A Journal Entry from the Civil War

Posted by Pat Kinney on Friday, June 19, 2020

This story originally ran in the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

In 2001, when doing a story for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on Waterloo's Veterans Memorial Hall, I found one of the items stored there was a Civil War diary of a Waterloo Marine, A.W. Bellows. In one passage, he wrote of the valor of the African-American soldiers he fought alongside in a battle in Mississippi.

This is the excerpt from that diary, which I transcribed. It appears here as he wrote it, in the language of the times. It seemed appropriate to cite it today for Juneteenth.

Battle, Red Lick Miss. July 4, 1864

"We immediately fell in line just in time to receive the rebs, who came charging down the hill. Two companies of Marines were thrown at them as skirmishers but they did not stop them. They charged us and we and the colored met them half way, the colored shouting "Fort Pillow, no quarter." (At Fort Pillow, Tenn., Confederate troops had massacred more than 300 black soldiers after they had surrendered)This was more than the rebs bargained for. He could not stand that, but fell back and the Marine skirmishers followed them while the colored regiments held the line of battle. They had come in on us from three different ways. They could not come in the other as there were hills. We then immediately prepared to go to the river and got moving. All this time we were fighting them, and those in advance falling back and those in the rear followed us. The rebs left eight killed in the field. They evidently thought we were whipped but we were not....Our ammunition was short at last. They all got on our rear. When the rebs came, they retreated, and brought the rebs up on the two regiments of Negroes who raised up and fired a volley and charged. There was fighting done which might be called fighting twice. In this way did we draw them on. Then they would come no more. They were satisfied and we went on to Rodney where our boats were. The colored regiment remained on shore and rested after their hard day's journey. A great many of the Negroes got lost from their command and did not get back for several days, some not for a month. We lost killed, wounded and missing, not over 45 which were wounded, some taken prisoner. We took 10 prisoners. The rebels had as far as we knew of 35 killed besides a good many wounded.

The rebels were drunk or they would not have fought as they did. They were perfectly reckless. The would rush upon our lines and get knocked in the head with the butt of the musket. There is no use in talking. Negroes will fight. They know no fear. All they want is brave leaders -- of which, they can complain that their officers do not stand by them."

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