Fact List About the 23rd United States Colored Troops…Past and Present

I wanted to convey some information about the 23rd United States Colored Troops. The unit proudly served in the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James. Today, the unit is based out of Spotsylvania County Virginia, and I am one of the proud representatives that brings the unit and their stories back to life. We plan on participating in numerous Sesquicentennial events, including an upcoming event on February 25th at the John J. Wright Museum. I hope to meet some of our readers at the events. In the meantime, I have provided information on the wartime and current unit below.

Importance to Spotsylvania County, Virginia– The 23rd Regiment United States Colored Troops became the first colored troops to fight in “directed combat”against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The skirmish took place at the intersection of Catharpin and Old Plank Roads (originally Orange Plank Road) on May 15, 1864. The 23rd and the rest of the 4th Division of the IX Corps were guarding the wagon trains of the Army of the Potomac. The 23rd was at the Chancellorsville ruins when the 2nd Ohio Cavalry was chased by General Thomas Rosser’s Confederate Cavalry Brigade. The 2nd sent for help, and the only soldiers near by were those of General Edward Ferrero’s colored division. The 23rd USCT with the color guard of the 30th USCT double quicked the two miles to the intersection and drove back Rosser’s cavalry. The black soldiers were cheered by the 2nd Ohio, who now gave chase to Rosser’s cavalry  This battle action proved to the white troops that black soldiers would fight against the Confederate army.

Recruitment – The 23rd Regiment United States Colored Troops (or 23rd Regiment United States Colored Infantry) was recruited in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD from November 23, 1863 until June 30, 1864. They were organized at Camp Casey, VA (near the location of the Pentagon today).

Armies – The 23rd was originally assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, of the IX Army Corps. This was an independent unit until May 24, 1864, when it was assigned to the Army of the Potomac. From September to December 1864, the 23rd was assigned the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, IX Corps, and in December, it was in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division of the XXV Corps (an all-black Corps) in the Army of the James. After the war, they were assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division of the XXV Corps in the Department of Texas

Officers – The General-in-Chief of the United States Army was Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. The commanding officer of the IX Army Corps was Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, and the 4th Division commander was Brigadier General Edward Ferrero. The Brigade commander was Colonel Henry G. Thomas. When they became part of the Army of the Potomac, Major General George Gordon Meade was the commanding officer. In the Army of the James, the commanding officer was Major General Benjamin Butler until January 1865; then, General Edward Ord commanded that Army. General Godfrey Weitzel commanded the XXV Corps. Colonel Henry G. Thomas was promoted to Brigadier General and commanded the division.

Service – The 23rd served in the following battles and campaigns:

  • Overland Campaign, May to June 1864
  • Battle of Petersburg, June 15 – 18, 1864
  • Siege of Petersburg and Richmond June, 1864 – April 2, 1865
  • Battle of the Crater – July 30, 1864
  • Weldon Railroad – August 18-21, 1864
  • Fort Sedgwick-September 28, 1864
  • Poplar Grove Church – September 29-30, 1864
  • Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher’s Run – October 27-28, 1864
  • Bermuda Hundred – December 13, 1864
  • Bermuda Hundred Front – Decmber 1864 – March 1865
  • Appomattox Campaign, March 28th to April 9th, 1864
  • Hatcher’s Run – March 29-31, 1865
  • Fall of Petersburg – April 2, 1865
  • Pursuit of Lee – April 3 – 9, 1865
  • Surrender of Army of Northern Virginia – April 9, 1865
  • Duty in Department of Virginia until May
  • Department of Texas from May until November 1865
  • Mustered out November 30, 1865

Reformed 23rd Regiment USCT – The reformed or reorganized 23rd USCT was co-founded by Captain John Cummings III and Corporal Steward T. Henderson after a conversation on the Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield in the fall of 2010. John thought it would be very disappointing if the 23rd USCT was not recognized during the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. He asked me to see if we could get some recruits for the 23rd, and the search was started. The first meeting took take place in January 2011 at the John J. Wright Museum in Spotsylvania County, VA. The original members were Hashmel Turner, Roger Braxton, Horace McCaskill, John Cummings, and Steward Henderson.

Modern 23rd USCT on Caroline Street in Fredericksburg. St. George's Episcopal Church is in the background.

New members joining in 2011 were Bill Lewis, Lt. Colonel Douglas Smalls, James Price, James Anderson, and Kevin Williams. New members joining in 2012 are Danny Martin, Jerry Richards, and John Tucker.

The 23rd USCT was formed under the John J. Wright Museum and is based out of the museum. The address is 7565 Courthouse Road, Spotsylvania, VA 22551. The telephone number is (540) 582-7583, ext 5545 or 5546. Our Facebook page is under the 23rd Regiment United States Colored Troops. Ms. Terry Miller is the Executive Director and Curator of the museum and a very valuable person assisting the administration and research for the regiment.

We would like to thank the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, Co. B from Washington, D.C. for all of the assistance that they have provided us. We look forward to working with the Women of the American Civil War.


  • Steward Henderson, President/Corporal
  • Kevin Williams, Vice President/Hospital Steward
  • James Anderson, Treasurer/Abolitionist Senator
  • Hashmel Turner, Secretary/Sergeant and Chaplain
  • John Cummings, Visual Historian/Captain
  • James Price, Lieutenant
  • Roger Braxton, Sergeant Major

Events – We have participated in the following events thus far:

  • John J. Wright Museum Exhibit Opening, Emancipating Their Homeland: Spotsylvania-born U. S. Colored Troops – February 2011
  • Fredericksburg Area Museum, Eric Mink of the Fredericksburg National Military Park presentation of United States Colored Troops – May 2011
  • Battle of Spotsylvania Reenactment, Spotsylvania County, VA – May 2011
  • John J. Wright Museum, John Hennessy, Chief Historian of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park,  presentation of Rappahannock Exodus – June 2011
  • Yankees in Falmouth, Stafford County, VA – September 2011
  • Association for the Study of African American Life and History 96th Annual conference in Richmond VA – October 2011
  • Gettysburg Remembrance Day, Gettysburg, PA  – November 2011
  • John J. Wright Museum Exhibit Opening, Sesquicentennial in the Context of Identity – February 2012

Check our Upcoming Presentation Page for updates on the23rd USCT.

9 Responses to Fact List About the 23rd United States Colored Troops…Past and Present

  1. With Noel Harrison, a historian and author at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, I have to correct the history of the first skirmish of the 23rd USCT. I have already corrected this information on updated versions of this fact sheet that is sent to our members. The 23rd fought in this skirmish alone. Noel and I looked at several books and the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, we found out that the 23rd fought without the color guard of the 30th USCT. There were actually two skirmishes with General Thomas Rosser’s cavalry, one on the 15th of May and one on the 18th of May. The 23rd fought on the 15th and the 30th USCT fought on May 18th. In general Edward Ferrero’s report on the 23rd’s action, he never mentioned the 30th’s color guard. In fact the regiments were in separate brigades of the 4th Division of the IX Corps.

  2. Hi I have been researching my family and I found a document showing that my grandfather served with F 23 USC Inf…I’m not sure what this means. Would this be the same as the troop above? He was born around 1847 and lived in West Virginia. Thank you in advance for your reply.

  3. Do you know if there is a picture anywhere (other than the hanging) of William Johnson who was in this regiment and was hanged in June 1864 in Petersburg Va for allegedly raping a white woman?

  4. No, I do not know of any other pictures of William Johnson. there are few pictures of soldiers in the 23rd. We have the picture of Sgt. Nimrod Burke on the Facebook page of the 23rd Regiment United States Colored Troops. The Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center has a picture of Sgt. George Washington in the exhibit of the 23rd USCT and their skirmish during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

  5. I own a great letter from a Massachusetts Union Private named William E. Foster, dated May 11, 1864. In one paragraph of the letter to his mother, Foster says “they say the Negros fight like tigers. Some of the boys saw them make a charge and their cry was Fort Pillow. They do not take any prisoners but kill everyone that they come across and I can’t much blame them for they have suffered beyond all endurance by the hands of the miserable despots and it is no more than right in my estimation that they should retaliate.” I feel pretty sure that this description refers to the action of the 23rd at Spotsylvania, but I’m not sure which “charge” Foster is referring to. If your group would like a copy of the letter, I’d be glad for you to have it and make whatever use of it you would like.

  6. Thank you for all that you are doing to bring many of our branches home to their trees..

    Would you have any records of Isaac Queenan, William Queenan and one other Queenan that is listed on the AACW statue…..

    Thank you in advance for whatever you can find

    Penni Hayward

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