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The Jacksonville Mutiny B. Kevin Bennett At 1200 hours on December 1, 1865, six soldiers from the 3d United States Colored Troops (USCT) were led from the guardhouse at Fort Clinch, Fernandina, Florida, and executed by a firing squad drawn from white troops at the garrison. The six soldiers, Privates David Craig, Joseph Green, James Allen, Jacob Plowden, Joseph Nathaniel, and Thomas Howard, were executed for mutiny, the last servicemen in the American armed forces to be executed for this offense.1 Inasmuch as the Civil War period marked the first time in American history that blacks served in the military in appreciable numbers, the Jacksonville Mutiny is a tragic but instructive beginning milestone from which the progress of the black soldier within the military justice system can be measured. As a result of large scale operations and resultant massive casualties, the Civil War created a manpower crisis, which in turn led to the enlistment of large numbers of blacks into the Federal military and naval services. Free blacks served in a limited capacity in the Revolution and War of 1812, their participation limited by the relatively small number of free blacks (and by the prejudices of society). The Civil War, however, was the first real opportunity for blacks to join organized military units and to strike a blow for the freedom and status of their race. Recruitment for the military was spurred on by the exhortations of black leaders like Frederick Douglass, who declared, \"Let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship.\" In response, 1 In 1882, three Indian Scouts (Sgt. Jim Dandy, Corp. Skippy, and Sgt. Dead Shot), who were attached to the 6th U.S. Cavalry, were executed on the charge of mutiny. These individuals were in an auxiliary status as scouts, and the offense for which they were convicted should have been charged as murder. These scouts joined with a party of hostile Indians in a firefight that resulted in the death of'an officer and six soldiers. See General Court Martial Order 12 of 1882. Civil War History, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 1, c 1992 by The Kent State University Press 40CIVIL WAR HISTORY blacks turned out in large numbers. By the end of the war, over two hundred thousand had joined the Union army and navy.2 One of the earliest units formed was the 3d USCT, which was organized at Camp William Penn near Philadelphia in July 1863. Comprised of escaped slaves and freedmen from the various northern states, it was, like all black units, officered by whites.3 After a brief period of basic training, the regiment embarked in August 1863 for Morris Island, South Carolina, where it served in the trenches before Fort Wagner (a campaign recently made famous by the movie Glory). Having suffered substantial casualties during this campaign, the regiment was transferred in February 1864 to Jacksonville, Florida, which was occupied by Union forces. From then until the end of the war the men served on outpost duty, continually fighting skirmishes and mounting raids and expeditions into the Confederate-held interior of the state. After the cessation of hostilities, the regiment continued to be stationed in Florida on occupation duty. Assigned the unenviable chore of trying to reestablish and uphold federal authority in a hostile environment, the soldiers of the 3d USCT found the duty marked with endless hours of boredom and frustration. In the absence of the excitement and challenge of combat, many of the soldiers turned to alcohol and chafed under the continuing restrictions of military discipline. Commanding the regiment was twenty-three-year-old Lt. Col. John L. Brower, a native of New York City. Unlike most white officers assigned to black regiments, Brower had no previous enlisted military experience when he obtained a direct commission as a captain in August 1863. Rather, it appears that he obtained his commission through political connections. Brower had only recently been promoted, assuming command on September 12, 1865, when the former...
Learn about over 1,000 camps and ghettos in Volumes I-III of this encyclopedia, which are available as a free PDF download. This reference provides text, photographs, charts, maps, and extensive indexes.
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