A Tribute to Black Soldiers in the United States Military

Nils Skudra The Battle of Nashville
Nils Skudra : The Battle of Nashville, 1864

The fifth in a series of Art of Autism blog posts for Black History Month 2021 compiled by Keri Bowers.

Featuring Civil War Historian Nils Skudra

From conflicts to major wars, African American’s have fought in every single conflict in United States history. Promises of freedom and other benefits offered by the government were all-to-often shallow, unfulfilled promises.

Nils Skudra, a long-time Art of Autism friend has a passion for the military. For Black History Month, he created these drawings of soldiers in scenes from black military history.

Nils Skudra Black Union Trrops
Nils Skudra: Black Union Troops Engaging Confederates at the Battle of New Market Heights

As the morning sun burned through the fog along the New Market Road about eight miles southeast of Richmond on the autumn morning of September 29, 1864, it revealed a scene of carnage and human wreckage. Dead infantrymen in coats that were a familiar shade of Union blue covered the slopes before New Market Heights. But most of the faces of the dead and maimed were black. Source, America’s Civil War Magazine (Historynet.com)

Nils Skudra The Battle of Nashville
Nils Skudra : The Battle of Nashville, 1864

On December 15, 1864, the 13th USCT and the 2nd Colored Brigade (three regiments of black troops) were ordered to move in position for an assault on a Confederate battery position along the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad near Nolensville Pike. The next day, Union Colonel Charles R. Thompson received orders to take his 2nd Colored Brigade to join General Thomas J. Woods’ 4th Corps. The 13th USCT along with the 12th and 100th USCT arrived at Peach Orchard Hill where the Confederates immediately opened fire at them but none of the USCT took any losses. General Wood told Thompson that he would attack the Confederate position at Overton Hill and requested three USCT regiments to support his left flank. Around 3:00 p.m., the Union troops began their attack. Thompson placed the 100th and 12th USCT in front and use the 13th as support. The 12th encountered a dense thicket which slowed their advance. Meanwhile the 100th USCT came upon several fallen trees that slowed their advance as well. Both regiments faced heavy fire from the Confederate troops occupying Overton Hill. Source: Black Past: The Battle of Nashville

Nils Skudra Sherman's Troops Conversing with Liberated Slaves
Nils Skudra: Sherman’s Troops Conversing with Liberated Slaves

The Truth Behind ’40 Acres and a Mule’

We’ve all heard the story of the “40 acres and a mule” promise to former slaves. It’s a staple of black history lessons, and it’s the name of Spike Lee’s film company. The promise was the first systematic attempt to provide a form of reparations to newly freed slaves, and it was astonishingly radical for its time, proto-socialist in its implications. In fact, such a policy would be radical in any country today: the federal government’s massive confiscation of private property — some 400,000 acres — formerly owned by Confederate land-owners, and its methodical redistribution to former black slaves. What most of us haven’t heard is that the idea really was generated by black leaders themselves. Excerpt from The Root, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Nils Skudra The Burial of Colonel Shaw
Nils Skudra: The Burial of Colonel Shaw

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (1837-1863) was a young white Civil War Union army officer who commanded the otherwise all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was killed while leading a fierce but unsuccessful charge by his troops of the sand and earth parapets of Fort Wagner on Morris Island near Charleston, South Carolina, on July 18, 1863. Union casualties numbered more than 1500 that day. Union Brigadier General Quincy Adams Gillmore sent an inquiry to the Confederate Commander of Fort Wagner asking about the disposition of Shaw’s body. The reply was that Col. Shaw had been “buried with his niggers,” in a common grave, a trench along the island’s shore, close to the fort. Source: teachinghistory.org

Nils Skudra

Nils has written several blogs about his favorite military subjects, educating us with his sharp focus on this fascinating subject. Read here:

Did Ulysses S. Grant have Asperger’s Syndrome?

For more about Blacks in the US Military from the Revolution to World Wars, read here.

2 Comments

  • Hello Nils,

    WOW! What a great project that you have created and thank you very much for sharing.

    It is wonderful when historical persons and events are brought into the spotlight to adjust
    the education of others to more precise perspectives of who these people were and their
    actions while they walked on Planet Earth.

    The complacency in my own education, and subsequent memories, is strongly challenged by your beautiful historical post.

    The amount of effort that you must have put forth to make this project a reality in inconceivable,
    yet you acted and delivered!

    I look forward to your next project postings.

    Pease, Happiness, and Beauty for All!

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