Although the movie Glory has left most people with the impression that the 54th Massachusetts was the first black regiment to see combat in the War Between the States, that distinction actually belongs to the 79th U.S. Colored Infantry, who fought at Island Mounds, Missouri, on October 28, 1862.
The first use of black troops in a general engagement came seven months later, almost two months before the 54th's famous assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina. Black soldiers participated in the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, a Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River some 25 miles north of Baton Rouge. On May 27, June 11, and June 14, 1863, Federal troops assailed the Confederate position at Port Hudson, without success. On July 9, six days after the Confederate loss at Gettysburg and five days after the surrender of Vicksburg, Port Hudson finally fell to the Union.
This poem, which appeared in The Albany Evening Journal, pays tribute to the valor of the black troops who fought at Port Hudson, laying to rest for all time white doubts about their ability to make good and loyal soldiers.
Thanks to Joel Craig of Joel Craig's Bivouac, whose tireless reading of old newspapers has unearthed yet another gem for this page.
"The Charge at Port Hudson"