History of the Colored Volunteer Infantry of Virginia 1871–99. William H. Johnson.
History of the Colored Volunteer Infantry of Virginia 1871–99.
History of the Colored Volunteer Infantry of Virginia 1871–99.
History of the Colored Volunteer Infantry of Virginia 1871–99.
History of the Colored Volunteer Infantry of Virginia 1871–99.
History of the Colored Volunteer Infantry of Virginia 1871–99.
History of the Colored Volunteer Infantry of Virginia 1871–99.
History of the Colored Volunteer Infantry of Virginia 1871–99.

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History of the Colored Volunteer Infantry of Virginia 1871–99.

[Virginia: The Veterans Officers’ Association of Virginia?], 1923. Sm. 8vo (7.75” x 5.25”), dark blue cloth with gilt title at front cover. 102 pp., illus.; errata slip bound into front. CONDITION: Good, light dampstain to back cover, wear at extremities; minor stains to page 51.

First edition of this scarce book covering three decades of participation by African Americans in Virginia’s state militia.

In 1868, Congress enacted legislation to allow former Confederate states to create militias once they reentered the Union. Virginia rejoined the Union in 1870, and the following year reestablished the Virginia Volunteers. Virginia’s first black militia unit was the Attucks Guard, which formed in Richmond in 1870 and in 1872 joined the Virginia Volunteers. By 1884, there were nineteen black companies. Between 1886 and 1895, black companies were called up five times, including in 1887 when Virginia Governor Fitzhugh Lee became the only southern governor to activate an all-black militia unit (in response to a violent longshoremen’s strike). During the Spanish-American War, Virginia raised the all-black 6th Virginia Volunteers and contributed about a third of the men of the all-black 10th U.S. Volunteers (the so-called Immunes), a regiment of soldiers thought to be resistant to tropical diseases. While stationed in the Deep South, the men of the 6th and 10th regiments resisted the racism visited upon them. The negative publicity which resulted led the Governor to leave black companies out of the reconstituted Virginia Volunteers starting in 1899.

The present work is dedicated “to the noble men and women of color who very materially assisted in maintaining them as such… We trust that the record herein many [sic] serve as an inspiration to our young people and as a stimulus to noble deeds by them.” The first chapter, “Influence of Predecessors,” spans from the 1600s to the 20th century and covers the role of African Americans in building the nation; the importance of military service for African Americans; heroic figures of African descent, such as Crispus Attucks and Toussaint Louverture, and so forth. The core chapters are entitled “Organization and Maintenance," “Activities as State Volunteers,” and “Entry into the Spanish-American War.” The text is rounded out with “Comments from Reports and from the Press,” “Roster,” and “The Call.” Interspersed throughout are illustrations and short biographies of seventeen black officers, ranging from Lieutenants to Majors.

Major William H. Johnson (1858–1935) was born into slavery in Petersburg, VA. After graduating from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1874, he returned to Petersburg and in 1878 joined the Petersburg Blues as a private. By 1888 he was a Captain. Between the years 1888 and 1897, Capt. Johnson was promoted to Major, and assumed command of the 2nd Battalion, Virginia Vol. Infantry. After black militia companies were discontinued in 1899, Johnson was vocal in attempting to convince the governors of the state to allow for their reconstitution.

Worldcat records just ten copies, at least one of which is a reproduction.

REFERENCES: A Guide to the Major William Henry Johnson Papers (1858-1935) at ead.lib.virginia.edu; The United States Colored Troops at encyclopediavirginia.org.

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