Fort Pocahontas was an earthen fort built and manned by hundreds of United States
Colored Troops under the direct command of Brigadier General Edward Augustus Wild.
The May 24, 1864, action resulted in a victory for the USCTs against an attack
led by Major General Fitzhugh Lee, Robert E. Lee's nephew.
A letter from I.P. Farmer, a soldier from the 143rd sent to the "The Buckeye State" newspaper on July 7, 1864 in New Lisbon, Ohio, recently given to me by Timothy Brooks who was the guest speaker at the last reenactment. This letter gives independent confirmation to the reciprocal action to the "Fort Pillow Massacre." It also mentions the raid on President Tyler's house.
"The infantry fighting was done principally by the black troops and nobly did they repel the slander that "Niggers won't fight." Men who were in the fight told me that they charged several times to the mouths of the cannon in a Rebel fort and had to fall back. At the fifth charge they carried the works. The fort was in plain view of where I stood and I watched the volumes of white smoke it belched forth all day. The last charge was made after dark and during the time the sides of the fort seemed to be a sheet of flame. In five minutes all was dark and silent. The blacks had carried the works and a well credited camp report says that its garrison, over 200 in number, shared the fate of the garrison of Fort Pillow."
A letter from A. R. Arter, a soldier in the fort has recently been acquired. This letter has tremendous impact on the current view of how USCT troops were viewed during the Civil War because is show that black troops were accepted and given honors if they performed. It also show that there a a response meted out for the 'Fort Pillow Massacre."
"meanwhile the negroes were repulsed
some 4 or 5 times and would rally until they finally succeeded in reaching
the top of the works. there the tug of war commenced. the Rebs yelling to
them to come on and they would make another Fort Pillow case. the
Blacks could not see it that way. on the taking of the fort the Blacks
murderd every Reb that was left supposing to be some 4 or 5 hundred...
The commander of the Confederate troops that attacked Fort Pocahontas was General Fitzhugh Lee, the nephew of General Robert E. Lee. General Edward A. Wild, who commanded the USCT troops, had only one arm and was a fervent abolitionist.
This battle secured the Union outpost and demonstrated that African Americans could fight with equal bravery. Construction was completed after the battle and the fort was named Fort Pocahontas. General Wild and his troops were later replaced with Ohio Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York troops until the fort was abandoned in June 1865.
Black Soldiers like these troops from the 107th Infantry would never stand up to real combat, the critcs said; but the truth came out along the James River in the spring of 1864.This military installation did not leave surrounding Charles City County unaffected. Slaves fleeing their masters were sheltered and local residents suspected of Confederate sympathies were imprisoned inside the fort. Federal soldiers also plundered goods from abandoned houses, including President Tyler's home at Sherwood Forest Plantation. A letter written by Captain A. R. Arter at Wilson's Landing details the looting: "they brot [sic] in some very nice furniture . . . of the very costliest kind and destroyed the pyana [sic] & large looking glasses & such other stuff they could not bring in."
Reenactors from all over the East Coast, including the famous 54th from Massachusetts who starred in the movie "Glory," attend the reenactment each year.
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