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.
  • Maroons Ambushing British Troops, Jamaica, late 18th cent

    Title: The Maroons in Ambush on the Dromilly Estate in the parish of Trelawney, Jamaica, by J. Bourgoin; engraved by J. Merigot; published by J. Cribb [London, 1801]. The dedication reads: To the Honble Genl. Walpole, this plate is with permission respectfully dedicated by his obliged and obedient servant, Robt. Cribb. The scene shows a group of about 30 Maroons hiding among trees as a troop of British soldiers approaches on a road. The maroons carry rifles and one (center) 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. 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]; thanks also to Ken Bilby for assistance). For a discussion of this engraving, see also T. Barringer, G. Forrester, and B. Martinez-Ruiz [and others], 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.
  • Black Caribs Sign Treaty with British Military, St. Vincent, West Indies, 1773

    Caption in Edwards, Pacification with the Maroon Negroes; 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 is often 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.
  • Black Soldiers and Civilians at the Fort Pillow Massacre, Tennessee, April 1864

    An artist's rendition of the Massacre, showing black Union soldiers and civilians being killed by white Confederate soldiers. A chromolithograph published in 1892 by Kurtz & Allison, Chicago.(Courtesy, Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library.) On April 12, 1864, Confederate troops attacked Fort Pillow, Tennessee, then occupied by Union troops, many of them black. After capturing the fort, the Confederates
  • Black Soldier in the American Revolutionary Army, ca. 1780

    Watercolor of four American soldiers, including an African American from the Rhode Island Regiment. He is shown in full uniform, holding a rifle with attached bayonet. The illustration is in the manuscript diary of Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, an officer in Count de Rochambeau
  • Dutch Soldiers, Suriname, ca. 1831

    Soldiers of the Dutch garrison, including one in the company composed of free people of color. Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.
  • 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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  • Black Confederate Soldiers, Virginia, 1863

    Caption, Rebel Negro Pickets as seen through a field glass. 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.
  • Black Soldiers of the Union Army Liberating Slaves, North Carolina, 1864

    Caption, Colored Troops under General Wild, liberating slaves in North Carolina. Some of Wild's battalion freed slaves from the Terrebee plantation; these slaves were accused of taking valuable animals from the farm.
  • Slaves Fleeing the U.S. South, 1864

    Caption, Negroes leaving their home; family escaping North for the Union line, houses/cabins in background.
  • Black Troops of the Union Army Marching Through Charleston, South Carolina, 1865

    Caption, Marching On!- the Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts Colored Regiment singing John Brown's March in the Streets of Charleston, February 21, 1865.
  • 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.
  • Maroon Chief Meets British Officers, Jamaica, 1738

    Caption, Old Cudjoe making peace, portrays the leader of the western Maroons of Trelawney Town with a British officer when a peace treaty was concluded between the Maroons and the British under a large cotton-tree on March 1, 1738. 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).
  • Officers of the First Louisiana Native Guards, 1863

    Captioned, Our Colored TroopsóThe Line Officers of the First Louisiana Native Guards. Engraving is based on a sketch by Harper's Special Artist and accompanies an article on these troops, their capacity for work and their racial characteristics (p. 143). The five officers, of Companies A and D, including, from left to right, Charles Sentmanat, V. Lavigne, D. Larrieu (center), J. L. Montieu, and E. Davis are named in the caption. The 1st Louisiana Native Guards, formed in April 1861 of free people of color, was accepted as part of the Louisiana militia, but went over to the Union side in 1862. For details, see James G. Hollandsworth, The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 1995). 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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