August 15

First Black Soldiers in Combat in Georgia

August 15, 1864 - Dalton

It was the first time that African-American soldiers fought in the Civil War in Georgia. On this day in 1864, the 14th United States Colored Troops, mostly former slaves, fought off a Confederate cavalry attack near Dalton. Later, the 44th U.S. Colored troops were protecting the railroad through Dalton. Confederate General John Bell Hood attacked, vowing that his Confederates would take no prisoners. In the face of that threat, the Union commander surrendered. Hood, in keeping with Confederate policy that black soldiers were armed insurrectionists, returned many of the 600 captured black troops to slavery. Those too wounded to walk were simply shot.

Confederates strongly opposed blacks serving in combat. If blacks could meet the test of courage in battle, as Georgia’s Howell Cobb said, “our whole theory of slavery is wrong.”

In the final days of the war, in desperation, the Confederate Congress authorized arming slaves, but none saw combat. However, nearly 200,000 African-Americans fought for the U.S. Armed Forces during the war, including the men in Dalton on August 15, 1864, Today in Georgia History.