Honor 9 Black Soldiers of the American Civil War


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Since its launch in 2014, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story  has brought to life the saga of the history-making 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry—the only Pennsylvania military unit to fight in the Union’s 1864 Red River Campaign across Louisiana . Integrated well before many other Union Army regiments through the enrollment of formerly enslaved black men in South Carolina during the fall of 1862—three months before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, this regiment served for the duration of the American Civil War.

On this regiment's rosters were members who distinguished themselves repeatedly in combat (including during the Union's 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign across Virginia, which helped turn the tide of war in the Union’s favor), and members who helped to guard the key conspirators in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln during the early days of their imprisonment in May 1865.

These achievements, however, have been largely overlooked by many mainstream historians who have chosen over the years to document the service of other regiments that fought in more famous battles. As a native of Pennsylvania and great-granddaughter of a member of this regiment's C Company, I felt this was an injustice which needed to be corrected. So, I created a website dedicated to the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and then expanded the project to include a Facebook page  which, as of February 1, 2020, had 1,082 followers.

In terms of my research and writing to date, I have thoroughly documented the lives of many of the white men who served with this regiment, but have not yet been able to do the same for the nine members of the 47th Pennsylvania who were described on regimental muster rolls as “black” or “field hand” because the records for these nine men still have not yet been digitized by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

This is a frustrating omission by NARA because there is still so little known about the lives of the formerly enslaved men who fought with the Union Army during the American Civil War. I truly believe that it is important for the military service and pension information for the nine African American men who enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers to be made more easily available to historians and history students of all ages so that the sacrifices and contributions made by these men will be remembered and honored—instead of being forgotten for another 150 years.

But to do this, I need your help.

The cost to purchase the Compiled Military Service File for just one soldier from the National Archives is $30 while the cost to purchase the Federal Military Pension Application File for that same soldier is $80 (or slightly higher if that file exceeds 100 pages). This means that, in order to obtain the complete records for all nine African American members of this regiment, it would cost me at least $990—an impossible amount for me to pay the National Archives at this time since my project presents its educational content free of charge to readers, but does not yet receive institutional, foundation or endowment funding.

As the former project manager of educational outreach projects for two highly respected American university systems and the author of history-related articles for regional and national news services, I can promise you that I will maximize your donation. I will use the records I obtain to research and write about the lives of these nine African American men for "47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story," and will then make that content available free of charge to history teachers, students, genealogists, and others. In addition, I will also donate hard and/or digitized copies of those records to historical societies and libraries in the communities where these nine soldiers and their families lived, as well as to archives at various locations across Pennsylvania so that the general public will be able to continue accessing these records long into the future. (For the names and brief descriptions of these men, please see the list at the end of this message.)

I ask that you help me to honor the service to the nation of these nine soldiers and inspire a new generation of students to learn more about the lives of African American veterans of the American Civil War by making your donation today. 

With Sincere Gratitude,

Laurie Snyder, Managing Editor
47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story


AFRICAN AMERICAN MEMBERS OF THE 47TH PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEER INFANTRY:

1.) Bristor Gaddis/Gethers: Mistakenly listed as “Presto Garris” by Samuel P. Bates in his "History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5," Vol. 1, Bristor Gaddis/Gethers was enrolled at the age of 33 with the 47th Pennsylvania’s F Company on October 5, 1862 at Beaufort, South Carolina. Described on regimental muster rolls as a 5’5”-tall man with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, he was honorably discharged at Charleston, South Carolina on October 4, 1865 upon the completion of his term of enlistment. He was then subsequently listed with 14 other formerly enslaved men and women on an 1868 U.S. Freedmen’s Bureau agreement between the bureau and “B. J. Whitesides,” a representative of the Whitehouse Plantation, and then later described by U.S. Census takers as a “Farmer.” Researchers have also been able to determine that this Civil War veteran married a woman named “Rachel,” had at least one son (“Peter”), and died sometime during or before 1894, according to U.S. Civil War Pension records. Researchers hope that, by obtaining the complete set of military and pension records for this Civil War veteran, they will be able to determine the correct spelling of his name, the nature of his military duties, the exact date and place of his death, what his post-war life with his wife and son was like, and where he was buried.

2.) Aaron French: Described as a 5’5”-tall “Field Hand” with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion when he was enrolled under the name of Aaron Bullard with the 47th Pennsylvania’s D Company at Natchitoches, Louisiana on April 5, 1864, Mr. French was honorably discharged with the other members of his unit when the 47th Pennsylvania was honorably mustered out in Charleston, South Carolina on Christmas Day 1865. Researchers have been able to determine that, post-war, Mr. French relocated to Issaquena County, Mississippi with his wife and children. Described as a “farm laborer” there by the 1870 U.S. Census taker and as a “farmer” by the 1880 U.S. Census taker, he reportedly died on January 30, 1891, according to U.S. Civil War Pension records. Researchers hope to learn more about his military duties during the war, his post-war life with his wife and their children, including their respective occupations and burial locations, and whether or not there were any familial relations between the three soldiers named “Bullard” shown on this list (soldier nos. 2, 3, 4).

3.) James Bullard: Mistakenly described as a resident of Allentown, Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866, James Bullard was also described in those same records as a 20-year-old “Laborer” with “Curly” hair, black eyes and a black complexion who was enrolled with the 47th Pennsylvania’s C Company on April 5, 1864 in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Listed on the muster rolls for most of the regiment’s service tenure, he reportedly deserted on July 7, 1865 while the regiment was stationed in Savannah, Georgia; however, that data may be incorrect since several other 47th Pennsylvanians were mistakenly identified as deserters while hospitalized for illness or battle-related injuries. Researchers hope to clarify whether Mr. Bullard was a deserter or not, if he retained the name of James Bullard or changed it as Aaron Bullard/Aaron French had done, and if so what that new name was, what happened to him after the war, and whether or not there were any familial relations between the three soldiers named “Bullard” shown on this list (soldier nos. 2, 3, 4).

4.) John Bullard: Described in Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866 as having “Joined by enlisting as under cook” at the age of 18 with the 47th Pennsylvania’s D Company at Natchitoches, Louisiana on April 5, 1864, John Bullard subsequently transferred to Company I within the same regiment at Cedar Creek, Virginia on October 23 or 29, 1864, and was then honorably discharged with the other members of his unit when the 47th Pennsylvania was honorably mustered out in Charleston, South Carolina on Christmas Day 1865. Researchers hope to determine if he retained the name of John Bullard or changed it as Aaron Bullard/Aaron French had done and, if so, what his new name was, as well as what happened to him after the war, and whether or not there were any familial relations between the three soldiers named “Bullard” shown on this list (soldier nos. 2, 3, 4).

5.) Thomas Haywood: Described in Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866 as a 5’4”-tall “Laborer” with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion who resided in Beaufort, South Carolina, Thomas Haywood was 30 years old at the time he enrolled there with the 47th Pennsylvania’s H Company on November 1, 1862. Honorably discharged in Charleston, South Carolina on October 31, 1865 upon completion of his term of enlistment, Thomas Haywood was awarded a U.S. Civil War Penson on April 30, 1888 and a renewal of that pension on April 13, 1907 at the rate of $15 per month. Per the special U.S. Census of veterans which was conducted in 1890, Mr. Haywood was a resident of Sheldon Township in Beaufort County, South Carolina. He died on January 13, 1911. Researchers hope to learn more about his military duties during the war, whether he married and had children or not, where he resided post-war and what his occupation was, where he died, and where he was buried.

6.) John Hamilton/Hamilton Blanchard: Described on muster rolls for the 47th Pennsylvania as a “Field Hand” at the time of his enlistment on April 5, 1864 at Natchitoches, Louisiana, and as having "joined by enlisting as under cook” with the regiment’s D Company, Hamilton Blanchard was also initially “Erroneously enrolled as John Hamilton.” Those same records stated that he was a 21-year-old native of Natchitoches who was 5’6” tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion. He was honorably discharged with the other members of his unit when the 47th Pennsylvania mustered out in Charleston, South Carolina on Christmas Day 1865. Researchers hope to learn more about his life before, during and after the war, including whether or not he married and had children, where he lived, what his occupation was, the exact date and place of his death, and where he was buried.

7.) Abraham Jassum: Mistakenly described as a resident of Allentown, Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866, Abraham Jassum was also described in those same records as a 5’6”-tall, 16-year-old “Cook” with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion who "joined from a recruiting depot” in Beaufort, South Carolina on October 5, 1862. Enrolled with the 47th Pennsylvania’s F Company that day, he was honorably discharged at Charleston, South Carolina on October 4, 1865 upon completion of his term of enlistment. Researchers hope to confirm the correct spelling of this soldier’s name at the time of his enlistment, whether or not he retained that name or changed it and, if changed, what his new name was, as well as what his life was like before, during and after the war, including whether or not he married and had children, where he lived, what his occupation was, when and where he died, where he was buried, and whether there was any familial relationship with Edward Jassum (see soldier no. 8 below).

8.) Edward Jassum: Described as a 22-year-old at the time of his enlistment with the 47th Pennsylvania’s F Company at Beaufort, South Carolina on October 15, 1862, Edward Jassum was another of the “under cooks” enrolled with the regiment while it was stationed in South Carolina. Transferred to the regiment’s H Company on October 11, 1864, he was honorably discharged at Charleston, South Carolina on October 14, 1865 upon completion of his term of enlistment. Researchers hope to confirm the correct spelling of this soldier’s name at the time of his enlistment, whether or not he retained that name or changed it and, if changed, what his new name was. In addition, they hope to learn more about his life before, during and after the war, including whether or not he married and had children, where he lived, what his occupation was, when and where he died, where he was buried, and whether there was any familial relationship with Abraham Jassum (see soldier no. 7 above).

9.) Samuel Jones: Mistakenly described as a resident of Allentown, Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866, Samuel Jones was a 29-year-old “Field Hand” with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion who enrolled with the 47th Pennsylvania’s C Company at Natchitoches, Louisiana on April 5, 1864. Listed on the regiment’s muster rolls for the remainder of its service tenure, he was honorably discharged with the other members of his unit when the 47th Pennsylvania mustered out in Charleston, South Carolina on Christmas Day 1865. Researchers hope to determine whether or not Mr. Jones retained his first and last names (and if changed, what his new name was), and what his life was like before, during and after the war, including whether or not he married and had children, where he lived, what his occupation was, when and where he died, and where he was buried.

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Organizer

Laurie Snyder 
Organizer
Discovery Bay, CA
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