Sandra Clark is director of the Michigan Historical Society. She met in 2016 to speak with Peter Whorf about the Michigan 102nd Regiment. Their conversation is part of WKAR's Black History Month series.
Sandra Clark: These are people, some of whom probably tried to sign up in the war in 1861 and they’re rejected because the Union is not allowing blacks to join the Army.
After the Emancipation Proclamation in January of ’63, they allow blacks to join the Army.
Two men in Detroit, George DeBaptiste and John Richards begin recruiting a black regiment from Detroit...from Michigan. They actually go by train throughout southern Michigan, recruiting blacks to join this regiment through most of ’63.
Once they get them recruited, they get sent to Maryland. They federalized all the troops.
The volunteers from Michigan, the mechanics, the engineers, the cavalry…all of those retained their Michigan names. They fight all along the east coast of the United States, from South Carolina down to Florida. Smaller skirmishes, holding what has been taken…sometimes fighting beside the (Massachusetts) 54th.
The 54th was recruiting all across the United States. They were the first to form. The Detroit News said, “don’t join these guys – we’re getting a Michigan regiment together. You want to wait and be part of us.”