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38899Re: African Americans in US Forces

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  • nappingcrow
    Jan 6, 2009
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      Hi Richard,

      This has become something of an interest of mine. I believe that in
      spite of the regulations forbidding their service, there were African-
      Americans serving in the regular US army during the War of 1812. I
      can't speculate as to numbers, but I believe today even the US Army
      states they served. (Sorry, it's late and I can't give you a proper

      The US National Archives notes the following:
      "African Americans also served in the Regular Army, primarily in the
      26th Infantry. The notation "(B)" appears following their names in
      Appendix III for those whose physical description indicates black or
      mulatto skin color. Persons whose skin was described simply as "dark"
      are not indicated as "black" since they were probably "dark"
      caucasians. "Blacks" and "mulattos" noted during records
      arrangement... " and it goes on to list men in three different
      regiments, including the 26th infantry.

      LINK: http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/military/1812/discharge-

      A number of years ago I ran across a list of 'denied' 1812 veteran
      bounty applications which appeared to have been denied simply because
      the applicants were black. The veterans were all from the 26th
      infantry, and served under Captain William Bezeau (also written as
      Begeau or Bezean in some other records) but like an idiot, I was
      looking for something else at the time and so didn't take enough
      notes - now of course I can't find the source.

      I suspect the logic at the time went something like "black men
      weren't elegible to serve, therefore didn't serve, so they are
      lying", or more probably "weren't elegible to serve, therefore aren't
      elegible for the land bounty granted to veterans".

      I could try to run down the names of all the men known to have served
      in his unit, and cross reference with bounty land applications, but I
      have too many other projects going to take on another one at this
      time... maybe in my retirement, if someone hasn't written a doctoral
      thesis on it by then.

      Brian Smith

      --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, richard lytle <richard6616@...>
      > Colin,
      > In speaking of the service of blacks in the U.S. Army, I was
      referring to the Regulars and not the militia. You are quite correct
      in that plenty of black americans (free persons of color usually but
      that might have included black slaves as substitutes) served during
      the War of 1812. Practically all of them were in militia units and
      they might have been "federalized" at one point or another. The
      Louisina militia had at least one free colored battalion, maybe
      two, at New Orleans and they, being the most noted, are easy to
      cite but there were others. I have read that as many as one out of
      every six men manning the U.S. fleet on the Great Lakes was black and
      I suspect that quite a few were employed by the U.S. Navy as sailors.
      > The "purge" you mentioned was yet another reorganizing and
      restructuring of the Army that was conducted effective May 15, 1815,
      and the entire U.S. land forces went through a complete shaking up.
      The First Infantry became the Third Infantry, the Second Infantry
      became the First Infantry, the Sixth Infantry became the new Second
      Infantry, etc, etc. The whole force was scaled down from 44 regiments
      to only 8 and it stayed at eight regiments until 1855. Of course, the
      Artillery and the horse mounted troops were added furing those years
      but, considering the growth in population and the expansion to the
      west coast, that was damn few troops.
      > Richard Lytle
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