History Of The 102nd
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 the time the regiment was designated the 102nd United States Colored Troop (USCT). For his efforts Henry Barns was commissioned the regiment's first Colonel, a post he retained until voluntarily stepped down in favor of a regular army officer.
The regiment drew recruits not only from the Detroit and southern Michigan area, but also from Ontario, Canada. Men who had escaped slavery through the underground railroad and settled in Canada returned to Michigan to join up when word came that the 102nd was forming. Many desired to fight for the freedom of family members still held in slavery.
The 102nd trained at Camp Ward, located in southeastern Detroit, which is the location of Duffield Elementary school today. The regiment left Michigan for federal service in March 1864 and assigned to the Department of The South. Its base of operations was Beaufort, South Carolina. 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 their own. They also participated and made a significant contribution to the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina. It was during this battle that Lieutenant Orson Bennett won the Congressional Medal of Honor for taking 30 men from the regiment and preventing a battery of cannon from being captured by rebel forces.
The 102nd USCT was mustered out of federal service on September 30, 1865 and returned to Detroit to be disbanded on October 17, 1865.