Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Soldier of the 110th US Colored Infantry

The 110th US Colored Infantry was organized from the 2nd Alabama Colorerd Infantry.  Originally attached to garrison duty in Pulaski Tennessee, they were involved in the defences of Nashville, and the Northwesttern Rialroad, in the Department of the Cumberland.  They were also a part of the Department of the Tennessee throughout the war.

According to historian William Gladstone, the 110th was also involved in the Battle of Dallas Georgia in May of 1864.  

General Logan at the Battle of Dallas, May 1864.jpg
Battle of Dallas under command of Gen. Logan was captured by Civil War illustrators. 

I was interested in learning more about the role of the 110th, but had little success.  The description of the 110th in the Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frederick Dyer did confirm that they were part of the Tennessee Army and it is known that the Tennessee Army was involved in the battle in Dallas Georgia. However, I found nothing in the official records describing their involvement in that battle. While seeking more information on the movement of the 110th,  I was surprised to run into the story of a soldier who did join the 110th and he enlisted with them, in Georgia. It was a simple story of a former slave who enlisted with the US Colored Troops.  I became intrigued as I read the story/ because just as interesting as his story was--for me the language used to tell his story also made me take note.

The soldier's name was Charles Page and later Charles Hicks. He was originally from Johnson County Georgia and in later life, from Toombs County Georgia. He was a slave who it is said, was sold from a brutal master ( Page) to another man Major Hicks, in the US Army. When the war began in 1861, the soldier professed allegiance to the south, and Major Hick's son enlisted in the Confederate Army. Having no choice, for he was enslaved, Charles the slave accompanied the young master as a body servant to the war. 

The young master was wounded and returned for some time to Georgia and later the young master left Charles behind in Georgia. The story indicates that though the young master left Charles in Georgia, that Charles the slave was possibly trying to "rejoin his master" when he ran into Sherman's forces and the Union army. 

It is clear, if that if one takes the mindset, even briefly of one who was enslaved, that once the opportunity to escape to freedom that he would take it. For Charles, when the chance came to him and he seized it.  

However, the article suggests that he was "forced"  to enlist and to work as a cook in the Union Army. The suggestion of his being "forced" to enlist was written in an obituary in 1941. But the records however, reveal that  the man enlisted of his own choice. 

Of course,  the article fails to point out  that he served with several hundred other black men who volunteered to fight for freedom in Company C of the 110th.  His relationship with other men, born enslaved like he was, who too had defied their circumstances and chosen freedom as men, was not mentioned nor referenced. 

The suggestion that his being a part of the Union Army, choosing to be enslaved by the young master is an unsual thing to read.

The piece said that he "ran into" Union soldiers who were part of the Georgia campaign with Sherman's march. Although thousands of enslaved people were "running to" and not "running into" the Union line is a subtle yet significant term. One term suggests that the slaves were people making a deliberate choice for freedom and the other term suggests that the natural human desire for freedom was accidental and not truly a goal burning inside of them. 

Private Charles Page served honorably with the 110th US Colored Infantry, where he served till 1866 when he was mustered out of service.

I did take note that a pension was filed for, and granted to Charles Hicks (aka Charles Page).
Index card reflecting pension application of Charles Hicks (aka Page)
Source: Ancestry.com  National Archives and Records Administration. Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000.

Charles Hicks was a slave when the Civil War started. When it was over, he was a free man, and a veteran of borth armies.
Image of Charles Page Hicks 

For the time in which he was through no choice of his own, a body servant while he was a slave, he is said by some to be a "confederate veteran" ---though he was never a soldier while he was enslaved and serving his enslaver. Yet his story sadly gets distorted when he is called a veteran in one army where he was never a soldier, and meanwhile his service in the other army where he voluntarily enlisted, was presented as his having been coerced against his will.

After the war, he returned to the area he had ever  known as home. But the article about his life presents his story as one who wanted to live near his old master.  Again---as if Charles never had loved ones---he is not presented as choosing to return to family---but to return to the old master. 

I could not help but wonder if this was written with a wishful thinking for faithful slaves---instead of the story of a man in his own right now making decisions about his own freedom. His having been considered a veteran in an army where he never served, and his service in the army where he did serve was written as if his did so against his well. His enslavement, of course was not depicted as having been against his will.

While reading the brief article, I became interested in learning more of his life. I was happy to read, that his descendants did share information about his history with the African American Civil War Memorial and it is assumed that they also received the honorary certificates given to those families on the day of the dedication.  (It should be noted however, that the names of the soldiers on the memorial came from official muster in records, and descendants were not required to submit proof of their ancestor's service, for the name to be placed on the wall. The names, if found among the official records were put there whether the family knew of their ancestor's history or not.)

In my effort to learn more about he service of a man from the 110th in a battle near Dallas Georgia, I found the story of a man whose story was written with clear biases towards who he was as a man. He like all men, yearned to be free, and to live with his loved ones.

My hope is that the honest story of men who resisted and who chose another avenue when it was  presented to them, will be told.

Hicks was made an "honorary" member of the Confederate "veterans" attended the confederate reunion in 1913, and he attended the 75th anniversary of Gettysburg as a Union soldier and member of the GAR. His name, like 178,000 other Black Union soldiers, is inscribed on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington DC.

His story, though interesting, indeed, is not unique. Like many, he saw battle on both sides, but when it came time to fight----he fought for freedom!

My goal is to learn more, about Private Page, the soldier and the man, and I plan to obtain his pension file in the near future, to learn more about the man

Rest in peace Private Charles Page, your service in the Union Army with the 110th US Colored Infantry is appreciated by the many who honor you and your comrades, for you are a true Freedom Fighter.


  1. The image of Charles Page Hicks may be that of Louis Napoleon Nelson, C.S.A.. Nelson served with the 7th Tenn Cavalry and fought at Shiloh, Chickamauga & Brice's Crossroads. He was entered on the Tennessee CSA Pension Rolls and attended, most probably, all of the reunions of the 7th Cav.

    Herein below are some URLs regarding Nelson and the Civil War.







  2. Yes, anecdotes about lone black "confederates" are interesting to read. Whether "honorary" chaplains or attendees at reunions 50 years later---their stories entertain the wishful no question. But their stories pale when compared to the documented histories of the freedom fighters of the US Colored Troops. The USCTs were never "honorary" soldiers they were trained soldiers and their honor can never be challenged.

    There is no "authentication" from photos taken at reunions---when no records, nor written accounts of such men were made at the time of their "service".

    The stories of 179,000 freedom fighters trump the stories every time, of lone individuals heralded by the wishful for something that never was.

    But one thing is certain, the photos are what they are--just interesting pictures that do make for interesting conversation but they do not alter records, nor change history.