published Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Banquet honors black Civil War troops


* What: Black history banquet

* When: 6 p.m. Saturday

* Where: Second Missionary Baptist Church, 2305 E. Third St.

* Admission: $15 (ticket deadline is today)

* Phone: 624-9097

No movie has been made on the exploits of the 44th United States Colored Troops regiment similar to "Glory," which focused on the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry.

But 44th USCT re-enactor Gerald Wellington said black regiments saw plenty of action around Chattanooga during the Civil War.

The local re-enactor group will present a program on "African-Americans in the Civil War" for the annual black history banquet at Second Missionary Baptist Church on Saturdayat 6 p.m.

Wellington said the 44th, composed of former area slaves and one of several USCT units to serve in the area, was formed in spring 1864 after the September and November battles in and around the city in 1863.

It subsequently saw action, under the overall leadership of Gen. William T. Sherman, in the Second Battle of Dalton in August 1864, the Battle of Tunnel Hill in September 1864 and the Battle of Nashville in December 1864.

In the Dalton battle, according to Curtis Rivers Jr., director of the Dalton African-American Heritage and Multicultural Center, records show "some [members of the 44th] were captured, some ran away and some were shot."

One of the unit's crowning achievements, Wellington said, was its presence as part of the troops that pursued Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood following the Battle of Nashville. Although Hood escaped across the Tennessee River, his once-formidable force was essentially destroyed, according to histories of the battle.

"They chased after him, trying to capture him," Wellington said.

While the 44th was an infantry unit, the 42nd USCT provided assistance more in the occupation of Chattanooga, Wellington said. Comparable to today's engineering units, he said, the 42nd was involved in building roads and bridges and other construction projects.

An October 1864 letter by R.D. Mussey, commissioner for the organization of U.S. colored troops, indicated the 42nd "has been engaged chiefly the last summer in the hospital gardens" and also did "considerable fatigue duty."

Wellington said he did not know with certainty any Chattanooga-area residents who are direct descendants of members of the 44th regiment.

In his program at the black history banquet, Wellington said he'll also give a history of the 54th Massachusetts unit, one of the first all-black units to fight in the war.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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