The following educational document corresponds with Unit Four: Freedom, Black Soldiers, and the Union Military in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles T. Trowbridge commanded a regiment of black troops assigned to garrison northwestern South Carolina, with headquarters at Anderson Court House, at a particularly difficult time in the early aftermath of the Confederate surrender. His troops faced persistent hostility from white residents at a time when gangs of "bushwhackers"—made up mostly of demobilized ex-Confederate soldiers—roamed the upcountry taking vengeance on freedpeople and on some whites as well. During their time in Anderson, at least one black soldier was murdered by locals. On their departure from the area, the train that Trowbridge's troops were riding in was ambushed, facing a fusillade of rifle fire from assailants hidden along the railroad tracks. These excerpts from his journal record conflicting local attitudes to the presence of a 'colored' regiment.
Contrasting Attitudes toward Union Troops in the South Carolina Upcountry
1. What was to be done for or with the negro now that he is free was the question that confronted this country at the close of the war, and that question brought into existence the [Freedmen's Bureau]. There was a large population of freed slaves who were very poor and destitute of clothing and who were most thoroughly hated by the whites who had owned them prior to the war...for me to take a regiment of Black Soldiers into this community and begin the work of organizing a form of government that should require the negro to stay on the plantation where he had been born, and work for his former master, and require the old master to treat him humanly not to say kindly was a work that taxed my skill as an executive officer...[Trowbridge recounts marching his troops northwest from Hamburg]. When we came in sight of the town where we were to make our headquarters, we were met by a committee of its citizens who implored me "not to bring them Niggers into their town." I saw at once that I had to take my stand, be very stern and resolute or my authority as the Commander of the district would soon be defied. I told them that these men were not "Niggers" but United States Soldiers and that I should march them into town, and quarter my troops in the Court House.
2. [mid-1865: Trowbridge's regiment is being transported to Charleston where they will be mustered out]
It was late in the afternoon when the train was ready to pull out ready to give the signal to the conductor to start when I saw a company of colored people coming from the town bearing what I thought was a stretcher containing a sick person. I waited for them, and when they reached the platform I found they were kindly bearing a white Union Soldier of the Fourth Union Cavalry. He said; "They [Confederates] shot me out of my saddle last April when we were scouring the country for Jeff Davis, took my horse and all I had. Then left me alone to die. These kind colored people have nursed me and cared for me ever since. I heard that you are leaving this country for the North, and I beg them to fetch me to the train and I now ask you to take me with you. I have a wife and little ones living in Sandusky, Ohio. I want if I can to see them again before I die.
Source: Lieut. Col. Charles T. Trowbridge Papers, South Carolina Historical Society
Questions to Consider