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Rhythm-A-Day Blog for January 31, 2020: 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Colored)

Posted by Wolf Murphy on

1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Colored) Active in U.S. Army

Union Army recruiting poster (Wikimedia Commons)

The 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Colored) was a Union Army regiment during the Civil War. It was composed of escaped slaves from South Carolina and Florida.

First South Carolina Volunteers Hear the Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation near Beaufort, South Carolina, January 1, 1863

(U.S. Library of Congress)

It saw some combat but the regiment was not involved in any major battles, but were very effective at coastal raids in Florida and Georgia, due in part to familiarity with the terrain. Harriet Tubman served with these men as a cook, nurse, spy, and scout. 

Equality was a ways away still. Black privates were paid $10 per month, the rate for laborers, rather than the $13 paid to white privates. All of the officers were white, but the Regiment's first commander, Colonel Higginson, wrote

"We, their officers, did not go there to teach lessons, but to receive them. There were more than a hundred men in the ranks who had voluntarily met more dangers in their escape from slavery than any of my young captains had incurred in all their lives.”

Col. Higginson was a minister, an author and an abolitionist. Most of the Black privates were Gullah: African Americans in the Lowcountry region of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. The Gullah developed a creole language and kept a culture rich in African influences.  Higginson documented the Gullah dialect and the spirituals that they sang.

This regiment set a precedent for the over 170,000 "colored" troops who later mustered into the Union Army.

Here are orchestrated Gullah rhythms from Wona Wolaman, a traditional Gullah percussion-based band:

Today's Video Lesson

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