102nd U.S. Colored Troops Company B Black History Group members, from left, Guyler Turner, of Detroit, as a corporal in the Union Army; and privates Maurice Imhoff, of Jackson; Nathan Rushing, of Detroit; and Joe Imhoff, of Milford, visit a class at Warren Woods Tower High School March 6.

102nd U.S. Colored Troops Company B Black History Group members, from left, Guyler Turner, of Detroit, as a corporal in the Union Army; and privates Maurice Imhoff, of Jackson; Nathan Rushing, of Detroit; and Joe Imhoff, of Milford, visit a class at Warren Woods Tower High School March 6.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Local students get lesson from 102nd U.S. Colored Troops re-enactors

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published March 9, 2018

 Guyler Turner, left, and Maurice Imhoff talk to the students about the Civil War and what life was like for black soldiers.

Guyler Turner, left, and Maurice Imhoff talk to the students about the Civil War and what life was like for black soldiers.

Photo by Deb Jacques

WARREN — The average age of a 102nd U.S. Colored Troops soldier who served during the Civil War was 25; they often stood about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed about 140 pounds; and it took them about five or six months to become fully trained to join the Union Army.

That information and much more was shared when members of the 102nd U.S. Colored Troops Company B Black History Group visited students March 6 in Jenny Weingartz’s physically or otherwise health-impaired class at Warren Woods Tower High School.

The Civil War re-enactment group was founded in 1986 in response to the Michigan Sesquicentennial Celebration. The group members participate in re-enactments, parades and ceremonies in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky and Canada. Members are from across Michigan. Membership is open to men and women, and members recreate the experiences of black soldiers during the Civil War.

According to the troop’s website, 102ndusct.webs.com, the original regiment was created in July 1863 after an extensive editorial and letter writing campaign by Henry Barns, who was then editor of the Detroit Advertiser and Tribune. The regiment was initially called the 1st Michigan Colored Regiment and retained that name until officially mustered into federal service. At that time, the regiment was designated as the 102nd United States Colored Troop, or USCT.

For his efforts, Barns was commissioned the regiment’s first colonel, a post he retained until he voluntarily stepped down in favor of becoming a regular army officer.

Last Tuesday, re-enactors Guyler Turner and Nathan Rushing, of Detroit; Maurice Imhoff, of Jackson; and his uncle Joe Imhoff, of Milford, talked to the students about the war and what life was like for the soldiers. Necessities, for instance, when on foot included food, water and ammo.

“Water is life. Hopefully if you are on the field, you can get some fresh water to drink,” Turner said. “Another thing before you go out to camp was you had to learn about ammunition.”

Maurice Imhoff said many of the military men were slaves who escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

“Because this was a black unit, the hierarchy designated 102 to more menial duties,” Turner said.

The group also gave a demonstration regarding the sword-like bayonet weapon used during battle.

“The weapon here was designed to inflict the maximum amount of damage to make an irregular hole in the body,” Turner said. “The bayonet was the weapon of last resort.”

In addition to being utilized on the battlefield, the bayonet had other uses.

“Most of the time it was used as a candle holder or stuck in the ground,” Turner said, adding that it also was used as a coffee or tea holder.

Turner said the black soldiers made $10 per month while in the service and had to pay $7 every month for supplies. He added that the white Union Army members received $13 per month and did not have to pay for supplies.

According to the troop’s website, the 102nd trained at Camp Ward, located in southeastern Detroit, and left Michigan for federal service in March 1864, assigned to the Department of the South. The 102nd saw action throughout South Carolina, eastern Georgia and Florida. The regiment’s first test under fire occurred at Baldwin, Florida, where it turned back a Confederate cavalry charge with a bayonet charge of its own. The army also participated in and made a significant contribution to the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina.

Toward the end of their visit, the re-enactors took questions from the students, who wanted to know what the Union Army’s uniforms were made from and how long they marched. The uniforms were made of wool, and the leggings that members wore over their lower pant legs were gaiters to protect their ankles and calves. Marching 5 to 20 miles per day was common.

Another student asked if the soldiers were afraid during battle.

“Warfare is a horrible thing. Courage means even though you’re afraid, you do the right thing,” Turner said. “You would be crazy not to be afraid. What helps was the training.”

During the presentation, Rushing said the troop has plans to visit Gettysburg this year.