1st Alabama Siege Artillery Regiment (Colored)

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1st Regiment Alabama Siege Artillery
(African Descent)
Active June 20, 1863–March 11, 1864
Country US flag 35 stars.svg United States
Allegiance Union
Branch Artillery
Size Regiment
Engagements American Civil War
Disbanded March 11, 1864

The 1st Regiment Alabama Siege Artillery (African Descent) was an artillery regiment recruited from African-Americans that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment was renamed the 6th US Colored Heavy Artillery. Under the leadership of Major Lionel Booth, the 6th US Colored Heavy Artillery fought at the Battle of Fort Pillow on April 12, 1864. The regiment had a strength of 8 Officers and 213 men.

Service[edit]

The 1st Siege Artillery was raised at LaGrange, LaFayette and Memphis, Tennessee, as well as Corinth, Mississippi on June 20, 1863 after Federal troops occupied the area.

The regiment was re-designated the 6th U.S. Regiment Colored Heavy Artillery on March 11, 1864. On March 17, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas J. Jackson was placed in command of the regiment. The next day he turned the command over to newly promoted Major Lionel F. Booth. The regiment arrived at Fort Pillow on March 29 and, being the senior officer, Major Booth was placed in command of the fort.

On April 12, the fort was attacked by approximately 1,500 troops lead by General James R. Chalmers and Confederate Cavalry Corps commander, General Nathan B. Forrest. The battery took positions inside the inner fort walls. However, the Confederates had occupied the surrounding bluffs that allowed them to fire down into the fort. Early in the morning, Major Booth was shot through the heart by a Confederate sniper. The command of the fort fell to the in-experienced Major William F. Bradford, the commander of the 13th Tennessee Cavalry (US). The command of the 6 Heavy Artillery probably fell to Captain Charles Epeneter, who also was wounded in the head.

The Battery operated two 12-pound howitzers at the northern embrasures or openings in the parapet. Several days before the battle, two 10-pound Parrotts were brought to Fort Pillow. These pieces were placed outside the fort at the beginning of the battle, but were soon moved inside the fort. Wooden platforms were hastily erected adjacent to two open embrasures facing south. During the final assault on the fort, all Union artillery was largely ineffective because the guns could not be depressed enough to fire upon the Confederates on the steep terrain below. Two other cannon, 6-pound James Rifles, were placed in the center two embrasures and manned by a section of men from Company D, 2nd US Colored Light Artillery.

The regiment suffered many casualties at the battle, but unlike many newspaper reports, all of the black soldiers were not killed. Fifty-six were taken prisoner by the Confederates. Most of them were taken to Mississippi and Alabama and returned to hard labor. Whereas the white captors of the Bradford's 13th Tennessee Cavalry (US) were sent to Andersonville Prison (Andersonville National Historic Site) where a large percentage died. Several of the black prisoners escaped and many of those missing in action eventually returned to their unit.

After the losses at the Battle of Fort Pillow, the survivors were reformed into the 11th US Colored Troops infantry regiment.

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