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The Court Martial of William Walker, 3rd. SC Colored Infantry

The Alleged Mutiny & Historic Trial


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During the Civil War Sgt. William Walker of the 3rd. S.C. Colored Infantry was tried and executed for leading an alleged mutiny in his company during November 1863 over the policy of the Federal Army of giving African American Soldiers less than equal pay. It was charged that Sgt. Walker led a group of men from his company to the tent of Colonel Augustus Bennett where they stacked arms and hung their accouterments on the stacks (period photo of stacked arms), Walker stating that the men, "would not do duty any longer for 7 dollars per month." The Colonel ordered the men to take their arms and go to their regular work or they would be "shot down for it." Sgt. Walker is alleged to have told the men to leave thier arms and walk away. Several other serious charges were also made against Sgt. Walker.

Walker was tried at Hilton Head by a military court January 9 - 12 of 1864 on specifications of inciting a mutiny, failing to report a mutanty, and insubordination, Evidence at trial showed the soldiers had been worked nearly to exhaustion doing fatigue duty, including preparation of camps for white regiments contrary to standing orders from Gen. Gilmore. Litttle time was left for actual military training for the regiment. Walker and some of the other recruits had clearly been promised full pay when they enlisted. It was alleged at the trial that the men had never been read the general orders of the army as required by the Articles of War,  or any of the regulations which indicated that their acts were mutiny and punishable by death prior to the strike. Walker was convicted by a vote of 4 to 2 and executed before President Lincoln could consider his case.

Walker's case was mentioned in debates over the pay of Black Soldiers in the United States Senate and the conditions in the regiment highlighted in the trial were used as examples in efforts to reform army practices regarding African-American soldiers.



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