Tour B 4. Civil War Camp Sullivan & Chaplin Garland White, 28th USCT

Rev. Garland White, who had escaped from slavery to Canada, returned to the United States to help win freedom for blacks and fight in the Civil War. He was a recruiter for 28th USCT at Indianapolis Station, serving as Chaplin and was one of the first Black commissioned officer in United States Army.[1] He wrote letters to The Christian Recorder about his service, sharing information to the people at home a more personal side of his service, and offers a rare glimpse of what it meant to fight for the freedom of his race. He wrote from the field describing his vision for the future,  “freemen in Texas, as in Ohio and freemen at the ballot box as at the cartridge box.”[2] This site was Camp Sullivan a Civil War training and deployment ground. The 28th USCT recruits lived and were trained at Camp Freemont, near Fountain Square. 

Shelter at Military Park, today.

Shelter at Military Park, today.

Training of the 28th USCT

After months of controversy  on November 30, 1863, Indiana Gov. Oliver P. Morton was officially authorized by letter from the U.S. War Department to raise one “colored” regiment of infantry. On December 3, 1863, general orders were issued by Indiana’s adjutant general to begin accepting enlistments.  The Indianapolis Station congregation played an active role in the Indianapolis recruitment efforts, with Rev. Willis Revels and Rev. Garland White appointed by Gov. Morton as recruiting officers.  Men across the state, many from the Indianapolis Station congregation, signed up to serve and defent a country that denied them basic civil rights. The recruits trained at Camp Fremont, near today’s Fountain Square, on property that was owned by supporter and millitary recruiter Calvin Fletcher. White and black troops were trained and housed separately, with white soldiers at training at several camps, including Camp Sullivan,  around the city.  The 28th training focused on military discipline, drill, weapons and other skills.  In the early months, the unit was a officialy designated a Indiana State militia, despairingly called the Corps d’ Afrique, until it was accepted into the Federal Army and given the designation the 28th United States Colored Troops (USCT). (The famous 54th Massachusetts was a state regiment, prior to the Federal government authorizing the recruitment of African Americans.) All State and Federal regiments were racially segregated and new African American recruits, often were placed into existing USCT as opposed to being placed into existing White regiments.  Black soldiers were recruited thinking they would be given the same pay and bounty as white soldiers.  White Soldiers were given a $300 federal bounty and $100 state bounty, and $13 per month, with a $3.50 clothing allowance.  Initially the black soldiers were given $10 per month, with $3.00 in stoppages resulting in $7 per month.  A number of the soldiers were outraged and refused their pay until it was equal with the whites.  By 1864, White and Black Federal soldiers were given equal pay. [2]

28th USCT Battle Flag. Image Source: Col Eli Lilly Musuem,

28th USCT Battle Flag.
Image Source: Col Eli Lilly Musuem,

Many White residents of Indianapolis visited Camp Freemont to  watch the 28th  train, and some wrote critical letters in local newspapers, while others begrudgingly praised their appearance and behavior.   Without adequate shelter and clothing, the men suffered in the cold during the Winter of 1863-1864, treated the best as possible without adequate hospitals by Assistant Surgeon  Rev. Willis Revels. Reaching full strength  the men departed for the front by train in April 1864. [3]

Civil War Service of the 28th USCT

The writings of Chaplin Garland White and other letters published in newspapers such as The Christian Recorder, leave a record not only of the actions of the regiment, but also the meaning to them to be fighting for freedom for millions of African Americans. The 28th USCT, along with other Midwest African American regiments, comprised the 9th Corp of General Burnsides Brigade, and were involved in the Richmond Campaigns. After leaving Indianapolis, the men of the 28th USCT went to Washington DC in April 1864, where they had capitol guard duties as well as additional training.[10]   In July, the unit was involved in skirmishes outside of Petersburg. The most significant and costly action for the 28th was the Battle of Crater, July 30, 1864 outside Petersberg.  This was to be the first major engagement showcasing the USCT, however, at the last minute the battle plans were changed, giving the 9th Corps a supporting role. Very few prisoners were taken in the engagement, and there was a much higher casualty rate among the USCT.  The battle was nearly universally described by participants as violent and disorienting.  Northerners sought an explanation for the disastrous defeat and the horrific bloodshed, and pinned the blame on the USCT.  Garland White wrote a report of the action for the Christian Recorder, published on August 20 , “the colored troops went as far as they were ordered to go, and did just what they were told to do… the brave officers who led them in, when they saw  that bad management had taken place somewhere… ordered retreat.”[4]

The 28th participated in the final assaults on Petersburg and Richmond, which led to the surrender of Richmond April 2, 1865.  White described the scene When marching into the city on April 4, “after which the doors of all of the slave pens were thrown open and thousands came out shouting and praising God and father or master Abe, as they termed him… we made a great parade through most of the principal streets of the city… the excitement at this period was unabated…”[5] Family members were seeking each out when by coincidence; White was reunited with his mother who had not seen her son for over 20 years. “Some people do not seem to believe that the colored troops were the first that entered Richmond. Why, you need not feel at all timid in giving the truthfulness of my assertion to the four winds of the heavens, and let the angels re-echo it back to the earth, that the colored soldiers of the Army of the James were the first to enter the city of Richmond. I was with them, and am still with them, and am willing to stay with them until freedom is proclaimed throughout the world.”[6]

Private Marcus Harvey, 28th Indiana USCT, Tintype Collection Image Source, Courtsey of Cowan's Auctions, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Private Marcus Harvey, 28th Indiana USCT, Tintype Collection
Image Source: Cowan’s Auctions, Cincinnati, Ohio.

While most Americans considered the war over with the fall of Lee’s Army, the 28th USCT continued to see hard duty in Texas. White reported that in Texas “going to the grave with the dead is as common as going to bed for me.” While federal politicians wrangled over the terms of readmission of the states in rebellion, White reported that, “the rebels are still holding their slaves, and treating them more cruelly than ever.”[7] The 28th helped to rebuild the South, including roads, bridges and telegraphs poles.  The 28th was mustered out of service in Texas in November 8, 1865.[8]  Indianapolis held a public ceremony on January 8, 1866, included a banquet and March down Washington Street.  Chaplin White was the final speaker, describing the war service of the 28th as “a large nail in the great platform of equal justice,” according to The Indianapolis Daily Journal.[9]

Chaplin Garland White

Following the life of Garland White on his journey from slavery to freedom gives us a new understanding of the meaning of the Underground Railroad as a rode to building a life to freedom. Garland White was born a slave in Hanover County, Virginia in 1839.On the plantation, he was taught to read and write and at age 12, he was sold from mother to Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia. As a personal servant from Senator Toombs, he was also allowed to preach on the plantation and also  traveled around Georgia and to Washington D.C. with the Senator. [10]  White was in Washington observing Congress in 1857 during the infamous incident where North Carolina Senator Preston Brooks came up to Senator Charles Sumner and beat Sumner with his cane, after a speech against slavery.  After the incident, White decided to escape slavery and settle in Canada. He  settling in London, Canada West (Ontario) in 1858 and became an AME Minister in 1859.[11] At the outbreak of the war, he offered his services to Secretary of War Stanton as a recruiter and returned to Ohio with his wife to assist with the war effort. Committed to supporting the service of African Americans in the army, he traveled through Ohio recruiting for the 54th Massachusetts, the first African American unit in the Army.[12]  As Lincoln authorized additional units in 1863, White came to Indianapolis, assisting with the war efforts at Indianapolis Station AME Church. In October and November 1863, he met with Gov. Morton, Calvin Fletcher and Rev. Willis Revels to plan for the beginning of enlistment of African Americans.

Moving beyond simply recruiting others to fight for freedom, he took his beliefs to the front lines serving as a Chaplin for the 28th USCT.  White served Recruiting agent for 28th.[13] Morton appointed White  Chaplin when the troops were considered part of the state militia, but White could not serve as a Chaplin in the Federal Army due to his race.  He enlisted as a private in the 28th USCT, but continued to complete the duties of the Chaplin throughout the Winter of 1863.[14]  White wrote to Sec. of War Stanton and others asking to be officially appointed as the Chaplin of the 28th, claiming that there was not one else interested in the position and he had the backing of the White Officers.  After months of service, including administering the last rights and writing condolence letters following the Battle of the Crater, Secretary of War Stanton granted permission and appointed him Chaplin, carrying the rank similar to Captain.  On September 1, 1864, the Field and Company Officers elected Garland H. White chaplain of the Twenty-eighth USCT, subject to the approval of the Secretary of War Stanton. On October 25, 1864, thirty-five years old White was appointed chaplain of the 28th USCT. He was not given an officers uniform, as they feared whites would have to salute him, and did not receive an officer uniform until 1865.[15]

Broadside promoting the 22nd USCT, from Illinois.  Image Source: Library of Congress,

Broadside promoting the 22nd USCT, from Illinois.
Image Source: Library of Congress,

Co. E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, Fort Lincoln. The 4th USCT served with the 28th in the Petersburg campaign.  Image Source:  Courtsey of the Library of Congress

Co. E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, Fort Lincoln. The 4th USCT served with the 28th in the Petersburg campaign.
Image Source: Library of Congress,

After the war, White lived in Indianapolis briefly, serving as a trustee at the AME Church during the difficult Reconstruction period.[16] He moved to Toledo Ohio, petitioning to work for the Freedman’s Bureau, but his request was denied.  He remained active in social justice causes, working for school integration. He moved south to Weldon, North Carolina as a Baptist minister. He drew a pension for his final years, unable to preach due to an “inflammation of the lung,” probably passing away in April 1892.[17]

His 1865 words serve a fitting epitaph, “we left our wives and little ones to follow the stars and stripes from the Lakes to the Gulf, with a determination never to turn back until it should be proclaimed from Washington that the flag of the Union waved over a nation of freemen.”[18]

Camp Sullivan Military Park

The park is part of the original 1820 plat of Indianapolis, as the Military Ground.  Before the Civil War, the land was used for community Independence celebration, local military training, and the Indiana State Fair. During the Civil War, Gov. Morton renamed the park Camp Sullivan, after the 13th Indiana Colonel Jeremiah C. Sullivan. However, this use severely damaged the grounds, due to all of the different troops entering and leaving Camp Sullivan, as it was a marshaling center. The grounds were damaged by the war, and turned into a community park with the shelter (still there), playground equipment and military equipment. By the 1980s, the park, whose name reverted back to Military Park, was in disrepair and was restored by the efforts of the Lilly Endowment and Krannert Charitable Trust. The park is now part of White River State Park. [19]

4. Site of Civil War Training Chaplin Garland White

Forge History

Forge History

Learn more about the 28th USCT and vist their historic marker.

[1] White returned to the church after the war, and served as a Trustee helping the church rebuild after the fire. See  William Forstchen, The 28th United States Colored Troops (Purdue University: 1995) 232. See also, George P. Clark and Mary E. Clark, “Heroes Carved in Ebony: Indiana’s Black Civil War Regiment, the US 28th USCT,” Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History (Summer 1995): 4–16.

[2] The Christian Recorder, September 19, 1865.

[3]  Fortshen, The 28th,   198-219.

[4] There is a large literature on the USCT and the Battle of the Crater, see Dudley Taylor Cornish, The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army 1861-1865 (W. W. Norton Limited, 1966); Redkey, A Grand Army of Black Men; Clark, George P. and Clark, Mary E., “Heroes Carved in Ebony: Indiana’s Black Civil War Regiment, the US 28th USCT,” Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History  (Summer 1995): 4–16; William R. Forstchen, The 28th United States Colored Troops: Indiana’s African-Americans Go to War, 1863-1865 (Purdue University, 1994); Richard Slotkin, No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864,  (New York: Random House, 2009); Kevin M. Levin, Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder (University Press of Kentucky, 2012); Angela Y. Walton-raji, “The USCT Chronicle: Getting to the Story by Learning the Facts,” The USCT Chronicle, January 16, 2011.

[6]  Ibid. For a copy of an order from this period, see 28th U.S.C.T. military ordersSeptember 41864, accessed March 13, 2013.

[7]  The Christian Recorder, October 21, 1865.

[8]  Fortshen, The 28th,   198-219.

[11] White’s Pension File included statement A.M.E. Church, in September 1859. The certificate he would later present to the army said: “This may certify that Garland the bearer a colored man belonging to Mr. Robert Toombs, having been duly recommended by the society of which he is a member, and having been examined by us concerning his gifts grace and usefulness, is judged by us to be a proper person to be licensed, and is hereby authorized to preach the Gospel.” Fortshen, The 28th,  55.

[12]   George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick, Black Refugees in Canada: Accounts of Escape During the Era of Slavery (McFarland, 2010), 97–105; Edwin S. Redkey, A Grand Army of Black Men: Letters from African-American Soldiers in the Union Army 1861-1865 (Cambridge University Press, 1992), 13–17.

[13]   Fortshen, The 28th 21-25.

[14]  “Roster Lists, USCT 28th,” accessed March 13, 2013.

[15] USCT and Officers of African American Descent,  accessed March 13, 2013.

[16] Indianapolis Daily Journal, July 9, 1866.

[17]  Information from federal pension applications, as quoted in Fortshen, The 28th, 232-235.

[18] The Christian Recorder, September 19, 1865.