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Glenn Allen Knoblock

sailor, was one of eight African American seamen to earn the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. Likely in his early twenties when he enlisted as a landsman (for which he was tasked with the simplest sail-handling and duties like manning the yardarm) in the Union navy from Pennsylvania, Anderson was probably born a free black and, because he was rated a landsman, had little or no prior seafaring experience.

Though few details of Aaron Anderson's military service are known, and virtually nothing of his private life, his exemplary service nonetheless serves to highlight the importance of the African American contribution to the Union navy in what was, up to that time, the nation's bloodiest war. Along with such men as Joachim Pease, Robert Smalls, and John Lawson, Aaron Anderson was one of approximately eighteen thousand African Americans eleven of them women to serve ...

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Marlene L. Daut

Medal of Honor recipient, actor, and playwright, was born in Richmond, Virginia, of unknown parentage. Beaty (sometimes spelled Beatty) was born a slave, but little else is known of his early years or how he came to be free. Beaty left Richmond in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he would spend the majority of his life, and became a farmer. Later, Beaty's education consisted of an apprenticeship to a black cabinetmaker in Cincinnati, as well as a tutelage under James E. Murdock, a retired professional actor and dramatic coach.

On 5 September 1862 Powhatan Beaty along with 706 other African American men was forced to join Cincinnati s Black Brigade after Confederate troops repeatedly threatened the city The Black Brigade was one of the earliest but unofficial African American military units organized during the Civil War but it did not engage in any military action since the city was ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Medal of Honor winner, was born into slavery in Santee, South Carolina. When war came he was a slave on the Arthur Blake Plantation on the South Santee River, McClellanville, South Carolina, possibly the same plantation on which he was born. The Blake Plantation, one of many rice plantations in the area, was no small affair; according to the 1860 census it had 538 enslaved men and women and was the twelfth largest plantation in the country. When the Union navy invaded the coastal areas of South Carolina, it not only created widespread panic among slave‐holders but also influenced many of those who were enslaved to emancipate themselves and flee to freedom. In May 1862, with the Union navy off the coast of South Carolina, Robert Blake and four others, Prince, Michael, Jack, and Captain Blake fled the Blake Plantation All were picked up by ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Burrell Township, Pennsylvania. Little is known about Bronson's life before the war except that he was a barber. Perhaps enthusiastic about getting a chance to fight for the Union cause, he journeyed from Pennsylvania to Delaware, Ohio, to enlist in the 127th Ohio Regiment on 4 July 1863. When he joined, James Bronson was in the vanguard of black service in the army less than two months prior the War Department had created the Bureau of Colored Troops This military agency was created to aid in the establishment of black regiments and the enlistment of both black troops and the white officers who would command them In some cases these regiments were raised entirely under the bureau s guidance However as was the case with Bronson s 127th Ohio Regiment some were raised by individual states and ...

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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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Glenn Allen Knoblock

sailor and Medal of Honor recipient, was a native of Kingston, Jamaica, who immigrated to America prior to 1877. Little is known of his life before his naval service, except that he resided in Virginia, was there married to his wife Maria, a native of Virginia, in 1877, and that his daughter Emily was subsequently born in 1879.

Like so much else about the life of John Davis, just when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy is uncertain. Though Davis was aboard the screw steamer U.S.S. Trenton when he earned the Medal of Honor in 1881, he was not aboard that ship, the flagship of the navy's European Station, when it departed New York for France in March 1877. John Davis likely enlisted in the navy in Virginia in 1877 about the time he was married and was subsequently assigned duty ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War sailor and Medal of Honor nominee, was born in San Antonio, Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of Africa. Nothing is known of Dees's family background or life, except that he was practicing the trade of a sailor when he arrived in the United States at Eastport, Maine.

Dees enlisted in the U.S. Navy in Eastport, Maine, on 6 June 1864, joining the crew of the newly commissioned U.S.S. Pontoosuc, a side-wheel gunboat built in Portland, Maine. Dees, who enlisted for a term of two years, was one of a dozen men who enlisted at Eastport, and was credited to the town's draft quota. While serving aboard the Pontoosuc in the first months of its service Dees saw service in Southern waters as the ship performed blockade duties and then in Northern waters as far as Halifax Nova Scotia during its pursuit of the Confederate ...

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Moya B. Hansen

Buffalo Soldier, was born in Big Flats, New York, along the banks of the Chemung River, not far from the town of Elmira. Nothing is known about Denny's family aside from the fact that he had a sister. Denny's career as a Buffalo Soldier in the Ninth Cavalry spanned thirty years, during which time he earned the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. Denny enlisted in the U.S. Army on 13 June 1867, one year after President Andrew Johnson signed legislation establishing two cavalry and four infantry regiments composed of African American men. All of these units were sent to the western frontier to defend settlers from Indian tribes, rustlers, thieves, and bandits.

Denny was assigned to Company C Ninth Cavalry stationed at Fort Davis Texas near the Mexican border Its orders were to protect stage and mail routes between El Paso and San Antonio patrol ...

Article

Michael F. Knight

soldier and Civil War Medal of Honor recipient, was born a slave in Howard County, Maryland. Little is known of his early life, but according to an 1867 slave compensation claim, Edward Rider Jr., of Baltimore, Maryland, bought Decatur Dorsey from the state of Maryland in June 1861. Following his purchase by Rider, Dorsey's status as slave or freedman is not clear from surviving records, but it seems likely he ran away from his master sometime between 1861 and 22 March 1864, when he enlisted as a private in Company B, Thirty-ninth United States Colored Troops (USCT). On his enlistment papers he describes himself as a free laborer. He stood six feet tall, with black eyes and hair, and was twenty-five years old at the time of enlistment.

Military life in the Thirty ninth USCT agreed with Dorsey A private in March he was promoted to ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Gloucester, Virginia, and was likely a slave prior to the Civil War. When Gardner enlisted for service in the Union army on 15 September 1863, he listed his occupation as that of an oysterman. The service of James Gardner and thousands of other African Americans in the Union army represented a quest to destroy slavery and establish a foundation for postwar demands for full citizenship For the federal government and most of the North however black patriotism was unwillingly accepted only out of sheer necessity two years of battle and staggering Union casualties compelled Northerners to swallow their opposition to black recruitment and the measure of racial equality that service implied in order to fill their depleted army ranks Indeed early war time fever had dissipated and voluntary enlistments faded making it difficult for states to ...

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Michael F. Knight

former slave, buffalo soldier, corporal in the U.S. Army, Indian Wars veteran, and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Madison County, Virginia, to John Greaves and a mother whose name is unrecorded. Clinton Greaves enlisted in the U.S. Army on 21 November 1872 at Baltimore, Maryland, and on 19 March 1873 he was sent to the Western frontier to join Troop C, Ninth U.S. Cavalry Regiment, in Texas. The Ninth Cavalry was one of four black regular army regiments later given the name the “buffalo soldiers.” Greaves distinguished himself in 1877 during the height of the Apache campaigns when he became one of twenty-three black soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor for his service in the Indian wars.

Clinton Greaves was a laborer in Prince George s County Maryland when he decided to journey to Baltimore to enlist in the army Like many former slaves Greaves ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born free in Cincinnati, Ohio. Details of Hawkins's early life are unknown, but by 1863 he would join the Union army in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and soon he became an accomplished soldier. By 1863, two years into the war, President Abraham Lincoln and the Union army faced a dilemma. Despite victories, albeit at a high cost, at Antietam, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg, Northern states found it increasingly difficult to raise their quotas of men for the Union army. It may have been Chaplain George Hepworth of the 47th Massachusetts Regiment who summed up the situation best when he wrote in late 1863 We needed that the vast tide of death should roll by our own doors and sweep away our fathers and sons before we could come to our senses and give the black man the one boon he has ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Harford County, Maryland. The personal details of his life are unknown, but he was likely a slave before the Civil War began. By 1863 thousands of slaves had fled to the Union army lines seeking their freedom from Southern masters. Their situation in legal limbo, they gained the name “contrabands,” as opposed to freemen and-women, as soon as they began appearing in Union lines and were settled in hundreds of regional camps. Many of them, men and women, were employed by the Union Army, not as soldiers, but as laborers building fortifications, stevedores, wagoneers, spies, scouts, guides, cooks, and laundresses. A number of men, such as Robert Smalls knew well the waters of their native areas and were employed as pilots The use of blacks as soldiers would not come until midway through the war While the ...

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 ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. Navy sailor and Medal of Honor recipient, was a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Little is known about his life, but he is probably the same man that enlisted in the navy at Philadelphia during the Civil War, serving as a landsman aboard the U.S.S. Suwanee for three years from 10 February 1865 to 31 March 1867. At the time of his enlistment in 1865, his occupation was listed as that of a waiter and barber. Johnson's activities after the war are uncertain; he may have returned to his peacetime occupation, but it seems likely that he continued serving in the navy, rising from landsman, to ordinary seaman, and thence to the rating of seaman.

Johnson was serving aboard the gunboat U.S.S. Kansas when it departed New York for Cuba on 29 November 1871, arriving in Havana early in December. The Kansas with about one ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

a sailor in the U.S. Navy and Medal of Honor recipient, was a native of St. Vincent in the West Indies. Nothing is known of his personal life or background except the fact that he immigrated to the United States in 1870, making his arrival in New York at the young age of fifteen. When he enlisted in the navy is unknown.

By 1879William Johnson was serving aboard the wooden steamer U.S.S. Adams as a cooper, an important skilled member of the crew whose job was to make and repair the barrels and casks that held the ship's stores and water supplies. Whether Johnson had learned the trade of cooper prior to his arrival in the United States is unknown. In the fall of 1879, the Adams and her crew arrived in San Francisco after having spent twenty three months in Alaska keeping an eye ...

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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

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War sailor and Medal of Honor recipient, was born John Henry Lawson in Pennsylvania to parents from Delaware. Nothing is known about his early life, and even his date of birth is uncertain. Military records indicate that he was born in 1837, while census records state that he was born five years earlier. Census records also reveal that Lawson likely married his wife, Mary (also called Mary Ann), by 1857, the year in which his eldest child, Joseph, was born. John and Mary subsequently had seven other children: Susan, George, Raymond, Mary, Mariah, Gertrude, and Marien.

Like thousands of other black men, both freeborn and freed, Lawson enlisted for Civil War service in the U.S. Navy on 3 December 1863 in New York Naval records indicate that Lawson was twenty six years old at the time a ...