Originally 2nd U.S. Tennessee Volunteers (African Descent):
Also called 2nd West Tennessee Infantry Regiment (African Descent)
Mustered in at La Grange, Tennessee, June 30 and August 27, 1863.
- Colonel-Frank A. Kendrick
- Lieutenant Colonel-John Foley
- Major-Edmund R. Wiley, Jr.
- Lorenzo Jean, Co. “A”. Enrolled at Jackson, Madison County, in May, 1863; mustered in June 30, 1863.
- Walter W. Kelley, Co. “B”. Enrolled at Jackson, May, 1863; mustered in June 30, 1863.
- Jacob Gruse, Co. “C”. Enrolled at La Grange, Fayette County, June, 1863; mustered in June 30, 1863.
- Malte Stuth, Co. “D”. Enrolled at Germantown, Shelby County, June 11, 1863; mustered in June 30, 1863.
- Thomas O. Hoss, Co. “E”. Enrolled at La Grange, June, 1863; mustered in August 27, 1863.
- Samson Harris, Co. “F”. Enrolled at La Grange, June, 1863; mustered in June 30, 1863.
- Henry Sturges, Co. “G”. Enrolled at Collierville, Shelby County, June, 1863; mustered in June 30, 1863.
- Daniel W. Roberts, Co. “H”. Enrolled at La Grange, July and August, 1863; mustered in August 27, 1863.
- Charles S. Graff, Co. “I”. Enrolled at Collierville, July and August, 1863; mustered in August 27, 1863.
- Charles R. Riggs, Co. “K”. Enrolled and mustered in at La Grange, August 27, 1863.
The first mention of this regiment found in the Official Records was dated September 16, 1863, when an order was issued from the Headquarters 2nd Division, XVI Corps, at La Grange, Tennessee, to the Commanding Officer of the 1st Brigade: “The 2nd West Tennessee (African Descent) will proceed to Moscow, Tennessee to relieve the 7th Iowa Volunteers.” On October 31, 1863, a report from C. W. Foster, Assistant Adjutant General for Volunteers, listed the 2nd Tennessee Volunteers (African Descent) under Lieutenant Colonel Foley, with 610 men. On the same date it was reported in the 2nd Brigade. Colonel Elliott W. Rice, Left Wing, XVI Corps, with a note that the regiment was detached at Moscow.
The regiment was still at Moscow on December 4, when that place was attacked by the Confederate cavalry under Major General Stephen D. Lee and Brigadier General James R. Chalmers, who were driven off by the Federal cavalry under Colonel E. Hatch.
On December 31, 1863, the regiment, still at Moscow, was reported as part of the forces in the District of Corinth, under Brigadier General John D. Stevenson. By January 31, 1864, the regiment was at Memphis, where, with the 1st Alabama and the 1st Tennessee (African Descent), they constituted the 1st Colored Brigade, under Colonel James M. Alexander. In April, 1864, the official designation of the regiment was changed to 61st U. S. Colored Infantry Regiment, in accordance with the policy of no longer listing colored troops under the names of the several states. On April 30, 1864, Colonel Edward Bouton was in command of the 1st Colored Brigade, at that time consisting of the 5th and 61st Regiments and Battery “F” of the 2nd U. S. Colored Light Artillery. Bouton’s Brigade took part in the expedition under Major General Andrew J. Smith into North Mississippi July 5-21, during which the battle of Harrisburg took place on July 14. The brigade was only partially engaged on the 14th, but on the day preceding was under constant harrassment by the Confederate forces. Colonel Bouton reported: “I think the work done by my brigade in the rear of the column on the 13th was a severe test of the soldierly qualities and powers of endurance of my men. We moved at 4:00 A.M., marched twenty miles, and went into camp at 9:00 P.M., 17 hours under arms without rest.”
In this campaign the regiment lost one officer, seven men killed; four officers, 28 men wounded; 16 missing. It returned to Memphis on the 22nd of July.
When General Nathan B. Forrest made his raid into the city of Memphis on August 21, his men surprised and overran a detachment of the 61st, under Captain Charles R. Riggs, which was camped a few miles outside Memphis.
The detachment consisted of five officers, 200 men, of whom Captain Riggs reported only one third were fit for duty. In the affair three men were killed, eight wounded, and five missing. During the course of the raid, Colonel Kendrick of the 61st was wounded.
On September 30, the regiment, along with the 120th Illinois, and Company “G”, 2″d Missouri Light Artillery, all commanded by Colonel George B. Hoge, left Memphis on a transport, and proceeded via Cairo, Illinois, to Johnsonville, Tennessee, arriving October 4, 1864. From here they proceeded upstream to Eastport, Mississippi, where, on making a landing on October 10, they were attacked by Confederate forces under Colonel D. C. Kelley, 3rd (Forrest’s Old) Tennessee Cavalry. The Gunboat Undinewas disabled, the transports Aurora and Kenton were set on fire, a battery of four guns lost, and the landing repulsed. Colonel Hoge, in his report, commended Lieutenant Colonel Foley, commanding the 61st, as a brave and efficient officer. The 61st lost 18 killed, 21 wounded, three missing. The expedition returned to Johnsonville on October 11, and subsequently the 61st returned to Memphis.
On December 31, 1864, in the organization of the Post and Defenses of Memphis, Colonel Kendrick, of the 61st, was given command of the 1st Colored Brigade, composed of the 55th, 59th and 61st Regiments, with the 61st commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Foley. On January 7, 1865, the brigade was called the 2nd Colored Brigade, and the 46th Regiment added.
On February 23, all of the brigade except the 59th were ordered to New Orleans, Louisiana, where Brigadier General T. I. McKean was in command of the District of Morganza. At this time the regiment reported 724 effectives, 817 aggregate present and absent. Colonel Kendrick commanded the 1st Brigade, composed of the 61st, 65th and 67th Colored Regiments.
On March 17, the 61st was ordered to Barrancas, Florida; from there on April 7, it was ordered to join the division of Colored Infantry stationed near Blakely, Alabama. It did not actually move until April 15, by which time Mobile had fallen. On April 30, 1865, the 61st was reported in the 1st Brigade, 1st Division U. S. Colored Troops, in the U. S. Expeditionary Force commanded by Major General Frederick Steele.
This Expeditionary Force was ordered to move to the Rio Grande in May, 1865, but it is not known whether the 61st made the move. Dyer’s Compendium states that the 61st remained on duty in the District of Alabama until mustered out of service. A list from the Adjutant General’s Office in Washington, D. C. gives December 12, 1865 as the date on which the 61st was ordered mustered out of service.