5th Regiment Cavalry, United States Colored Troops

 Painting copyright  Jerry Bingham - not for reproduction or publication
Painting copyright Jerry Bingham - not for reproduction or publication. To purchase a print of the image visit Jerry Bingham's Store

"The inspiration for researching the incident came from a website of David E. Brown, chronicling the history of a family member, a soldier of Company E, 5th Regiment Cavalry U.S. Colored Troops, Pvt. Samuel Truehart. David had invested much energy into researching his ancestor and, once I had discovered his story, I found it compelling enough to honor my painting with the title."  -- Jerry Bingham

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Samuel Truehart, 5th USCC
Pvt. Samuel Truehart, Company E


And their deeds shall find a record, In the registry of fame;  For their blood has cleansed completely
Every blot of slavery's shame.
So all honor and all glory
To these noble Sons of Ham--
To the gallant colored soldiers,
Who fought for Uncle Sam!
"The Colored Soldiers"
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) 

This site is devoted to the history of the Fifth Regiment of the U.S. Colored Cavalry, a unit comprised of men of African descent—slaves, ex-slaves, and free men—who fought for the Union cause during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Members of the regiment were massacred by Confederate troops following the Battle of Saltville on October 2-3, 1864.

Private Samuel Truehart's photo featured at Camp Nelson National Monument and on new highway marker in Simpsonville, KY

Private Samuel Truehart's photo featured in Camp Nelson National Monument Window Display at new National Park Service Regional Office in Atlanta

USCT & 5th USCC Garrison Duty in Helena, Arkansas Recognized via Exhibit in Kelly Park

Memorial Markers Erected in Simpsonville, Kentucky Honoring 22 Men of the 5th USCC Killed in Ambush and Buried in Mass Grave on January 25, 1865

Saltville Massacre Marker at Camp Nelson National Monument

Camp Nelson National Monument U.S. Army Barracks Exhibit features Private Samuel Truehart - USCC, Company E


Updates, News and Other Sources

Kentucky 1865: The Simpsonville Slaughter - Life on the Civil War Trail - YouTube - Featuring Samuel Truehart

Camp Nelson National Monument posts page on the Untied States Colored Troops, the first Battle of Saltville and the Massacre, and the second Southwest Virginia Raid, which included the Battle of Marion and the Second Battle of Saltville. All the pages feature photo of Private Samuel Truehart

Camp Nelson National Monument posts informative video, Emancipation and Enlistment - The Story of Camp Saxton and Camp Nelson, that includes the story of the families of soldiers who lived on the grounds of the Camp during the Civil War - May 26, 2021

Private Samuel Truehart (Company E) featured in Camp Nelson Window Display at new National Park Service Regional Office in Atlanta - September 2, 2020

Black and white served side by side in the Civil War  TimesNews, Kingsport, TN - July 6, 2020 - about Camp Nelson

The 5th USCC at the Battle of Saltville SmithThoughts Blog - June 21, 2020

Simpsonville Massacre ExploreKYHistory.gov - 2020

Not every unforgettable moment in life is followed by a headline by Bill Archer, Bluefield Daily Telegraph - 12/3/2012 - An account of the first remembrance ceremony in Saltville in 1998

First Battle of Saltville Civil War WikiNet

Harper's Weekly coverage of Burbridge and Stoneman's Saltville Raids - January 14, 1865

Kentucky Educational Television (KET) Program on the Simpsonville Slaughter and the Memorial (YouTube/6:31 minutes)

US Colored Troops in Helena Arkansas where the 5th USCC served garrison duty after the Civil War

Camp Nelson Designated as a National Monument National Park Service, October 27, 2018

FamilySearch.org launches - 5th United States Colored Cavalry page

Old Town Crier profiles "Haunted Saltville"

Buy prints of Jerry Bingham's painting "5th USCC" at the Jerry Bingham Store

Saltville Massacre or Confederate Infamy Civil War Bummer

Bios of Members of the 5th USCC From Anderson County, Kentucky

New Book, African American Faces of the Civil War, combines compelling archival images with biographical stories (including Samuel Truehart 5th USCC) that reveal the human side of the war

Civil War historian to talk on Saltville Massacre at Camp Nelson, Lexington Herald-Leader, November 10, 2010

Bio of Private Thomas Morton, Company E

Dedication and Unveiling of Simpsonville Massacre Historical Highway Marker / Photos

Simpsonville Civil War Massacre  ARMCHAIRGENERAL.COM

Marker revives memory of 'Simpsonville slaughter (PDF) / Lexington Herald Leader, January 21, 2009

Historical Highway Marker Memorializing the "Simpsonville Slaughter" to be Dedicated on January 25, 2009

Thomas Mays Authors New Book on Confederate Guerilla Champ Ferguson, Cumberland Blood: Champ Ferguson Civil War

Shelby County Kentucky Historical Society awarded grant to identify, recover and preserve the site of the "Simpsonville Slaughter", The Sentinel News, March 14, 2008

New Children's Book by Alison Hart, Gabriel's Journey, tells the story of the 5th USCC and the Saltville Massacre from a pre-teen's perspective

Presentation on 5th USCC Made at Juneteenth Celebration in Bedford, Pennsylvania June 17, 2006 (PowerPoint Show) / Download Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer 2003

7th Annual Memorial Service Held in Saltville on October 2, 2004 | Program and Photo Gallery

Tonia Moxley Article, "Remembering the Saltville Massacre", Published in Winter 2003/2004 Issue of Southern Exposure Magazine / Southern Exposure

 Thomas Mays Contributes Essay on Saltville Massacre to New Book, Black Soldiers in Blue, edited by John David Smith / Buy book at Amazon.com

5th Annual Memorial & Remembrance Service Held in Saltville October 2, 2002

Remembering Saltville, The Roanoke Times, September 28, 2001 (10/11/01)

William Marvel Responds to New Findings (9/6/2000)

"Researchers delve into Civil War massacre", Atlanta Journal - Constitution, October 31, 1999

"A town's tragic history keeps salt in its old wounds", Atlanta Journal -  Constitution, November 1, 1999

Just after sunset on October 2, 1998, the 134th anniversary of the Battle of Saltville, the men of the 5th USCC who were massacred in Saltville in 1864 were honored on the very battlefield on which they were killed. The ceremony, organized by Bill Archer of nearby Bluefield, West Virginia, was attended by about 130 residents of the Bluefield and Saltville communities. After several prayers, poems, and gospel hymns, a group of Bluefield youth lit luminaries and placed American flags on Chestnut Ridge in honor of the men of the 5th and 6th USCC. Samuel Johnson of  Bluefield read the names of the over fifty men presumed to have been murdered after the battle.  At the end of the moving ceremony, a Bluefield youth, Daniel Wells, blew taps and a local pastor, Rev. F. Winston Polley, consecrated the ground and offered a final prayer. The event represented the long overdue recognition for the men of the 5th who fought so bravely, yet died so savagely, and have been so shamefully forgotten by the nation they died serving. This represented the first step toward making amends and many of the event's attendees expressed a commitment to determine where the men were buried after the battle and to erect a permanent monument to their memory in Saltville.  

A second annual ceremony honoring the men of the 5th and 6th USCC that fell in Saltville was held on the evening of Saturday, October 2, 1999.  In addition, a dawn service marking the 135th anniversary of the massacre was held on October 3, to honor the victims and to  demonstrate support for a search for the mass grave and a monument to the murdered soldiers. 

The August 23, 1999 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Radford University researchers have enlisted NASA to help determine the size of the Saltville massacre. The Radford team, with the aid of high-altitude NASA images, is making the first systematic search for a mass grave where black Union cavalrymen were buried after they were murdered on Oct. 2, 1864.

In early 1864, Union General Stephen G. Burbridge, commander of the Military District of Kentucky, authorized the formation  of "colored" units comprised of freedmen, ex-slaves, and slaves within his command. On June 30, 1864, Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas, responsible for organizing colored regiments in the Mississippi Valley for the Union Army, authorized the officers of the newly formed 5th United States Colored Cavalry (5th USCC) to begin selecting recruits. Colonel James Brisbin, a well known abolitionist, became commander of the regiment. Some of the companies were recruited at Camp Nelson, Kentucky, while others were enlisted in nearby towns, including Lebanon and Louisville. Nearly all of the recruits were former slaves, the majority of whom volunteered for three years of service. In accordance with Thomas’ policy, all of the officers of the 5th USCC were white.

Although over six hundred members of the unit engaged in actions under General Burbridge's command in Southwest Virginia in September and early October of 1864, the regiment was not officially organized until October 24, 1864 at Camp Nelson. The regiment was attached to the 1st Division, District of Kentucky, Dept. of Ohio until February, 1865. The regiment subsequently served under the Military District of Kentucky and the Dept. of Arkansas.  While stationed in Arkansas after the war, the regiment reportedly hunted down rebel renegades, supervised free elections, and tried to protect office holders and freedmen from the Ku Klux Klan and early versions of the White League violence. The men of the 5th USCC  did face a low level of civil hostility and violence during this uneasy transition period by trying to keep the peace, as many former rebels resented occupation by "colored" soldiers..  The unit was mustered out in Helena, Arkansas on March 20, 1866.   Many of the white officers that led the 5th USCC were subsequently assigned to the 10th Cavalry, one of two cavalry regiments comprised of men of African descent that served in the western frontier and became known as the Buffalo Soldiers.  The final regimental commander of the 5th USCC, Louis L Carpenter went on the win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor while leading Company H of the 10th Calvary during the Indian Wars.

Although the 5th USCC is not as renowned as the 54th Massachusetts Infantry portrayed in the Oscar winning 1989 motion picture Glory, they did bravely participate in Burbridge's Raid from Kentucky into Southwestern Virginia from September 20 to October 17, 1864, during which they saw fierce action at Saltville, Virginia. The regiment also participated in Stoneman's Raid into Southwestern Virginia, December 10 to 29, which resulted in the eventual capture of Saltville and the destruction of the Confederate salt works.

According to the records of the National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Project, 1,459 men served in the 5th USCC and 35 of the regiment's enlisted men were killed or mortally wounded. In addition, one officer and 151 enlisted men succumbed to disease during the regiment's term of service. However, since the days after the first Saltville conflict in October 1864 a debate has raged over reports of a brutal massacre of Black troops at the hands of Confederate soldiers. To this day, Civil War scholars debate the scope and severity of the reported "massacre. "

Chronology of Regimental Battles:
(Links are to National Park Service battle summaries.)

Complete Roster of 5th USCC:  







Companies in this Regiment with the Counties of Origin (source FamilySearch.org)

Some were recruited at Camp Nelson, Kentucky other from surrounding towns, Lebanon and Louisville.

Men often enlisted in a company recruited in the counties where they lived though not always. After many battles, companies might be combined because so many men were killed or wounded.


National Park Service Individual Soldier Records

Hiram Honaker Gravestone
Gravestone of Hiram Honaker, Private, Company A
John Cox Cemetery, Wright Patterson Air Force Base,Dayton, Ohio
(provided by Jim Nauwens)
Pvt. Preston Dawson's Gravestone
Gravestone of Preston Dawson, Private, Company H,  Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery
 (provided by Catherine Dawson Winburn)

Gravestone of Garrett Smith, Private, Company M. Located in graveyard outside of Nicodemus, Kansas
(Photo taken by David Brown)

Gravestone of Corporal John H. Taylor, Company F, Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago, IL
(Photo taken by Andy Gappa)

Gravestone of Dudley Allen, Quartermaster Sergeant, Company M
Lexington National Cemetery, Lexington, KY
(Photo by John Roberts)

Gravestone of George Fletcher, Private, Company L,  Hillcrest Cemetery, Anderson Ohio.
(Photo by Todd Mayer)

Gravestone of John Crooms, Private, Company C.,
Eastside Cemetery, Hutchinson, Kansas
(Photo: The Hutchinson News)

Gravestone of Samuel Truehart, Private. Company E
Mount Vernon Cemetery, Atchison, Kansas

Gravestone of George Ballard, Private, Company B
Camp Nelson National Cemetery
Nicholasville, Kentucky
(Photo by C. Boutin)
Posted with permission from the National Park Service

Gravestone of George Lewis Nicolls, Lieutenant, Company D
Greenup Cemetery, Greenup, Illinois
(Photo by Doyle Boyer)

Gravestone of Caesar Newel, Private,
Company E
Highland Cemetery, Junction City, Kansas
(Photo by Healthy Headstones)

The MassacreMy AncestorLinks

Last Updated 06/22/24  



David E. Brown, 5thuscc@comcast.net