Harry Flowers and the 21st United States Colored Infantry

 

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Each week I collect all the data I have on members in the Flowers family. Last week, the first two members were Harry and Nancy Flowers. This post will feature all that I have found on Harry Florence Flowers.

Last week, I spent countless hours trying to prove that Flowers was a slave at Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville, Florida, yet I realized after many hours that this is just an assumption. I was also reminded of the difficulty in finding the masters of slaves. I went through wills and records attempting to find something, but came out empty-handed.

Okay, so.

According to Flowers’ enlistment record, he was born in Putnam County, Florida. His parents were from North Carolina.

 

 

Page 5

Slavery in Florida

It was not until 1821 when Florida was passed from Spain to the United State, yet Florida would not become an official state until 1845. One of the most prominent issues that arose in Florida was the black-white ratio. By the time Florida entered statehood, slaves outnumbered their masters in five of the twenty-six states. By 1850, there were 39,310 slaves within a total population of 87,445. As a result of a high population of slaves, white Floridians passed strict laws prohibiting slaves from possessing transportation, moving about off the plantation, engage in riots, routs, or any other unlawful assembly, or commit trespass. This was enforced with heavy violence and systems of slave patrol. The Florida government even when as far as prohibiting interactions between slaves and free blacks with cases of free blacks being imprisoned and never heard from again. There were never cases of major slave revolts or slave violence in Florida.

At first, I thought Harry fought in the Seminole Wars, however, the wars occurred between 1816 and 1858. Harry was born in 1846. He was to young to have fought in the final Seminole War.

Fast forward to the American Civil War, in April 1862, Confederate Brigadier General R.F. Floyd declared martial law in several Florida counties including Putnam for they contained a nest of traitors and lawless negroes. This occur after a slave, “Toby”, revealed that slaves were going to leave their owners and join the enemies. To make a long history short, by 1862 most slaves in East Florida were liberated and contrabands in the Union army.

  • Slave Unrest in Florida, Ray Granade
  • A People’s History of Florida, 1513-1876: How Africans, Seminoles, Women, and Lower Class Whites Shaped the Sunshine State, Adam Wasserman

The 21st USCT

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When you think of colored troops in the Civil War, the first unit that we know of…if any…is the 54th or the 33rd USCT. Basically, no one ever thinks of the 21st USCT…or USCI. It was actually a USCI, but no one says that.

What is the 21st Known for?

  • This regiment is composed of former slaves from Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
  • Sergeant William Walker was executed after leading Company A on November 19, 1863 to the colonel’s tent to stake their arms in protest until they received equal pay. He was executed on March 1, 1864 by two firing squads.
  • The 21st USCT was under the command of General Milton S. Littlefield and Liet. Colonel August G. Bennett.
  • Typical schedule: (from Regimental Orders No1 in May 1863)

      Reveille and Roll call at 6 o’clock
      Breakfast call 7 o’clock
      Company Drill 7 1/2 to 8 1/2
      Guard Mounting 9
      Company Drill 10 to 11
      Dinner Call 12
      Sergeant’s Drill 1:30 to 2:30
      Company Drill 3 to 4:30
      Dress Parade 5
      Retreat Sunset
      Tattoo and Roll Call 9 0’clock
      Taps 9:30

  • The 21st USCT was the first U.S. Army Troop to land in Charleston after it fell to the Union army on February 18, 1865.


Headquarters Dist. of Port Royal,
Office Provost Marshal,
Hilton Head, S. C. Aug. 28th 1865
Mr. George W. Whipple
Sect of the Missionary Association
Johns St. N 9
New York
Sir:
Mr. J. W. Alvord of Genl Howards’ Staff has informed the Officers of the 21st U. S. C. T. that on application to you steps would be taken to furnish school
teachers to the Colored Regiments of this Department. I have taken advantage of the  information to write to you on the subject. I have a separate command
here of two companies of the 21 U. S. C. T. and they enjoy many facilities for the establishing of schools in the matter of good quarters, but unfortunately we
have no teachers. I am very anxious indeed to bring the ? ? ? forward, so that there military knowledge may not be entirely in advance of all other
information, equally important. The deep interest which I took in this subject would have led us to establish schools could I possibly have found time, but my
duties are too numerous and arduous to suffice this. In need two competent School teachers here at once. There are many advantages for them at this
place, and in their companies will probably remain at this place for six months, those who would undertake such duties would find it very agreeable indeed.
It it be possible to send two teachers here do me the favor to have the affair furthered as much as possible with the least possible delay.
And believe me Sir
Your most obdt servt.
J. W. Dickinson [Joseph W. Dickinson]
Capt. 21th USCI
and M. Prov Marshal
?”

This is a letter from Captain James Dickinson requesting teachers for the 21st USCT.

Incident: The 127th New York Volunteers, a white regiment, were assigned to white neighborhoods while the 21st was assigned to black neighborhoods. White civilians were disgusted at the presence of black soldiers. Plantation owner Henry Ravenel compared their presence as a night of horror while Emma Holmes, a refugee of Charleston, stated, “I should feel thankful to know that all my aged relatives there were resting quietly in their graves rather than be exposed to such torture of soul.” The 21st USCT, later joined by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, found hostility not only from white civilians, but also from the 127th New York Volunteers (NYVI), their white fellowmen. In the summer of 1865, the white soldiers of the 127th began to challenge the authority of the 21st, who served as the military policemen. “The 127th NYVI insulted the colored people everywhere,” an observer noted, “stoned them, knocked them down, and cut them.” Conflicts arose. On July 5, 1865, it was stated that a mixed group of freedmen and black soldiers from the 21st and 54th assaulted a white soldier, who cried out for help. Another New York Volunteer Infantry, the 165th, assisted their fellowmen. The black soldiers began to fire on the oncoming unit and accidently killed a black merchant, James Bing. Another source states an incident resulted from a conflict between freedmen and white troops with black soldiers rushing to assist the freedmen. This eventually escalated into a twenty minute firefight and race riots which left several soldiers and civilians wounded and a freedman dead. Reports varied with what actually occurred. As a result the 21st USCT was transferred to Hilton Head due to the belief that they initiated the incident. The 21st USCT continued to serve the Union army in the South, yet the regiment was split into detachments and placed in garrison posts throughout South Carolina and Georgia.  The regiment would accept their relocation, but not without first gaining a reputation for challenging their subordinate position in the Union army.

The 21st USCT was mostly employed on fatigue, guard, and picket duty from 1864 until the regiment mustered out in October 1866 in South Carolina and Georgia.

With that, good night!

Until the next post
Christina

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7 responses to “Harry Flowers and the 21st United States Colored Infantry

  1. Christina, are you a member of the Flowers Family? Your work is superb. And I hope to meet you someday.

      • Christina

        .I am not a member of the Flowers family but had responded to this site while looking for photos of the 21st USCT. I am a volunteer at the Heritage Library on Hilton Head Island, SC. where the 21st was formed. The Library has several ongoing projects related to the 21st, one of which will be placed on our website at the end of Oct. You may find it of interest.

        Nancy Burke

      • Nancy
        Sorry I thought I was leaving a message for Clara. I will look forward in looking at the projects you all are doing. Thanks for the heads up!!

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