The Schroeder Books
Opportunity is at Hand: Oneida
County, New York, Colored Soldiers in the Civil War
By Donald Wisnoski
Foreword by Patrick A. Schroeder
Opportunity is at Hand is a
new form of study concerning United States Colored Troops.
There have been other studies on famous units such at the 54th
and 55th Massachusetts and the 14th Rhode Island Heavy
Artillery, and on the contributions of Black soldiers as a whole.
Yet, a concentrated study of colored soldiers from one geographical area,
of men who served in various units, has not been delved into until now.
Mr. Wisnoski has researched over 60
colored service men and women from Oneida County, New York, who served in twenty
different units and organizations. Many
were in the ranks of the 26th and 31st USCT, the 54th
Massachusetts Infantry, the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, and
other units, as well as several veterans of the US Navy.
These men fought in the battles of Fort Wagner, Olustee, Johns Island,
James Island, Honey Hill, Petersburg, Chaffins’ Farm, and Appomattox.
The book reveals the eagerness of colored citizens to take part in the
great struggle. The earliest man to
enlist was John E. Lippins who joined the Navy on November 4, 1861.
Several men served with the 16th New York Heavy Artillery as
cooks until transferring to the United States Colored Regiments.
A colored washerwoman went into the field with the 2nd New
York Heavy Artillery. There were
three brothers who served, as well as a father and son in the 31st
USCT. There was William “Uncle
Bill” Smith of the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (later the 11th
US Colored Heavy Artillery) who lived to be 113 years old.
There was William Henry who weighed 397 pounds, and was turned down by
the army because of his bulk. Unwilling
to be denied his right to serve, Henry joined the navy and was stationed aboard
the Hornet. There was
Arlington Denike, who served on the U. S.
S. Vermont and the Preston, and
attained the rank of 1st class petty officer.
Then there were less stellar men like John Green, of the 1st
and 40th USCT. Though
wounded in battle in 1863, Green was later characterized as “utterly worthless
as a soldier and a confirmed malingerer.”
Though most black men from Oneida County were born free, there were those
such as Eli Baylis, an escaped slave, who served in the 1st
Mississippi Cavalry (later known as the 3rd US Colored Cavalry), and
Robert “Uncle Bob” Wilson who was liberated from servitude from a plantation
near Culpeper, VA, and who attached himself as a ‘contraband’ to Major Rufus
Daggett of the 117th NY Infantry.
Milton Frank was drafted in the summer of 1863, served bravely, and was
twice wounded—the first time at the Battle of Olustee, then at Chaffin’s
Farm, a wound that proved mortal. One
highlight of the book is a half-dozen letters written by William Labiel of the
14th RI Heavy Artillery. Sadly,
Labiel did not survive the war.
The book includes three appendices. One lists the known burial sites for the African-American soldiers from Oneida County, another lists the 24 white USCT officers who came from the county, and the last is General Daniel Butterfield’s analysis of the use of black soldiers entitled “Memoranda With Regard to Colored Troops.” The book contains 30 photos and sketches. Index. 136 pages. Soft cover Price $12.95. ISBN-1-889246-20-4. Hard cover Price $19.99. ISBN-1-889246-18-2.
The Opportunity is at Hand: Oneida County, New York, Colored Soldiers in the Civil War
$ 12.95 (soft cover)
$ 19.99 (hard cover)
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