The Officers of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Co. L

The First African American Officers

In the country's state volunteer forces
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General:

This account, from Leslie's Weekly Illustrated magazine, provides information on Captain William J. Williams, First Lieutenant William H. Jackson, and Second Lieutenant George W. Braxton. According to the article, these men were the first African American officers to serve in a state volunteer regiment during the Spanish American War. In addition, their company, 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company L, was the first, and possibly only, African American company to be attached to a white regiment.

The account is quoted from the magazine as it appeared in the magazine.

The 6th Massachusetts served in Puerto Rico during the war

The Account:

Famous Negro Fighters

The Celebrated Company L, of the Sixth Massachusetts Volunteers

When Company L, Sixth Massachusetts United States Volunteers, the only colored military company in Massachusetts, left Camp Dewey, South Framingham, Massachusetts, on the evening of May 20th, to join General Graham’s second army corps, it seemed as if the whole colored population of Boston, where the company belongs, had taken a holiday to see their brethren off. Certainly a fifth of the 25,000 people who went to Framingham to bid the regiment adieu were colored people. Captain William J. Williams [pictured at left], who commands Company L, is the first colored man in the country to enter the United States volunteer army with a captain’s commission, though the same claim is made for First Lieutenant William H. Jackson. Another claim to distinction is that it is the only colored company in the United States attached to a white regiment. No better behaved or better equipped company has been sent from Massachusetts. Captain Williams is over six feet tall. As his company was passing in review the day they left for Falls Church, Virginia. Governor Wolcott, turning be graduated from g to his staff, remarked: ‘I tell you, there isn’t a better-looking officer in the regiment than Captain Williams.’  Captain Williams is a lawyer. He is a product of the public schools of Boston, where he received his first lessons in military art, as a member of the school regiment. He has been a member of the Massachusetts militia since 1891. First Lieutenant William H. Jackson is a Virginian, but has lived in Massachusetts since he was a child. He received his schooling, and was graduated with honors from the Boston University a few years ago. He, like Captain Williams, received his first military instruction in the public schools, and was adjutant of the school battalion of Worchester, where he received hi early education. Second Lieutenant George W. Braxton was also born in Virginia, but came North with his parents in 1863, settling in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was the first colored boy to be graduated from the Portsmouth High School. Every one of these colored troops is a marksman”


Bibliography:

Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated, Vol. LXXXVI No. 2232 (New York: Arkell Publishing Co., June 23, 1898). 407


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