July 24, 1865: Black and white in Charleston

22nd Regiment U.S. Colored Troops

Friction between black and white Union troops in Charleston.

CHARLESTON, S.C., Saturday, July 15, 1865.

The people of Charleston have just passed through a fiery ordeal. For two weeks past, until within the last three days, it has been dangerous for a respectable person to appear on the street after nightfall. Robbing, clubbing, stabbing and shooting were freely indulged in by the white soldiers, colored soldiers, and, in many instances, colored citizens. A feud seems to exist between the white and the colored troops which no military discipline has, thus far, succeeded in thoroughly eradicating. The white troops conceive that they have privileges which are not extended to the colored troops, and, on the other hand, the latter are possessed with the belief that they should be the sole guardians of the city. As a consequence many of the freedmen sympathize with and fully support their colored brethren in arms. It is no more than justice to the white citizens of the place that it should be put on record that they have not participated in these disgraceful scenes, although they have been the parties to suffer.

Last week the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New-York Regiment were sent North, and their place was filled by the Second Battalion One Hundred and Sixty-fifth New-York Regiment, (Duryee’s Zouaves.) The very first day they occupied the post it became evident that they and the colored troops could not live together. The latter appeared to be envious of the showy uniforms of the Zouaves, and the Zouaves were impressed with the idea that the colored soldiers took special pains to insult them. On Saturday night affairs were brought to a crisis. At about 8 o’clock musketry firing was heard in the direction of the market. At first the firing was desultory, but in a minute’s time it became pretty regular, especially for a street row. It is impossible to definitely ascertain the origin of this particular disturbance. It is stated by some that the white soldiers were the aggressors, while others are positive that some colored men who kept stalls in the market were the originators of the affair. The result of the shooting was the killing of a colored man and the wounding of a Zouave and two colored men. The Zouaves had been ordered on police duty at the market. They allege that while in the performance of their duty one of their number was set upon by a colored man who keeps a stall, and that the colored man drew a knife as if to stab the Zouave. Immediately thereafter fifteen Zouaves, with loaded muskets and fixed bayonets, dashed through the market, to the great consternation of the occupants of stalls and purchasers who happened to be present. As the Zouaves pressed forward they were fired upon by colored soldiers. The Zouaves returned the fire. The colored man who was killed was an outside party. In twenty minutes’ time all was over, and not a living soul was to be seen inside the market. At 8:30, firing is heard in the direction of Meeting and Hager streets. The Zouaves meet two colored soldiers; one of the latter was wounded and taken where he could receive medical attention. All that night confusion reigned in Charleston, and, at intervals, shots were exchanged. It is not known and probably, for certain reasons, never will be known how many men were killed and wounded in this city last week in consequence of street-broils. The disturbances were not confined to any particular locality, but they prevailed throughout the city.

The Zouaves remained here ten days and were then sent over to Morris Island, where they now are. At present the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania regiment is doing post duty. Brevet Brig.-Gen. W.T. BENNETT has command of the post, but it is due to him to say that he has occupied that position but for a few days. We are firm in our belief that everything will be properly and satisfactorily adjusted under his regime. He is an officer of nerve and will, and understands how to meet the difficulties that beset him. The following is an order he has recently issued:

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 61. — I. The attention of the commander of this post having been called to the defiant and discourteous spirit manifested in the city between the troops and the civilians, both white and colored, causing of late serious and disgraceful disturbances, it is deemed necessary, and is hereby ordered that all citizens remain at their homes after eight (8) o’clock, P.M., abstaining from noisy discussions, or assembling in groups on the streets or other public places, day or night.

II. Some citizens disguised as soldiers having been engaged in disorderly acts, it is ordered that any citizen hereafter found in the United States uniform will be arrested and turned over to the Provost-Marshal.

III. At this time of comparative peace, when the energies of the nation are absorbed in the restoration of harmony and the reestablishment of good feeling among all classes entitled to the rights of citizenship, discourtesy toward civilians is beneath the dignity of soldiers. Respectful department among soldiers, as well as toward their officers, is an indication of good discipline in any command; but courtesy without humility toward those who have no claim except upon your manhood, is the best guarantee of good breeding and nobleness of character. It is enjoined upon the enlisted men in this city that they behave insolently to no person, of whatever color; that they do not monopolize the sidewalks or assemble in groups to the inconvenience of women or other passers by. Citizens should remember that civil rule is not established, and that any act of theirs which may lead to difficulties with the troops will tend to protract that end. Their bearing should be in no manner defiant or discourteous to the troops, and any insolence leading to disturbances will subject the offenders to punishment. Upon the creation of any disturbance, during the day or night, the commanding officer of the district of the city in which it may occur, will at once send patrols, under commissioned officers, to arrest all persons found in the streets in the vicinity of the disturbance, except persons on important business, who will be required to report at the nearest guard for an escort.

By order of
Brevet Brig.-Gen. W.T. BENNETT, Com’g Post.
CHARLES F. JOY, First Lieut. 54th Mass. Vols, and A.A.A. Gen.
Official: CHARLES G. CHIPMAN, Capt. 54th Mass. Vols., A.A.D.C.

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