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Show Thyself a ManGeorgia State Troops, Colored, 1865-1905$

Gregory Mixon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813062723

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813062723.001.0001

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The Road to Disbandment, 1896–1899

The Road to Disbandment, 1896–1899

(p.249) 6 The Road to Disbandment, 1896–1899
Show Thyself a Man

Gregory Mixon

University Press of Florida

Abstract and Keywords

Examines how the Spanish American Cuban Philippine War “destroyed” the Georgia Volunteers forcing a-militia reorganization. It also chronicles the rise of black protest against the mal-distribution of funding and training. There was one exception, the Georgia Artillery’s encampment training. The rise of segregation challenged black use of public space and presence as a state institution.

Keywords:   Spanish American War, Georgia Volunteers, Georgia Artillery

While 1895 offered black militiamen the illusion of inclusion in a changing Georgia militia structure, segregation’s increasing importance would also influence the fate of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored. Segregation had been a significant part of the Georgia Volunteers from the beginning. It originally had suggested an equality of sorts, wherein Georgia’s state government neglected all militiamen. Georgia allocated only federal resources to sustain the militia, with blacks receiving obsolete weaponry and accoutrements and whites receiving only slightly better versions of the same. Blacks in the 1870s and 1880s initially responded to segregation and neglect by being team players, but at the beginning of the 1890s they turned to protesting the disparities in resource allocation as new resources sparked a redefinition of the Georgia Volunteers. The structure and definition of Georgia’s militia changed at the end of the 1880s and the beginning of the 1890s as state funding, while erratic, became permanent.

Financial resources and development went to white militiamen in the 1890s. State governmental authorities offered resources in exchange for militiamen committing to being trained and professionalized as soldiers. With new resources and a commitment to learning how to be professionalized soldiers, militia members found themselves redefined by state and federal authorities. Segregation, as a result, no longer meant mutual neglect. Rather, it became important to whites in general and state authorities in particular for distinguishing what was for whites only. The new resources of the 1890s enhanced the racial disparities between militiamen, but it did not erase or prevent black militiamen from persistently seeking to carve out their place within the state’s military. Global war, however, would have a distinct role in highlighting racial discrimination within the state and the nation’s military and would culminate in two (p.250) crucial reorganizations that had ramifications for the Georgia Volunteers and for the national military.

This chapter and the final chapter examine the evolution of segregation, black protests, and the definition of the militia. While the “culture of segregation” played a major role in this process, ultimately it was war that redefined the militia. It transformed a local and state agency into a national institution. This chapter examines Georgia’s redefinition process up to the end of nineteenth century as war destroyed the state militia.

Segregation: Two Incidents

Every January 1 since 1863 African Americans had publicly commemorated the Emancipation Proclamation, black liberty, and citizenship in the United States. The first day of 1896 began in a more complex way than blacks in Savannah had anticipated. That day not only did African Americans celebrate their freedom but two whites also contested African Americans’ right to celebrate in public space. Captain J. H. Johnston, president of the City and Suburban Railway Company, would question the existence of black militiamen. By mid-January Johnston was offering a reward of one hundred dollars “for the arrest and proof to convict the member of the Georgia Artillery who assaulted” one of his white employees, “Motorman West.” The charge: “inflicting a wound” in the motorman’s neck on January 1, 1896. The alleged culprit was a black militiaman.

The Savannah Tribune declared Johnston’s accusation “ill advised” and a violation of the “comity that has and should exist between the military and our street railway corporations.” Mutual respect was the “comity” that black militiamen and African Americans in general assumed to exist between streetcar employees and members of the Georgia militia, as had been the case at least since South Carolina’s 1876 Hamburg Massacre. The January incident, however, appeared to announce the end of this cooperative relationship, if such a relationship ever existed in the first place in the New South twenty years after Hamburg. Specifically, white streetcar operators and their corporate supervisor did not, in 1896, “appreciate” Georgia’s customary and legal tradition of yielding the right of way to marching and parading black militiamen. According to the Tribune, streetcar operator West ran his vehicle into the assembled Georgia Artillery members preparing for the 1896 Emancipation Day parade. The collision occurred despite the efforts of Georgia Artillery commander Captain John C. Simmons to flag down the motorman. The vehicle’s motorman (p.251) claimed that the streetcar’s “bad condition” caused the collision between it and the militiamen.1

Georgia artillerymen had assembled for a parade on January 1, 1896, with swords drawn when the streetcar crashed into the militia company and one of the unit’s cannons. Some of the Georgia Artillery members leaped onto the streetcar to avoid being injured. It was when the machine plowed into the militia that motorman West was allegedly wounded. No one knew about the injury because West did not alert the militiamen that they had hurt him until “they saw it in the [Savannah] Morning News.” The white press claimed that West reported the incident to the police “sometime afterward and was unable to give a satisfactory description of the men who assaulted him.” Suburban Railway Company president, Captain J. H. Johnston, however, took it upon himself to speak for motorman West, contending that the streetcar operator had slowed and brought his vehicle to a complete stop when he encountered the parade. West, according to Johnston, resumed his route only after the parade had passed through the intersection. What happened next, Johnston reported, was that black militiamen at the procession’s end “became very much excited.” They “made an attack upon [West] with their sabers,” striking “with the flat of the sabers” but “one [struck] [West] in the neck.”

Both Johnston and Savannah’s Police Chief McDermott “demanded of Col. John H. Deveaux [, Savannah’s black battalion commander, and of Captain J. C. Simmons, Georgia Artillery leader, that they] … ascertain the names of West’s assailants and report them to the police.” Johnston added a layer of disrespect for black militiamen when he told the Savannah Morning News that he wanted “to find out whether citizens can be assaulted with deadly weapons by any crowd of men who happen to be in uniform and to take offense at their actions without redress.” Johnston intended to make Simmons responsible for the behavior of the Georgia Artillery by reporting Simmons and the Georgia Artillery to the adjutant general. Johnston’s public statement simultaneously contested whether black men were in fact militiamen, by calling them a “crowd” with “deadly weapons” in meaningless “uniforms,” and who was a citizen: West, the working-class white male, or the legitimately parading black militiamen?2

The black press countered Johnston and the Morning News, arguing that the Georgia Artillery’s leadership and enlisted men were all honorable men. The Tribune supported Captain Simmons’s assertion with four arguments. First, the wounding had not been malicious. Second, it was an accident. Third, even if the wound had been deliberate, Captain Simmons, (p.252) a man of honor, would investigate and then “pass on the matter” to the proper authorities. Fourth, as a group, black militiamen were men of honor eager to resolve the complaint. Simmons’s report to Colonel John H. Deveaux affirmed the encounter as an accident. The Tribune noted that the black military took “great pride in their organizations and the responsibilities committed to them.” African American militiamen also stood “ready to defend the law and aid the civil authorities in suppressing disorder whenever called upon to do so.” Even though black militiamen were paragons of commitment to community service and citizenship, the Tribune charged that individuals and corporations “don’t understand themselves, the law, nor what is best for the community.” In the Tribune’s estimation, nevertheless, whites, namely, Johnston and West, and the corporations they owned and worked for maintained “an utter disregard for everything except themselves and their earnings.”3

Four months later, at the end of April, during Confederate Memorial Day, members of the Confederate Veterans Association and Savannah’s white militiamen registered their vigorous objections to the “intrusion,” “indignities,” and “interference” to a violation of white public space. This was a dramatic change in how militiamen regardless of race used public space. Whites redefined who could use the parade ground in the park extension by declaring the park “exclusively the property of the white military commands.” They were upset that the Chatham Light Infantry and its band marched onto the park extension grounds in celebration of the black unit’s anniversary. Marching and parading on the public park extension grounds had been something black units had done since the early 1870s. Blacks paraded to commemorate African American freedom and special black militia days.

The trouble over who could utilize this public park stemmed from the fact that white and black commemorations occurred around the same time, on the same day, in the same place, but for dramatically different, and racially defined, reasons. As the Chatham Light Infantry marched onto the park extension parade ground commemorating its anniversary, the Irish Jasper Greens, one of Savannah’s white militia companies, joined white children and women in decorating Confederate graves as they commemorated Confederate Memorial Day. In the wake of the scheduling conflict, white Confederate veterans and white militiamen directed their objections at “the military authorities in charge of the grounds,” because the black unit “had use of [the public park facilities] only by their courtesy.” The white militia officers and Confederate Veterans Association (p.253) responded by petitioning the military and park supervisors, hoping “to prevent the colored militia from going on the parade ground again.”4

This incident also brought white Confederate veterans, some of Savannah’s white militiamen, and a few city officials together at the Knights of Pythias’s meeting hall a day later. They convened to discuss white solidarity, use of the park extension, and, as the press defined the issue, “the Status of the Military Parade Ground.” The two-hour meeting, with the white press present, prompted a discussion of the history of the parade ground, Savannah’s white military, and a new version of post–Civil War race relations history. Their first consideration, however, was whether “the reporters [should] be allowed to remain.” After some deliberation, they permitted the press’s attendance, provided the reporters “submit[ted] their reports to a committee appointed by the [Confederate Veterans Association’s] president.”

According to the Morning News, whites discussed the issue dispassionately. They defined the actions and members of the Chatham Light Infantry as ignorant, but the black intrusion, they commented, lacked malicious intent. The violation was caused by black ignorance and the race’s inherently inferior characteristics. The meeting continued, nevertheless, focused on the park extension and “exclusive control [of that space] by white military companies.” At issue was who owned and controlled the public parade ground. To address the question of ownership, the Confederate Veterans asked Savannah’s municipal attorney, S. H. Adams, Esquire, for his counsel. Adams reported that the U.S. military had turned control over the grounds before the Civil War to local white militia companies, assuming that the military green space would remain in the possession of white militiamen in perpetuity. He noted that the Chatham Light Infantry had committed a “gross breach of propriety and decorum” but warned that whites need not feel offended. Reinforcing racial stereotypes, white paternalism, and white desires to declare blacks after slavery to be inferior people, the attorney urged his white colleagues “to recall the fidelity with which negroes served their [slave] masters’ families during the [Civil] war, while the masters were at the front.” He additionally argued that “even in the reconstruction period … the negroes acted remarkably well.” Thereby, Adams initiated the telling of a new version of the post–Civil War story, which previously had stressed “Negro domination,” black crime and anti-white violence, white fear and anger, and white antiblack violence aimed at restoring white rule.5

While one speaker, a Mr. Appleton, acknowledged that “the negro (p.254) military company believed they had a right [to be] on the ground[s],” Confederate veterans and white militiamen convened to find a way to declare the parade ground a whites-only domain. Colonel Screven, a fifty-year Savannah militia veteran, presented his records search that day as he outlined the history of the park extension. Screven affirmed but expanded on attorney Adams’s history: The park extension had been a United States Army military barracks from the 1820s to the 1840s. In 1853 the site was designated forever a “public place” and a military parade ground and was “vested [by] … several military captains of the city” as an award to Savannah. The key to whites possessing and utilizing this public space was that “all [of Savannah’s 1850s] military commands” were white and had “not supposed [in the 1850s] that there would ever be such a thing as a negro military company.” Screven concluded that the Chatham Light Infantry members “probably knew no better,” especially the correct protocol to defer to whites. Yet his concern focused on “not establishing a precedent which might have very serious results.” He made it clear that “the status of the parade ground should be settled at once and forever.”6

The Road to Disbandment

These incidents reflect the beginning of the end for Georgia’s black militia companies. Even though Georgia’s Legislature passed legislation in the mid-1880s giving militiamen the right of way on community streets, a streetcar employee with corporate support crashed his derelict vehicle into a black militia unit on parade. Perhaps this was done deliberately. Perhaps Motorman West was already angry about having to enforce segregation on public transportation, which put him in direct daily confrontation with African American patrons, citizens, and marching militiamen. Did this frustration with having to impose public policy mandated by the Populist Georgia Legislature of 1891 cause West to deliberately drive his vehicle into parading black militiamen? Was West empowered by state segregation policy designating that public transportation companies enforce racially segregated seating, or did he resent having to be the enforcer of the law and take his anger out on this black militia unit? Or was the January 1, 1896, incident merely an accident colored by race and violence against blacks that increasingly characterized the rise of Jim Crow segregation in the New South, complete with lynchings and urban streetcar combat? The evidence does not allow us to conclusively answer any of these questions. What is clear is that Jim Crow, the culture of segregation, (p.255) was taking on new parameters that shaped white and black behavior in the 1890s. Jim Crow’s antiblack influence continued into the first decade of the twentieth century and was made stronger by the force of law, which resulted in the permanent disbanding of Georgia’s black militia companies by a new generation of Georgia Legislators.7

A few months later, in April 1896, Savannah’s Confederate veterans, along with white militiamen empowered by the rise of Jim Crow, registered their objections to the all-black Chatham Light Infantry’s attempt to march on public grounds and celebrate its anniversary. Their parade unfortunately coincided with Confederate Memorial Day, which commemorated antebellum white southern freedom and Civil War memories. Black militiamen over the past twenty years had, nevertheless, marched and drilled on the park extension’s parade ground, independently celebrating days and events important to African American postbellum freedom and citizenship in the United States. The Chatham Light Infantry in that context operated as it had in the past, as free people and citizens of Savannah.

On rare occasions black militiamen in the late 1870s had also marched in parades with white militiamen. The most prominent event was a memorial service for a popular politician who was highly regarded by both races. What had changed in the two intervening decades? Over that time black men had attempted to establish a public commitment to the state of Georgia as militiamen and as citizens. During those two decades black militiamen had sought to evolve along with their white counterparts in embracing military professionalism. In both cases African American Georgians engaged in citizenship and military service, hoping for white public recognition and certification of their freedom as citizens. White militia authorities, however, had neglected the African American units. With the white militiaman’s demand for funding, recognition, and professional development in the late 1880s and early 1890s realized, the status of black militia companies came into question in a much more public and official way than it had twenty years earlier, when legalized segregation had yet to become an effective tool of white supremacy. Segregation’s legal parameters were in the 1890s increasingly certified by the Georgia Legislature, and public transportation was the most visible change in public exchanges between black and white Georgians.

While these two incidents occurred in isolation from each other, the year 1896 marks a significant change in attitude toward Georgia’s black militiamen.8 Disbanding black militia units became a policy the Military Advisory Board thought was worth discussing after the 1895 black (p.256) colonels’ petition requesting better treatment for the black militia companies. The termination of African American militia companies was, by then, an ongoing possibility that Advisory Board members debated, considered, and finally acted on during the nine years between 1896 and legislative disbandment in 1905. The debate coincided with the emerging power of legalized Jim Crow segregation, which conveyed to white Georgians, and especially to elite whites, an empowering culture for handling capital industrialization and national consumer culture. Segregation enabled the white South to become part of the national narrative.

The transformative impact of the Spanish-American War, the Cuban War of Independence, and the Philippine-American War, fought from 1898 to 1902, further encouraged the Military Advisory Board to disband the black militia units once and for all. This global conflict helped to recast what the Georgia Volunteers were and how they fit within the new National Guard as a federally funded military institution. War changed the state militia even though no officially organized Georgia militia unit participated in the conflict. Jim Crow segregation, global war, black disfranchisement, antiblack violence, and the disbandment of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored, went hand in hand to reinvigorate and empower white supremacy and certify the triumph of the physical separation of the races. This was the road to disbandment, a near decade’s march to the termination of the late nineteenth-century Georgia Volunteers, Colored, and then of the early twentieth-century Georgia State Troops, Colored.

“Show Cause Why They Should Not Be Disbanded”

The year 1896 began and ended with African American militia leaders defending the companies in their command from disbandment by state authorities. Even though the spring and summer of 1895 had suggested that a positive change was on the horizon for black militiamen, one that promised recognition, funding, and inclusion in coveted training opportunities, the events of 1896 contradicted that vision of inclusion. This shift from potential inclusion to the threat of disbandment emerged in mid-February 1896, when the black militia companies of Augusta and Savannah were called before the Military Advisory Board to “show cause” as to why they should not be disbanded. Lieutenant Colonel John H. Deveaux and five captains in the First Battalion, along with a separate contingent of captains leading Augusta’s three “crack colored companies” of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored, journeyed to Atlanta to address the Advisory Board. (p.257) According to the Atlanta Constitution, Augusta’s renowned units had to “show cause why they should not be disbanded for inefficiency.” While we know that Lieutenant Colonel Deveaux accompanied the First Battalion’s units, there are no newspaper reports to indicate that Lieutenant Colonel Isaiah H. Blocker joined the members of his Augusta battalion in Atlanta. The eight black companies argued their case in front of a Military Advisory Board, led by longtime Savannah militiaman Colonel William W. Gordon. Major/Captain Jordan F. Brooks also served on the Advisory Board, extending his evaluation of black militiamen from his informal assessment, with United States Army Lieutenant Charles Satterlee, at the 1895 Emancipation Day celebration in Savannah to the formal Military Advisory Board hearing involving both Brooks and Satterlee as official evaluators.9

The rumored agenda for the upcoming annual Military Advisory Board meeting scheduled for February 1896 gave no indication that the black militia companies would be the main topic of discussion. The Constitution reported on the impending admission of Atlanta’s Gate City Guard into the Georgia Volunteers. This company had operated independently of the state organization for a number of years and thereby challenged militia authority. Its admission, therefore, was an important event. In spite of this local interest story and the suggestion that other new companies, including a new naval company, would be considered for admission at the February board meeting, both the black and white press made no mention of how significant the ongoing 1895 inspections would be on the future of the black units. According to the Constitution, the meeting turned out to be “a busy day[,] with the Board” focused “primarily [on the] … condition of the colored companies through[out] the state.”

The February 1896 “show cause” meeting was the result of two issues. First, the Constitution contended, “There are colored companies which have been allowed to run down,” implying that responsibility for the problem lay with the black militiamen. Second, the poor state of the companies gained significance because the “colored companies [called to show cause were part of] a general investigation into the condition of the colored militia” dating back to 1895’s black colonels’ petition. The findings suggested “that some of the companies [were] in such condition that it [was] advisable to disband them.” As a result, “the object of the [Military Advisory Board meeting was] … to disband those [black militia companies] which were in such condition as to show that they were of no value to the service.” The units having a “desire to continue” service in the Georgia (p.258) Volunteers, Colored, were to be assisted in bringing their companies “up to a standard of usefulness.”10

Three of the eight companies were directly under Deveaux’s command: the Forest City Light Infantry, led by Captain E. A. Williams, the Lone Star Cadets, led by Captain L. A. Washington, and the Union Lincoln Guards, led by Captain Robert Simmons. These three companies were members of Savannah’s First Battalion. Two other units not officially part of the First Battalion but also based in Savannah were the Savannah Hussars and Georgia Artillery, which were the sole black cavalry and artillery units, respectively, within the Georgia Volunteers. The Georgia Artillery also occupied the unique position of being the only black artillery unit in the United States. Captain F. F. Jones directed the Hussars, while Captain J. C. Simmons led the Georgia Artillery. Augusta’s “crack colored companies”—the Augusta Light Infantry, led by John Lark, the Attucks Infantry, led by R. G. Cummings, and the Georgia Infantry, a company long associated with Augusta’s black elite—operated under the leadership of Captain T. G. Walker. According to the Constitution, Augusta’s captains went to Atlanta “to find out wherein their companies [fell] short” of militia regulations, suggesting that the negative report and disbandment proposal had caught the usually efficient Augusta units by surprise. In that light the Augusta captains were “determined to raise their companies up to the standard of efficiency required by the state”; thus they went before the Advisory Board with a plan to address the inspection issues Satterlee had raised.11

Deveaux attempted to preempt Military Advisory Board action by filing a counter report to Lieutenant Satterlee’s inspection document. Deveaux stressed that “none of the colored companies should be disbanded.” It is unclear whether Satterlee’s report undermined the positive relationship he had previously enjoyed with black militiamen in light of the negative 1896 inspections. In any event Satterlee’s report recommended that the eight black companies be disbanded; nevertheless, Satterlee did include Deveaux’s counter report in the documents he presented to the Advisory Board. Satterlee’s inspections were not limited to the black units. His evaluations “affected companies in all parts of the state, under consideration.”12

The Savannah Tribune argued that the inspections’ evaluative results were not aimed at the black units alone. First Battalion commander Deveaux made the same claim, trying to reassure black militiamen and the African American public that the inspections and accompanying evaluations were not racially motivated. Deveaux concluded “that none of his companies would be disbanded.” According to Deveaux, Georgia’s governor (p.259) and the Advisory Board planned “no injustice” to any of the black militia companies, because “a full opportunity [would] be given them to prove their efficiency.” Furthermore, Deveaux believed “it was evident” that the Advisory Board had not planned to “decrease the number of colored companies arbitrarily.” The twenty-two black units serving the state since the reorganization in the 1880s might well survive in 1895 and 1896. Nevertheless, Deveaux warned that the Military Advisory Board thought “a reduction would greatly strengthen the remaining companies,” suggesting that disbandment was something the Advisory Board would consider and implement.13

With his assessment of the Advisory Board’s goodwill, Deveaux walked a fine line between what one scholar contends was the respect he had garnered for himself over the years from both the white community and the black militia as an efficient officer leading the First Battalion and his position as the unofficial leader of Georgia’s twenty-two African American companies. At the same time the signs were clear that life for African Americans and black militiamen was changing for the worse. Deveaux in this uncertain climate did not pass up an opportunity to explain, in the Savannah Tribune, “the many reasons … why the standard of the colored troops should not be expected to be as high as the white troops.” According to Deveaux, there were three reasons. First and second was the fact that black troops “received no aid and encouragement from the state.” Specifically, Georgia had never provided the black troops with uniforms or funding to build armories. And despite this conscious state neglect, African Americans had maintained their companies out of their own pockets with local community support. Third, Deveaux affirmed, “We have not had the benefit of encampments that the white troops have had.” This was a circumstance that directly and decisively separated white militiamen from black militiamen, despite clear evidence that African American militiamen took their responsibilities seriously and committed “great interest in their commands.” Black dedication was especially evident in the financial outlay they had made since the 1870s, given the absence of state recognition, support, and encouragement. Collectively black militiamen viewed disbandment as a distasteful option “they would feel … deeply.”14

Proposed disbandment was not a new experience for black militiamen. Frances Smith has noted that tragedy, death, and inadequate finances had threatened the existence of the Georgia Artillery in the 1880s. Founded in 1878 and awarded two ten-pound parrot guns by the United States, the Georgia Artillery, like the other twenty-one black companies, operated (p.260) with no state funding from the late 1870s to the mid-1890s. The company’s membership over these years had found ways to finance the construction and purchase of matching gun carriages for their cannons. They also purchased and sustained their uniforms without state support, even though the state recognized the unit as a state-sponsored company. In 1887 after nearly a decade without any safety problems with the parrot guns, a militia sergeant was killed when one of the guns misfired and completely severed his left arm. Two years later disappointment at being unable to raise enough funds to send the unit to President Benjamin Harrison’s inauguration combined with a state-ordered disbandment that followed a negative inspection. According to Smith, Savannah’s white elite petitioned the governor to reconsider disbanding the unit. Smith notes that white supporters of the unit argued “that the organization did not cost the state anything,” and as a result Georgia Governor John B. Gordon overrode the disbandment recommendation.

In spite of this reprieve, a fire in 1891 destroyed the unit’s equipment. This setback was followed the next year with another recommendation for disbandment, but unit members raised enough money to buy two new cannons from Philadelphia. Black militiamen and their relationship with Savannah’s white police officers added another layer of white disdain that predated the streetcar affair in 1896. Relations between the police and black militiamen remained tense in the 1880s and 1890s. Two local gangs purposely drove their vehicles into the Colquitt Blues as Lieutenant Satterlee inspected the unit in the spring of 1895. The police sided with the gang against Colonel Deveaux, who pressed charges against the two police officers.15

The evolution of the Georgia Artillery reflected in microcosm the general attitude of white Georgians toward the Georgia Volunteers, Colored. Locally whites accepted and supported the company, while state leaders questioned the usefulness of the unit. The bottom line was that the black units did not cost the state anything. Nevertheless, the development of the white militia companies projected an increased cost to the state, which caused Georgia, as it did its fellow states with black units, to reconsider the cost-benefit analysis for black militias and to reduce the number of African American units in favor of professionalizing the training and status of white militiamen.16

(p.261) “The Military Companies of Savannah Are All Right”

At the end of February 1896 the Savannah Tribune reported, “The military companies of Savannah are all right.” Deveaux and Georgia Artillery leader Captain J. C. Simmons spent a week in north Georgia. During their sojourn they communicated with Governor William Yates Atkinson, who the Tribune would months later describe as “the humane and fearless executive,” owing to his stand against white lynchings of African Americans. At the February meeting Atkinson gave Deveaux and Simmons the “assurance” that Savannah’s black militia companies would not be disbanded. With this news the Tribune urged “the boys” in the black militia organizations to “go to work in building up the several companies better than ever.” A week later the Savannah Morning News acknowledged Governor Atkinson’s decision to continue the Georgia Artillery’s membership in the state militia. The unit in celebration went to Captain Simmons’s home with the Chatham Light Infantry and a band to serenade their leader. Simmons was away attending to Republican Party national convention preparations, but R. N. Rutledge stood in for the militia captain.

Despite Governor Atkinson’s reprieve, however, all was not well, at least for Savannah’s black militia units and perhaps for Augusta’s, too. Conflict between streetcar employees and African American patrons continued in February. The Tribune urged “colored patrons” not to be “intimidate[d]” by “villainous” off-duty streetcar workers, who on a Saturday night in mid-February murdered a black passenger. The accused assailants were white men who boarded the crowded West End line car and “went out on the trip” intentionally “to intimidate the colored passengers.” A member of the group cut the rope controlling the overhead wire, darkening the streetcar, which allowed his colleagues to threaten the black patrons with pistols, “ordering them to pay their fare” to the ruffian railway employees. Some patrons were forced to pay two fares: the one to ride and the extorted fare. African American Stephen Gibbons attempted to get off the vehicle when the robbery began, but “he was shot while leaving by the cowards.” The electric railway company’s white intimidators were arrested. The newspaper promised to follow the case, anticipating that “justice must be done” as black law-abiding citizens would be watching how the law dealt with this fatal attack on black people.17

The First Battalion, Georgia Volunteers, Colored, while grateful that disbanding had been averted, still had problems to confront. On top of antiblack violence and white harassment from the police and streetcar (p.262) employees, black militias suffered a manpower shortage. Young black men were leaving Savannah’s units. Two lieutenants from Company A, Joseph

L. Mirault and Philip Y. Giles, resigned. The Tribune noted that the two black men were “among the most energetic in the battalion.” The newspaper acknowledged their resignations with “much regret,” marking another moment in the 1890s when the Tribune expressed its concerns about the need for young black men to become members of and leaders in the African American militia companies. Antiblack violence, Jim Crow segregation, the lack of opportunity, incarceration, and a sense of injustice were having a negative impact on young African Americans. Black males between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four had been leaving Georgia since the 1870s. The number of black men in the state decreased by 4 percent in the 1870s, by 3 percent in the 1880s, and by 8 percent in the 1890s. The black newspaper did not make a direct link between the inspection problems and officer exodus that sparked the threatened disbandment. With black male out-migration increasing, the future of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored, in doubt, and the ongoing inequities black militiamen sought to overcome, it was clear that the next few years were going to be challenging.18

May Military Celebrations

In May both black and white militiamen planned military celebrations. Black men organized a First Battalion military fair, while white men created May Week and the Military Interstate Association of Savannah to manage a multi-state rifle shooting competition and military exhibition endorsed by Adjutant General John McIntosh Kell. With $12,000 as the funding base for the Military Interstate Association, Savannah hoped to make the occasion “so interesting and attractive” that it would become Savannah’s version of Mardi Gras.19

In the wake of both May militia celebrations, Georgia officials planned the June 1896 militia encampment. No black units were invited. More than eleven hundred white militiamen were scheduled to attend. These white militiamen received a per diem of seventy-five cents, an increase for white militiamen attending encampment training. Some members of the Georgia General Assembly viewed encampments as a definite benefit to the state militiamen’s development. The encampments also served as a good recruiting tool. Specifically, encampments “encouraged the soldiers (p.263) and … resulted in a great increase in the ranks of the military.” This statement indicates that white companies, too, had a recruiting problem, albeit likely less than the one the black units encountered. Further white militiamen no longer had to pay out of pocket for their uniforms, as the encampments required a universal service uniform paid for by the state. The militia’s 1896 budget was now organized around the idea of “put[ting] the forces of the state on a practical and economical basis” with unified cooperation from militiamen. This change in state authorities’ attitude toward organizing, arming, equipping, clothing, and training “the volunteer forces of the state, as provided by the act of 1889” did not end the bickering and instability surrounding how much Georgia allocated to maintain the Georgia Volunteers. At the end of the year, members of the General Assembly debated whether to give the Volunteers a budget of $48,800, $30,000, or $24,000 or lower, the latter figure being a cut to the existing appropriation. The General Assembly ultimately decided to allocate the militia less than $23,000, because, as the adjutant general noted in 1898, “the State appropriation has never been larger” than that amount.20

Making a Case for Support: Atlanta’s Second Battalion

Lieutenant Colonel Floyd H. Crumbly in May 1896 mobilized his staff “to do all in their power to make the Second Georgia battalion of colored volunteers the leading battalion among our people in the state.” H. R. Butler, reporting on “What the Negro is Doing” for the Atlanta Constitution, became an advocate for the black state militia. Butler’s hope for the “Colored Volunteers” was that the battalion would be fully equipped with “overcoats, blankets, canteens, and all else that may be needed to complete” and meet the needs of “our [Atlanta] battalion.” Butler also observed, apparently in light of the recent disbandment scares, that “it would be wise for all of our troops in the state to begin and improve themselves in order that they … will be an honor to themselves and the state.” He ended his article on black Atlanta’s activities by reinforcing the black militia’s plea for state funding. African Americans, Butler argued, needed to “ask the next legislature to appropriate a sum of money to aid all of the colored volunteers in the state to come together at some point next spring and have a three days’ parade and a military carnival.” With this proposal Butler called for funding and equipping black militiamen. While he did not seek parity with white militiamen, he did advocate for a funding level that (p.264) would have brought all the state’s black militia companies together for a statewide drill competition. Such a competition, he hoped, would prove that black militiamen were worth the investment.21

Colonel Crumbly meanwhile mobilized the Second Battalion’s staff in preparation for an inspection tour he had planned for the entire battalion, including the Columbus, Georgia, unit. Crumbly found Columbus’s Company E “in very good condition,” especially in terms of its enlistment numbers and training proficiency. The company’s arms and equipment, however, were another matter. The guns constituted a great danger to the militiamen because the weapons were “wholly unfit for service.” Crumbly noted that the problem was compounded because “[t]his part of the state militia st[ood] in great need of attention.” According to Crumbly, black militiamen had reached inside their pockets and funded the Colored Volunteer companies long enough. Such sacrifice clearly “demonstrated their willingness to serve the state,” but not the state’s commitment to black units. If Georgians were to recognize black militiamen’s contributions to the state, “every fair-minded citizen … ought to come to their relief and give them arms and accoutrements, send them in camp and get them in such condition that they will not only be of use, but will be an honor to the state.” Crumbly concluded, “I hope our next legislature will not only consider the fairness of this proposition, but the great necessity of it.”22

National Colors for True Soldiers

During the early fall of 1896 the First Battalion received a unique honor: for the “first time … national colors were presented to colored troops by direction of the governor of a southern state.” Although Colonel A. R. Lawton stood in for Governor William Yates Atkinson at the presentation of the American flag to the First Battalion, Atkinson had delegated Colonel Lawton and directed him, as “one of his highest officers,” to convey the honor. According to Lawton, “the flag stood for law and order.” The First Battalion’s new honor reinforced this idea because the unit represented Georgia’s commitment to “the maintenance of place and the preservation of the government.” Lawton argued that Georgia’s citizenry regarded the entire militia as the “government” when “trouble and riot” threatened community harmony. Impressed by the fact that the First Battalion assembled with “full ranks” in the rain, Lawton declared during the flag presentation their commitment was “a testimonial of the state’s (p.265) confidence in them as defenders of the public order and peace.” They were true soldiers.23

At the same time, acceptance of the militia as a viable institution was not universal in Georgia. Specifically, Lawton stated, “There are men who decry the militia service of the state and seeks means of injuring it.” These critics described the militia as a “hollow show of brass buttons, handsome uniforms and brass bands,” but these same people “demanded [the] militia[‘s assistance] when the police failed to keep order.” In that context, the militia nationwide stood ready to respond to disorder, especially since each unit serving under the American flag was both “a bulwark against the outbreak of riots and organized lawlessness” as well as a “symbolic [representative] of power and government.” The First Battalion, Georgia Volunteers, Colored, had received a significant honor. The awarding of the American flag also served as a sign that Georgia’s governor recognized blacks as citizens of the United States and Georgia and as members of the Georgia Volunteers.24

Lieutenant Colonel John H. Deveaux accepted the American flag for the First Battalion and joined Lawton in commemorating the event. He thanked Lawton for representing the governor and for being “the ranking officer of our branch of service in this community.” Additionally, Deveaux noted, Lawton was a “highly respected and honored” person throughout Georgia. In this context of the acceptance of and, eventually, submission to white paternal authority, Deveaux presented the rest of his speech, assuring Lawton of black militiamen’s loyalty to a white state establishment as well as to the United States. Specifically, Deveaux assured his white guest, “There are no anarchists; socialists, nor conspirators in our ranks.” Black militiamen possessed common sense and were “law abiding.” The American flag “could not be entrusted to a more devoted and loyal class of people,” as the First Battalion’s men had over time “made a record of fidelity and trustworthiness.” They first proved themselves during the Civil War, when black slaves protected every white family, home, and fireside as white men such as Lawton went off to war. Black militiamen had emerged from this stock of “humble guards.” Given this pedigree, Deveaux told Lawton, “Surely sir, then you can rely upon us as soldiers to take care of and safe guard this banner of our country.” Black militiamen “recognize[d] this flag as the very embodiment of law and order,” and “the preservation and protection of public and private property.” Further, they vowed to protect “our state, nation, and the homes of the people” with “their honor and their lives,” as each represented a pillar of American freedom.25

(p.266) Despite his bending to the mythology of blacks defending southern whites and their homes during the Civil War and accepting the supremacy of private property, Deveaux took a swipe at the disparities between black militia companies and their white counterparts. The black militia leader made it clear that the First Battalion’s companies “may not be up to the full standard in point of proficiency and knowledge,” since it “doubtless is not expected now,” hinting at the threatened disbandment. Yet “we are composed of law abiding men with abundant common sense to thoroughly understand the trust reposed in us in this imposing ceremony today.” Lawton and Deveaux agreed on one point: Militiamen were under-appreciated, even after answering the call to duty and service numerous times in Georgia.26

A Petition to the Legislature

In mid-December, as the General Assembly debated how much it would allocate to the Georgia Volunteers for the year, a committee of black militiamen and African American citizens from Augusta and Atlanta carried a petition to the Legislature’s Military Committee chair. Lieutenant Colonel Isaiah Blocker, commanding Augusta’s Third Battalion, Georgia Volunteers, Colored, and Lieutenant Colonel Floyd H. Crumbly, commanding the Second Battalion, led the group. Company captains, Captain John A. Lockhart, from Macon, and Captain Jackson McHenry, noted Atlanta political activist and militia leader, also were on the committee. Like John Deveaux, these men put their local reputations and standing with local whites on the line to advocate for the 1,125 African American militiamen and the “800,000 colored citizens of the state.” Two former militiamen and active Republicans, Henry A. Rucker and Christopher C. Wimbush, were also committee members. Rucker had just successfully promoted William McKinley’s candidacy for the nation’s presidency. His work for the Republican Party would make him collector of internal revenue and patronage dispenser. Atlanta attorney T. H. Malone rounded out the committee, joining a set of black citizens that included Atlantans Professor E. L. Chew, A. A. Blake, S. W Easley Jr., R. Washam, and A. Brown—a leadership cadre combining old with the new.27

Colonel Blocker presented and read the petition to the General Assembly’s Military Committee. Colonel Crumbly, H. R. Butler reported, “made the speech of his life,” but neither Butler nor the Atlanta Constitution provided the details of this “noble effort and manly plea.” Attorney Malone, (p.267) S. W. Easley, and other committee members also spoke, yet their words, too, went unreported. The press, however, noted and recorded Jackson McHenry’s message. McHenry argued both on the basis of the nation’s history and of the recurring national call for black troops when the country confronted a military emergency. He asserted that black “soldiers were needed in the past by America and they [would] be needed again.” Georgia, in that context of American history and the need for trained military manpower, would sooner or later have a need for black troops. Given such circumstances, McHenry stated, “I think the state should see to it that her colored troops are so prepared that should she ever call on them they will march forth not only [performing in a way that will be] an honor to themselves and their race and a pride to the state.” McHenry projected that blacks armed with such patriotic enthusiasm would “be prepared to do valiant service for their country and good old Georgia.”28

With the Augusta and Atlanta petition, black militiamen for the second consecutive year and for the third time in the 1890s sought to convince Georgia authorities to fund the Georgia Volunteers, Colored. The Augusta and Atlanta committee claimed to represent not only the eleven hundred officers and black enlisted militiamen but also all of Georgia’s African American citizens. The year 1896 began with black militiamen defending their right to exist and serve as members of the Georgia Volunteers. The year closed with Georgia’s governor conveying a unique honor upon John Deveaux and Savannah’s First Battalion: an American flag acknowledging black citizenship, black militiamen, and the advances of the race since slavery. Despite this very public accolade, the year also closed with another black plea for funding, training, equipment, and recognition. The year 1896 also marked the reiteration of a point that black militiamen in Augusta had made in the early 1870s and that Jackson McHenry had stressed that December: Black militiamen were, first, citizens of the United States and, second, citizens of Georgia. The militia linked 1,125 militiamen to national citizenship and certified them as Georgia citizens. In each case the militia allowed African Americans to declare themselves citizens.29

The Cost of Neglect

The black militiaman’s opportunity “to protect the American fireside” loomed as a possibility at the end of 1896, but the sad state of training and development had taken its toll. H. R. Butler contended that war with (p.268) Spain appeared to be a distinct possibility, and while Georgia’s “colored militia” possessed a “great love for and desire to protect” their nation and state, it presented “a pittable appearance.” This would be especially clear for all to see, were the companies asked to march to Georgia’s coastline to repel an invader. The black units would have marched with “tattered uniforms [and] old guns with no sights or bayonets.” The state had additionally neglected to provide black militiamen with any of the “paraphernalia of war,” including overcoats, blankets, and canteens. Training deficits also abounded, as the black troops had not been allowed to participate in encampments and thereby become proficient in any duties of the soldier, especially in the target practice that was now a preoccupation of white units. In spite of these deficits, Butler declared that black militiamen would still “willingly go forth to meet the enemy with such weapons and with such practice and preparation as they have received from the hands of the state.”30

In 1897 the Georgia Volunteers’ annual report described white units’ fitness for service. The companies were manned by “the best” with “men of all professions and employment.” While unit weapons lacked quality, white troops’ martial spirit and discipline was “good.” Georgia’s Volunteers had an opportunity to improve the state militia, if and when $100,000 in federal funding became available for the militia’s annual operation. To qualify, Georgia had already begun the process of standardizing militia training so that militiamen might meet federal military standards. Despite the remaining need to transform citizen soldiers into real soldiers, one commentator declared Georgia’s militiamen ready for war. Georgia’s white militiamen in 1896 were just as ready for combat as “the brave men of ’61” had been thirty-six years before, when white men went north to beat the Yankees.31

Black militiamen, in contrast, maintained their commitment to service at the beginning of January 1897 when they marched in various Georgia communities celebrating Emancipation Day. Even though a full contingent of black militiamen paraded on the first day in January, by February the Military Advisory Board appeared ready to disband all the African American companies. The Atlanta Constitution presented the presumed Military Advisory Board agenda near the end of February. Disbanding militia units was again on the Advisory Board’s potential agenda, partially owing to limitations imposed by the General Assembly’s inadequate funding allocation. According to the Constitution, militia funding did not accommodate (p.269) the current size of both black and white companies. Pointing to the estimated 4,500 black and white militiamen, some militia officers declared, “There are at present too many men enlisted in the service of the state.” The number, they argued, could be halved. Such a reduction might alleviate the funding issues, because communities, such as Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, and Savannah, that had both black and white units would be asked to eliminate this duplication. Atlanta served as a model for consideration. Specifically, Atlanta had ten white and four black militia units. The city, some officers projected, needed less than half that number of companies. Five white units might meet Atlanta’s basic needs, while “the negro companies could be dispensed with entirely.”32

It is unclear where this debate went after February 1897. War with Spain did loom on the horizon and Georgia’s militiamen, regardless of color, assumed that they would have a role in that confrontation. The Constitution followed the announcement of the upcoming Advisory Board meeting with two articles on the status and readiness of various white militia companies across the state. No black units received any parallel press coverage. Despite articles complementing white units on their readiness, funding was an ongoing problem. A year earlier, however, the state seemingly had accommodated 4,500 troops, except that African American militiamen suffered as precariously in both 1896 and 1897. The difference between the two years was that the 1896 “show cause” meeting focused on why militia administrators should disband almost half of the black units; this, before the governor intervened and saved the black militia. By 1897 black militia companies could be “dispensed with entirely.”33


Black militiamen, within this unstable context, maintained their connection to local communities with fund-raising activities that sustained their companies. At the beginning of 1897 the First Battalion opened its Military Fair, which involved the battalion’s “lady[‘s] committee” and Savannah’s business establishments. Additional financial contributions came from local white militia officers in the range of five to ten dollars, respectively, from Colonels George A. Mercer and A. R. Lawton. Black militiamen at the end of January also asked “all the citizens [to] turn out in a body during the week and give the soldier boys a boost.” The fair lasted two weeks, closing out January and ending the first week in February with (p.270) a ball that drew strong support. Daily attendance despite cold nights was “fair,” with a final evaluation suggesting that “attendance was good and the receipts a fairly average one.”34

The Military Fair proved to be vitally important in the maintenance and enhancement of the First Battalion’s units. While it is unclear how much the bazaar raised monetarily, it apparently was enough money to provide the Lone Star Cadets with “new regulation coats and caps” as they celebrated their twenty-first anniversary. Captain L. A. Washington led the newly uniformed unit in its public parade. The “improvement was noticeable and commented on by citizens.” The First Battalion’s annual May military parade drew accolades from the Tribune’s white adversary, the Savannah Morning News. The Tribune reprinted the Morning News’s favorable report in some detail. According to the Morning News, the May 22, 1897, parade constituted “one of the finest made in the history of the battalion.” While the statement may have been embellished, the newspaper was clear that the “troops showed marked improvement in their general make-up”—an improvement the fund-raiser had made possible, as “a majority of the companies [had] the new caps and coats prescribed by the regulations.” The battalion as a result “made a fine appearance,” and its “excellent display” was due to the Military Fair, which “raised money enough to purchase their uniforms.”

Surprisingly, at the park extension the Georgia Artillery fired “a salute” honoring the anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment while black infantry drilled and African American cavalrymen “executed several maneuvers” on grounds that a year earlier had been racially contested urban and military space. African American military demonstrations at the park extension in celebration of the black right to vote challenged white demands in 1896 that the parade ground be an exclusively white domain. Jim Crow, nevertheless, had not yet triumphed in determining where and when black militiamen paraded.35

Black militiamen, despite twenty years of official neglect, continued unit by unit to fund-raise locally throughout 1897. Their fund-raising efforts over the past two decades had kept the African American militia companies going. In Savannah, specifically in 1897, the Lone Star Cadets’ anniversary events included a nighttime “military hop” and supper “prepared by the [company’s] ladies’ branch.” The Chatham Light Infantry in March put on “a grand dance” with a fifteen-cent admission fee. The Forest City Light Infantry organized “a grand Easter hop” in mid- to late April, charging couples seventy-five cents and single individuals fifty cents. In (p.271) this context the black community sustained their militia companies all by themselves.

The Tribune in August lashed out at the state. According to the Tribune, there were twenty-two black militia companies. That number was set in stone by state law and the full complement of units was “completed” with no allowance for any new companies. In contrast white units in 1893 had increased in number as a result of the Georgia Legislature’s reorganization that year. White units increased from fifty infantry units to seventy-two, and the cavalry complement exploded from seven to twenty-four companies. This expansion helped account for the funding problems and desires to reduce the size of the overall militia four years later. The more important issue for the newspaper in 1897, however, was the “past eight years.” Since 1889 Georgia had done “naught to assist these [black] companies.” During those years, “several white companies were sent into camps annually and all expenses paid.” Access to encampments enabled the white companies “to be efficient in every respect.” Black militiamen meanwhile had to be “efficient and up to date while … not allowed the chance” at development white militiamen received. The paper noted that such “discrimination [was] uncalled for.” Like other black Georgians the Tribune put its hope in the General Assembly, pleading “that the legislature [would] include the colored troops in its appropriation so that they may be given a chance to learn of camp duties” in what was called “the school of the soldier.”36

Black Encampment: The Georgia Artillery

The Tribune did not publicize the fund-raising activities of the Georgia Artillery in the winter and spring of 1897, yet the paper celebrated the unit’s week-long August encampment. That celebration coincided with the newspaper’s criticism of the state and its matching plea for funding and access to encampment opportunities. On August 9, 1897, the Georgia Artillery became the first “colored military … of its numbers to go into camps.” The company’s members went to camp “in service uniform, armed and equipped.” This was reason to celebrate. The opportunity, nevertheless, came with a major problem. The Georgia Artillery entered camp proudly, but the “penurious manner” that had characterized the treatment of black militiamen continued. Encampment costs came out of the pockets of the Georgia Artillery and not the state of Georgia.37

For the thirty Georgia Artillery members that attended the encampment (p.272) at Flowersville, Georgia, seven miles outside of Savannah, the experience was a clear success. The week involved instruction in “camp duties” that the Tribune claimed would “cause them to be more proficient in every respect.” Despite being an undermanned unit, which made their training “laborious,” Georgia Artillerymen worked hard and maintained “almost perfect” discipline without complaining, because dedicated work was essential in the minds of both the enlisted men and the company’s officers. The unit’s members’ ultimate objective was to demonstrate to state militia leadership the high “degree of proficiency they could attain without the assistance of an army officer” who since the late 1880s had served as the major instructor at militia encampments not only in Georgia but also across the country. In contrast early white encampments had hands-on instruction by regular army officers. Despite the absence of United States Army training officers, the officers of the Georgia Artillery sought to prove their mettle by making sure that “every detail in camp life was fully carried out.” Visitors observed and complimented the company on the camp’s neat appearance, further proving black capabilities as competent military officers and men. Camp maintenance also fell under the supervision of volunteer surgeon Dr. T. James Davis, a first lieutenant of the First Battalion. At the end of eight days of hard work as soldiers and battery men, the company declared that they felt “proud of the success of our encampment.”38

Members of Savannah’s African American community visited the encampment. The visitors included black militiamen from the First Battalion’s infantry companies and from the sole black cavalry unit in the state, the Savannah Hussars. Officers of the First Battalion, including Major William H. Royall, who was standing in for Deveaux as battalion commander, and Savannah Tribune managing editor and battalion adjutant Solomon C. Johnson, were among the black militia leaders who made their way to Flowersville and what was now called Camp Kell, after ailing Adjutant General John McIntosh Kell. The citizenry also joined the Georgia Artillery on Sunday, sharing a sermon delivered to the unit two days before the completion of their training. The black community in a variety of ways turned out to support the Georgia Artillery and helped make the encampment a success for the company and the African American community.39

The Georgia Artillery had done what it had set out to do: prove themselves worthy and trainable soldiers whose proficiency deserved both state recognition and funding for development and improvement. While most of the black community showed up to view the endeavors and (p.273) achievements of the sole African American artillery unit in the United States, whites appeared to be absent from this moment of triumph for at least thirty members of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored. What was distinctive during the eight-day encampment was that despite the Georgia Artillery’s professionalism no white officials came to see them. In 1878, nineteen years earlier, the governor had attended a major black militia event along with several local white city and militia officials. In the 1880s and 1890s Georgia’s governors and the adjutant general consistently attended white encampments wherever they occurred across the state. In contrast major members of the white Savannah militia community in 1897 did not take the short journey to observe the Georgia Artillery’s encampment. And finally the acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown failed to visit the first black encampment. Further neither he nor any militia official inspected the unit. This was particularly egregious in light of the American flag ceremony a year earlier that publicly declared black militiamen Georgia Volunteers. This absence of white officials was “the greatest regret of the battery.” The white establishment failed to acknowledge a unique local, state, and national institution. Adding insult to injury, the Georgia General Assembly allocated no funding for the Georgia Artillery’s encampment training and continued to neglect every African American militia unit.

Securing funding for training, development, improvement, and recognition had been the collective goal of every member of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored, the black communities they represented, and the African American citizens of Georgia. Nineteen years earlier the prize drill had been a noted marker of black progress, civilization, and above all military proficiency. That event brought the white elite and the black militia together in a moment where whites could publicly recognize black capabilities. In 1897 black militiamen attained public support from one source only, the local black community.40

Black militiamen across Georgia commemorated national holidays, conducted unit fund-raisers, and attended special celebrations outside Georgia. In 1897 these special celebrations included the centennial celebration of Nashville, Tennessee, and the inauguration of President William McKinley. Captain Jackson McHenry led one Atlanta unit to Nashville for the community’s centennial. Thirty members of Macon’s Lincoln Guards attended the inauguration, using their own money after being denied state funding. Locally, Macon’s Bibb County Blues sponsored “a big picnic” in mid-July. Black Atlanta’s Independence Day commemoration (p.274) became a two-day event, with four black militia units helping to lead the celebration and visitors from surrounding states. Savannah’s First Battalion went to Charleston, South Carolina, where South Carolina and Georgia black militiamen celebrated Labor Day. Captain J. L. Mirault, one of two young lieutenants who resigned in 1896, returned to the militia briefly to command the Forest City Light Infantry for this special day.41 Each event demonstrated the black militia’s vision of U.S. citizenship and service to their home communities. Their participation also provided opportunities to prove themselves proficient militiamen.

Weapons Exchanges

Despite these successful public events, 1897 ended with a new round of antiblack discrimination directed at the state’s black militiamen. Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown initiated and monitored weapons exchanges between black and white units, equipping the black militiamen with obsolete weapons formerly used by the white units. He sent better and new arms to white companies. Brown’s correspondence in November and December arranged weapons transfers from white to black militia units. Brown ordered Macon’s Lincoln Guards, commanded by Captain John “Sandy” A. Lockhart, “to clean and pack the 40 Springfield” .50-caliber rifles and ship them to Springfield, Massachusetts. He instructed Captain Bell, leading the all-white Second Infantry, to give Lockhart forty .45-caliber weapons “being the old guns now in your armory.” Similar orders went to Savannah’s Lieutenant Colonel John Deveaux and all-white First Infantry Captain Jordan F. Brooks. Captain Brooks was requested to “turn over the sixty old guns in your possession to Lt. Col. John H. Deveaux.” Meanwhile “new guns” were “issued to the [white] companies of various regiments.”42

War Readiness

The year 1898 began in Atlanta with black militiamen leaping for their lives just as Savannah’s militiamen had done two years earlier. A white streetcar operator ran his vehicle into an African American funeral procession accompanied by Atlanta’s black militiamen, who were providing “military honors” for a black barber named Allen. Captain Jackson McHenry contacted the police afterward and charged the motorman with cutting the funeral march in two “for several seconds.” The motorman, (p.275) unlike Savannah’s incident, would be called before the police court a day after the incident.43

During the spring of 1898 the Georgia militia’s combat readiness once again drew attention, because war with Spain appeared imminent. The Atlanta Constitution, anticipating martial conflict, declared, “Atlanta Negroes Are Ready To Fight Spain.” Focusing on Captain Jackson McHenry, the paper’s correspondent reported that when war commenced, the regular army’s twenty-five thousand troops would be supplemented by state militiamen. This was an opportunity for “colored militia companies” to lend their services to the nation’s defense. According to the newspaper, Jackson McHenry’s eighty-member company, the Governor’s Volunteers, were “anxious to go to war.” McHenry added that his company was “in good condition and … all talking about the chances of war,” in part because the company had “new improved guns” and “a fair supply” of new uniforms, suggesting that the exchange of weapons at the end of 1897 and beginning of 1898 had improved the quality of weaponry that black units possessed. The weapons were not new, but they appeared to be better than the arms Colonel Crumbly inspected in 1896. Further, new uniforms went to more than Savannah’s black battalion, confirming that Atlanta’s units own fund-raising had led to an improved appearance. Reinforcing these achievements in the face of potential war, McHenry committed himself to organizing another fund-raising fair to further improve his company in the “best style.”44

While McHenry promoted his company, he also commented on Cuba, the United States’s mission, and African American military capability. McHenry thought that “the citizens of the United States should go down and take Cuba” and that it “would be a good country for the colored man” because black troops “could stand the climate of Cuba better than the white man.” In so doing, McHenry embraced several national stereotypes, including the mythology that black men were more durable in a tropical climate owing to their skin color. McHenry also assumed, as Congress did, that blacks previously exposed to yellow fever were immune and therefore viable troops for immediate deployment to Cuba and later the Philippines.45

Armed with these ideas McHenry announced that Georgia’s African American militiamen were ready to fight: “Colored soldiers are ready to defend their country and they will be found good soldiers when the time comes.” Speaking for the more than one thousand black militiamen, McHenry claimed that they “would be the best soldiers for Cuba.” (p.276) In making this argument, he purposely tried to find a way to justify the use of black militiamen in the pending war. McHenry contended that “the government would find them [African American militiamen] valuable to send into Cuba.” Finally, if not to Cuba, then African American militiamen might be sent to southern Florida to “prevent the Spaniards from landing troops in this country.” Jackson McHenry’s prediction in 1896 that the United States would need trained black militiamen to meet a military emergency two years later was about to be confirmed. McHenry as a result publicly sought a way to incorporate black militiamen within the military structure of the coming war, perhaps anticipating the exclusion of blacks by both the United States and Georgia when the nation mobilized for war with Spain in Cuba.46

In March, black militiamen not only attempted to find a way to be included in the coming war but also became the point of some discussion by Georgia’s adjutant general. Early in the month, the Savannah Tribune published an article confirming the appointment of former militiaman Christopher C. Wimbush as Surveyor of Customs for Atlanta. In April 1898 the First Battalion, the Georgia Artillery, and the Savannah Hussars sponsored a banquet celebrating Lieutenant Colonel John H. Deveaux’s appointment as Savannah’s Collector of Customs. These political patronage positions were rewards conveyed upon black Republicans for assisting in electing William McKinley as president of the United States, in 1896. The political appointments also reinforced African Americans’ leadership capabilities and commitment to serving the nation. Georgia Democrats, however, especially its two U.S. senators, consistently opposed black patronage appointments, highlighting a growing region-wide resistance to African American officeholders. In contradistinction to such opposition, blacks merged politics with militia service as a long-standing tradition among black officers in the Georgia Volunteers, Colored.47

The Tribune added its voice to the mix, certifying black militiamen’s military readiness with three brief articles. The first reminded African Americans of their loyalty, service, and bravery during the Civil War. The bottom line was that black men had “fought bravely then and [would] do the same again whenever the flag of this country is insulted.” The second article made the point that young black men had “become enthused with the spirit of patriotism and fostering of companies,” as war fever brought younger black men to Savannah’s First Battalion. Further, young men “have everything to gain thereby, and [could] do themselves much good by becoming faithful and efficient soldiers.” The paper, however, admonished (p.277) the “large number of others” who had not enlisted in Savannah’s First Battalion. Almost in contradiction, the newspaper asserted, “There are half a million colored men available and willing to take up arms in defense of old glory and the National honor.” Black men therefore constituted “one potent factor among Americans who can always be safely relied on by the government in cases of emergency.” The Tribune thereby restated a longstanding black militia tradition of commitment to U.S. citizenship and to the nation’s defense.48

Pro Rata Funding

From mid-March to the beginning of April, Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown carried on a correspondence with African Americans that both acknowledged the state’s decades of neglect of black militiamen and officially rebuffed black efforts to expand the number of African American militia companies to meet the looming war emergency. Brown wrote Captain Jackson McHenry on March 11, 1898, informing him that the state of Georgia would pay “the pro rata amount due your company” for “uniforms [in] the amount of $40.00.” This was done because $800 “from the Military fund” allocated by the Military Advisory Board proved “impracticable to encamp” the Georgia Volunteers, Colored. At last it appeared that black militiamen had received financial support from the Georgia Volunteers to advance their training. Since the early 1890s black militiamen had petitioned for “pro rata” funding from militia authorities to fund black encampments. Ironically, even the pro rata funds in 1898 proved inadequate to address the encampment needs of the eleven hundred members of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored. Despite consistent efforts to get the General Assembly and militia officials to allot a fair share to black militiamen, the money in 1898 fell significantly short and continued the inequities between black and white militiamen.49

Five days later Governor William Yates Atkinson acknowledged a letter from the Confederate Soldiers Association offering “their services to their native state in case of necessity,” namely, war with Spain. Atkinson noted that the adjutant general would keep the letter on file and replied, “Should an emergency arise I feel that the honor and safety of the state could not be entrusted to better hands than those of the veterans of so many battles.” At the end of March, however, Acting Adjutant General Brown wrote Lieutenant Colonel Isaiah Blocker concerning exchanging old .50 caliber weapons for .45 caliber “guns [that] are not new but are serviceable.” More (p.278) importantly, however, Brown conceded to Colonel Blocker that it was “well known at this office that little ha[d] been done for the Georgia Volunteers, Colored.” Specifically, “the best that ha[d] ever been done [was] to provide arms and equipment.” Yet Brown contended, too, that “the white companies [were] still lacking” because “not much more for white organizations” was being done “owing to the limited means at hand.” Brown thereby asserted that the legislative neglect had been universal. Neglect continued to the point that none of the militiamen had uniforms. Nevertheless, the story black militiamen would tell discounted universal neglect, as white militia men did receive more than arms and equipment; they had gotten training and were better prepared for the coming emergency.50

While Acting Adjutant General Brown and Governor Atkinson politely accepted and filed away former Confederate offers to defend Georgia, Brown in mid-April also filed away black offers of national defense. He additionally claimed that state legal limitations stood as the reason for restructuring, if not rejecting, black efforts to volunteer to fight in the upcoming war with Spain. African Americans from Milledgeville and Thebes, Georgia, endeavored to organize and offer their services “in case of War with Spain.” Brown in both cases contended, “Under law, no other companies of colored troops can be organized, as the legal number has been reached.” Brown was even more direct in his response to Thebes’s black applicants: “Unless there is an unusual demand for troops in case of war no other organizations will be called into service.”51

In early April the Military Advisory Board convened to plan the year. They faced deciding between undertaking war preparations or a new encampment. War preparation involved spending $42,000 for equipment “to put the militia [a force of 4,500 men including over 1,000 African American militiamen] into service in the field,” if the 1896 and 1897 annual reports serve as accurate assessments of the Georgia Volunteers and Georgia Volunteers, Colored, combined troop strength. Board members projected war preparations that would expand the militia to twelve thousand men. Such an expansion was deemed almost immediately possible. Throughout this daylong meeting and the report making recommendations to Governor Atkinson came only one mention of black troops: the potential disbandment of the Bibb County Blues if the company did not improve and meet state requirements. The Board’s principal recommendation involved the distribution of new weapons. Should war occur “new arms shall be issued to such of the older companies in the state service as may have demonstrated a proper care of the arms already held by” the (p.279) established companies. The “intent of this resolution [was] to recognize [the long term] merit in the older companies and thus to stimulate a proper care for the arms.”52

The implications for black units appeared to be that new weapons were not going to be part of their profile. African American companies had never been considered part of the old company structure dating back to the American Revolution, and they definitely possessed no standing as a mainstream unit in the Georgia Volunteers. While every black unit turned over .50 caliber weapons for serviceable .45 caliber rifles, the general assessment of black militia companies mirrored the problems facing the Bibb County Blues, that is, failure to meet state regulations. At the beginning of April were African American militiamen part of the Georgia Volunteers preparing for war, or were they a reserve force to be utilized only if white troops failed to step forward to meet the emergency?


Between April 11 and April 19, 1898, the United States declared war on Spain. The presidential request came on April 11 and the congressional declaration came eight days later. On April 23, the Savannah Tribune published the full officer complement of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored, leading the three battalions and six unattached companies that included the Georgia Artillery, the Savannah Hussars, and infantry companies from Rome, Bibb County, Macon, and Colquitt. According to the Tribune, “The colored citizens will be quite a factor if hostilities continue any length of time,” with Lieutenant Colonel Deveaux commanding all of Georgia’s black militia units should the call to serve come. The Tribune, like Jackson McHenry, sought to make sure that African Americans had the chance to prove their citizenship as militiamen and soldiers ready to serve the United States at war.53

On April 25, 1898, Governor William Yates Atkinson, known to African Americans as the antilynching governor and commander-in-chief of the state militia, called together nine white militia officers for a “council of war.” The council included seven regimental commanders and two battalion commanders. Colonel Alexander R. Lawton, leading the First Infantry Regiment of Savannah, headed the list. Second Infantry Regiment Colonel Charles Wylie, representing Macon, also served with Madison’s Third Infantry Regimental leader, Colonel Usher Thomason, Valdosta’s Colonel James O. Varnadoe, who commanded the Fourth Infantry Regiment, (p.280) Atlanta’s Fifth Infantry Regiment, led by Colonel John S. Candler, and Waynesboro’s Sixth Infantry Regiment, operating under the leadership of Colonel William E. Jones. Colonel W. W. Gordon led the First Calvary Regiment in Savannah. Longtime militia leader and Advisory Board member Colonel William Garrard and Major John M. Barnard, respectively, led battalion-size units: Savannah’s First Infantry Battalion and the First Cavalry Battalion. None of the three black battalion commanders—Lieutenant Colonel John H. Deveaux, First Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Isaiah Blocker, Third Battalion, or Lieutenant Colonel Floyd Crumbly, Second Battalion—received telegraphed orders to attend the war council. The nine white officers were called to decide how to raise the 3,174 troops that President McKinley “asked of Georgia” as the nation mobilized for war against Spain in Cuba. The war council also contemplated not mobilizing the state militia to fulfill the federal request for soldiers.54

Atkinson and the war council held several meetings, some of which were done in secret behind closed doors. Their decisions about meeting President McKinley’s troop quota and whether to deploy the militia reflected their fear that Spain or pirates might invade Georgia. Given such projections Atkinson and the council decided against sending the Georgia Volunteers to Cuba. They would meet the federal troop quota by asking Georgia’s men to individually volunteer. Atkinson, as a result, hoped to keep a significant part of the militia in Georgia to defend the state from a feared Spanish invasion. President McKinley, the Atlanta Constitution reported, had a different vision. He hoped that Georgia would send its militiamen because these troops were already trained and armed. The paper speculated that somewhere between a small number to half of the Georgia militia might be used to fill the thirty-one-hundred-man federal levy. Georgia’s war council, however, insisted that the state would meet its quota with individual volunteers. They would not go any further nor commit the Georgia militia to combat outside Georgia.

Two days after the initial war council, Valdosta’s Fourth Infantry Regiment was designated to remain in Georgia. The war council hoped to use Colonel Vanaradoe’s Civil War experience to meet any coastal invasion. Four days later, at the end of April, however, the Constitution announced the governor’s decision to create two voluntary infantry regiments and two volunteer light artillery regiments to fulfill the nation’s war needs while keeping the entire state militia in Georgia. In light of the governor’s refusal to allow organized militia companies to go intact to war, militiamen negotiated hard as individual volunteers to find ways to serve under (p.281) the command of Georgia Volunteer Officers in the new U.S. Volunteer companies. Near the end of May the Savannah Tribune announced that Vanaradoe had abandoned his post as the state’s defender. He joined the new federal volunteer force as a staff officer for a regular army major general. These individual and official decisions marked the dissolution of the Georgia Volunteers as Georgia’s state militia.55

With no seat on the war council, black militiamen found their status and presence “ignored.” The Savannah Tribune also outlined the events that brought black militiamen to their moment of invisibility. According to the Tribune, Governor Atkinson and the war council “acted as if there were no colored troops in the state.” Black resentment increased because “not only ha[d] the colored troops been ignored in not being ordered to increase enlistment, or to attend the governor’s conference, but they ha[d] also been denied the privilege of defending their country.” Additionally, “the state [had] done nothing toward fully equipping them.” The “guns, etc, given them are second-hand and in some instances unserviceable.” Realistic about what they now faced, black militiamen understood how hard it would be to get members of the race to enlist at the state or federal levels, even as white Georgians volunteered to defend their nation. African Americans, despite these setbacks, still hoped to find a way to get the attention of Georgia authorities as well as the McKinley administration.56

Searching for Inclusion

Getting the nation’s attention was not going to be easy for black Americans. Willard Gatewood has noted the complex emotions, vision, and goals that African Americans wrestled with at the coming of the Spanish-American War, the Cuban War of Independence, and the Philippine-American War. The war of 1898 provided a very public moment for black and white people to establish their identity and self-esteem. Military service provided a way to do both. Fighting, at the risk of dying, for your country was the ultimate avenue to achieve citizenship with all its rights and privileges. Combat service would also allow black men to “achieve the full height of manhood,” thereby giving the race an unambiguous standing as true citizens of the nation. The war was, Gatewood contended, the “first time … black men were called upon to render military service outside the United States” since they had become citizens after the Civil War. In that context, participation as a citizen in the defense of the nation should result in racism’s eradication. War against the Spanish in Cuba provided blacks in general but African American men specifically with a chance to (p.282) prove their patriotism, demonstrate their military acumen, and gain respect for an entire people. It was for these reasons that Jackson McHenry, the Savannah Tribune, Georgia’s black militiamen, and African Americans across the United States put so much energy into trying to be a part of the war in Cuba.57

This effort continued into May 1898, although by then its success was questionable. The Savannah Tribune, nevertheless, devoted page two of its early May editions to critical assessments directed at Governor Atkinson’s wartime decisions. Other articles on pages two and three outlined the actions of patriotic black people and the public outings of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored. The Atlanta Constitution also recorded national black efforts that did not get reported by the Tribune. At the beginning of May the Tribune claimed, as other blacks in Georgia had done, that the “colored troops [would] be called out when there [was] real fighting to be done.” Additionally, the paper made note that despite their disappointment, black men had not “sulked.” Specifically, black men were patriots who continued to be ready to respond to the nation’s needs. As proof the Tribune made it clear that Georgia’s black militiamen were alive and well, with three lieutenant colonels, one major, twenty-two captains, fifty-eight lieutenants, and twelve hundred “of the most loyal and patriotic men that [could] be found anywhere.” Black Georgians as a result were ready to defend their homeland. Furthermore, the war had united the nation, bringing to an end the old Civil War sectional divisions of North and South. The Confederacy in Georgia, however, continued to lurk behind the scenes, undermining national unity and the patriotic spirit. Confederate sentiment raised its challenging presence in Gainesville, Georgia, where militiamen who wore a blue uniform during Confederate Memorial Day were refused permission to march in parade where only gray uniforms marked the occasion.58

The Tribune countered with examples of black loyalty and soldierly actions. Black men of the all–African American United States Army Ninth Cavalry were extolled by “a well known military man” in the May 7, 1898, issue of the Tribune. Pointing to the scorn heaped on “the fighting qualities of … black boys” in 1866, when Congress created the Ninth Cavalry, this unnamed commentator sought to convey to the broader public that black troops were worthy of the nation’s trust as combat troops. The Ninth Cavalry had proved their mettle in 1867, when they confronted Native Americans in combat. This black regular military unit commanded by white officers had not only met the challenge of Native Americans in (p.283) the West but also confronted and subdued “wilder bandits.” Black cavalrymen also were “no parade command.” They worked hard in less than desirable Western postings. Eastern military posts held more prestige and were seen by white officers as better assignments than service on the Western frontier. Members of the Ninth Cavalry therefore worked under more pressure owing to the constant combat in the West. As a result, they “never had any but fighting assignments.”

Black regular soldiers such as those of the Ninth felt they had been proving their worth as combat soldiers from 1867 to the 1898 War in Cuba; indeed, the Tribune declared, “It has been one long fight.” With this article, the Tribune pointed to black history, a story being erased, but one of black military service of which Governor Atkinson should be aware. Black soldiers in the Ninth Cavalry had given the nation thirty-plus years of consistent combat service defending the nation’s interest. Militiaman and Savannah Tribune managing editor Solomon C. Johnson placed these articles on page two of the May 7, 1898, edition to promote and prove the merit and character of black men defending the nation. African Americans had proven themselves in the United States Army and as Georgia militiamen. Black soldiers, both regulars and militiamen, were ready to serve in the War in Cuba.59

The following week, on May 14, 1898, the Tribune again noted that the “colored troops [were] illy armed and equipped by the state, but … ready to respond” as national defenders. To prove the race’s mettle, black United States Army troops guarded the first prisoners of war under the shadow of “Old Glory … in its glory.” These black regulars were, however, publicly criticized for “the least wrong,” even though their discipline was “among the best,” especially in comparison to that of white soldiers, who appeared to “act with impunity.” Black regulars had to be on their best behavior. At the same time the all-black Twenty-Fifth Infantry regiment suffered Jim Crow segregation in the United States South as they mobilized and traveled to war in the Caribbean. The Tribune quoted a northern newspaper that countered that war was no time for white southerners to practice customary racial segregation simply to uphold southern etiquette. Essentially both the New York Journal and the Tribune argued that if a man was a “citizen good enough to wear the uniform” of the United States Army, then he was “good enough to ride in any car with anybody.” Segregation had no power over patriotism and national service.60

The Tribune also highlighted Georgia militia activities. Lieutenant Colonel John H. Deveaux dictated “Order No. 4” to First Battalion Adjutant (p.284) Solomon C. Johnson, who published the military directive in the Tribune. The order set the attitude expected of every First Battalion member in preparation for the May 19, 1898, parade. The parade took on a singular uniqueness owing to the “importance of the situation,” namely, the United States at war. As a result, “every [militiaman,] enlisted man and officer [needed] to show his patriotism” by participating in the parade. All of the First Battalion’s all-black companies were going to march with .45 caliber secondhand and replacement guns and in regulation uniforms. The war also enhanced militia enlistment; each company was “filled with young blood,” ensuring one of the largest assemblies of black militiamen in some time. The Tribune also commended the white Irish Jasper Greens for their enthusiastic response to the state’s call for volunteers, but this compliment hardly countered its criticism of the state. Irish Jasper Greens’s members volunteered by their own admission because “the state ha[d] equipped them and sent them into camps to prepare for such calls” to duty. Georgia had prepared its white militiamen for war and had made them honorable men.61

At the end of May the Atlanta Constitution reported on black efforts that did not reach the pages of the Savannah Tribune. On successive days the Constitution presented two articles focused on blacks who sought national authority to clear them for combat in Cuba. The May 25 article detailed the general characteristics of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored, highlighting Lieutenant Colonel Floyd Crumbly’s command of the Atlanta-based Second Battalion. This article preceded a much more important discussion two days earlier between black politicians, President William McKinley, and Secretary of War Russell Alger.62

Recently appointed register of the treasury, Georgian Judson Lyons, and former Mississippi congressman John Lynch spent a significant amount of time with McKinley and Alger discussing the federalization of black militiamen. Lyons and Lynch hoped that the president might “recognize the services of the colored volunteers by assigning them to one or more of the immune regiments provided for under existing law.” Such an appointment would take advantage of the training of black militiamen, especially those who had survived yellow fever, which by implication made them immune to tropical diseases. With this assumed immunity from climatic disease, these soldiers were ready for military service in a tropical climate. Lyons and Lynch acknowledged in their meeting that race served as a major determinant, since white troops resented “the mixing of the two classes of citizens.” Furthermore presidential action had become (p.285) essential, because state governors had ignored the thousands of black volunteers who presented themselves to militia authorities in Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina eager and ready to serve.

Willard Gatewood has noted, however, that there were very few African American militia units available for service in the United States. Lyons, probably aware of this, presented Georgia’s black militiamen to President McKinley as one of the few trained urban-based black state militias that could be mobilized to meet the war emergency. Georgia’s African American militiamen, Lyons contended, could muster at least a regiment and perhaps additional volunteer organized infantry from Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, and Savannah. There were also more specialized cavalry, and the sole artillery companies prepared to depart for Cuba. All that was needed, the two black men argued, was presidential agreement and acceptance of their proposal to recruit, organize, deploy, and incorporate black volunteers within the nation’s military. It would not, however, be until the summer of 1898 that the states and Congress created ten immune regiments. The volunteer immune regiments were intended to be manned by those individuals who had been infected with, survived, and apparently attained immunity from yellow fever.63

The next month, June 1898, was a complex blend of continuing black protest, criticism of state officials, celebration of inclusion, veneration of black people (especially of soldiers), and war weariness. The Savannah Tribune devoted space to each subject, starting with the commemoration of black valor. The newspaper qualified its positive message with the assertion that black invisibility persisted despite courageous acts by black soldiers who had served the nation and continued to do so during the country’s time of need. Atlanta’s Elder R. E. Hart seven years earlier had publicly sermonized about black military invisibility when he addressed Jackson McHenry’s company. In June 1898 the paper noted that the war had made its mark on African Americans, because “[i]n war the colored man is brave. This much is history.” Further, during the war in Cuba the black soldier, the paper declared with certainty, “will also distinguish himself,” with “heroic deeds on the field of battle.” Despite such admirable accomplishments in combat, invisibility would make sure that these deeds would “not be known,” because they would “be shielded in mystery” until black soldiers on site survived to tell their story. And yet, who would listen? Getting Georgians and the nation to recognize the valorous deeds of black soldiers was a problem that plagued both black militiamen and African Americans serving as regular troops in the U.S. military.64

(p.286) This conclusion by a newspaper and its editor reflected the ongoing disillusionment and frustration caused by invisibility during the nation’s involvement in a global war and imperial expansion. The War of 1898, black people had believed, was the one sure moment when blacks could publicly declare themselves full citizens of the United States. This goal was lost as African Americans watched their citizenship disappear in the wake of American imperial expansion abroad and the rise and legalization of Jim Crow segregation at home while white racial superiority engulfed both the foreign and domestic spheres.65

Black Officers for Black Troops

At the beginning of June, the Tribune continued to use page two of each edition to promote black soldiers and castigate their detractors. By June it was clear to managing editor and black militiaman Solomon C. Johnson that “colored citizens [had] not received the recognition due them” with regard to the war in Cuba. Specifically only four African American officers had been selected to serve during the conflict, and no black officer had been appointed above the rank of major. White officers received most of the appointments leading black units. Alabama’s black militiamen, for example, requested to go to Cuba as an all-black unit, but white officers would command the company. Federal and state authorities prevented the militia’s full complement of black officers from commanding African American troops in combat. With this slight against black militia officers and the enlisted militiamen they had led for a significant amount of time, the Tribune joined the African American press in a nationwide crusade to insist that black officers should lead black troops.

This demand that authorities respect black capabilities was reinforced a week later. Federal officials authorized the mobilization and mustering in an all-black Georgia immune regiment. The Tenth Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of four black immune regiments created by Congress and the president during the conflict, was to be a southern unit filled with black southerners. According to the Tribune, the communities of Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, and Savannah were projected as possessing the numbers to successfully construct a black regiment. But the new regiment “must have white commanders”; this decision ignored the fact that while blacks wanted to enlist, they “would never do so under the circumstances” proposed.66

(p.287) Rejection

Black enlisted men wanted to be led by African American officers. Black men in Georgia’s segregated militia had officered the neglected African American companies for over twenty years, and Alabama’s black militiamen were led by black officers before the War of 1898. In another moment of irony white Georgians had campaigned hard to be led by white Georgia militia officers in the new federal volunteer regiments. While former white Georgia militiamen who volunteered to serve in Cuba achieved some success in making this demand for continuity and familiarity, black demands both in Georgia and nationally were characterized as unreasonable or impossible to achieve.67

This issue in June 1898 was compounded by the paper’s comments on lynching and the total rejection of every black militia company in the Georgia Volunteers, Colored. White lynching bees drew the newspaper’s attention and ire while producing a warning about a significant contradiction: as the “war continues, likewise lynching bees.” White Georgia, the Tribune contended, needed to address the lynching problem by controlling and finding ways of “reform[ing the] … class of [white] lawless men” who had “degenerate[d] into cannibals.” This juxtaposition between the war to liberate Cubans from Spanish colonial and imperial oppression, on the one hand, and whites lynching blacks in the United States, on the other, was compounded by the Tribune’s “foregone conclusion that the services of the entire [First] Battalion … will not be accepted at present.” Disappointment overwhelmed any celebration in recognition of black men enlisting in the 10th immune regiment. Black hope that participation in the war would draw to them significant attention and positive recognition disappeared when the War Department restricted black volunteer enlistment to just one Savannah company. The various black members of the Georgia Volunteers, Colored, regardless of their limited training and petitions by Judson Lyons and John Lynch, were ignored again not only by the state of Georgia but also by the president of the United States. Both governments ignored African Americans and their desire to defend the nation as a right and duty of citizenship.68

Late June and all of July brought shorter articles on the African American press’s continuing demand for black officers to lead black enlisted men, with occasional notices from Cuba about successful black regulars’ combat operations. These positive moments were overwhelmed by national (p.288) and statewide war weariness that combined with critiques of American imperial expansion and its racial implications for spreading Jim Crow segregation outside the United States. Specifically African Americans and black Cuban natives were victimized by white men seeking quick access to wealth, generally at the expense of people of color. The Tribune also pointed out that the military had a white manpower problem. White men had failed to volunteer in sufficient numbers to meet the troop quotas requested by the War Department. Georgia, for example, furnished only 255 of the 704 men required by the War Department during a second call for troops. White men in North Carolina and Virginia also failed to volunteer in sufficient numbers. The newspaper in response repeated the point that black men were ready, willing, and able to fill the gap “if the authorities would only cast their [racial] feelings aside and fully recognize the colored man as an American citizen.”69

International Peace and Local Recriminations

The week of August 13, 1898, brought peace between the United States and Spain and recriminations in Georgia over the state’s response to the war. At the end of the month the Savannah Tribune attacked decisions state leaders made at the beginning of the war. The Tribune noted that the war began with the “state organiz[ing] for the purpose of keeping the Negroes from uprising while the war was progressing.” This charge contradicted the Atlanta Constitution’s April report that Governor Atkinson wanted to keep the militia in Georgia to deter an invasion. According to the Tribune, “We assured them [white authorities] then that the colored man was law abiding and had the interest of his country at heart as much as any class of people.” Given black people’s patriotic commitment, the Tribune could not comprehend the decision to keep the Georgia Volunteers in the state. The plan “was useless.”70

Allen Candler: Reorganizing the Georgia Militia

The end of the war with Spain did not result in great celebration among militiamen of any color. The year ended with a new governor, Allen Daniel Candler, a man scholars have assessed as “bland.” Candler’s tenure has also been described as a failure. His reign as Georgia’s first citizen was assessed more for what he did not do. Candler’s governorship in this context came to be noted for its penny pinching and its gutting of public school (p.289) funding. Candler continued the tradition of being a tool of Georgia’s ruling elite, the Bourbon Triumvirate, as well as of lobbyists who had controlled the state since the early 1870s. Born in north Georgia’s mountains, Candler was a Civil War veteran who had risen from private to Colonel in the army of Tennessee. In 1864 a battle around Jonesboro, Georgia, took his eye, and Candler pursued a career in education. He became mayor of Gainesville, Georgia, then a member of Congress, and eventually served in the cabinets of Governors William J. Northen and William Yates Atkinson. His primary achievement as governor of Georgia was giving white supremacy a political foundation by “claim[ing] credit for having masterminded the Democratic white primary” and “eliminating black voters from the Democratic primary” as a champion of legalized Jim Crow segregation. Although classified by some scholars as opposed to reform,71 Candler initiated a house cleaning of the state’s militia companies in the wake of the War of 1898.

The war, Candler contended in October 1899, “almost destroyed” Georgia’s militia. War caused widespread “withdrawal from companies and regiments,” taking the best from the Georgia Volunteers. Georgia’s militiamen departed the state militia to volunteer for service in the U.S. military. Racial violence, especially the lynching of Sam Hose in Coweta County, just southwest of Atlanta, during the spring of 1899, convinced Candler that the nation’s founding fathers were wise in writing into the Constitution, “A well regulated militia is essential to the peace and security of the state.” The war with Spain left “scarcely an efficient company or regiment in the state” at a moment when troops were needed to maintain order between the races. Specifically, 1899 was “a time when a reliable military was more needed for local protection than ever before in our history.” The Atlanta Constitution additionally noted that Governor Candler wanted “none but efficient officers and men [to] … remain in the militia.” The future militiaman had to be “thoroughly drilled and disciplined” to produce “the best militia” any Georgia governor had ever commanded since the Civil War. This combination of global war, domestic racial violence, a gutted militia, and the need for new men to man the militia forced Candler to call for a reorganization of the Georgia Volunteers, which one reporter now characterized as the “national guard.”72

The Georgia Volunteers were almost destroyed by the leaves of absence white officers and enlisted men took from their militia obligations so that they could individually participate in the war with Spain. Their leaves allowed them to become members of three regiments of U.S. Volunteers (p.290) organized in Georgia to meet President McKinley’s troop requests. The First and Second Regiments were completely officered by white Georgia Volunteers. Twenty-three other white militia officers manned the Third Volunteer Regiment. All three white regiments served in the War of 1898. It was this brain drain from the Georgia militia that disturbed Governor Candler. He sought to address the problem by threatening to terminate the leaves of absence. Candler set December 1, 1898, as the final deadline for former militiamen to return to their posts as Georgia militiamen. The governor attempted to force the volunteer soldiers to leave regular army service and return to the state militia. According to the Atlanta Constitution, these white regiments continued to be active duty units in the U.S. military, awaiting assignments, deployment, or mustering out as December approached. Additionally, the Constitution reported in a footnote that a “number of officers from the colored troops [had volunteered and] joined the United States army,” Floyd Crumbly being one of them. These soldiers’ commissions, like those of the white officers, were to be filled by new members of the Georgia Volunteers after December 1, 1898, should they not return to duty as members of the white Georgia Volunteers or the Georgia Volunteers, Colored.73

Georgia’s problems, according to Coweta County’s Newnan Herald, went beyond a brain drain of experienced Georgia militia officers. The Herald contended that an angry Georgia Legislature had “practically abolished the national guard organization, the militia,” at the end of 1898. The spring and summer of 1898 also revealed a new and highly negative assessment of white encampments. The encampments had not created well drilled and disciplined soldiers ready “to perform military evolutions in the field upon the tap of a drum, wherever their services became necessary.” Encampments were supposed to produce “an organized army” ready to serve and act. In the end when war came “not a single one of these organized bodies were ordered into action.” Individuals went off to war, but not one unit that had attended an encampment was ready for the real war. Yet the Atlanta Constitution contended, “Georgia is not the only state which suffered … the same disregard,” whereby the militia was ignored by state administrations when the call for troops came. The Constitution joined Candler in calling for a reorganization of Georgia’s National Guard, with the aim of creating “a sure enough military” capable of responding when the need arose. In the meantime the paper acknowledged that each Georgia militia company had “declared they were ready and prepared to (p.291) go to the front and if they did not have the opportunity to do so it was not their fault.”74

Acting Adjutant General William G. Obear commanded the Georgia Volunteers in November 1898 during John McIntosh Kell’s ongoing illness and Oscar J. Brown’s leave of absence to become an officer in the U.S. Volunteers. Obear would be given the task of “reorganizing” the Georgia Volunteers in the absence of its former officer corps. He commenced his task with strict orders from Governor Candler that required unwavering adherence. Not only was he commanded to be rigid in dealing with the absent officers, but his mission of getting “the Georgia militia back on its old footing” in reality transformed the militia through a series of extremely rigorous by-the-book inspections. Candler’s and Obear’s instructions also included the proviso that the inspections be “strict, but fair to all commands alike, whether composed of white or negro troops.” Obear went to work with no budget, because the General Assembly’s appropriation committee “virtually cut the military money for two years.” The Constitution asserted, however, that the absence of legislative funding would “not materially affect the militia or the state.” The two-year revocation definitively affected encampments. More important was the prediction that “the soldier boys [would] lose interest in the militia.” The absence of white enthusiasm would define the state militia and reorganization as the twentieth century dawned and a new militia came into being.75

Candler’s reorganization therefore posed significant problems, and the Clark Rifles, in Athens, Georgia, provided proof of the fact. In March 1899, at the beginning of Obear’s inspection tour, Clark Rifles members assessed the company. They resolved to “make no effort to retain their place in the Georgia militia.” While unit members understood the need for inspection, collectively the membership conceded that disbanding, and not improvement, would be the next step. Clark Rifles also had operated without a significant weapons allocation because those arms “had been taken away from them” and the remaining arms were unusable. Given these problems and the failure to spend money on new uniforms Clark Rifle members concluded that Georgia “seems to care very little whether she has any militia or not.” Disbanding became a very attractive option.76

Three years later, in 1902, Inspector General William G. Obear would deliver his annual report to Acting Adjutant General Phil G. Byrd. Obear’s annual report reiterated that white militiamen’s despondency was real. His assertions were based on three years of continuous and rigorous inspections since 1899. The absence of state funding combined with these (p.292) strict inspections to create a dire situation. Georgia’s white militiamen desperately needed encampment training; it was the one activity that could end their despondency. Obear’s conclusions about encampments contradicted the assertion that the war with Spain had proved encampments a waste of time and money. According to Obear, the absence of encampment opportunities made for a “disinterested” set of white troops who had lost interest in militia service. Encampment, Obear argued, would restore young men’s enthusiasm for enlisting in the Georgia militia. Morale, however, had deteriorated so badly by 1902 that Obear lowered his rigid inspection standards out of a “desire to retain organizations in the service.” He hoped within the context of reorganization that government, whether state or federal, would see the light in 1903 and “provide the necessary means for a camp.” For Obear the need was “so absolutely necessary for the encouragement as well as for the training of the troops.” This alone would raise morale.77

Obear: The New Militia, the National Guard

But at the end of 1898, Obear adamantly contended that “all of our efforts should be exerted towards reducing the organizations and making better troops of those left in the service.” According to Obear, there was a need “to have a thorough renovation, to put in young and active and enthusiastic men.” Within the context of this redefinition of Georgia’s military, the nineteenth-century militia had “been allowed to drag along in slipshod style without any show of pride in the command of the state.” The Georgia Volunteers as a result stood at the end of the nineteenth century at a crossroads of war and change. The militia was characterized as an aged institution in need of an infusion of youthful enthusiasm. To do that required a new image, which would begin with a name change. The Georgia General Assembly on December 20–21, 1898, chose to create a new militia.

The legislature intended, with the name change, to instill in militiamen a new attitude as it sought to implement Governor Candler’s demand for a reorganized militia. Reorganization would be an ongoing project from 1898 well into the first decade of the twentieth century. The obsolescence of the Georgia Volunteers required the discarding, disbanding, and termination of companies with long nineteenth-century histories but who at the start of the new century did not measure up to the standard set by Governor Candler and Adjutant and Inspector General Obear. Serving at the governor’s direction, Obear truly believed in the mission in 1899: (p.293) The reorganization and reduction of the Georgia Volunteers and Georgia Volunteers, Colored, had become a true necessity. In place of the state military came the National Guard. The new guard had to be younger and smaller yet committed to Georgia. Thus the Georgia State Troops and Georgia State Troops, Colored, became the National Guard of Georgia, a new military organization for the state.78

Obear began the initial five-month inspection and reorganization tour in Atlanta on March 1, 1899. He inspected twelve companies, including three African American units that Obear intended to review fairly but rigidly. By the end of March Obear was in Columbus, Georgia, a community whose militia units were traditionally attached to regiments and battalions operating out of Atlanta. He “disbanded every company in Columbus,” both white and black. Columbus militiamen, similar to their counterparts across Georgia, suffered from an absence of enthusiasm for all things military. According to the Atlanta Constitution, the community had been the home to “two fine companies,” an African American unit and a white machine gun platoon. The spring of 1899 brought no celebration of militia enlistment in Columbus. Just the opposite occurred: As enlistment terms ended, so, too, did any commitment to renew militia membership. Given the low morale, militia service in Columbus was effectively dead. It had been dying for a while in a sterile environment devoid of militia meetings, an injury capped by officers’ resignations “some time ago.”79

Defining the Militia in White and Black

In the midst of this change in the character of the state militia and of Governor Candler’s response to racial violence, the Savannah Tribune at the end of March offered its definition of the militia to counter white violence. Following the lynching of Sam Hose in Palmetto, Georgia, in Coweta County, Coweta whites petitioned the Military Advisory Board and the governor for permission to organize a militia company. According to the Tribune, the reason Coweta whites sought this company “seem[ed] to be to ‘keep the Negroes down,’” even to the point where whites needed “to shoot down colored men,” believing that doing so would end assaults on white women. If Georgia permitted such an organization within the state’s military, the paper contended, it would be an open invitation for “lynchers to ply their vocation.” The paper, nevertheless, offered a counter definition: a “military company … organized for the protection of all classes and not to keep any one class down.” With this definition the (p.294) Tribune added its voice to several other black voices in the 1890s that declared black Georgians citizens of the state who were deserving of all the rights and privileges of that citizenship, including equal representation within the militia. African American militiamen had protected Georgia’s citizens regardless of color and did not segregate their devotion to duty and service to one isolated group.80

Three weeks later, Savannah’s black militiamen endeavored to make that definition a partial reality. During the week of April 15, 1899, the Savannah Tribune reported Obear’s inspection of the First Battalion. According to the newspaper, Obear conducted “an exhaustive examination under the new regulations.” His evaluation “of the condition and drills of the [black] companies was the most rigid ever held in the state.” The African American companies, the Tribune noted, met the challenge with a “heroic effort” and “hoped they may have made the proper record and average.”81

Obear’s assessment had its impact in Savannah and Macon. Reorganizations were ordered for Macon’s Union Lincoln Guards and Savannah’s Forest City Light Infantry and Georgia Artillery, three of the longest-serving black militia units. Consolidation into one company was also recommended for the Union Lincoln Guards and Forest City Light Infantry. All three companies unfortunately could not complete the process of reorganization and consolidation in time for the First Battalion’s annual May Parade. Only three companies of the former eight-company battalion marched in the May event. Black militiamen viewed this public performance as a vital moment in their existence. The significance of the occasion became evident with “General Order No. 5,” which called for the black companies to come to the parade “fully uniformed, armed, and equipped (with leggings).” The units also had to muster at “full enlistment strength”; the assembly was urgent, as it was the first public gathering of the battalion following Inspector General Obear’s rigid inspection. In the end, however, the battalion had operated with three fewer companies since the parade in 1898. Two of the three companies ceased to exist as a result of Obear’s pre-May inspection: The Lone Star Cadets and the Savannah Hussars, the cavalry company, were ordered to disband in the spring of 1899.82

Just after mid-September 1899, Obear submitted additional disbanding recommendations. He called for disbanding sixteen or seventeen black militia companies and twelve white units. This brought to an end five months of inspections wherein Obear met with, inspected, and made (p.295) decisions concerning ninety-five militia companies. His report to the newly appointed and empowered Military Advisory Board was pivotal to the continued existence of thirty militia companies. The Advisory Board had not met since 1897, now two years before. Governor Candler recalled the board so that this officers’ group would make the final decision on disbanding. Black militiamen did not fare well. At the end of the day only three or four African American companies remained out of the twenty-two designated as state-sponsored militia units authorized by the General Assembly’s 1880s reorganization and troop limit. Nearly two decades later these units would survive the latest reorganization that created the new black militia: the Georgia State Troops, Colored.83

The Advisory Board disbanded sixteen or seventeen black companies based on Obear’s unsatisfactory inspections and Governor Candler’s directives for reorganizing and creating the Georgia State Troops, Colored. According to the Atlanta Constitution, the assessment was not unfair. The state wanted to keep black militia companies in the Georgia State Troops, but the primary reason for Obear’s negative evaluation was that “the vast majority of them [were] incompetent on drill and woefully lacking in discipline.” Such critical criteria so overwhelmingly defined African American militia companies during the spring to fall inspection tour that even well-liked black militia officers could not persuade the Military Advisory Board to make an exception to what amounted to wholesale disbanding of the Georgia State Troops, Colored. Black officers from Savannah and Atlanta attended the Advisory Board meeting to promote their units as functional and viable. Colonel John H. Deveaux appealed for the continued existence of their commands, joined by Captains W. J. Pickney, L. A. Washington, J. C. Simmons, and Lieutenant P. Y. Giles as the Savannah petitioners. Deveaux also represented the sole cavalry unit, the Savannah Hussars. Political activist and long-time militia company leader Jackson McHenry made the case for Atlanta, yet, despite McHenry’s pleadings, the board disbanded his company during the afternoon session. The Advisory Board’s actions reflected their adamant commitment to militia reorganization. And so the board went about the process of disbanding under-performing companies, including the Hussars. McHenry “left the capitol disconsolate.”84


(1.) “The Artillery and the Railroad,” Savannah Tribune, January 25, 1896; “To Celebrate Emancipation,” Savannah Morning News, January 1, 1896; “The Colored People’s Day,” Savannah Morning News, January 2, 1896. For the reward and Johnston’s claim for Motorman West, see “A Reward for An Artilleryman,” Savannah Morning News, January 20, 1896.

(2.) “The Artillery and the Railroad”; “A Reward”; “Police Want the Names,” Savannah Morning News, January 3, 1896.

(3.) “The Artillery and the Railroad”; “The Assailant Not Yet Found,” Savannah Morning News, January 29, 1896.

(4.) “Kell Disbands Four Companies,” Atlanta Constitution, April 30, 1896; “Flowers for the Hero Dead,” Savannah Morning News, April 28, 1896; “The Park Extension,” Savannah Morning News, April 29, 1896; “Control of Parade Ground,” Savannah Morning News, April 30, 1896. For the importance of Jim Crow segregation in shaping the lives of white and black people, see John W. Cell, The Highest Stage of White Supremacy: The Origins of Segregation in South Africa and the American South (London: Cambridge University Press, 1982), chapters 1, 4, 6, 7, 9; Grant, The Way It Was, chapter 5; Crystal N. Feimster, Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009), chapter 2.

(5.) “Control of Parade Ground.” For the evolution of white attitudes towards blacks in the late nineteenth century, see Emberton, Beyond Redemption.

(6.) “Control of Parade Ground.”

(p.380) (7.) Blacks in Savannah challenged streetcar segregation with an unsuccessful boycott in 1906. They had earlier successfully contested Jim Crow seating in the 1870s and l899. For a general examination, see Robert E. Perdue, The Negro in Savannah, 1865–1900 (New York: Exposition Press, 1973), 31–35. For a more detailed exploration of black Savannah’s actions against segregated streetcars and the role of the Savannah Tribune, see Turner, “Agitation and Accommodation,” 25–45. For the culture of segregation and its impact in the 1890s, see Hale, Making Whiteness; and Nathan Cardon, “The South’s ‘New Negroes’ and African American Visions of Progress at the Atlanta and Nashville International Expositions, 1895–1897,” Journal of Southern History 80, no. 2 (May 2014): 287–326.

(8.) See “Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, 1884–1885,” p. 85, Georgia Legislative Documents, GDAH, neptune3.galib.uga.edu/ssp/cgibin/legis-idx.pl?sessionid=7f000001&type=law&byte=571613. For a discussion of the 1891 transportation legislation embracing Jim Crow segregation, see Mixon, Atlanta Riot.

(9.) “The Colored Companies,” Savannah Tribune, February 15, 1896; “Negro Captains Uneasy,” Atlanta Constitution, February 11, 1896. The members of the Military Advisory Board for the next three years, from 1897 to 1899, included Captain W. W. Gordon, son of Colonel W. W. Gordon, both of Savannah. Colonel Gordon replaced Col. William Garrard as head of the Advisory Board. Major Jordan F. Brooks was also a Savannah resident. The Atlanta Constitution, which has been inconsistent in establishing the rank of some militiamen, also listed Brooks as a captain. See “Etched and Sketched,” Atlanta Constitution, January 15, 1896.

(10.) “Want to Enlist,” Atlanta Constitution, January 23, 1896; “The Board to Meet,” Atlanta Constitution, January 29, 1896; “Georgia’s Army and Navy: Advisory Board to Convene,” Atlanta Constitution, February 1, 1896; “Meetings,” Atlanta Constitution, February 5, 1896; “Negro Captains Uneasy”; “The Guard Is In,” Atlanta Constitution, February 12, 1896. For the Gate City Guard, see “Gate City Guard,” Savannah Morning News, January 10, 1896, and “Militia of the State,” Savannah Morning News, January 30, 1896.

(11.) “The Colored Companies”; “Negro Captains Uneasy.”

(13.) Ibid.; “Colored Troops,” Macon Telegraph, August 5. 1895.

(15.) Frances Smith, “Black Militia in Savannah,” 42–47. For the police incident, see “Outrageous Assault,” Savannah Tribune, May 18, 1895.

(16.) For the relationship between race, costs, and disbandment of black militia units, see Cooper, Rise of the National Guard, 23–25, 31, 34, 37, 39–43, 71–72, 137; Mahon, History of the Militia, 110–111.

(17.) “They Will Not Be Disbanded,” Savannah Tribune, February 22, 1896; Savannah Tribune, May 9, 1896; “Colored Soldiers on Serenade,” Savannah Morning News, March 5, 1896. For the streetcar incident, see Savannah Tribune, February 22, 1896; and “A Villainous Affair,” Savannah Tribune, February 22, 1896.

(18.) Savannah Tribune, February 22, 1896; “To Report To-Day,” Savannah Morning News, February 21, 1896; “May Week Celebration,” Savannah Morning News, February (p.381) 22, 1896. For a discussion of the black male exodus from Georgia, see Grant, The Way It Was, 288.

(19.) “May Week Celebration,” Savannah Morning News, February 22, 1896; “From State Headquarters,” Savannah Morning News, April 18, 1896.

(20.) “Orders Are Out For State Camp,” Atlanta Constitution, May 14, 1896; “Adjutant Makes a Report on Troops,” Atlanta Constitution, December 16, 1897; “Money for Soldiers,” Atlanta Constitution, December 11, 1896. For appropriation levels, see “Acting Adjutant General to Sgt George Freeman, Co. A 1st Batt Infy. G. V. Savannah, Georgia, March 1, 1898,” 21–1-1 Adjutant General Letter Book, Box 57, p. 223, GDAH.

(21.) H. R. Butler, “What the Negro Is Doing: Matters of Interest Among the Colored People,” Atlanta Constitution, May 10, 1896.

(22.) Butler, “What the Negro Is Doing,” Atlanta Constitution, May 10, 1896; H. R. Butler, “What the Negro Is Doing: Matters of Interest Among the Colored People,” Atlanta Constitution, July 5, 1896; “Money for Soldiers”; “Means More Taxs [sic],” Atlanta Constitution, December 5, 1896.

(23.) “Flag Presentation,” Savannah Tribune, October 3, 1896; Frances Smith, “Black Militia in Savannah,” 67.

(24.) “Flag Presentation.” For a discussion of black and white definitions of freedom and citizenship, see Emberton, Beyond Redemption, 23, 28, 54, 58–59, 70, 75, 77; and Nancy Cohen, The Reconstruction of American Liberalism, 1865–1914 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 62, 65, 70, 178, 219.

(27.) H. R. Butler, “What the Negro is Doing,” Atlanta Constitution, December 13, 1896.

(29.) For Forest City Light Infantry, see Adjutant General Miscellaneous Records: National Guard, Box 20, Folder: 22–1-10, Ga Natl Guard Militia Enlistment of Forest City Light Infantry, Co. A., 1st Bn Inf., GA vol: (Co), Petition for Election of Officers, Forest City Light Infantry, Col. Co. B, July 16, 1874, GDAH.

(30.) H. R. Butler, “What the Negro Is Doing,” Atlanta Constitution, December 27, 1896. For an assessment of the evolution of relations between the United States and Spain, see Robert L. Beisner, From the Old Diplomacy to the New, 1865–1900, 2nd ed. (Wheeling, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 1986), 115–119, 122–130.

(31.) “Adjutant Makes a Report on Troops”; “Soldiers in Peace, Soldiers in War,” Atlanta Constitution, March 5, 1897.

(32.) “Freedmen’s Day,” Savannah Tribune, January 9, 1897; “Negroes Celebrate,” Atlanta Constitution, January 2, 1897; “Board to Meet on 25th,” Atlanta Constitution, February 22, 1897.

(33.) Talk of the Week with Georgia Volunteer Forces,” Atlanta Constitution, February 22, 1897; “Talk of the Week with Georgia Soldier Boys,” Atlanta Constitution, February 27, 1897.

(34.) “Fair in Progress,” Savannah Tribune, January 23, 1897; “Military Fair Closed,” February 6, 1897.

(p.382) (35.) “Military Anniversary,” Savannah Tribune, April 17, 1897; “Military Parade,” Savannah Tribune, May 22, 1897.

(36.) “Military Anniversary”; “Our Amusement Column,” Savannah Tribune, March 13, 1897; “Our Amusement Column,” Savannah Tribune, April 17, 2011; Savannah Tribune, August 7, 1897. For a very brief discussion of the “ladies branch,” see Frances Smith, “Black Militia in Savannah,” 53, and for the 1893 reorganization, Frances Smith, “Black Militia in Savannah,” 64–66.

(37.) “To Go in Camps,” Savannah Tribune, August 7, 1897.

(38.) “Artillery’s Encampment,” Savannah Tribune, August 14, 1897; “Returned from Camp Kell,” Savannah Tribune, August 21, 1897; Frances Smith, “Black Militia in Savannah,” 49.

(39.) “Returned from Camp Kell.”

(40.) “Returned from Camp Kell”; Frances Smith, “Black Militia in Savannah,” 49. For an example of encampment visits by the governor and militia officials, see “With the Soldiers,” Atlanta Constitution, June 14, 1896.

(41.) “The Local Legislature,” Macon Telegraph, February 24, 1897; “City Items,” Macon Telegraph, February 28, 1897; “Colored Military Picnic,” Macon Telegraph, July 18, 1897; “The Fats and Leans,” Macon Telegraph, August 23, 1897; “Their ‘Gala Day’ Has Come At Last,” Atlanta Constitution, July 5, 1897; “Ready for Columbia,” and “Military Orders,” Savannah Tribune, September 4, 1897; “Labor Day Celebration,” Savannah Tribune, September 11, 1897; “What the Negro Is Doing,” Atlanta Constitution, October 3, 1897. For the planning process for the Labor Day celebration, see “Our Amusement Column,” Savannah Tribune, August 7, 1897.

(42.) Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown to Captain J. Lockhart, Macon, November 6, 1897, p. 65; Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown to Captain P. C. R. Bell, Macon, November 6, 1897, p. 66; Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown to Lt. Col. John H. Deveaux, Savannah, n.d., p. 107; Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown to Captain J. F. Brooks, Savannah, December 9, 1897, p. 109; Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown to Captain Charles M. Tyson, Sandersville, p. 110, 22–1-1 Department of Defense, Adjutant General Letter Book, Volume 20 9/16/1897–4/15/1898, Box 57, GDAH; “Military Notes,” Savannah Tribune, January 15, 1898; Savannah Tribune, April 9, 1898.

(43.) “Stopped a Funeral Procession,” Atlanta Constitution, January 17, 1898.

(44.) “HWG, ‘Atlanta Negroes Are Ready to Fight Spain,’” Atlanta Constitution, March 6, 1898.

(45.) “HWG, ‘Atlanta Negroes Are Ready to Fight Spain.’” For congressional assumptions concerning black troops and tropical disease immunity, see Willard Gatewood, “Smoked Yankees” and the Struggle for Empire (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971), 11.

(46.) “HWG, ‘Atlanta Negroes Are Ready to Fight Spain.’”

(47.) Savannah Tribune, March 5, 1898; Savannah Tribune, March 12, 1898; “A Royal Banquet,” Savannah Tribune, April 9, 1898. For the entire roster of black men serving in the national Congress from the end of the Civil War to 1898, see “Colored Men in the House of Representatives and Senate,” Savannah Tribune, March 19, 1898.

(p.383) (48.) Savannah Tribune, March 5, 1898; Savannah Tribune, April 2, 1898; Gatewood, “Smoked Yankees,” 5.

(49.) Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown to Captain Jackson McHenry, Com’d’g Co. “B,” Batt. Inf. G. V. Colored, March 11, 1898, p. 232, 21–1-1 Adjutant General Letter Books, Department of Defense, Box 57, Volume 20, 9/16/1897–4/14/1898, GDAH.

(50.) Governor Atkinson to Captain C. A. Withers, Commander Confederate Soldier’s Association, Augusta, March 16, 1898; Acting Adjutant General to Lieut. Col. I. Blocker, Ga. Volunteers Colored, Augusta, March 31, 1898, p. 295, 21–1-1 Adjutant General Letter Books, Department of Defense, Box 57, Volume 20, 9/16/1897–4/14/1898, GDAH.

(51.) Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown to Louis K. Swinton, colored, Milledgeville, April 15, 1898, p. 434; Acting Adjutant General Oscar J. Brown to T. H. McIver, colored, Thebes, April 16, 1898, p. 447, 21–1-1 Adjutant General Letter Books, Department of Defense, Box 57, Volume 20, 9/16/1897–4/14/1898, GDAH.

(52.) “To Equip State Troops For War,” Atlanta Constitution, April 6, 1898.

(53.) Beisner, From the Old Diplomacy to the New, 128; “President McKinley’s Message,” Savannah Tribune, April 16, 1898; “The Colored Troops,” Savannah Tribune, April 23, 1898; Gatewood, “Smoked Yankees,” 5.

(54.) “Governor Calls Conference of Army Officers,” Atlanta Constitution, April 25, 1898. For Atkinson’s relationship with African Americans, see Savannah Tribune, August 6, 1898.

(55.) “Governor Calls Conference of Army Officers”; “Three Majors,” Savannah Tribune, May 21, 1898; “Capt. Brown and Col. Lawton to Lead Georgia Volunteers,” Atlanta Georgia, April 26, 1898; “Georgia’s Quota of Volunteers Is Being Raised,” Atlanta Constitution, April 27, 1898; “Call to Troops Has Been Made,” Atlanta Constitution, April 29, 1898; “State Forces Kept Intact?” Atlanta Constitution, May 13, 1898; “Half State Guns Sent to Camp,” Atlanta Constitution, May 18, 1898.

(56.) Savannah Tribune, April 30, 1898; “Colored Troops Ignored,” Savannah Tribune, April 30, 1898. For the national neglect of black troops, with exceptions in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia, See Gate-wood, “Smoked Yankees,” 9–10.

(57.) Gatewood, “Smoked Yankees,” 3–17. For the gendered problems posed by military service and the “‘obsession with manhood,’” war, and freedom generated during the late nineteenth century, see Emberton, Beyond Redemption, 104–105 and chapter 4.

(60.) Savannah Tribune, May 14, 1898; “Exchange Notes,” Savannah Tribune, May 14, 1898. For similar charges against black soldiers, see Amanda Nagel, “‘We Are American Soldiers’: Masculinity and Race in the Philippine-American War,” paper presented at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Memphis, Tennessee, September 23–27, 2014.

(61.) “To Show Its Strength,” Savannah Tribune, May 14, 1898; Savannah Tribune, May 14, 1898. For a report on the May 19, 1898, parade, see “Annual Parade,” Savannah Tribune, May 21, 1898.

(62.) Jos. Ohl, “Georgia Negroes Now Have a Chance to Volunteer,” Atlanta Constitution, May 24, 1898; “Negro Soldiers Want to Fight,” Atlanta Constitution, May 25, 1898.

(64.) “Colored Militia,” Atlanta Constitution, June 22, 1891; Savannah Tribune, June 18, 1898. For the problem of invisibility for U.S. African American regular troops, see Dobak and Phillips, Black Regulars, 247–280.

(65.) Gatewood, “Smoked Yankees,” 9–11; Turner, “Agitation and Accommodation,” 1–12; Beisner, From the Old Diplomacy to the New, chapters 4 and 5.

(66.) Gatewood, “Smoked Yankees”; Savannah Tribune, June 4, 1898; Savannah Tribune, June 11, 1898.

(67.) Savannah Tribune, June 11, 1898.

(68.) Savannah Tribune, June 11, 1898.

(69.) Savannah Tribune, June 18–July 23, 1898. See especially Savannah Tribune, June 18, 1898; June 25, 1898; July 2, 1898; July 9, 1898. Also see Gatewood, “Smoked Yankees,” 7–10.

(70.) Savannah Tribune, August 13, 1898; Savannah Tribune, August 29, 1898.

(71.) James F. Cook, “Allen Daniel Candler 1898–1902,” The Governors of Georgia, 1754–1995 (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995), 185–188; Savannah Tribune, November 5, 1898; Savannah Tribune, December 10, 1898.

(72.) “Governor Candler’s Annual Message a Meaty Document,” Atlanta Constitution, October 26, 1899; “Georgia State Militia Will Be Reorganized after Nov. 31st,” Atlanta Constitution, November 8, 1898; “Advisory Board to Be Summoned,” Atlanta Constitution, September 3, 1899;“Military Board Convenes Today,” September 18, 1899. For use of the term “national guard,” see “Unnecessarily Touchous,” Atlanta Constitution, January 5, 1899.

(73.) “Georgia State Militia Will Be Reorganized after Nov. 31st”; “Many Officers Have Been Made,” Atlanta Constitution, June 28, 1898. See “Second Georgia Out,” Savannah Tribune, November 19, 1898, which reported the mustering out of the Second Volunteer Regiment under the command of Colonel Oscar J. Brown.

(74.) “Unnecessarily Touchous.”

(75.) “Will Reorganize Militia Tomorrow,” Atlanta Constitution, November 30, 1898; “Military Board Convenes Today.”

(76.) “Will Reorganize Militia Tomorrow”; “Will Probably Disband,” Atlanta Constitution, March 30, 1899.

(77.) Inspector General William G. Obear, “Annual Report,” Adjutant General Letter Books—1902–1906, 76–98, “Military Laws and Regulations,” pp. 86–87, and “Remarks,” p. 90; Volume -1–731 022–01–001 Defense—Adjutant General Letter Books 1902–1906, Unit 62, GDAH.

(78.) Obear, “Annual Report,” Adjutant General Letter Books—1902–1906; Savannah Tribune, November 5, 1898; Savannah Tribune, December 10, 1898; “Will Reorganize Militia Tomorrow”; “Local Companies Inspected Today,” Atlanta Constitution, March 1, 1899; “Order of Election Issued Yesterday,” Atlanta Constitution, January 6, 1900; “Military Forces, Organization of Law Number: No. 131,” Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia 1900, Part 1 Public Laws, Title V. Miscellaneous, 1900, Vol. 1, p. 84, GDAH.

(79.) “Columbus Has No Militia,” Atlanta Constitution, March 25, 1899.

(p.385) (80.) Savannah Tribune, March 25, 1899.

(81.) “The Colored Troops,” Savannah Tribune, April 15, 1899.

(82.) “Annual May Parade,” Savannah Tribune, May 20, 1899; “Troops Paraded,” Savannah Tribune, May 27, 1899; Savannah Tribune, April 22, 1899; “About the Military,” Savannah Tribune, September 23, 1899; Frances Smith, “Black Militia in Savannah,” 74–75.

(83.) “Advisory Board to Be Summoned”; “Military Board Named Yesterday,” Atlanta Constitution, July 2, 1899; “Military Board Convenes Today”; “Advisory Board to Meet Sept. 18,” Atlanta Constitution, September 7, 1899; “The Military Advisor Board Makes Changes in State Militia,” Atlanta Constitution, September 19, 1899. “Inspector General Obear’s Report Is Now Made Public,” Atlanta Constitution, September 22, 1899.

(84.) “Advisory Board to Be Summoned”; “Military Board Convenes Today”; “The Military Advisory Board Makes Changes in State Militia.”