Jefferson County residents fought for Union

On this, the 150th commemoration of the United States Colored Troops and their contributions to the Civil War, I thought it was timely to talk a bit about the local African-American men who participated in the Union army.

The Bureau of U.S. Colored Troops was established on May 22, 1863.

: John Harris is one of 12 Jefferson County African American men known to have fought for the Union during the Civil War. Wounded during a skirmish at Deep Bottom, Va., he lived to see the war end and died in Shepherdstown in 1904.

: John Harris is one of 12 Jefferson County African American men known
to have fought for the Union during the Civil War. Wounded during a skirmish at Deep Bottom, Va., he lived to see the war end and died in Shepherdstown in 1904.

With the able assistance of Linda Miur of Winchester, Va., who has been assisting the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society for many years, we have come up with a list of 12 Jefferson County men who were enlisted and served in the U.S. Colored Troops. Obviously there might be even more that we haven’t yet discovered.

These men were among 189,000 black soldiers and 18,000 black sailors who joined the Union. While the soldiers were segregated, the sailors were integrated.

By 1864, one in 10 Union soldiers were colored. About 15 percent of the Union Navy were black sailors. The soldiers enlisted, trained, had firearms issued to them, got paid and, if they survived, also got a pension.

The USCT soldiers belonged to 139 infantry regiments, six cavalry regiments, 12 heavy artillery regiments, and 10 light artillery regiments.

There were 22 USCT Congressional Medal of Honor winners during the Civil War including seven sailors of the Union Navy and 15 soldiers in the Union Army.

Black soldiers appeared in 449 engagements, including 39 major battles. Among those major battles were Fort Pillow, Fort Wagner, the Battle of Olustee and at the Crater in Petersburg. One in five of the black soldiers died of disease. During the war, 68,178 colored troops died, including 2,751 during battle.

The 12 Jefferson County men known to have enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops are:

  • George Lowery, a private with the 23rd USCT. Lowery was born in Jefferson County and captured at the Crater in Petersburg, Va., on July 30, 1864. He was held in prison in Richmond, but survived the war.
  • Edward Hall, a private with the 30th Maryland Regiment USCT. Born in Jefferson County in 1827, Hall enlisted in the fall of 1863 and served until a bale of hay fell on him while on duty in Morehead City, N.C. He received $27 a month pension from 1912 until his death in 1915. He is buried in the Orrick Cemetery in Winchester.
  • Daniel W. Arnett, a private with the 5th USCT. He was born a slave in Martinsburg (then Virginia), owned by the Honorable Charles J. Faulkner and worked as a coachman. He enlisted at Summit County, Ohio on Aug. 28, 1863. Arnett lost most of his hearing, which was first noticeable following the battle of New Market, Va. He was a resident of Shepherdstown and Charles Town and is buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown.
  • Isaac Carter was a private in the 127th USCT. He was born in Jefferson County on March 10, 1842 and enlisted on Sept. 3, 1864 at Chambersburg, Pa. He was with his regiment throughout the war including during operations at Richmond and Petersburg and was mustered out in Brazos Sanitago, Texas on Oct. 8, 1865. He lived in Gettysburg Pa., and died in 1918. He is buried in the Lincoln Cemetery in Gettysburg.
  • James R. Ferguson was a private in the 1st USCT. A blacksmith, he was born in Jefferson County a free colored man. He was listed in service records as mulatto. He enlisted at Mason Island, Va., on June 28, 1863 and mustered out at Roanoke Island, N. C., on Sept. 29, 1865.
  • Jonathon (John) Frame was a private with the 43rd USCT and was listed as a mulatto slave. He lived in Harpers Ferry and was injured in a fall at the battle of Chapman’s Farm, Va., and later suffered a rupture while on march near Brownsville, Texas and wore a truss. He mustered out at Brownsville on Oct. 20, 1865. He operated a restaurant in Shepherdstown and later in Luray, Va., and died on Feb. 16, 1897. He is buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Bolivar.
  • John Harris aka Toney Harris was a private with the 28th USCT and also served in the 2nd USCT Cavalry. He was born in Tennessee and at age 32 enlisted in the fall of 1863 at Jeffersonville, Ind. Harris suffered a gunshot wound in the left thigh at Deep Bottom, Va., in Sept. 1864 and was treated at Camp Radford Hospital in Baltimore. He mustered out at Indianapolis on Aug. 6, 1864 and received an invalid pension. He died July 13, 1904 in Shepherdstown.
  • Jasper Thompson was a sergeant with the 23rd USCT and was born in Harpers Ferry. At 20 he enlisted March 29, 1864 and was appointed corporal in December and made first sergeant the next February. He was honorably discharged at Brazos Santiago, Texas in November 1865. He is buried in Fairview-Gibsontown Cemetery behind Page-Jackson school in Charles Town.
  • Albert Washington was a private in the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry USCT, the only black cavalry regiment raised from a Northern state during the Civil War. He was born in Culpeper, Va., a slave and worked as a miller. He enlisted at Boston, Mass., on May 29, 1864 and later married Anne Saunders in Charles Town in Sept. 1889. He died on Oct. 1, 1922 in Charles Town and is buried in Fairview-Gibsontown Cemetery.
  • George w. Pennington was a private in the 8th USCT. He enlisted at Chambersburg on Aug. 24, 1863 and was wounded at Olustee, Fla., in February 1864 and hospitalized at Beaufort, S.C. He later saw action at Chafin’s Farm, Va., and at Appomattox Courthouse. He mustered out in Brownsville, Texas in November 1865.
  • An George Robinson was a private with the 8th USCT. He enlisted on Aug. 25, 1863 in Chambersburg and was wounded at Olustee in February 1864. He was promoted to corporal in January 1865 and was also involved at Chafin’s Farm, Va., and Appomattox Courthouse. Like Pennington, he mustered out on Nov. 10 1865 at Brownsville.
  • Richard Burke was a private with the 8th USCT. He enlisted at 28 in August 1863 at Ridgeway, N.Y., and wounded in right thigh at Olustee, Florida on Feb. 20, 1864. He returned to action at Chafin’s Farm, where he was wounded in the right hand by a shell; the hand was amputated. Burke was discharged June 4, 1865 for a disability.

At the end of the war, President Lincoln said: “Without the military help of the black men, the war against the South could not have been won.” I’m sure these 12 men did their part to help Mr. Lincoln win that terrible war.

— Bob O’Connor writes from Jefferson County


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