I wake up and the ‘nets are buzzing with a speech last night made in Nashville by that shapeshifter from Alaska (Governor? Talk show host? Avatar?). But another quiet buzz came in a report about another Battle of Nashville, one that was hardly a tea party. Unsurprisingly, it’s from a Fort Campbell-oriented paper, Clarksville Leaf-Courier, about some often-overlooked troops fighting in that other battle:
“These troops were here, for the first time, under such fire as veterans dread, and yet, side by side with the veterans of Stone’s River, Missionary Ridge and Atlanta, they assaulted probably the strongest works on the entire line, and though not successful, they vied with the old warriors in bravery, tenacity and deeds of noble daring,” said Col. C.R. Thompson in his report.
These troops were members of the 13th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, freed black slaves — recruited from Clarksville and other Middle Tennessee cities.
“This was a very active area for black troops,” said local historian Dr. Richard Gildrie. “They saw a lot of action.”
Newsflash to some: The story of black recruits in the Civil War is hardly limited to those Massachussets units we keep valorizing (mostly because of that movie about the 54th). To this weekend’s Nashville warriors, the thought of armed Negroes is enough of a surprise, I know. (If that feels harsh, read this roundup of the crowd at the Gaylord Hotel.) But the rest of us need to keep being reminded — thank you, the best-writer-on-the-web-Ta-Nehisi-Coates — of the dimensions of their full role in bringing forward emancipation’s promise.
Speaking of the 13th U.S. Colored Troops our old friend Ambrose Bierce was nearly the regiment’s commander. Born in the Appalachian section of Ohio, Bierce declined the commission, but later saw his racism challenged when he saw them in battle at Overton: ““Better fighting was never done. Their chances were hopeless and they knew it. Still they showed courage and discipline.”
Back to current issues shortly. But I wish some of those USCT reenactors who threw their photos all over Flickr had showed up at the so-called Tea Party convention, just in time for Miss Sarah’s coronation by the likes of those at left/ They could have turned up in full uniform, maybe with real guns. The woman who left college in Hawaii because of all the less-white folks in the state (“a minority type thing,” her dad said) might have then been slightly more restrained in her slanders.