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.
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.