James T. S. Taylor Reports the Civil War (Part 3):: The Regiment Meets the Rebels

by William B. Kurtz | | Friday, March 19, 2021 - 12:24

In his third letter from the front, Sergeant Taylor described how a detachment of the regiment successfully captured the Confederate-held town of Tampa, Florida. Citing the recent massacre of Black troops at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, Taylor promised his readers that the men of the 2nd USCT would “never... be taken prisoner by the rebels and butchered in cold blood by them.” Instead they would rather “d[ie] upon the battlefield, fighting for liberty and freedom to the oppressed of our native land.”


KEY WEST, Fla., May 18th, 1864. }

            MR. EDITOR: Please accept a brief correspondence from the Department of the Gulf in regard to the late expedition of the 2d Regiment U. S. Colored Troops. The soldiers of the 2d Regiment became impatient while remaining in the fortifications at Key West, and even enjoying the pleasant life in the cottage by the sea, and being determined to strike a blow at rebeldom at the first opportunity did so the latter part of April. In company with one gunboat, and our Colonel in command, we proceeded to Tampa, Fla., distant from Key West 75 miles. The boys were entirely successful in surrounding the place, and after two hours fighting the rebels surrendered the entire garrison, comprising six large cannon, cotton to the amount of forty thousand dollars, a large amount of small arms, camp equipments, thirty splendid horses and many prisoners. Among them were several notorious secessionists who left here in the early part of the rebellion in great glee, and sought their destination in the land of Dixie amidst traitors. They did not anticipate that their glee would change to what it has by being captured by colored soldiers, Uncle Sam’s pet lambs, and marched at the point of the bayonet to the Provost Marshal’s office, and made to take the oath of allegiance to support the United States government, and, if needs be, take their muskets in hand to support the national colors, which shall wave victoriously over the entire American Continent.

            The 2d Regiment, in this expedition also, declared perpetual freedom to about 25 contrabands. The officers and soldiers are all safely back to Key West without losing a single man, quite jubilant over such a successful demonstration against the rebels on the mainland of Florida. We anticipate another expedition soon to the main-land. If so we will leave confident of success, bearing in our minds a double determination from the Fort Pillow massacre, never to be taken prisoner by the rebels and butchered in cold blood by them, and if it should be inquired about us in after times it shall be said that we died upon the battlefield, fighting for liberty and freedom to the oppressed of our native land.

            The health of the Regiment is not so good at present as it has been, and many of our men have already died from miscellaneous diseases. Among the deceased are our worthy Chaplain, James H. Schneider. Our regiment is now without a Chaplain. This place should be supplied at once by the aid of you or some friend North.


Commissary Sergeant.

SOURCE: Printed in The Anglo-African, June 4, 1864.