The Clinton County Historical Association will host the lecture “Isaac Johnson: Slave, Soldier, Quarryman, Master Mason, Contractor” by Cornel “Corky” Reinhart, on Tuesday, July 13th, in Plattsburgh. [Read more…] about Isaac Johnson: A Soldier, Quarryman, Master Mason
US Colored Troops
As the Town of Niagara, NY municipal historian I’m researching the lives of those buried in one of our local cemeteries. Witmer Cemetery was originally the burying ground of the Witmer family, who settled here after arriving from Pennsylvania in 1811. The earliest gravestone in the cemetery is from 1828, but it’s estimated that about 200 people have been buried there since.
I began my research at the front row, where a toppled headstone marked the final resting place of George Martin and Jane, his wife. [Read more…] about Slave To Soldier: George Martin’s Fight For Freedom
The National Archives holds a wealth of materials documenting the African American experience, and the contributions of African Americans to United States history and culture.
In 1984, to support the growing demand for knowledge of African American history, Dr. Debra Newman Ham, with the help of several other colleagues, took on the responsibility of compiling a guide to Black history records at the National Archives. [Read more…] about African American History At The National Archives
On Thursday, April 27, from 7 pm to 9 pm. at the Senior Center (next to the Florida Library), at 4 Cohen Circle in Florida, NY, Civil War historian and re-enactor Yvonne Bigney will tell the story of 12 year-old Johnny Clem’s experience in the Battle of Chickamauga.
Clem was one of many children who served in the Civil War. In 1863, escaped slave, “Contraband Jackson”, served as a drummer boy and stretcher-bearer in the 79th Infantry Regiment – U.S. Colored Troops. It was an all-black unit that incurred heavy casualties. Fifteen year-old Tillie Pierce served as a nurse at Gettysburg. They were just three of the thousands of boys and girls engaged in the Civil War; whether on the front lines or back home, active in vital adult roles that would astonish us today. [Read more…] about Children Who Served In The Civil War
Almost 200,000 black men served in the Army during the Civil War, but only 34,000 were from the North. An underrepresented segment in Civil War studies, the stories of some of these Northern soldiers are told in Edythe Ann Quinn’s Freedom Journey: Black Civil War Soldiers and the Hills Community, Westchester County, New York (SUNY Press, 2015).
Freedom Journey presents in-depth, personal histories of thirty-six free black men from New York State who fought in the war. The book is both an African-American community history and a Civil War history of three regiments of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). [Read more…] about Freedom Journey: Westchester Co Black Civil War Soldiers
“Albany’s Only Negro Civil War Veteran” was the title of an article in The New York Age in May, 1933. The paper reported an interview with the city’s last surviving black veteran from the War Between the States, Sergeant James N. Lucas.
After serving with Company E of the 38th U.S. Colored Volunteers from early 1865 until 1867, he lived in Troy before moving to Albany in 1869. [Read more…] about Black Civil War Veteran James Lucas of Albany
Unlike the other twelve grave markers, these two are inscribed with the names of the deceased. Both of the men whose graves are marked were African Americans, and both served in the Army during the Civil War. [Read more…] about Soldiers’ Tales from an Old Cemetery in Oswego County
What follows is a guest essay by Bob Farrell, a researcher of the 123rd and 169th New York volunteer infantry regiments in the Civil War. This essay was inspired in part by New York History contributor Carol Kammen’s recent post on the life of Ira T. Brum, who enlisted in the 185th New York Volunteers in June 1864.
It was their country and they wanted to defend it. Their neighbors were enlisting and going to war, however, by law, that option was not available to them. Regardless of being free hard working citizens protecting their way of life, serving their country was denied to them. Despite this, all across upstate New York men of color went to a recruiting depot along with their neighbors to enlist in a regiment to be credited to their counties and their enrollment quota.
Stepping forward were James Brady from Malone, Ira Braum from Tompkins County, two step brothers from Fort Ann, Alonso Eddy from Owasco, and Bruce Anderson who in January 1865 would be awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions at Fort Fisher, North Carolina, stepped forward These are some names which have surfaced and been verified in the past few years.
The obstacle to identifying Blacks in all White regiments is the fact that nowhere in the regimental rosters provided by the Adjutant General for the State of New York is a racial distinction found. Mostly from postwar history have these names begun to emerge. Hopefully, with the current attention to the Civil War Sesquicentennial and the rising interest in the contribution of black troops to the success of Union victory, local historians and newspaper reporters will develop and further investigate and report on men of color.
Patriotism and a desire to defend the Union took the black man along with his neighbors to the recruiting tent. It is undeniable that the shade of his skin was a factor in being accepted into a company. In one example, three members of one family attempted to join the 169th New York Volunteers, one was accepted while the other two were sent to Riker’s Island which at that time was the training camp for the United States Colored Troops with the notation on their enlistment papers “of African descent”
For all those who successfully entered the military despite the shade of their skin, one thing is certain, their heritage was known to the other members of their company. For during the Civil War a company was a generally recruited from a specific town or region. Most of these towns, like today, were both rural and small. As anyone who grew up in one of these hamlets can tell you, everyone knows everyone and their business. With this in mind, no one served unobserved. Each man was accepted in his company and regiment not for his heritage, but for his commitment to serve in combat alongside his hometown neighbors.
Not until May 22, 1863 did General Order Number 143 establish a Bureau of Colored Troops to facilitate the recruitment of Black soldiers to fight for the Union Army. This bureau ultimately became known as the United States Colored Troops . From this simple beginning the USCT swelled to 170 regiments of approximately 178,000 members.
In the year 1862 there was no recognized means for a black to enlist. Emancipation was months away; plus any change in attitude by the Lincoln government was slow to emerge. Blacks remained in a limbo. The men in our story took history into their own hands and defied the government they were willing to defend. Let us hope that the clouds of history will clear and we will be able to enjoy more of their story of courage and determination