Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Identification Badge of 5th USCI Soldier

The Battle of New Market Heights occurred early on the morning of September 29, 1864, just southeast of Richmond. This fight included two dramatic attacks by brigades in Brig. Gen. Charles Paine’s division of United States Colored Troops against the earthen fortifications of the famous Texas Brigade. Extreme examples of courage resulted in fourteen African American soldiers earning the Medal of Honor for their heroism at New Market Heights.

The first brigade to attempt an assault of the works was commanded by Col. Samuel Duncan and consisted of the 4th and 6th United States Colored Infantry. These units attacked in battle line formations with the 6th following in echelon to the left and just behind the 4th.

Encountering obstructions placed in front of the earthworks by the Confederates, the two black regiments took severe casualties as they attempted to reach the works. Three African American soldiers from the 4th and two from the 6th received their medals for rescuing their regimental or U.S. flags or rallying their comrades when their white officers were either killed or wounded.

The small brigade eventually fell back due to the severe number of casualties they received; over 55% of the men were killed, wounded, or captured. Sgt. Maj. Christian Fleetwood, a man of few words, but one of the Medal of Honor recipients for his heroism this day, noted in his diary for September 29, “Charged with the 6th at daylight and got used up, Saved colors.”
Next to attack was Col. Alonzo Draper’s Brigade, which included the 5th, 36th and 38th regiments. This brigade attacked in column, and although they took severe casualties, too, they were able to break through the Confederate earthwork line. Nine black men from these units received the Medal of Honor.

Although he did not receive the Medal of Honor, Peter Turner of the 5th United States Colored Infantry was “wounded severely” in the New Market Heights fight. Turner was apparently a free man of color before the war, from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and enlisted in Company I, there on December 10, 1863. Turner carried this identification tag with him during the war until he mustered out of service on September 20, 1865. Today, the tag is among the many significant artifacts in the care of Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier.


  1. Tim, I just happen to be switching through channels and came across C-Span. They were showing a lecture which I believe was held at Pamplin back in October. Mr. James Morgan was discussing his book "A Little Short of Boats: The Battle of Ball's Bluff and Edwards Ferry". A very interesting lecture and it was obvious that Mr. Morgan really knows his subject matter. I will have to put that book on my "must read" list.

  2. Hi Paul, Yes, they have been showing those talks the last couple of nights. I don't have that book either, but it does sound like an interesting read. I stopped a Ball's Bluff a few years ago on my way to Gettysburg. It's a neat place.