This site is devoted to the history of the Fifth Regiment of the U.S. Colored Cavalry, a unit comprised of men of African descentslaves, ex-slaves, and free menwho fought for the Union cause during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Members of the regiment were reportedly massacred by Confederate troops following the Battle of Saltville on October 2-3, 1864.
USCT & 5th USCC Garrison Duty in Helena, Arkansas Recognized via Exhibit in Kelly Park
In The News
Saltville Massacre or Confederate Infamy Civil War Bummer
Bios of Members of the 5th USCC From Anderson County, Kentucky
New Book, African American Faces of the Civil War, combines compelling archival images with biographical stories (including Samuel Truehart 5th USCC) that reveal the human side of the war
Compiled History of Samuel Truehart (1843-1897), 5th Regiment Cavalry, USCT, Company E, About Our Freedom, February 1, 2011
Civil War historian to talk on Saltville Massacre at Camp Nelson, Lexington Herald-Leader, November 10, 2010
Winnowing of Saltville: Remembering a Civil War Atrocity, (PDF) By Brian McKnight, Angelo State University, Journal for the Liberal Arts and Sciences, Fall 2009
Bio of Private Thomas Morton, Company E
Dedication and Unveiling of Simpsonville Massacre Historical Highway Marker / Photos
Simpsonville Civil War Massacre ARMCHAIRGENERAL.COM
Memory of Civil War fallen revived 144 years after deaths The State Journal, January, 26, 2009
Marker revives memory of 'Simpsonville slaughter' / PDF / Lexington Herald Leader, January 21, 2009
Historical Highway Marker Memorializing the "Simpsonville Slaughter" to be Dedicated on January 25, 2009 / Marker Dedication Ceremony
Thomas Mays Authors New Book on Confederate Guerilla Champ Ferguson, Cumberland Blood: Champ Ferguson Civil War
"Historic Oct. 2, 1864 Battle of Saltville will be remembered again this year", Bluefield Daily Telegraph, September 26, 2008
New Website honors the 22 men of 5th USCC Missing in Action after the incident at Simpsonville, Kentucky, January 25, 1865 / Updates
Shelby County Kentucky Historical Society awarded grant to identify, recover and preserve the site of the "Simpsonville Slaughter", The Sentinel News, March 14, 2008
New Children's Book by Alison Hart, Gabriel's Journey, tells the story of the 5th USCC and the Saltville Massacre from a pre-teen's perspective
"Battle of Saltville’ provides a honored opportunity to remember a tragic wrong", Bluefield Daily Telegraph, September 29, 2006
Presentation on 5th USCC Made at Juneteenth Celebration in Bedford, Pennsylvania June 17, 2006 (PowerPoint Show) / Download Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer 2003
7th Annual Memorial Service Held in Saltville on October 2, 2004 | Program and Photo Gallery
Tonia Moxley Article, "Remembering the Saltville Massacre", Published in Winter 2003/2004 Issue of Southern Exposure Magazine
Thomas Mays Contributes Essay on Saltville Massacre to New Book, Black Soldiers in Blue, edited by John David Smith / Buy book at Amazon.com
5th Annual Memorial & Remembrance Service Held in Saltville October 2, 2002
Remembering Saltville, The Roanoke Times, September 28, 2001 (10/11/01)
William Marvel Responds to New Findings (9/6/2000)
"Researchers delve into Civil War massacre", Atlanta Journal - Constitution, October 31, 1999
"A town's tragic history keeps salt in its old wounds", Atlanta Journal - Constitution, November 1, 1999
Just after sunset on October 2, 1998, the 134th anniversary of the Battle of Saltville, the men of the 5th USCC who were massacred in Saltville in 1864 were honored on the very battlefield on which they were killed. The ceremony, organized by Bill Archer of nearby Bluefield, West Virginia, was attended by about 130 residents of the Bluefield and Saltville communities. After several prayers, poems, and gospel hymns, a group of Bluefield youth lit luminaries and placed American flags on Chestnut Ridge in honor of the men of the 5th and 6th USCC. Samuel Johnson of Bluefield read the names of the over fifty men presumed to have been murdered after the battle. At the end of the moving ceremony, a Bluefield youth, Daniel Wells, blew taps and a local pastor, Rev. F. Winston Polley, consecrated the ground and offered a final prayer. The event represented the long overdue recognition for the men of the 5th who fought so bravely, yet died so savagely, and have been so shamefully forgotten by the nation they died serving. This represented the first step toward making amends and many of the event's attendees expressed a commitment to determine where the men were buried after the battle and to erect a permanent monument to their memory in Saltville.
A second annual ceremony honoring the men of the 5th and 6th USCC that fell in Saltville was held on the evening of Saturday, October 2, 1999. In addition, a dawn service marking the 135th anniversary of the massacre was held on October 3, to honor the victims and to demonstrate support for a search for the mass grave and a monument to the murdered soldiers.
- Photo Gallery of 1999 Ceremonies
- Drawing of Proposed Monument Honoring Fallen Men of the 5th USCC
- Letter From U.S. Representative Rick Boucher Supporting the Monument
The August 23, 1999 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Radford University researchers have enlisted NASA to help determine the size of the Saltville massacre. The Radford team, with the aid of high-altitude NASA images, is making the first systematic search for a mass grave where black Union cavalrymen were buried after they were murdered on Oct. 2, 1864.
In early 1864, Union General Stephen G. Burbridge, commander of the Military District of Kentucky, authorized the formation of "colored" units comprised of freedmen, ex-slaves, and slaves within his command. On June 30, 1864, Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas, responsible for organizing colored regiments in the Mississippi Valley for the Union Army, authorized the officers of the newly formed 5th United States Colored Cavalry (5th USCC) to begin selecting recruits. Colonel James Brisbin, a well known abolitionist, became commander of the regiment. Some of the companies were recruited at Camp Nelson, Kentucky, while others were enlisted in nearby towns, including Lebanon and Louisville. Nearly all of the recruits were former slaves, the majority of whom volunteered for three years of service. In accordance with Thomas policy, all of the officers of the 5th USCC were white.
Although over six hundred members of the unit engaged in actions under General Burbridge's command in Southwest Virginia in September and early October of 1864, the regiment was not officially organized until October 24, 1864 at Camp Nelson. The regiment was attached to the 1st Division, District of Kentucky, Dept. of Ohio until February, 1865. The regiment subsequently served under the Military District of Kentucky and the Dept. of Arkansas. While stationed in Arkansas after the war, the regiment reportedly hunted down rebel renegades, supervised free elections, and tried to protect office holders and freedmen from the Ku Klux Klan and early versions of the White League violence. The men of the 5th USCC did face a low level of civil hostility and violence during this uneasy transition period by trying to keep the peace, as many former rebels resented occupation by "colored" soldiers.. The unit was mustered out in Helena, Arkansas on March 20, 1866. Many of the white officers that led the 5th USCC were subsequently assigned to the 10th Cavalry, one of two cavalry regiments comprised of men of African descent that served in the western frontier and became known as the Buffalo Soldiers. The final regimental commander of the 5th USCC, Louis L Carpenter went on the win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor while leading Company H of the 10th Calvary during the Indian Wars.
Although the 5th USCC is not as renowned as the 54th Massachusetts Infantry portrayed in the Oscar winning 1989 motion picture Glory, they did bravely participate in Burbridge's Raid from Kentucky into Southwestern Virginia from September 20 to October 17, 1864, during which they saw fierce action at Saltville, Virginia. The regiment also participated in Stoneman's Raid into Southwestern Virginia, December 10 to 29, which resulted in the eventual capture of Saltville and the destruction of the Confederate salt works.
According to the records of the National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Project, 1,459 men served in the 5th USCC and 35 of the regiment's enlisted men were killed or mortally wounded. In addition, one officer and 151 enlisted men succumbed to disease during the regiment's term of service. However, since the days after the first Saltville conflict in October 1864 a debate has raged over reports of a brutal massacre of Black troops at the hands of Confederate soldiers. To this day, Civil War scholars debate the scope and severity of the reported "massacre. "
Chronology of Regimental Battles:
(Links are to National Park Service battle summaries.)
- October 2, 1864, Saltville, VA;
- October 21, 1864, Harrodsburg, KY;
- December 12, 1864, Hopkinsville, KY;
- December 17-18, 1864, Marion, VA; / The Battle of Marion
- December 20-21, 1864, Saltville, VA;
- January 25, 1865, Simpsonville, KY (newspaper accounts) / 5th USCC at Simpsonville, KY
Complete Roster of 5th USCC:
Natonal Park Service Individual Soldier Records
Gravestone of Hiram Honaker, Private, Company A
John Cox Cemetery, Wright Patterson Air Force Base,Dayton, Ohio
(provided by Jim Nauwens)
Gravestone of Preston Dawson, Private, Company H, Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery
(provided by Catherine Dawson Winburn)
Gravestone of Garrett Smith, Private, Company M. Located in graveyard outside of Nicodemus, Kansas
(Photo taken by David Brown)
Gravestone of Corporal John H. Taylor, Company F, Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago, IL
(Photo taken by Andy Gappa)
Gravestone of Dudley Allen, Quartermaster Sergeant, Company M
Lexington National Cemetery, Lexington, KY
(Photo by John Roberts)