Camp Hamilton, Va. May 1, 1864. p., on an octavo sheet. Faint tideline to upper left corner. Near fine. Item #WRCAM55912
An important order announcing equal pay for "colored troops" in the Union Army, issued by Capt. Solon Carter on behalf of Gen. E.W. Hinks. This is a field press printing of one of Hinks' earliest and most consequential orders upon taking command of 3rd Division of the 18th Corps of the Union Department North Carolina, composed entirely of United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.). This order was issued over a month before Congress finally authorized equal pay for U.S.C.T. troops on June 15, 1864. Until then, black soldiers were paid $7 per month (plus $3 for clothing), while white soldiers earned $13. The order begins: "Soldiers of the Republic! At last justice has been awarded you by the representatives of the nation in Congress, and you stand before the law upon an equality with your heretofore move favored fellow soldiers of the North."
One of Hinks' other early orders was to appoint Carter, then captain of Company G, 14th New Hampshire Volunteers, as Assistant Adjutant General of Volunteers and Aide-de- Camp to Hinks. Carter later served on the staff of Gen. Charles J. Paine (3rd Division, 25th Corps). For his service and bravery, he was breveted Major and then Lieutenant Colonel at the end of the war. In 1900, at a meeting of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Commandery of Massachusetts, Carter presented a paper titled "Fourteen Months' Service with Colored Troops," in which he praised the service of the U.S.C.T.:
"The object of the present paper is to tell in simple language, without exaggeration or embellishment, the story of what the Colored Division of the Eighteenth Corps did, and how they did it, throwing here and there a side light upon previous descriptions of their deeds of valor and heroism. That the lights are of such exceedingly limited power must be attributed to the fault of the instrument, rather than lack of loyalty to the memory of the gallant officers and brave men, living and dead, whose acts are commemorated."
Carter went on to describe their role in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign leading up to the Siege of Petersburg, and how they earned the respect and admiration of their fellow white soldiers.
The United States Colored Troops were regiments in the Army composed primarily of African-American soldiers, although members of other minority groups also served, including Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Asian Americans. By the end of the Civil War, U.S.C.T. regiments constituted about one-tenth of the Union Army, although they had a casualty rate about thirty-five percent higher than white Union troops. The U.S.C.T. fought with distinction: fifteen U.S.C.T. soldiers received the Medal of Honor, among numerous other awards.
In July 1862, Congress passed the Confiscation Act freeing slaves whose owners were in rebellion against the United States, and then the Militia Act of 1862 empowered the president to use former enslaved men in any capacity in the army. Lincoln opposed early efforts to recruit black soldiers, although he approved of the army using them as paid workers. However, once he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, recruitment of African Americans became widespread. On May 22, 1863 the War Department issued General Order 143, establishing the Bureau of Colored Troops to better facilitate the recruitment and mustering of African-American soldiers. Regiments of infantry, cavalry, engineers, light artillery, and heavy artillery units were recruited from all states of the Union. 175 regiments totaling more than 178,000 "colored" soldiers served during the last two years of the war.
U.S.C.T. regiments were led by white officers, and rank advancement was limited for black soldiers, with very few receiving commissions. The courage displayed by black troops during the war played an important role in African Americans gaining new rights after the war. In his speech, "Should the Negro Enlist in the Union Army?" delivered at National Hall, Philadelphia on July 6, 1863, Frederick Douglass stated: "Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship." Douglass was a prominent supporter of recruitment for the U.S.C.T., and Douglass' two sons, Lewis and Charles, were two of the first to enlist in Massachusetts.
We could find only two copies of this general order held in institutions: Hampton History Museum, and the University of Rochester. An important early step on the road to racial equality in the United States armed forces. OCLC 1101179313. Solon A. Carter, "Fourteen Months' Service with Colored Troops," in CIVIL WAR PAPERS, READ BEFORE THE COMMANDERY OF THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS, MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES (Boston: F.H. Gilson, 1900), vol. 1, pp.155-179.