56th U.S. Colored Infantry

The National Park Service offers the following details about the 56th U.S. Colored Infantry

Overview:Organized March 11, 1864, from 3rd Arkansas Infantry (African Descent). Attached to District of Eastern Arkansas, 7th Corps, Dept. of Arkansas, to August, 1865. Dept. of Arkansas to September, 1866.
Service:-Post and garrison duty at Helena, Ark., till February, 1865. Action at Indian Bay April 13, 1864. Muffleton Lodge June 29. Operations in Arkansas July 1-31. Wallace’s Ferry, Big Creek, July 26. Expedition from Helena up White River August 29-September 3. Expedition from Helena to Friar’s Point, Miss., February 19-22, 1865. Duty at Helena and other points in Arkansas till September, 1866. Mustered out September 15, 1866.Regiment lost during service 4 Officers and 21 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 647 Enlisted men by disease. Total 674.Predecessor unit:ARKANSAS VOLUNTEERS.
Organized at St. Louis, Mo., August 12, 1863. Attached to District of Eastern Arkansas, Dept. Arkansas, to January, 1864. Little Rock, Ark., 7th Army Corps, Dept. Ark., to March, 1864.
Service:-Ordered to Helena, Ark., and Post duty there and at Little Rock till March, 1864. Expedition from Helena up White River February 4-8, 1864, and up St. Francis River February 13-14.
Designation of Regiment changed to 56th U.S. Colored Troops March 11, 1864, which see.

As Mitchell Yockelson points out, the 56th was one of a host of African-American units that was originally accorded a state designation other than that of the state where it was raised. The men of the 56th were largely from Missouri, gleaned from the population of free African Americans and the enslaved workers of disloyal Missourians. In a bid to avoid inciting racist tensions amongst loyal Missouri whites, the U.S. Army designated the regiment the 3rd Arkansas Infantry, African Descent (Yockelson 2001-2002).


The 56th was commanded by Col. William S. Brooks at the time of Wallace’s Ferry. COL Brooks was a longtime veteran of the war in the Trans-Mississippi. An Ohio Native raised in Iowa, Brooks joined the 1st Iowa Infantry, fighting at Wilson’s Creek, and later the 19th Iowa Infantry, and was wounded at Prairie Grove, Arkansas. He was initially lieutenant colonel of the 56th, but rose to full colonel by the time of the engagement. His brother, Rev. Joseph Brooks, served as chaplain of the regiment. The Arkansas Studies Institute holds letters pertaining to the life and death of Colonel Brooks in their William S. Brooks Manuscript Collection.

Casualties at Wallace’s Ferry have been identified in personnel records for Companies A, D, E, F, and K, suggesting these companies were the 280 men Colonel Brooks took to Wallace’s Ferry.

  • Field Staff
    • Colonel William S. Brooks
    • Surgeon J.C. Stoddard
  • Company A
    • 1st Sergeant Henry C. Stewart
    • Private Ambrose Clark
    • Private John Woolfork
    • Private Charles Woods
    • Private Henry Jones (mortally wounded, died August 3 at Helena)
  • Company D
    • Private Peter Clordy
    • 1st Lieutenant Addison Crane (mortally wounded, died August 12 at Keokuk, Iowa)
    • Private George Wilson (mortally wounded, died July 26 at Helena)
  • Company E
    • Private George W. Kee
    • Private Edward Lacey
    • Private Nathaniel Maldin
  • Company F
    • Sergeant John Yaw
    • Private Joshua Fowler
    • Private Charles Lawrence (mortally wounded, died September 9 at Helena)
    • Private John Williams (mortally wounded, died August 9 at Helena)
  • Company K
    • Private Cyrus Turner
    • Private Allen Warsaw

Captain Charles S. Kincaid of Company D was dismissed from service for being “indolent, negligent in the performance of his duties, and unfit for his position” on August 16, 1864. While there is not a documented link between this and Wallace’s Ferry, the fact that the dismissal came three weeks after the engagement suggests some instance of poor battlefield performance may have played a role.


Yockelson, Mitchell
2001-2002 “Their Memory Will Not Perish”: Commemorating the 56th United States Colored Troops. Gateway Heritage Magazine 22(3).

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