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Col. Isaac Shepard Authorizes Recruitment
of 1st Mississippi Regt. African Descent (Former Slaves)
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Special order of the colonel commanding the African Brigade authorizing new recruiting efforts in Louisiana for Bryant’s 1st Mississippi Regt. of African Descent. “Major J. E. Bryant of the 1st Reg Miss. Infantry of African descent, is hereby ordered to proceed to Grand Gulf, Haines’ Bluff, or any other locality in front where he may deem it prudent, to recruit for his Regiment…”. Shepard allows eight (white) soldiers from Sherman’s Corps to be enlisted as Lieutenants.

ISAAC SHEPHARD. Autograph Manuscript Signed. Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, May 25, 1863. 1 p.

Inventory #21810       Price: $1,750

Complete Transcript

                                                                        HeadQuarters African Brigade

                                                                        Milliken’s Bend, La. May 25, 1863.

Special Order

            I., and all officers are requested to furnish him proper facilities for feeding and transporting recruits.

            II, 2d Lt. Geo. White of the same Regiment is ordered on the same duty to act under Maj. Bryant’s dictation.

III. Maj. Bryant is hereby authorized to enlist eight soldiers from Maj. Gen. Sherman’s Corps, as Lieutenants; and any person not exceeding that number whom he may give written authority to, shall be recommended to the Adjutant General of the Army for appointment.

Isaac I. Shepard. / Colonel Cdng African Brigade.

Historical Background

Born in Natick, Massachusetts, Isaac Shepard was a well-known abolitionist in the years preceding the Civil War. At the time he wrote this letter, Shepard was colonel of the 51st USCT, but he was soon promoted to brigadier general for his untiring efforts in recruiting, arming and equipping numerous black regiments consisting of runaway slaves and contrabands. See for a court martial for allowing a black soldier to punish a white Illinois cavalryman.

Julian Bryant (d. 1865), nephew of William Cullen Bryant, enlisted in the 33rd Illinois Regiment, served in the Missouri-Arkansas theater, then in Sherman’s Corps in the Vicksburg campaign. He was promoted to major of the newly organized 1st Mississippi Infantry (African Descent) in time to fight at Milliken’s Bend, on June 7, 1863, which Gen. Ulysses Grant called “the first important engagement in which colored troops were under fire.” Bryant participated in the campaign to allow colored units equal responsibilities, including combat, with regular white units. He achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in command of the 51st U.S. Colored Troops in March 1864. In September he was named colonel of the 46th U.S. Colored Troops. On May 14, 1865, shortly after being reassigned to Brazos Santiago, Texas, Bryant drowned while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.



April 1983 Civil War Times Illustrated article on Col. Bryant at

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