Monday, May 11, 2020

Henry McNeal Turner Comments on White Soldiers' Attitudes toward Black Soldiers after seeing them in Combat

In my last post I shared some comments by 1st United States Colored Infantry chaplain, Henry McNeal Turner, on how Union soldiers in Washington D.C. treated black people. He observed a marked difference in the attitudes of early enlistees (1861) verses later (1862) ones. I shared my personal take on this as probably partly from a backlash response in the government's changed war aims after the release of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. I concluded that post wondering if Turner ever observed a positive change in white Union soldiers' attitude toward black soldiers after  finally having the chance to see the African American soldiers in combat.

Well, I just finished up Freedom's Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner and I found my answer. In his June 30 report to the Christian Recorder Turner concluded this column by stating:

"Before closing I would say that the brilliant achievements of our boys in front of Petersburg was more than timed, and did more to conquer the prejudice of the Army of the Potomac than a thousand newspaper puffs. Providentially, the most of that immense army had to pass right by the forts taken by the colored soldiers. Every soldier with whom I came in contact had but little to say except to pay the most flattering compliments to the brave colored men of our division. After that the white and colored soldiers talked, laughed, and ate together with a friendly regard, not surpassing by any previous occasion. Let the forts of Petersburg hereafter add new stars to the glorious constellation, which are glittering with untarnished brilliancy above the horizon. Let them stand a monument to his bravery, heroism, and daring."

In the next post I will share some of Turner's comments on black soldiers' treatment of Confederate prisoners during the June 15 attacks at Petersburg.