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Dalyce Newby

surgeon, was born in Toronto, Upper Canada (now Ontario), the son of Wilson Ruffin Abbott, a businessman and properties investor, and Mary Ellen Toyer. The Abbotts had arrived in Toronto around 1835, coming from Mobile, Alabama, via New Orleans and New York. Wilson Abbott became one of the wealthiest African Canadians in Toronto. Anderson received his primary education in Canadian public and private schools. Wilson Abbott moved his family to the Elgin Settlement in 1850, providing his children with a classical education at the famed Buxton Mission School. Anderson Abbott, a member of the school's first graduating class, continued his studies at-the Toronto Academy, where he was one of only three African Americans. From 1856 to 1858 he attended the preparatory department at Oberlin College, afterward returning to Toronto to begin his medical training.

At age twenty three Abbott graduated from the Toronto School of ...

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Charles Rosenberg

a Civil War soldier and veterans leader and Reconstruction-era legislator, was born and lived all of his life in Louisiana. Felix Antoine was born into the distinct community of gens de couleur libre, free persons of color, which existed in the New Orleans area and some other parts of Louisiana since French colonial times. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812, who fought under General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, and his mother was a native of the West Indies. His paternal grandmother was reputed to have been the daughter of an African prince, who purchased her freedom from slavery; she saved $150,000 as a free woman (Shreveport Journal obituary of C.C. Antoine, 14 Sept. 1921). Antoine was the younger brother of Louisiana Lt. Governor Caesar C. Antoine who moved from New Orleans to Shreveport prior to ...

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Dalyce Newby

soldier, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Carney and Ann, a former slave. Little is known of his parents or of his early years. As a young boy he expressed an interest in the ministry and, at the age of fourteen, attended a covertly run school under the tutelage of a local minister. Later he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he took odd jobs in the hope of saving sufficient funds to acquire his religious training.

In 1862, despite strong opposition, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill authorizing the recruitment of African American troops. In January 1863Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts was permitted to raise a black regiment. Since the black community was relatively small in that state, recruiters turned to enlisting men from other states, using such prominent abolitionists as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips as recruiting ...

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Donald Scott

educator, activist, and baseball pioneer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Sara Isabella Cain, a woman from a prosperous mixed-race family, and William T. Catto, a Presbyterian minister. When Catto was about five years old, his father relocated the family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after being “called” to the city by the Presbytery and after some time to the ministry of the First African Presbyterian Church, a historic black church formed by the Reverend John Gloucester, a former slave, in 1807.

As a youngster Catto attended a number of Philadelphia-area public schools, including the Vaux Primary School. By 1854, though, he was enrolled in the newly opened Institute for Colored Youth, the forerunner of historically black Cheyney University, just south of Philadelphia.

William Catto and other black ministers convinced the Quaker administration to focus on classical topics including Latin Greek and mathematics and not just ...

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Robert C. Hayden

physician, was born in New York City, the son of George DeGrasse, a prosperous landowner, and Maria Van Surly. After obtaining his early education in both public and private schools in New York City, he entered Oneida Institute in Whitesboro (near Utica), New York in 1840. Oneida was one of the first colleges to admit African Americans, nurturing a strong antislavery stance. In addition to welcoming black students to its campus, the institute invited abolitionists as lecturers and provided both a manual arts and an academic program.

In 1843 DeGrasse attended Aubuk College in Paris, France. Returning to New York City in 1845, he started medical training through an apprenticeship with Dr. Samuel R. Childs. After two years of clinical work and study under Childs, DeGrasse was admitted into the medical studies program at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1847 Finishing his ...

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Robert L. Harris

abolitionist and military officer, was born in Virginia, the son of a white man, William Douglas, and a slave, Mary (surname unknown). The initial in his name stood for Hezekiah. Sometime after his fifteenth birthday, he escaped from slavery and settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked as a barber. Self-educated, he became an active member of the antislavery movement and the Ohio free black community in the 1850s. He served as the Cleveland agent for the Voice of the Fugitive, a black newspaper published in Canada that was devoted to the “immediate and unconditional abolition” of slavery.

Douglas became a leader in the black state convention movement of Ohio. He supported William Lloyd Garrison's position that the U S Constitution was a proslavery document that recognized the slave trade approved slavery and provided for the recapture of fugitive slaves Unlike those abolitionists who sought ...

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Caryn Cossé Bell

businessman, Civil War veteran, and Reconstruction politician, was the son of the influential Creole New Orleanian Joseph Dumas, one of the owners of the Dumas Brothers French Quarter clothiers, a firm that specialized in imported French cloth and luxury apparel. Joseph Dumas invested his share of the firm's profits in real estate and accumulated a considerable fortune in property holdings and slaves. In 1860 African American Louisianans like François and Joseph Dumas constituted the wealthiest population of free blacks in the United States.

Joseph Dumas's import business necessitated that the Dumas family sojourn frequently in France, and it was there that François, was born, raised, and educated. François arrived in New Orleans shortly before the Civil War to manage the family business. He married Marguerite Victoria Victor, and the couple had five children, three girls and two boys. By 1860 he had become one ...

Article

Michael Frank Knight

, clerk, editor, Civil War veteran, and recipient of the Medal of Honor, was born to Charles and Anna Marie Fleetwood, free people in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1863 Christian left a lucrative position as a clerk in the Brune shipping and trading empire and joined the Fourth United States Colored Troops as a private. Just over a year later Fleetwood received the Medal of Honor for bravery and coolness under fire at the Battle of New Market Heights (Chaffin's Farm), 29 and 30 September 1864. He was one of only sixteen African American soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.

Christian Fleetwood's remarkable story begins in the home of the prominent Baltimore businessman John C. Brune Fleetwood s father served for a long time as the majordomo in the Brune household and it was there that Christian received his early education in reading ...

Article

Julie Winch

abolitionist, businessman, and Civil War soldier, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fifth of nine children of James Forten, a sailmaker and Revolutionary War veteran, and Charlotte Vandine. He was named for the white craftsman who befriended his father and gave him his start in business. Of his siblings, Margaretta Forten, Harriet Forten Purvis, Sarah Forten Purvis, James Forten Jr., and William Forten became active in the antislavery movement. Robert Forten received his early education at a school his parents and other affluent black Philadelphians established because of the failure of the city's board of education to provide adequate schooling for their children. Eventually Robert and his brothers transferred to the Pennsylvania Abolition Society's Clarkson School, although they may also have studied with the private tutors their parents hired to teach their sisters at home.

Growing up Forten developed a wide range ...

Article

Teresa A. Booker

slave, Union soldier, state legislator, teacher, and school superintendent, was one of three brothers born in Marshall, Texas, either to Emily and Jack Holland and later purchased by Captain “Bird” Holland, or to Captain “Bird” Holland himself and a slave.

Despite indeterminable origins, Holland's father purchased the freedom of the three men and sent them to Ohio in the 1850s, where each of them went to Albany Enterprise Academy, a school for blacks. In addition to reading and writing, students there were exposed to a range of subjects, including algebra, geometry, geography, history, chemistry, and astronomy. One of the school's first trustees was Thomas Jefferson Ferguson.

At the age of twenty-three, Holland fought on the side of the Union to end slavery by joining the 16th U.S. Colored Troop (USCT) on 22 October 1864 The 16th was a Tennessee contingent which opened ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor winner, was born in Princess Anne County, Virginia. Likely a slave before the war, he listed his occupation as that of a farmer upon joining the Union army sometime in mid-1863 at Portsmouth, Virginia. The enlistment of Miles James, Alfred Hilton, Edward Ratcliff, and thousands of other blacks from the South in 1863 signaled a sea change in opinion in the federal government and the upper echelon of the Union army. For both political and racial reasons, Union generals such as George McClellan and William Tecumseh Sherman had vigorously opposed the idea of recruiting black troops; both men vociferously opposed the idea of racial equality and did not believe that African Americans could be effective soldiers. While the use of black troops would not gain full acceptance until mid-1863 with the establishment of the Colored Troop ...

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William H. Brown

Medal of Honor winner, was born a slave in Williamson County, Tennessee. Little is know about his early life. Like so many African Americans, he might have been hired to serve as a laborer, mechanic, or teamster for the massive Union army supply infrastructure operating out of Nashville, Tennessee, during the Civil War. On 28 July 1866 the U.S. Congress authorized the raising of six regiments of “Negro troops” that were broken down into two cavalry and four infantry regiments. The two cavalry regiments were numbered the Ninth and Tenth U.S. Cavalry Regiments. Jordan enlisted in the U.S. Army in Nashville in late 1866 and was assigned to the Ninth Regiment.

It was not uncommon to find a soldier who spent his entire military service with one regiment or company This was the case with Private Jordan He served with the Ninth through the regiment s initial service along the ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Pennsylvania, the son of the Pennsylvania natives David Kelly, a coal miner, and Nancy. The family resided in South Versailles Township, Allegheny County, McKeesport, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, in the heart of coal-mining country. A coal miner like his father, Alexander Kelly, at five feet, three inches, was ideally suited for a profession where working in constricted spaces was the norm. However, he took up another profession, that of soldier, and there too he proved more than able to measure up to the tasks required of him.With the Union army in need of increasingly greater numbers of men, President Abraham Lincoln and the War Department came around to the idea of raising black troops. The idea became policy in May 1863 when General Order Number 143 established the Bureau of Colored Troops which oversaw activities ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, federal official, state legislator, and congressional aspirant, was the first of two sons born to a slave mother, Eliza Mabson, and her wealthy white owner, George W. Mabson, in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was educated at an early age in Massachusetts, where he resided until after the end of the Civil War. How George W. Mabson's father arranged to send his oldest son to Massachusetts in the early 1850s is not known, but presumably he either freed the light-skinned youth or smuggled him out of the state. From the age of eight, George reportedly lived with family friends in the Boston area, where he later worked as a waiter after the outbreak of the Civil War. On 15 February 1864 claiming to be eighteen years old George enlisted in the Union army joining the Fifth Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment s Company G the ...

Article

Robert Jr. Johnson

Massachusetts legislator, and civil rights and women's rights champion, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of William Mitchell and Clara (Green) Mitchell, of whom nothing is known. It is probable that he had a brother, William. Other than the fact that he trained and worked as a printer, little is known of Mitchell's early life. When the Civil War broke out, Mitchell joined the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Regiment at the age of thirty-three. Little is known of his military service, but he apparently lost a foot in the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina, in November 1864. He was one of the few African Americans commissioned as an officer at the close of the war. Unfortunately for Mitchell—and for George E. Stephens in the Fifty fourth as well while the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognized his promotion the U S War Department did not He was ...

Article

Juanita Patience Moss

slave, Union soldier, and farmer, was born to unknown parents in Chowan County, North Carolina, possibly on the Briols farm, located three miles from Edenton. Crowder was illiterate, and on his military records his surname is spelled Pacien. Some years after the Civil War, when his children entered school, their teachers spelled it Patience. When he applied for a government pension after the war, a member of the Fifth Massachusetts Colored Calvary by the name of Thomas Patience also gave his birthplace as that the Briols farm. Since the name of Patience is relatively uncommon, it is likely that they were brothers. Unfortunately, no records exist to verify the supposition.

When the Union army penetrated the South many slaves fled in search of the freedom promised to them if they could reach the Yankees Crowder Patience was one of these slaves At the age of eighteen he ...

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Timothy J. McMillan

slave, Civil War veteran, author, and itinerant minister, was born in New Bern, North Carolina. His mother was Lettice Nelson, a slave on John Nelson's plantation at Garbacon Creek in eastern North Carolina; his father was a white man believed to be William Singleton. As a young child of four, William was sold by his owner and thus separated from his mother and two brothers for the first time.

Singleton was purchased by a Georgia widow who speculated in slaves buying people cheaply when they were young and selling them at a premium when they had reached adulthood He was given the common tasks of a slave child running errands and carrying goods Around the age of six Singleton decided to escape the constant whippings and his bondage in Georgia and return to New Bern He was able to ride a stagecoach from ...

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Hugh C. MacDougall

soldier and politician, was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, the son of Peter Swails, an African American boatman, and his wife Joanna Atkins Swails, who was usually listed as white; both were from Maryland. After living in Columbia and Manheim the Swails family moved about 1856 to Elmira, New York.

In 1860 Stephen A. Swails worked as a waiter at the Keyes Hotel in Cooperstown, New York, where he married Sarah Thompson, from a local black family; they had two children. On 8 April 1863 Swails enlisted in the newly formed 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the Union's first African American regiments, and was immediately promoted to first sergeant. On 18 July 1863 he fought in the attack on Fort Wagner south of Charleston South Carolina that established the regiment s reputation for valor and led to the formation of the United States Colored Troops ...

Article

Eric S. Yellin

soldier, music historian, and government officeholder, was born to a slave woman named Letitia and her white owner, Richard S. Trotter, in Grand Gulf, Mississippi, near Vicksburg. After escape or manumission, Letitia settled with her children in the free city of Cincinnati around 1854. Trotter completed his secondary school education and attended the Albany Manual Labor University, near Hamilton, Ohio, where he majored in art and music. During his school vacations and summers he worked as a cabin boy on shipping boats running on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. After graduating from Albany, Trotter taught school in Chillicothe, Ohio, until June 1863.

In that year Negro regiments were created for the Union army and he enlisted in Company K of the Fifty fifth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry While in the army Trotter continued to teach holding class sessions for his fellow soldiers ...