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U.S. Army Overturns Convictions of 110 Black Soldiers in 1917 Houston Riot at Camp Logan

More than a century has passed since 110 Black soldiers stationed at Camp Logan were convicted of mutiny, murder and assault in the 1917 Houston Riot, with 19 of them executed at Fort Sam Houston. Now those convictions have been overturned.

Deputy Secretary of the Army Michael Mahoney has directed the Army Review Boards Agency to “set aside” the convictions of all soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment. The Army will recognize the overturned convictions in a ceremony Monday at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Midtown. Their service records will now reflect that they served honorably.

“It can’t bring them back, but it gives them peace,” said Angela Holder, whose great-uncle, Cpl. Jesse Moore, was one of the executed soldiers. “Their souls are at peace.”

The decision, reached weeks ago by Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, restores each of the soldiers’ individual rights, privileges and properties lost — their descendants may now be eligible for benefits. An Honorable Discharge Certificate “as a testimonial for honest and faithful service” has been issued for each soldier.

The reversal is unlike any other in the Army’s history.

“This is not only the largest murder trial in American history, this is also the largest court-martial in American history, and no case this large or this serious with this many death penalties has ever been completely overturned by the Army on review,” said historian John Haymond, who along with South Texas College of Law former professor and retired military officer Dru Brenner-Beck co-authored the petition that Wormuth based her decision on. Their work on the case was pro bono.

“In legal terms, you would say this case is sui generis, meaning that it stands alone. It is truly unique,” he added. “This is the Army recognizing it’s never too late to do the right thing and correcting its error of the past.”

Members of the all-Black 24th Infantry Regiment, often referred to as Buffalo Soldiers, arrived on July 27, 1917, and were ordered to guard the construction of Camp Logan, a 7-acre training base that is now part of Memorial Park, after the U.S. declared war on Germany during World War I.

The city they encountered was a hostile one. Houston strongly enforced the Jim Crow segregation laws of the South.

On the night of Aug. 23, 1917, Camp Logan soldiers clashed with whites. Seventeen people, including five police officers, would end up dead that night —  most of them white.

The violence had roots in Houston’s racial strife. The regiment was staying near the construction site in the Washington Avenue area. Disputes at the site included insults involving white workers, police and soldiers; sometimes the encounters were violent, according to transcripts from the trial, preserved at South Texas College of Law. The soldiers were often met with racial slurs. Police were known to arrest and beat soldiers who stood up to them when words were exchanged.

The match was lit on the morning of Aug. 23, when police officers Lee Sparks and R.H. Daniels raided a craps game led by young Black men. Police assaulted a Black woman; a soldier was arrested when he protested. A few hours later, a military police officer, Cpl. Charles Baltimore of Company I, talked with officers Sparks and Daniels about the arrest.

The conversation ended with Sparks pistol-whipping the corporal, who ran, was shot at three times, and was later arrested and beaten again. Rumor got back to the camp that Baltimore was dead, sparking talk of revenge among the soldiers. He later returned alive, though bloodied. That night a shot rang out and someone cried, “The mob is coming!” prompting soldiers to rush for their rifles and set up a defensive perimeter around the 24th’s camp.

The white battalion commander abandoned his post, leaving other officers to try to control the panicking troops. At that point, Sgt. Vida Henry ordered soldiers in Company I to march out of the camp in formation. Melee ensued.

Henry was later found dead. Pvt. Bryant Watson, Pvt. Wiley Strong and Pvt. George Bevens also were killed.

Houston was placed under martial law the following morning.

Jason Holt, a New Jersey lawyer and descendant of Pfc. Thomas C. Hawkins, who was executed, likens sending Black soldiers into a southern town to waving a red flag.


Holder and Holt bristle at the word “mutiny.” They prefer the “incident.”

In an excerpt from his summary of the historical and legal facts of the 1917 Houston Incident, Haymond explains why: “In the list of uniquely military crimes, mutiny holds a singular position… It is natural and entirely appropriate, then, that when military personnel today first encounter the history of the Houston Mutiny of 1917, their most common immediate reaction is to condemn the men who were accused of that crime.”


Holder submitted the original petition, a posthumous pardon request, through the Department of Justice in 2017, but that document only addressed the first 13 men who were executed. Much of her case was based on a presentation between Fred Borck, one of the few people publicly discussing Camp Logan at the time, and then-South Texas College of Law Houston professor Geoffrey Corn.