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Steven J. Niven

Union army officer and politician, was born in New Orleans, the son of a West Indian midwife and a free black soldier who had served in the Corps d'Afrique with General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. His parents' names are not recorded. Family lore had it that Caesar's maternal grandfather, an African chief, had been enslaved and taken to America and that his paternal grandmother, Rose Antoine, had earned enough money from her work as a midwife to purchase her freedom. Rose Antoine also left each of her seven sons twenty thousand dollars in her will.

As a free black child in New Orleans Antoine attended private schools the public schools of the city were closed to blacks and became fluent in both English and French Upon leaving school as a teenager in the early 1850s he then apprenticed and worked as a barber one of ...

Article

Michael J. Ristich

military officer and conservationist, was born in Troy, New York, the son of James Boutelle of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and Emeline Lamb Boutelle. Little is known of his childhood and adolescent years. However, at age twenty‐one, possibly passing as white, Boutelle began his ascent through the ranks of the military to become a highly decorated officer, including earning the rank of adjutant general.

On 15 August 1861 Boutelle enlisted in the Fifth New York Calvary Regiment. On 4 November 1862 he was promoted from quartermaster sergeant to second lieutenant. Boutelle and his regiment were then assigned to Pennsylvania to battle against Robert E. Lee's Confederate forces. During the Gettysburg campaign Boutelle was injured when he fell from his horse during a charge on Hanover on 30 June 1863. Because of his injuries Boutelle was assigned to the First Brigade, Third Calvary Division on 17 January 1864 as an ...

Article

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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Paul J. Polgar

abolitionist and Union soldier, was born a slave in Virginia. Little is known about Douglass's early years except that he escaped slavery and fled to Louisiana in the late 1840s. He spent the 1850s in the upper Midwest, where he worked as a barber and an abolitionist. There he gave emphatic speeches calling for immediate emancipation and became known for his persuasive speaking style and oratorical prowess. He took his surname from his fellow abolitionist and mentor, Frederick Douglass, with whom he traveled on the abolitionist speaking circuit.

Ford Douglass was a radical figure who viewed the United States as an inherently racist nation. He believed that the Constitution systematically endorsed the institution of slavery, while the nation's politicians acted insidiously to spread the sin of bondage. An excerpt from a speech he gave at the State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Ohio in 1851 captures ...

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James M. O'Toole

Coast Guard officer and Alaska pioneer, was born Michael Augustine Healy in Jones County, Georgia, to Michael Morris Healy, an immigrant from Ireland, and Eliza Clark, a mixed-race slave owned by Michael Morris Healy. Michael was the sixth of nine surviving children born to his parents, who, though never legally married, maintained a common-law relationship for more than twenty years, neither one of them ever marrying anyone else. Michael Morris Healy was barred by Georgia law from emancipating either his wife or his children, but he treated them as family members rather than as slaves, even as he owned fifty other slaves. He was a successful cotton planter and amassed the resources to send his children north before the Civil War, which he did as each approached school age, beginning in 1844 The children exhibited a wide range of complexion but most of them including young ...

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John Howard Smith

shoemaker, soldier, and officer in the First New Orleans Battalion of Free Men of Color, was the first African American recognized by the U.S. government as an officer of field grade status. He was also known as “Vass Populus,” and little is known about his life apart from the fact that he worked as a shoemaker before embarking on a military career.

New Orleans in the eighteenth century was already a vibrantly multiracial and multicultural city, with fully a quarter of its black population being free, variously composed of Africans, African Americans, and mixed-race Creoles. The French created a small black militia, consisting of free and enslaved volunteers, to augment the army in repelling Indian attacks in the early 1730s, and which performed admirably against the British and their native allies during King George's War (1739–1747 Those who had been slaves were eventually granted their freedom ...

Article

Caryn Cossé Bell

military officer, was born into an influential family of free persons of African descent in the city of Saint-Marc in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (later Haiti). He married the Saint-Marc native Marie Charlotte Lajoie, and the couple had at least two sons, Belton and Bertile Savary. The family fled their native land during the Haitian Revolution and eventually emigrated to New Orleans in a massive Saint-Domingue refugee movement in 1809 and 1810 that nearly doubled the size of the city.

Charles Joseph Savary s life spanned the American French and Haitian revolutions and because of the tumultuous age in which he lived the facts related to his history are scarce fragmentary and sometimes contradictory Part of the problem also stems from circumstances that forced Savary to conceal his identity In Saint Domingue s repressive three caste society and in slave regimes throughout the Americas free men ...