The first black regiment organized with the blessing of the Federal government, the First South Carolina Volunteers consisted of former slaves from the coast of South Carolina, most of whom spoke the Gullah dialected. The commander of the regiment was Colonel Thomas Higginson, a Unitarian Minister and abolitionist, who had been one of the Secret Six backers of John Brown for his Harper Ferrys raid. Here is his report of the expedition of the regiment that began on January 23, 1863:
ON BOARD STEAMER BEN DE FORD, February 1, 1863.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report the safe return of the expedition under my command, consisting of 462 officers and men of the First Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, who left Beaufort on January 23, on board the steamers John Adams, Planter, and Ben De Ford:
The expedition has carried the regimental flag and the President’s proclamation far into the interior of Georgia and Florida. The men have been repeatedly under fire; have had infantry, cavalry, and even artillery arrayed against them, and have in every instance come off not only with unblemished honor, but with undisputed triumph. (more…)