Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Moses Smith, Black Canadian Born Soldier in Civil War

Through a recent study of the birthplaces and enlistment locations of a select group of soldiers in Company B of USCT 1 Calvary, I discovered a black Canadian born soldier who enlisted in Buffalo, NY in October 1864 and was transferred to a Virginia Based United States Colored Troop Regiment a few days after his enlistment. This discovery is quite intriguing and the curious side of me wants to know more about this soldier. And so I start the research process of this soldier with a basic genealogy step which is to “WRITE DOWN WHAT I KNOW.” I hope that by posting this summary on my blog that others who are more knowledgeable of Canada, New York, and Civil War research can give me tips on further researching the life of this soldier. The information below was obtained from the Civil War Union Service Record for Moses Smith, USCT 1 Calvary.


Moses Smith was born in Canada around 1843. Although his record does not name a province in Canada, a strong possibility is “Ontario” since it borders Buffalo, NY the location where Moses enlisted. On his Union Civil War service record, his physical characteristics were noted as “5 foot, 3-1/2 inches tall, with black complexion, eyes, and hair”. His occupation was listed as a Laborer.

Moses Smith mustered into the military as a “Recruit” on October 3, 1864 in Buffalo, NY under Captain Ruggans. He was 21 at the time of his enlistment. Three days later on October 6, 1864, Moses was “forwarded or transferred to the “United States Color Troop 1 Calvary which had been organized in Camp Hamilton, VA in December 1863. Moses Smith received a bounty of $100 and $25.75 for clothing for his military service.

Remarks in the service records suggest that Moses Smith was a musician because it indicates transfers and duty in the “reglt band.” (I assume that the reference to “band” refers to a musical group and not some other type of military group.) There is also a remark about a special order 32 dated Jan 9, 1865.

Moses Smith was mustered out of the military on February 4, 1866 in Brazos Santiago, TX along with his regiment, USCT 1 Calvary.

The part of this story which sparks my interest the most is Moses' Canadian roots and I hope to discover more about this black Smith family living in Canada during the 1800s.

Monday, June 6, 2011

United States Colored Troops in Photos

Check out this short video of photos of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) 1863-1865. These African American men fought during the American Civil War.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

USCT Bounty Poster

Posters such as this likely enticed African American men to enlist in the military during the Civil War. Although many of them could not read during this era, no doubt the word got out about the contents of a poster such as this, and the benefits of joining the military.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Life in The Army During the Civil War

This video is a class project performed by two young men. I thought they did a great in their reenactment of life in the army during the Civil War. Hope that they received an A+ on this project. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Civil War Veteran Soldier Reunions, 1913 and 1938

This is priceless video footage of the 50th and 75th reunions of Civil War veterans. Video was sent to me by a genealogy friend and includes footage of African American Civil War Veterans.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Civil War Webinar

I look forward to the upcoming Civil War webinar with Michael O. Varhola, the author of the new book Life in Civil War America. For more information, click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

W'en Dey 'Listed

This video is Mitch Capel's rendition of the poem, W'en Day 'Listed boy Paul Laurence Dunbar. The poem tells the story from the point of view of loved one of a United States Colored Troops soldier.


By Paul Laurence Dunbar Dey was talkin' in de cabin, dey was talkin' in de hall; But I listened kin' o' keerless, not a-t'inkin' 'bout it all; An' on Sunday, too, I noticed, dey was whisp'rin' mighty much, Stan'in' all erroun' de roadside w'en dey let us out o' chu'ch. But I did n't t'ink erbout it 'twell de middle of de week, An' my 'Lias come to see me, an' somehow he could n't speak. Den I seed all in a minute whut he 'd come to see me for;-- Dey had 'listed colo'ed sojers an' my 'Lias gwine to wah. Oh, I hugged him, an' I kissed him, an' I baiged him not to go; But he tol' me dat his conscience, hit was callin' to him so, An' he could n't baih to lingah w'en he had a chanst to fight For de freedom dey had gin him an' de glory of de right. So he kissed me, an' he lef me, w'en I 'd p'omised to be true; An' dey put a knapsack on him, an' a coat all colo'ed blue. So I gin him pap's ol' Bible f'om de bottom of de draw',-- W'en dey 'listed colo'ed sojers an' my 'Lias went to wah. But I t'ought of all de weary miles dat he would have to tramp, An' I could n't be contented w'en dey tuk him to de camp. W'y my hea't nigh broke wid grievin' 'twell I seed him on de street; Den I felt lak I could go an' th'ow my body at his feet. For his buttons was a-shinin', an' his face was shinin', too, An' he looked so strong an' mighty in his coat o' sojer blue, Dat I hollahed, "Step up, manny," dough my th'oat was so' an' raw,-- W'en dey 'listed colo'ed sojers an' my 'Lias went to wah. Ol' Mis' cried w'en mastah lef huh, young Miss mou'ned huh brothah Ned, An' I did n't know dey feelin's is de ve'y wo'ds dey said W'en I tol' 'em I was so'y. Dey had done gin up dey all; But dey only seemed mo' proudah dat dey men had hyeahed de call. Bofe my mastahs went in gray suits, an' I loved de Yankee blue, But I t'ought dat I could sorrer for de losin' of 'em too; But I could n't, for I did n't know de ha'f o' whut I saw, 'Twell dey 'listed colo'ed sojers an' my 'Lias went to wah. Mastah Jack come home all sickly; he was broke for life, dey said; An' dey lef my po' young mastah some'r's on de roadside,--dead. W'en de women cried an' mou'ned 'em, I could feel it thoo an' thoo, For I had a loved un fightin' in de way o' dangah, too. Den dey tol' me dey had laid him some'r's way down souf to res', Wid de flag dat he had fit for shinin' daih acrost his breas'. Well, I cried, but den I reckon dat 's whut Gawd had called him for, W'en dey 'listed colo'ed sojers an' my 'Lias went to wah. The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Military Records of Civil War Vet Madison Lewis

I discovered Madison Lewis’ Civil War service record and pension index card through research on a few weeks ago. Madison enlisted in the 1st Regiment, United States Colored Cavalry, Company B on December 22, 1863 at Camp Hamilton located in Hampton, VA. Later I searched the database on the Civil War Soldiers and Sailor System where I located the names of other soldiers in Madison’s regiment as well as a regiment history. Since these discoveries, I have been studying and analyzing these records.

Additionally I also typed up a timeline of events in Microsoft Excel from the service record and regiment history in order to make some sense of the military career of Madison Lewis. I use Microsoft Excel often for these type of research project because of the ability to sort and filter the data. Any spreadsheet software or table in word processing software would assist in analyzing genealogical data.

Typing up a timeline in Microsoft Excel with regiment and service record dates and events helps me to understand the military career of Madison Lewis.

I look forward to looking at the pension records of Madison Lewis soon. I’m sure this record will contain genealogy gems that will take me on a new research trial. Maybe, if I’m lucky, there will be a tin type photo of Madison in his file.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How I Discovered My Adopted USCT Soldier Madison Lewis

This is continuation from the blog posting on "My Adopted USCT Soldier."
I first learned about Madison Lewis after reading the unpublished autobiography* of his brother-in-law George Washington Fields (1854-1932). In this narrative entitled Come on Children, George Fields writes about his life as a slave in Hanover County, VA and his family’s escape to Hampton, VA in March 1863. Other time periods in George Fields’ life through adulthood are also included in this autobiography. The first time that Madison Lewis is mentioned in this narrative is when Fields writes about the day his family escaped from slavery in Hanover County, VA to Hampton, VA. This escape occurred in late March 1863 according to Fields, and arrived at Old Point Comfort in Hampton, VA in early April. Early that morning on the day of the escape, a skirmish between Confederate and Union soldiers occurred at the Hanover County Virginia Courthouse . After the Union army’s victory in this skirmish, numerous slaves in the area escaped to Union lines and onward to freedom.

*Note: A typed copy of “Come on Children” is housed in the Sis. Evans collection of the Hampton History Museum. Based on the typist notes in this manuscript, this copy was typed from another draft of this autobiography. I have not yet located the original of this autobiography.
My focus of this research project is James A. Fields, but through searching his life, I have veered off into other research directions of his kinfolks such as his brother George Washington Fields, his mother Martha Fields, and now his brother-in-law, Madison Lewis.

Through an internet research on a few weeks ago, I discovered that Madison Lewis was a United States Colored Troop soldier. This has been an extremely exciting journey into military and Civil War era research and I still can’t believe that I’m even interested in this type of research.

To Be Continued. . . Part 2

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Descendants Search for Ancestor David Carll

Apparently actress Vanessa Williams is not the only descendant of Civil War soldier David Carll who has been searching for information on him. The article “African American Civil War Museum Honors OB Civil War Vet David Carll” (Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot, August 20, 2010, written by Dagmar Fors Karppi) indicates other descendants have been researching his life. On August 7, 2010, a presentation was made by Frank Carl (great-great grandson) of New York, NY and Gilbert McDonald (great-great-great grandson) of Odenton, MD., at the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C. about their ancestor David Carll. This article ironically does not mention Vanessa Williams’ quest to find information on her ancestor. Neither were there any other references to other descendants researching David Carll mentioned in Vanessa Williams’ Who Do You Think You Are episode last night.

The article further indicates that while doing research at the National Archives, great-great-great grandson, Gilford McDonald, viewed his ancestor’s pension record and discovered the tin-type” photograph of his ancestor. The article does not indicate a date when this discovery occurred. This article is a must read and it gives some details about David Carll’s 12-year struggle in collecting his rightful pension and the reason the photo was sent as part of the pension file.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Call for Papers

The Asalh Association for African American Life and History has issued a call for papers for their 2011 conference which will be held October 5-9, 2011 in Richmond, VA. The theme for this year’s conference is “African Americans and the Civil War”. The deadline for submission is April 30, 2011.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Civil War Emancipation Blog

Today, I was sent the link to a Civil War blog by a genealogy friend. The Civil War Emancipation blog is designed "to commemorate important milestones in emancipation in the Civil War as their 150th anniversary arrives in the sesquicentennial." It is fantastic to see the creation of so many Civil War related blogs.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Civil War Ancestor of Vanessa Williams on WDYTYA

I am extremely excited about the beginning of Season Two of the Who Do You Think You Are television series which airs on NBC this Friday night, February 4, 2011 at 8 p.m. I am especially excited about seeing what actress and former Miss America, Vanessa Williams, learns about her great great grandfather’s Civil War career during her visit to the National Archives in Washington, DC. How amazing it is that she found a photo of her ancestor in his pension file. I look forward to visiting the National Archives soon to read through the pension file of my newly adopted USCT soldier, Madison Lewis. To preview four video clips of Vanessa Williams' episode of the WDYTYA show, click here .

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Adopted USCT Soldier

Just like I never imagined becoming interested in researching the Civil War, I definitely had no interest in researching soldiers, regiments, and stuff like that. Read more about The Origins of My Civil War Research Interest.

Researching Others
I learned years ago from researching my own family to research others associated with the focus person or family. Those others may be kinfolks, neighbors, or friends. My research of James A. Fields began this interest in studying the Civil War era, but researching others in his family has taken me into whole new unintended direction.

United States Colored Troops
Much of what I know about the United States Colored Troops (USCT) comes from my friend and fellow genealogist, Angela Walton Raji. I communicate with her regularly through email and participation in the chats of the Afrigeneas website. One of Angela's genealogical passions is the USCT'S and every time I tell her that I’m going to visit a cemetery, she always says “Look for USCTs!” So far, I have not discovered any USCTs in the cemeteries I have visited.

Afrigeneas Chats
Angela and a few other Afrigeneas chatters have discovered several USCT ancestors and other African American kin who served in the American Civil War. "Adopt a USCT," Angela said to those of us in the chat who have not found a USCT ancestor. At the time of this conversation, I was contemplating starting a new blog focusing on my ancestors who were alive during the Civil War. I was also actively engaged in researching the Fields family who were former slaves who had escaped from slavery during the Civil War. At the time of this chat, I really was not interested in researching a USCT or anything military related. I’ll leave that type of research to Angela and others, I thought as this conversation was going on during one the Afrigeneas chat. Angela is so passionate about USCTs that she launched a new blog on January 1st of this year and in her first posting, she writes about her reasons for starting this blog, The USCT Chronicle --150 Years Later Getting the Story Right!.

My Adopted USCT Soldier
On another occasion, I did say to the chat group that if I found a USCT through my research of James A. Fields, then I would adopt him. Shortly after I make this declaration, I discovered a USCT named Madison Lewis who was a brother in law of James A. Fields and since that time (last weekend), I have been consumed with researching the military career and regiment of Madison Lewis who was born into slavery around 1835 in Spotsylvania County, VA . In March 1863, he escaped from slavery in Hanover County, VA with the mother and some of the siblings of James A. Fields. They arrived to Fort Monroe in early April 1863 and later that year in December, Madison Lewis enlisted in Company B of the 1st Regiment USCT Calvary which was organized at Camp Hamilton near Fort Monroe, VA and the campus of Hampton University.

To Be Continued . . .

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Let Freedom Ring!

"My country,' tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing" is not a song that my enslaved African American ancestors who were alive 150 years ago in 1861 could sing. But after the end of the war, they could for the first time in their lives, begin to sing a song such as this, and no doubt they understood the true meaning of the words in this song "From every mountainside let freedom ring! "

This blog, Let Freedom Ring!, is a celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War. As an African American, I have a lot to celebrate during this anniversary because if the Civil War had not occurred and resulted in the freedom of my people, my life would be totally different and I would undoubtedly be "working on somebody's plantation." This blog is designed to document my personal journey and research discoveries of the People, Places, Events, and Other Things Related to the Civil War Era. Not only will I talk about my ancestors, but I will also talk about the others not related to me who were alive during this era. I hope that other American bloggers and genealogists will take some time to commemorate this anniversary in some type of way.

Today, there is much debate about the causes of the Civil War. Irregardless of the causes, I am more concerned with the outcome which was the freedom of my ancestors.

LET FREEDOM RING! I wish I could sing it like Aretha Franklin, but since that's not my talent and I want you to visit my blog again (LOL), just listen to her sing the song and reflect on our nation's FREEDOM.

Aretha Franklin MY COUNTRY 'TIS OF THEE Inauguration Day 2009