THE FIRST COLOURED TROOPS
"It was a grand review. Twenty-six thousand men lined the dual carriageways of Canal Street from the Levee to the Cemeteries, a distance of three and a half miles.
'It was by far the greatest and most imposing sight ever presented by the population of the Crescent City. Probably the present generation will never more see the like on the banks of the Mississippi River.'
"Thus boasted a correspondent from the daily Picayune. He was wrong, for the date was 23 November 1861, and the civil war was just beginning. But what did make the event noteworthy was the sight of 33 black officers and 731 black enlisted men aligned in ranks alongside their white compatriots. They were members of the Louisiana Native Guards - black soldiers in a white army, harbingers of one of the most significant and controversial social movements in our history."
Three officers and 139 men were absent, bringing the strength at that time to 36 officers and 870 men.
Source: James Hollandsworth Jr.: The Louisiana Native Guards, Pub. By Louisiana State University Press.
"By early 1862 (Governor) Moore's black military organisations had grown to 3000 men."
Source: When the Devil Came Down to Dixie - Ben Butler.
PRIOR TO GLORY
Did you know that black soldiers could serve formally and officially in the provisional army of the Confederate States, under an Act of the Confederate States Congress of 1862, which permitted their enlistment as field musicians on the same terms, essentially, as white soldiers? Essentially, this was making a virtue of necessity as many Regiments already had persons of colour as musicians.
An example is the 18th Virginia Infantry. When this Regiment mustered into Confederate service in the spring of 1861, it did so with a Negro drummer, "Old Dick", a free man who had seen previous military experience as a field musician in the famous Palmetto Regiment of South Carolina. When the war between The States broke out, Old Dick enlisted in the 18th Virginia. At the Battle of First Bull Run/First Manassas, Old Dick picked up a musket, joined the firing line, and was credited with capturing several Union soldiers, including Colonel Alfred M Wood of the 14th New York Militia (in later life, Colonel Wood was Mayor of Brooklyn), whose views on the matter are, perhaps, best left unknown to posterity. Old Dick served with the 18th for some considerable time. Apparently well-regarded by his fellow solders, whilst away from the army he was, on occasion, subject to intolerance to the extent that on one occasion he was arrested for being armed!
Source: Article, Issue One North and South Magazine, Nov. 1997 (unaccredited).