Lieut. Charles W. Griffith, 5th USCI

Cincinnati Daily Commercial
February 2, 1864

From Yorktown, Virginia.
[Correspondence Cincinnati Commercial.]
From the 5th United States Colored Troops.

YORKTOWN, VA., January 26, 1864.
EDS. COM. – Your readers are no doubt generally aware of the organization, last autumn, at Delaware, Ohio, of a regiment of colored troops, and of its departure about the middle of November for Fortress Monroe.

Since that time we have seen some service. A detachment of our regiment, under command of our efficient and soldierly young Major, J. C. Terry, of Norwalk, Ohio, was ordered out on a scout as soon as we landed at Portsmouth, Virginia. The result of this expedition was the capture of Major Burrows, a noted leader of guerillas in Princess Ann County, Virginia, and the freeing of a hundred or so slaves.

A week or two later, our regiment, under command of Colonel Conine, who joined us after our arrival in Virginia, formed part of the army of General Wilde in his celebrated raid into the interior of North Carolina, of which the reading public have already received a detailed account from an abler pen than mine If the freeing of some two or three thousand slaves, the capture of several rebel vessels, the breaking up of four or five guerilla camps, and the capture of a dozen or so guerillas, be not a bootless task, them the expedition of General Wilde was not undertaken in vain.

The 5th United States Colored Troops, lost one man from poisoning while quartered in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and three more killed in a skirmish at Indian Town on the return. Five others wounded at the same time have since died, and one, taken prisoner by the enemy, was hung in retaliation for the execution of Daniel Bright, a guerilla leader, who was hung by order of General Wilde, near South Mills, on the first day of our march homeward. This covers the whole loss sustained by the brigade during the expedition, the other regiments engaged – the 1st United States Colored troops and the 2d North Carolina – being fortunate enough to return without the loss of a man.

We arrived at our camp, near Norfolk, on the 22d of December, and for a week or two were busily engaged in preparing our winter quarters. Having finished these, we were just beginning to turn our attention to company and battalion drill when, on the evening of the 19th inst, the order came to break up camp and report immediately to this place.

We arrived here, in pursuance of that order, on the afternoon of the 21st, and encamped on the plain a short distance south of the village, which is entirely surrounded by intrenchments.

We are now, for once, on historic ground. Our encampment is said to cover a portion of the ground on which the army of Cornwallis was drawn up previous to the memorable surrender which terminated our revolutionary struggle, while about a hundred yards form the southern border of our camp is the Sycamore tree from behind which, during McClellan’s operations here, “California Joe” used to pick off rebel gunners on the fortifications at Yorktown, nearly a mile distant.

The 4th United States Colored Troops is encamped a short distance south of us, and the 6th still further on in the same direction. There is also a regiment of New York troops and a battery of artillery within the fortifications, while another regiment, or two, and several companies of cavalry are posted on the opposite side of the river.

The sanitary condition of the regiment is good. We have lost but few men from disease, and the soldiers generally, almost universally, in the best of spirits. Order and dsicipline are strictly enforced. Lieut. Col. Shurtliff is now in command, Colonel Conine having gone to Ohio on a short leave of absence.

By the resignation of Lieut. Long a few days since, our regiment loses an efficient and excellent officer – a loss which his brother officers, and the regiment at large, sincerely regret. He sustained a severe injury during the transit from Pittsburgh to Baltimore, being caught between two of the cars in his attempt to get aboard, from the effects of which he only recovered sufficiently to enable him to travel after four weeks’ careful nursing in the latter city. He joined the regiment at Norfolk, but was found wholly unfit for duty, and, in obedience to the recommendation of the Surgeon, reinstantly forwarded his resignation, which having been accepted, he left us for his home at Cardington, Ohio, only a day or two before our removal from Norfolk.

C.W.G.

Return to Their White Officers for more letters written by the men who led Black soldiers in the United States Colored Troops