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Biographical / Historical
Brigadier General Gustavus Adolphus "Gus" Scroggs, New York National Guard (8/11/1820 - 1-24-1887) was born in Darlington,
Pennsylvania and married a woman named Caroline E. (b. 1827?); the two had no children. At the age of twenty, Gustavus was
recommended for the US Military Academy at West Point. Though there is no record he attended, he studied law and was admitted
as an attorney in 1844, continuing to work in law for the remainder of his life while living in Buffalo, New York, including
being elected as sheriff of Buffalo in 1858 and many years as a United States Commissioner for New York's Northern District,
While still in Darlington, he raised and commanded the "Darlington Artillery" and when he moved to Buffalo served as captain
of Company B, 65th Regiment, New York National Guard, promoting to colonel in 1851 and later brigadier general of the 31st
Brigade. In 1854, he led an unsuccessful candidacy for the office of liuetenant governor of New York as the American Party
candidate, missing election by a few votes. He supported Lincoln for President in 1860 and was thereafter a lifelong Republican.
As war broke out in 1861, he raised a brigade of volunteers and established a recruting camp at Fort Porter designated "Camp
Morgan." In a New York Times article dated January 11, 1855 regarding a convention of the Military Association, a portion
of his speech is transcribed in which he speaks on paying soldiers and equipping them well, believing in discipline and organization
in the military, as well as unity and cohesion; that foreign-born units and volunteer units should be united under a single,
national tradition. He also advocates for an unequal tax on the rich to fund military endeavors and a standing volunteer military,
exclaiming that an American military could be the best in the world. He is quoted as saying, "There is no way by which a people
can so effectually secure themselves against the calamities of war, than to be always well prepared for it." In a publication
entitled "The Duty of Americans," Scroggs' speech is once again transcribed from an American Meeting held in Aurora, NY August
Scroggs was later appointed Provost Marshal of the 30th Congressional District of New York by President Abraham Lincoln in
1862. In a document dated July 1, 1863 and signed by Scroggs as Provost Marshal, he lists himself as a "person of Class II,
subject to do military duty in the Thirtieth Congressional District...under the direction of Gustavus A. Scroggs, Provost
After overseeing the controversial draft of 1863, Scroggs later resigned the post of Provost Marshal when President Lincoln
wrote a letter to Major General Nathaniel Banks on February 6, 1864 assigning Scroggs command as a colonel of the 25th United
States Colored Infantry Regiment. Lincoln proposed to Banks that Scrogg's regiment be ordered "to Texas, charged to collect
and organize the colored men of the State, it being believed that such a nucleus as this regiment, and such an experienced
organizer of troops as Col. Scroggs will prove highly successful."
Officially referred to as United States Colored Troops (USCT), African American military involvement in the Civil War likely
traces its inception to the three regiments raised in New Orleans, Louisiana in the fall of 1862, first called the Louisiana
Native Guard, the Corps d'Afrique, and then the US Colored Infantry (USCI). According to the National Archives, the first
official authorization for federal service was the Second Confiscation and Militia Act of July 17, 1862, though President
Lincoln did not authorize use of African Americans in combat until the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, followed
shortly by the first such regiment to be raised in the north by Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts. By May, the Bureau
of Colored Troops was established in order to handle "all matters relating to the organization of Colored Troops." Though
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton wanted these units to be commanded by white men, those regulations eventually relaxed to allow
for Black surgeons and chaplains. General Lorenzo Thomas was sent to the Mississippi Valley for recruitment purposes in March
1863 and to organize these units, ushering in the Bureau. Gustavus Scroggs was to follow in these footsteps the next year,
though his mission never really took shape.
He continued command of his unit and travelled the east coast by ship before reaching the Gulf states, until July 6 the same
year when he sent his letter of resignation to Secretary Stanton. Shortly after, he resumed his position as the Provost Marshal
of the 30th District in New York. For his service in the 25th US Colored Infantry Regiment, his name is commemorated on the
African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C.; plaque B-41.
He continued to practice law and served as US Commissioner as late as 1881 (according to New York register of Officers and
Employees in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service on First of July 1881).
Gustavus Scroggs passed away at the age of 66 from paralysis, a condition from which he suffered for some time, and was interred
at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.
Scope and Contents
This series contains one letter from Brig. Gen. Gustavus A. "Gus" Scroggs to his wife Caroline E. Scroggs dated January 22,
1880. Also included are seven photocopied correspondence and other documents, one book, and printed biographical information.
The letter was a written will and contains assets and instructions to his wife on how to handle is assets and affairs, including
life insurance policies and physical items, such as his law library of over 350 volumes and his personal library "which you
will be glad to get rid of." The letter was amended several times up to February 18, 1881.
After laying out his detailed will, Scroggs told Caroline
"My life since my minority has been a struggle for a competence mainly, and although I have succeeded better than many more
favored, yet I confess I am disappointed. I have fallen far short of what I hoped for. My health at this writing is badly
broken, and my prospects for this life is unpromising. It is probable that the fret of this world will soon be over."
He continued with a prayer, followed by postscript amendments to the will.
The photocopied materials include:
- Letter of resignation as commander of the 25th US Colored Infantry Regiment, written in Baltimore, Maryland and addressed
to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, dated July 4, 1864
- Letter from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton accepting the resignation of Scroggs, dated July 6, 1864
- Letter of complaint to Scroggs as Provost Marshall, dated March 27, 1865
- Summary of letter of complaint to Scroggs as Provost Marshall, dated March 27, 1865
- Two slips (on one page), Field and Staff Muster Roll slip, 2th Regiment US Colored Infantry, Colonel Gustavus A. Scroggs,
roll dated December 6, 1865, honorably discharged as of July 6, 1864
- Citation, Adjutant General's Office, Colored Troops Branch, dated July 29, 1878, wanted notice for the arrest of Scroggs and
to report to General Wallace; second citation dated August 6 states "Nature of offence does not appear on Regtl. records.
Released from arrest by S.O... July 2/64."
- Living will, written by Scroggs, dated October 26, 1881
Of note, Scroggs' letter of resignation cites the fact that he was commissioned for a specific purpose which was not carried
out. He was expected to organized Black troops in Texas, but his own regiment had largely been reassigned to other units and
he was no longer in physical condition well enough to endure a protracted campaign.
The book included is
African American Soldier in the Civil War: USCT 1862-66, by Mark Lardas, Osprey Publishing, 2006.