By Scott Dearman, Mansfield State Historic Site
Due to the small number of regiments involved and their use largely as guard and engineer troops, the participation of USCT (United States Colored Troops) units during the Red River Campaign is often overlooked. However some of these units did see combat during the campaign, likely more than was recognized and reported at the time.
Of the four USCT infantry regiments that took part in the campaign, two regiments, the 84th and 92nd, are documented as having seen combat. The 84th saw action at the battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9th, 1864, the day after Union defeat at Mansfield. The regiment was deployed as skirmishers to cover the left wing of XIX Corps, and were driven in when struck by Confederate divisions of Thomas J. Churchill’s infantry corps, enroute to overwhelming (temporarily) the left-center of the Army of the Gulf’s position at Pleasant Hill. Later in the campaign, during the Army of the Gulf’s retreat to Southeast Louisiana, the regiment saw action at the battles of Mansura and Bayou De Glaises (Moreauville), May 1864. A photo of the 84th’s National colors, showing the above engagements as a battle honors, accompanies this post.
The 92nd USCT was involved in battle on May 17, 1864, late in the the Army of the Gulf’s long retreat and just prior to its crossing of the Atchafalaya River and return to Union-held soil. The regiment’s brigade commander, William H. Dickey, reported that the regiment “behaved with the utmost coolness, and delivered its fire with excellent effect. No one who witnessed their conduct…can doubt that it is perfectly safe to trust colored troops in action, and depend upon their doing their full share of fighting.”
The 92nd’s commander, Lt. Col. John Chadwick, also praised the regiment’s conduct in his official report:
“This was the first time that this regiment, as a whole, had been engaged with the enemy, and I must say that their conduct was as good as that of any new troops. There were instances of cool courage and determined bravery which would compare with the conduct of any veteran. Antoine Davis, acting first sergeant of Company E, was shot in the head, left breast, and groin by the same weapon, a pistol…but could not be moved from his ground until the shot in the groin laid him upon the earth. He received the enemy’s fire with the muzzle of the pistol resting against his left breast. I regret to be obliged to report his death in hospital at New Orleans…”
There were also two black engineer regiments, the 3rd and 5th, who took part in the campaign and should not be left out. These regiments, along with the above USCT regiments, were instrumental in helping the Army of the Gulf construct dams and fortifications on Red River at Alexandria, enabling Admiral Porter’s fleet (and army QM vessels) to escape its low-water entrapment and possible destruction.
Black regiments involved in the Red River Campaign of 1864:
ENGINEER BRIGADE – Col. George D. Robinson
3rd Engineer Regiment, Corps d’ Afrique – Lt. Col. George A. Harmount
5th Engineer Regiment, Corps d’ Afrique – Lt. Col. Uri B. Pearsall
FIRST DIVISION – CORPS D’ AFRIQUE
First Brigade – Col. William H. Dickey
73rd USCT Regiment – Maj. Hiram E. Perkins
75th USCT Regiment – Col. Henry W. Fuller
84th USCT Regiment – Capt. James Corrin
92nd USCT Regiment – Col. Henry Frisbie/Lt. Col. John Chadwick
Photo Credit: National Museum of American History, Smithsonian
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