Blogger/journalist Jules Crittenden reminds us that today is the 146th anniversary of the doomed assault of the 54th Massachusetts on Fort Wagner, near Charleston. Although the attack was a failure it proved that Black soldiers would fight and led to their integration into the Union armies. By the end of the war some ten percent of the Federal armies were African-American.
On another subject, I took a quick look at the term “tarheel” after seeing Brett’s posting. Both come from Land We Love, a magazine published after the war by former Confederate general Daniel Harvey Hill (and now available on Google).
On one occasion, as a portion of our Virginia cavalry was passing by some North Carolina infantry, one of our boys said, “halloo, tar-heels, have you any tar left in your State?” A rough looking fellow straightened up and cooly replied, “not a single drap. Our Guvnor has sold it all to the Government to pour on the fields, whar you cavalry have to fight to make you stick better nor you have been a doin.” As we had been licked a short time before, we felt the additional tar plaster applied to our sores.
We get an account of a similar hit which comes to us from Hudsonville, Mississippi:
After the close of the seven days’ fight around Richmond, and when Hanson’s North Carolina brigade (of which I was then a member) was en route to Drury’s Bluff from Malvern Hill, we came upon some Virginians encamped upon the Richmond and Petersburg turnpike about two miles from Manchester. There began at once the usual running fire of wit and sarcasm between the troops of the two States. As we were approaching the Virginians, I noticed a big, burly, dark-visaged Lieutenant step out before his companions, as though he was to be the champion of their side. He was of so dark a complexion as to indicate descent from Pocahontas or of some one else not belonging to the Caucasian race. The wink was given to our “acknowledged wit ” and he moved over to the side next to the Virginians. The dark-visaged Lieutenant noticed the movement and at once accosted “old Stonewall,” the name by which our wag was known.
Lieutenant. ” Halloo, Tarheel, did you know that Tar River was burnt up.”
Stonewall. “No I did’nt, boss, is it true?”
Lieutenant. ” Oh yes, I was there and saw it burn up.”
Stonewall. ” Well, I am afraid it is too true, for your face looks badly smoked.”
The North Carolinians did not always get the best of the verbal encounter, however, as the next anecdote shows:
The following occurred December, 1864, when Hoke’s division was sent out on a reconnoissance upon the Darby Town road. Kirkland’s N. C. brigade (of as true metal as men are made of) was passing us to take position on our left, and greeted us with “Rice-birds,” “Sand-lappers!” “Hagood’s foot cavalry!” etc. One of our men cried out, “Go it, tar-heels!” This title the North Carolina troops were justly proud of, it having been given them at the battle of Manassas, where a general remarked, “That regiment of North-Carolinians must have tar on their heels to make them stick as they do.” To this retort of “Go it tar-heels!” one of Kirkland’s men replied: “Yes, we are tar-heels, and tar sticks;” and “Yes,” shouted back another of the South-Carolina rice-birds, “when the fire gets hot, the tar runs.”
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