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Fri, 02.26.1864

The 26th United States Colored Infantry is Formed

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*The 26th United States Colored Infantry was created on this date in 1864.

Also called the 26th New York Infantry, it was a Black infantry regiment, one of three colored troop units from the state of New York, that fought in the American Civil War. The unit was organized on Riker's Island by the Union League Club of New York. On December 3, 1863, the United States Department of War authorized the Union League Club of New York to raise one regiment of infantry composed of Blacks.

The initial authorization filled up very quickly and this regiment was designated the 20th Regiment. The club raised a second regiment and received an authorization on January 4, 1864. This regiment filled on January 27, 1864, and was designated the 26th Regiment, United States Colored Troops. The 30th Regiment was applied for and authorized at the same time, bringing to three the total number of regiments raised for New York. The Regiment was briefly deployed to Annapolis, MD, then transferred to Beaufort, SC, Department of the South, on April 13, 1864.

They sustained 97 casualties in the Battle of John's Island in July 1864. The unit also fought at Chapin's Farm, McKay's Point, and Deveraux's Neck, incurring a total of 140 casualties. The commanding officer was Col. William Silliman. After a short deployment at Annapolis, MD, the regiment was sent to the Department of the South and participated in battles at Johns Island, Honey Hill, and Tulifinny, South Carolina. Lt. Col. William B. Guernsey succeeded Col., Silliman, on June 18, 1865, and the 26th Regiment was mustered out under his command in South Carolina on August 28, 1865.

Notable members include David Carll, Vanessa Williams’ Great-Great Grandfather who has a hill in Oyster Bay, NY, named after him; Noah Elliott, the unit's hospital steward, who went on to become the first African American physician in Athens, Ohio; and Benjamin F. Randolph, who as Chaplain was the unit's sole African American commissioned officer, and who was a delegate to South Carolina's Constitutional Convention in 1868.

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