slaves were accused of taking valuable animals from the farm. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization was an American political magazine based in New York City and published by Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916. It featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects and humor, alongside illustrations. It covered the American Civil War extensively, including many illustrations of events from the war.
  • Negroes Leaving their Home

    This image shows a family leaving their cabin by boat under the cover of night northwards for the Union line. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization was an American political magazine based in New York City and published by Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916. It featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects and humor, alongside illustrations. It covered the American Civil War extensively, including many illustrations of events from the war.
  • Marching On! The Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts Colored Regiment singing John Brown's March in the Streets of Charleston

    This scene shows a large number of soldiers marching and singing through the streets of Charleston. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization was an American political magazine based in New York City and published by Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916. It featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects and humor, alongside illustrations. It covered the American Civil War extensively, including many illustrations of events from the war.
  • Free Black Soldier, Surinam, 1770s

    Caption, A Coromantyn Free Negro, or Ranger, Armed. This and other engravings are found in the autobiographical narrative of Stedman, a young Dutchman who joined a military force against rebellions of the enslaved in the Dutch colony. The engravings are based on Stedman's own drawings and were done by professional engravers. For the definitive modern edition of the original 1790 Stedman manuscript, which includes this and other illustrations, see Richard and Sally Price, eds., Narrative of a five years expedition against the revolted Negroes of Surinam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988). In his Narrative entry for Feb. 28, 1773, Stedman writes: The new raised corps of manumitted slaves, who . . . have proved to be of as much service to the colony, as all the others put together greatly owing to the strength of theyr constitutions, theyr wonderful activity, perseverance, etc.--these men were all volunteers, mostly stout, strapping able young fellows, picked from the different plantations--who received for them theyr full value in money . . . . they have . . . given astonishing proof of theyr fidelity to the Europeans and theyr valour against the revolters . . . . they are arm'd only with a firelock and sabre . . . they generally go naked by preference in the woods except trowsers and a scarlet cap on which is theyr number, and which . . . distinguishes them from the rebels in any action (quoted in Price and Price, p. 82).
  • Black Soldiers of the West India Regiment, 1850s

    A colored print showing troops in their dress uniforms with white turbans, red coats, blue serge trousers, etc.; and white officers. These Zoave uniforms were adopted for the West India Regiments on the suggestion of Queen Victoria; they were based on the uniform worn by light infantry recruited for the French army in Algeria. In an early period, many of the black soldiers in the West India Regiments (first formed in the mid-1790s) were purchased or captured slaves, many African-born; later they included free people of color. For details, see Roger Buckley, Slaves in Red Coats: the British West India Regiments, 1795-1815 (Yale University Press, 1979). Black troops initially stationed in Barbados in the 1790s were purchased or captured slaves who primarily came from the French Caribbean territories; later, the British Army recruited these people in Barbados and by the early 1820s, free people of color in Barbados were also recruited to the 1st West India regiment. See also image reference pg372.
  • Old Cudjoe Making Peace

    This image portrays the leader of the western Maroons of Trelawney Town with a British officer. The African name Cudjoe corresponds to the Akan day name Kojo, Codjoe or Kwadwo from the Voltaic region. A peace treaty was concluded between the Maroons and the British under a large cotton-tree on March 1, 1738. According to Dallas, "Cudjoe was rather a short man, uncommonly stout, with very strong African features. . . He had a very large lump of flesh upon his back, which was partly covered by the tattered remains of an old blue coat, of which the skirts and the sleeves below the elbows were wanting. Round his head was tied a scanty piece of white cloth. . . He had on a pair of loose drawers that did not reach his knees, and a small round hat with the rims pared so close to the crown, that it might have been taken for a calabash, being worn exactly to the rotundity of his head. On his right side hung a cow's horn with some powder, and a bag of large cut slugs; on the left side he wore a mushet, or couteau, three inches broad, in a leather sheath, suspended under his arm by a narrow strap that went round his shoulders. He had no shirt on, and his clothes. . . as well as the part of his skin that was exposed, were covered with the red dirt of the Cockpits, resembling oker" (vol. 1, pp. 53-54).
  • Black Troops of the Union Army, Philadelphia, early 1864

    This recruitment poster shows Union soldiers at Camp William Penn in Philadelphia. By the spring of 1863 a committee of prominent Philadelphians was appointed to raise black regiments, and eleven were formed at Camp William Penn. This lithograph was based on a black and white studio photograph taken in Philadelphia, probably in early 1864; although no publication date is given on the lithograph it was probably done not long after the original photograph was taken. For details on this lithograph, its historical background, and the original photograph on which it is based (including its falsification by neo-Confederates), see the website Retouching History: The Modern Falsification of a Civil War Photograph. An identical lithograph, but with a different caption, is held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
  • Black Regiment of the Union Army, 1864

    Captioned, The War in South Carolina--a Negro regiment attacked by Rebels and Bloodhounds--from a Sketch by our Special Artist, W. T. Crane, shows black troops bayoneting bloodhounds, with Confederate soldiers in a cavalry charge. (Slide of image and bibliographic citation, courtesy of Phil Lapsansky). See also image reference Wilson322.
  • Contraband or Fugitive Slaves, Cumberland County, Virginia, 1862

    Fugitive slaves from the South who escaped to Union lines were called contraband, that is, confiscated enemy property. They were held in camps while the military authorities decided how to maintain and employ them. The people in this photograph, taken at Foller's house in Cumberland Landing (Central Virginia), would have posed a particular dilemma for the authorities because they were largely women and children and could not be used, as were able-bodied males, for hard military labor or soldiering. By 1862, when this photograph was taken, women and children would be moved to contraband camps, meaning confiscated southern plantations, which were used to grow food for the Union army. (Thanks to William Freehling for his assistance in interpreting this photograph.)
  • Union Supply Train, 1862-65

    Captioned, The supply train, shows two black wagoneers with whips leading a mule (?)-drawn covered wagon; other wagons follow, and a white Union soldier can be seen behind the lead wagon.
  • Fugitive Slaves Escaping to Union Lines, 1864

    Captioned Coming into the Lines, shows a wagon containing what may be a family escaping to the Union lines during the Civil War. Such fugitive slaves were called contrabands. A barefoot man, carrying a banjo, leads the animals drawing the wagon, and a teenage (?) boy with what appears to be an unusual hat sits atop one of the animals; two white Union soldiers on the left. This engraving, based on a sketch by Forbes (which differs slightly from the published engraving), first appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (vol. 18 [1864], p. 340); see Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (LC-USZ62-88806).
  • Our Colored Troops: The Line Officers of the First Louisiana Native Guards

    This engraving shows five officers of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards, including, from left to right, Charles Sentmanat, V. Lavigne, D. Larrieu, J. L. Montieu and E. Davis. This unit of free people of color formed in April 1861 as part of the Louisiana militia, but switched to the union side in 1862. For details on these troops, their capacity for work and racial characteristics, refer to the article accompanying this image (p. 143); and James G. Hollandsworth, The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 1995). Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization was an American political magazine based in New York City and published by Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916. It featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects and humor, alongside illustrations. It covered the American Civil War extensively, including many illustrations of events from the war. See also image HW1863b.
  • Freed Slaves Cheering Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, 1863

    Caption, Les Negres Affranchis colportant le décrit d'affranchisement du Préident Lincoln (Free Negroes spreading the news of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation). Not based on an eyewitness sketch, but accompanies an article, based on various reports, describing the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation in various Southern states.
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