Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Memory: William A. Gladstone

Image of William Gladstone courtesy of Bennie J. McRae.

It was just shared today that Civil War author and historian William A. Gladstone passed away on Wednesday November 7th 2012.

He was the author of two books about the United States Colored Troops and shared his passion regarding the history of the US Colored Troops with many. I have often used his book as a quick reference when I need to look up the origin of a USCT regiment.

A list of all regiments of USCTs and where they were organized from Gladstone's book United States Colored Troops

His work has also been useful when I need to know the date and site of a Civil War battle involving USCTs.

Index of Battles provides a useful references.

Gladstone's work is appreciated and he will be missed by many in the community of Civil War historians.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Black Civil War Matron of Western Arkansas

A Civil War Relief Worker, Identity Unknown

So little is known about the women of color who served as nurses and workers in the American Civil War. Even less is known about those who served as matrons.  These were women who actually supervised the nurses who tended the wounds of the soldiers. Many of the matrons had also served as nurses as situations demanded, and in dire times their duties were not distinct from that of the nurses laundresses and cooks. Most names remain hidden from the pages of history, so when we find them, we need to stop, acknowledge them, and record their names, for they too, made a contribution. For me, today was such a day.

Admittedly, I have been locating the names of  nurses color, for several months, Often while searching for other things, is usually when I find them. However, seeing the names of these women is so rare, that I am compelled to stop, study them and share them.

Their numbers are not large, which makes it even more critical that their presence is acknowledged when telling the stories of the Civil War, because they too were there, and they too served the noble effort in the War for Freedom.

Today was one of those days when I found a name---only one name, but of a woman who deserves to be mentioned: Malinda Sanders, a volunteer with the 11th US Colored Infantry.

Malinda Sanders
Muster Roll document of Malinda Sanders, Matron, 11th US Colored Infantry
Source: National Archives Publication No  M1821. Compiled service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served with the United States Colored Troops: Infantry Organizations, 8th through 13th, 1861-65

Details about her life remain unknown, and data such as her place of birth, enlistment site and life after the war are not stated. In addition, it is clear that even when the service records were being compiled in the years after the Civil War, it was noted that nothing else was retained about her.

The small note on the bottom of the document notes that this was the "only roll on which her name appears."

However, a few facts can be gleaned.  

She was matron of the 11th US Colored Infantry. This unit was organized in Ft. Smith Arkansas, in December of 1863, and was attached to the 2nd Brigade in the District of the Frontier, as part of the 7th Army Corps. The unit remained in Ft. Smith until November of that year when they were then moved eastward towards Little Rock.

Malinda was hired in 1864 during the time that the regiment was based in Ft. Smith. A number of regiments were moving through the area during the months from spring to fall of 1864. She is clearly identified as a civilian and a citizen from the area.

In fairness, I had to also wonder if Malinda could have been a volunteer from the white community. But the realities of the south, of the social norms of the day and standards of the day would answer that question.

The chances of finding a white woman serving as a volunteer in a regiment of black men during the Civil War would have been unthinkable, and the local population would never have allowed such a social taboo to be broken. Even those with Union sympathies would have been to more than cautious to allow a white female to be around so many armed men of color during a time of new found freedom for men who were once enslaved. The social norms of the day would have not permitted it.

But, to be certain I was compelled to check the 1860 Federal census in case there was a woman living in the local community by the name of Malinda Sanders. The 1860 census of the local area in western Arkansas, and specifically Ft. Smith, and Van Buren, (the two communities with large populations) yielded no white females with that name. The same 1860 census also reflected free whites who lived in nearby Indian Territory, and no such name of Malinda Sanders was captured. 

So the chances are strong that in 1864, Malinda Sanders was from the population of newly freed black people, once enslaved in the area. She would  have then been part of the local citizenry and would have been part of the population recruited. A good number of  black men were indeed recruited in the Ft. Smith area, until November of 1864 and during that time was also when Malinda was hired as a matron.

How long did she serve as matron?
Was she a young woman?  
Was she an older woman?
All of these facts remain unknown, and it is possible that by the time that the regiment moved east towards Little Rock, she was no longer in service.

Perhaps her time as matron of this Black Civil war regiment was short, but because her name appeared among the names of the many enlisted men of color who were true freedom fighters on the western frontier, her name must not be skimmed over lightly and remain unseen.  

Her service was needed, her care of those who were sick and wounded was essential, and she will remain one of the many unsung heroes from the Civil War.  

However, on this day, as I passed her name I was compelled to draw brief attention to this brave woman, who served, and whose life will otherwise remain unknown. We owe her thanks as well. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Civil War Portrait Identified

Samuel Smith Family Portrait
Samuel Smith served in the 119th US Colored Infantry

From the collections of the Library of Congress, one can find a number of images of Civil War soldiers, including images of the US Colored Troops.  One of the more striking images is a family portrait, said to be the only photo of its kind-a black Union Soldier with his wife and children.

The photo appears in many brochures and on many websites, and I was thrilled to see today on Facebook the image once again, but this time with data about the soldier, and his wife and two daughters! The data on the soldier apparently appears in the November 2012 issue of Kentucky Explorer Magazine.  Thankfully an associate on Facebook shared the image with the soldier's name.

Sergeant Samuel Smith enlisted in the 119th US Colored Infantry in Camp Nelson Kentucky. His wife Molle and their daughters Mary and Maggie are pictured in this beautiful photo. Long featured on the Library of Congress website, finally the name of this man and his family are known. He lived most of his life after the war in Rockcastle County Kentucky in the town of Mount Vernon. After the Civil War, he remained in the same community and he is found in the 1870 census with his family. There were other children in the household at that time as well. Although identified as twins, the two girls appear to have been a few years apart in the census record in 1870.

1870 Federal Census, Rockcastle Kentucky, Mount Vernon Township

Samuel Smith and his wife are buried at the Walker Newcomb Cemetery in Mount Vernon, Kentucky. His grave bears a military marker reflecting his service.

Source: Image of Sgt.Smith's headstone on Find A Grave
Headstone image shared by Charles Wilton

Near the original marker, a second marker was also placed for Sgt. Smith.

Source: Image on Find A Grave

Samuel Smith's wife Mollie is also buried at Newcomb cemetery and a headstone also marks her grave.

Headstone of Mollie Smith, wife of Sgt. Samuel Smith
Image Uploaded to Find a Grave by Charles Wilton

I have since learned that the amazing image of Sgt. Smith and his family are part of a private collection that was donated to the Library of Congress. The Liljenquist Family Collection is a fairly recent acquisition to the Library of Congress, and it included the image of the Smith Family. It was donated in 2010 by this family that has been purchasing images of Civil War soldiers for many years. One has to wonder how the image of the Smith family ended up for sale, and how the identity of the soldier was found. Thankfully Sgt. Smith is no longer a nameless face and his family reflected on the image tells so much more about Smith, as a soldier and as a man. 

Needless to say that I shall be researching more about the life of this man and his family, on my next trip to the National Archives.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Battle that Put a Theory To Rest

Battle of Island Mound - October 1862
Source: Harper's Weekly

At long last a new historic site is honoring the actions of men who fought at the Battle of Island Mound, in Missouri. And finally significance of that battle is being told. This was a critical event, for it was the first time that Black soldiers engaged in battle in the Civil War.

They were said to have been men of no courage. They were perceived as men inferior in spirit, intelligence and personal strength. It was believed and debated nationally whether they could withstand the pressures of military battle and it was assumed that they would cower in the face of the enemy and flee.

But in Ft. Scott Kansas, with the influx of runaway slaves from the Cherokee Nation, and nearby Arkansas, a growing number of able bodied men were willing to fight with the purpose of eradicating slavery. In the summer of 1862 the Ft. Scott Bulletin wrote about the continued recruitment of black men in the Union Army. So many had doubted the ability of the men to have the emotional and psychological strength to look white men directly in the eye, let alone to engage in combat against them. But General Lane the Ft. Scott officer who oversaw the training wrote in the Bulletin of a dramatic change in the men who were being trained for battle:

"I have seen them come into the camp, looking down as though slaves. By and by they begin to straighten themselves, throw back their shoulders, stand erect and soon look God straight in the face."

The debates continued however, on a national level whether black men would fight in war. It was believed that they would simply drop their arms and flee. Yet, in 1862, on a crisp day in October in Missouri, over 200 men of color put the theory to rest. They fought hard, they fought nobly and they fought with a ferocity that astonished the nation. Like all men, when tested, they demonstrated their strength. And in October 1862, the men of the Kansas Colored many former slaves from Indian Territory, not only stood up to the enemy, but they also won their battle.

This was the first battle of the Civil War in which men of African Ancestry encountered confederate forces and their actions rattled the nation. For the first time, these sons of Africa were no longer viewed as mere novelties from the human species lacking courage, wisdom and integrity. They proved that they were men of strength who fully understood their circumstance, and fully understood the concept of battle. They were fighting for their Freedom and on that day in October, the 1st Kansas Colored defied all odds. 

It should be noted what exactly happend at Island Mound Missouri that day. Mere foot soldiers fought off confederate cavalry. The Kansas Colored lost eight men in that battle. But the enemy lost three times that number.  The fact that black men on foot defeated men on horseback rocked the nation to its core. Those who believed in some inbred inferiority of men of color had to adjust their minds to a new perception--that these men were equal to them.

The performance of these brave black men, hastened the eventual establishment of the Bureau of Colored Troops the following year. It was clear that when given the chance they would not only stand up to the task, but some were willing to die for the same values held by all men and women--freedom.

Now, at long last, a new historic site honors the history of the men who changed history on that day.
An interesting 3 minute animation video also reflects what happened that day in Bates County Missouri. (The video loads slowly but it is worthwhile to watch for the full 3 minutes.)

The courage of  the 1st Kansas Colored was the beginning of a major effort that would change the nation forever.
* * * * *
"Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship." 
~~ Frederick Douglass~~

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ft. Wagner and Honey Springs - Two Critical July Battles Involving USCTs

Storming Ft. Wagner
Source: Library of Congress Image

     The image above depicts the actions of the 54th US Colored Infantry in the famous assault on Ft. Wagner. July 17th is the anniversary of that famous battle. Several years ago, the movie Glory presented the story of the 54th as the regiment participated in the campaign against Charleston. The story is well known, when Robert Gould Shaw led his men in an attack on Ft. Wagner. He was killed in the assault as were many soldiers from the 54th.

     Interestingly this is often depicted as one of the major battles involving Black Union soldiers, but a story often overlooked is a battle that occurred several hundred miles to the west in Indian Territory.

     A battle occurred at Honey Springs, on the same day, also involving black soldiers and this story had a different ending, and thanks to the actions of black soldiers of the Kansas Colored, Ft. Gibson did not fall into Confederate hands, and was a major victory for Union soldiers.

Battle of Honey Springs

     Nestled along the Texas Road, more than three thousand Confederate forces consisting of white and Indian Confederate units were ready to engage in battle. The Indian Confederates consisted of the 1st and 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles, the 2nd Creek Mounted Rifles and the 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles.  Their goal was to attach the Union held brigade at Ft. Gibson. 

     General Blunt commanded a unit of the Army of the Frontier, which included the Second Regiment of Indian Home Guards, and the First Kansas Colored Infantry. This unit should be noted as the first Black regiment in the Civil War to engage in combat, when they fought at the battle of Island Mound Missouri in 1862. At Honey Springs these men distinguished themselves and some cite the actions of the 1st Kansas Colored as being the very reason why Ft. Gibson was saved and the Confederates were weakened on the western frontier. The whole regiment was engaged in the battle at Honey Springs, and the flag of the 29th Texas Cavalry was captured in that battle. 

      This is also one of the few battles in which an eye-witness described her recollections in one of the WPA Slave Narratives. Lucinda Davis was a young girl who was a slave of a Creek Indian, Tuskaya-hiniha. Raised in the Creek Nation, she lived along the Texas road and shared her story of the Battle as she saw Confederate Indians riding towards Honey Springs. She witnessed their retreat after the battle, and also saw the Union soldiers in pursuit, of the southern soldiers on the run. Both battles occurred in July at the same time, There are monuments that describe both battles and that honor the fallen soldiers. But as the nation commemorates the on-going sesquicentennial events, my hope is that the actions of the Kansas Colored at Honey Springs are mentioned as much as the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. 

Both regiments were distinguished, both consisted of noble and brave men. and both deserve their places in history.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Contraband Small Pox Hospital of New Bern NC

Image from top of Ledger of Colored Contract Nurses, a the Smallpox Hospital in Newberne NC

* * * * *
My interest in Civil War era nurses came by accident only recently when I noticed that a soldiers in the 57th US Colored Infantry filed a pension. On the index card was a reference to his wife who also served as a nurse and who was filing for a pension herself. This made me pause and I had to ask if there were more women of color who were nurses.  I quickly found the answer--a resounding yes!  There are records and though they are scattered and don't contain much narrative--there is still a story to tell.

In my previous post I shared parts of a ledger that I found with some images reflecting the names of a few dozen women and men, of color who were hired during the Civil war as "contract nurses". Their contracts did not appear to last long and only their names were reflected, however, I immediately saw the significance of this small ledger and realized that all of us need to know this story.

One of the hospitals in the ledger was the Contraband Small Pox Hospital in New Bern North Carolina. In the spring of 1864 as the numbers of contrabands grew, health issues arose within a short time. The contrabands were newly freed slaves who successfully fled bondage and found freedom on their own with no overseers nor owners to restrain their flight to freedom.  But the health problems quickly arose among this refugee population, and the people needed immediate attention to prevent a widespread epidemic.

The book by Nina Silber, Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War she describe how in early 1864, that Abigail May of the New England Sanitary Commission was consulted to provide supplies for the smallpox  hospital in New Bern North Carolina for newly freed slaves. The members were not as eager as one might have expected, for the members of the society preferred to put their energies towards aiding soldiers more than civilians. (1)

By March of 1864, however, a good number of people of color were hired as contract nurses. Their names are found on the ledger of the Colored Contract Nurses, that I was fortunate to locate at the National Archives two weeks ago.

Ledger Reflecting Colored Contract Nurses at Contraband Smallpox Hospital in New Bern NC

The final names of nurses at New Berne were listed on the following page:
Contraband Smallpox Hospital, New Bern NC (continued)

Upon examination of the names it became apparent that there were both men and women who were hired to attend to the patients at the Small Pox Hospital.

The hired nurses were:
Phillip Biddle
James Brimayer
Dinah Carter
Wright Cobb
Eliza Chapman
Sarah Donnell
Lora Faber
Susan Grimes
Samuel Harris
Dolly Howard
Matthew Ircott
Zachary Johnson
Scott Jones
Jane Kinsley
Frank Lewis
Celia Lindsay
Joshua Lindsay
Juda Latham
Frank Mabry
Isaac Mabry
Henry Moore
Sarah Mellinder
Lucy Overton
Alfred Pool
Martha Pool
David Ralls
Edward Ruffind
Gracy Russell
Jospeh Simmons
Joseph Singleton
Levanter Swindle
Creasy Taylor
Mary Thomas
Thomas Turner
Simon Wilson
Ellen Washington

Names from the second page:
George Wesson
Nelly White
Clarissa Wilson
Charity Wilder
Mary Chance
Margaret Bennett
Esther Bennett
Minerva Jones

The epidemic in New Bern was described as a very serious situation and some letters sent by black soldiers to their superiors described very dire circumstances for the person afflicted. Ira Berlin presented some of the letters depicting the desperate conditions facing those freed men and women who were afflicted with small pox. One of the letters appears below and it was written by a black soldier who witnessed the sufferings of the small pox victims.

Letter written by soldier who witnessed the sufferings of the New Bern Small Pox patients. (2)

By March of the same year, however, it appears that a hospital was created to treat the freedmen and more than forty nurses were hired to assist in their treatment and care.

Thankfully in spite of a reluctance on the part of some to treat African American patients needing care the response did come from the community. The forty four nurses from the New Bern community who responded at different times from the beginning of the outbreak of the disease, till the war's end, deserve their moment of recognition, and their story too, should be told.

(1) Silber, Nina, Daughter of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2005

(2) Berlin, Ira, The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor: The Upper South Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993  p. 182-183

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Remembering Black Nurses in the Civil War

Black Relief workers Washington DC, 1865

On a recent trip to the National Archives, while looking for a Civil War soldier, I saw an interesting notation on an index card. The notation was that the soldier's wife was also applying for her own pension as nurse. This was the first time I had seen such a notation, and this made me curious as to who she was and then the question arose for me--were there more women of color who were nurses who names could be found? 

I asked some questions of one of the military archivists who directed me to a ledger that contained several pages of names of nurses who were hired as "contract nurses" in the Civil War.

Page from Ledger at National Archives Representing Colored Contract Nurses 1863-64

Seeing the names of these persons was more than exciting, because this is history only mentioned in passing and very few names are known. But I was fortunate to have found the names of these persons long forgotten and to see their roles as Civil War nurses documented.

Cover of Ledger of Civil War Colored Nurses

The ledger is a small one, and it contained only a handful of hospitals that were mentioned in Maryland, Virginia or North Carolina.

Hospitals Reflected in Civil War Ledger

The hospitals mentioned in the front of the ledger were:

Convalescent Hospital - Patterson Park, Baltimore Maryland
Contraband Hospital, Norfolk Virginia
Contraband Small Pox Hospital, New Berne North Carolina
Chesapeake Hospital, Virginia
Contraband Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia

However, other hospitals were actually captured in the ledger, including:
Jarvis US General Hospital in Baltimore
Green Heights Hospital (Unknown location)
McKim's Mansion Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland (The Patterson Park Hospital)

I am fully aware that there are not many photos of these women and women who served as nurses in the Civil War, but I also became curious as to whether or not there are images of any of the hospitals where they served. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few images that did survive.

As a result I was able to find some images of these sites.

Patterson Park Hospital was also known as McKim's Mansion Hospital where several nurses of color worked.

Patterson Park US General Hospital, Baltimore Maryland:
Rosa Caulk
Henretta Grimes
Louisa Warren
Mary Williams
Susan Jane Williams
Moses Arndt
John McDevitt

The Jarvis US General Hospital was a very large facility in Baltimore. There were ten black nurses working under contract at Jarvis. I am wondering if one of the barracks was devoted to black soldiers for there to have been many who were hired at the same time to work there.

Names of black nurses contracted to work at Jarvis US General Hospital

Jarvis US General Hospital - Names of Black Nurses:
Eliza Francis
M. A. Johnson
Anna Richardson
Lizzie Stafford
Elsie Candy
Rachel Malun (?)
Laura Smith
Mary Rudley
Mary Rolan
Susan Smith

When looking at the names of nurses at the Contraband Hospital in Norfolk, I was surprised to see that both
men and women's names appeared on the ledger of contract nurses.

Names of Contract Nurses at the Contraband Hospital Norfolk Virginia

Contraband Hospital -  Norfolk, Virginia
Henderson Dukes
Arnachy Jones
Isaac Jones
John Jones
Charlotte Reddick
Isaac Reddick
Phillip Reddick
Robert Reddick
Ross Jacob
Sophia Sample
Martha Savage
Solomon Schirchins (?)
Priscilla Smith
Maggie Wiot

Contraband Hospital (continued)
Susan Dixon
Charlotte M. Furson
Margaret M. Furson
William George
Samuel Green
Martha Harrold
Isaac Holland
Mary James
Anna M. Johnson
Harvey Mark
Julia A. Mark
Matthew Proctor
Marlo Spiva
Isaac Simmons
John Timbrisk
Chas. Wesry
Sara Dix
Maria Holland
Julia Johnson
Sophia Sample
Thomas Morris

There was one hospital whose name was difficult to read.  It appeared on the ledger as "Lowenture" Hostpital. However, I dedided to see if I could find the actual name of the hospital and was surprised when I did. It was actually L'Overture Hospital in Alexandria Virginia. This hospital was a contraband hospital named after Toussaint L'Overture, the liberator of Haiti! This may have been the very first hospital named after a person of color in the country.

Roster of first black nurses hired in 1863 and 64 to work at L'Overture US General Hospital

I was even more surprised to find that there has been an archeological project in Alexandria Virginia underway, looking at the history of this hospital. 

Notes about L'Ouverture Hospital from Archeological study. 

And there is also an historical marker for this hospital.

Historical Marker on Duke Street in Alexandria, marking this Civil War hospital.

The small lists of nurses who worked at these few hospitals that I found are only the beginning. Their history also deserves to be told and their names should be called. 

May we never forget them, as we tell the many untold stories of America's Civil War.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Life, Words and Actions of Spottswood Rice - Freedom Fighter (Part 2)

Pension Index Card indicating that Spottswood Rice filed for and receive a Civil War Pension

In the previous post I shared information about Spottswood Rice, a man who authored a touching letter to his children and a fiery letter to the woman Kitty Diggs who continued to hold his daughters in bondage. 

In my search to find out more about Spottswood Rice the man--I have been amazed.

Hoping to only learn if he and Mary his beloved daughter were ever reunited, I learned so much more about the life of this remarkable man.

Some background:  He was a slave of Benjamin Lewis in Missouri. His wife and children were enslaved by Kitty Diggs and he was only allowed to see his family two days a week. When the Civil War came, he had the chance to enlist in the Union Army, along with others from the same area. He enlisted near Glascow Missouri. Soon, after being stationed at Benton  Barracks some of the family joined him there, with hundreds of other contraband ex slaves who had freed themselves.

Some details about his life were shared in the 1930s when his daughter Mary told her story in one of the WPA Slave Narrative interviews. It was so revealing that Mary Rice Bell's story was re-enacted by living historians of Iron Gate Theatre.

Slave Narrative Re-enactment of Mary Bell, daughter of Spottswood Rice

Mary Rice Bell's interview does deserve to be read in it's entirety. The links to the seven page are below. 

She describes what her father Spottswood's life was like before Freedom. The slave holder Benjamin Lewis was a vicious and cruel man, but Spottswood's spirit was never broken. 

His daughter Mary also explains the arrangement and how the family was split between two households, and two slave holders. The Rice family suffered greatly at  the hands of both slave holders.Benjamin Lewis tormented Spottswood physically, and Mary, her mother and her siblings had few comforts under the hands of Kitty Lewis.  

However, in her interview, she also answered a major question for me---she explains how Spottswood learned to read and write. 

"His owner's son taught him how to read and dat made him so mad because my father read the emancipation to de other slaves and it made dem so happy dey could not work well and de got so no one could manage dem when dey found out dey were to be freed in such a short time.

She points out that one of her brothers also died in the war, and she points what life was like in the early days of freedom.  

It does appear that the family did make it eventually to Benton Barracks and she described those early days of attending schools while still living there. By those remarks about her life at Benton Barracks (see 2nd page of her interview) it is evident that she was among the many contraband slaves who found their way to freedom, so we know that she did get reunited with her father there.  

She later was educated at one of the many church schools being created for former slave children.

After the war, Spottswood Rice was found living in Missouri with his wife and children in 1870. And what a joy it is see that Mary, his beloved daughter was indeed there in the household with her parents. 

In 1880, Spottswood  still resided in Missouri--but his occupation had changed. He was now a minister of the gospel by profession. And Mary was now married and her husband and children resided with Spottswood and "Arrah" Rice. 

1880 Census reflecting Spottswood Rice and family
Source: Year: 1880; Census Place: Saint Louis, St Louis (Independent City), Missouri
Roll: 735; Family History Film: 1254735; Page: 92B; Enumeration District: 395; Image: 0007

The official newspaper of the AME Church is an historic paper called The Christian Recorder. Thanks to the efforts of the website Accessible Archives older editions of this publication have been digitized. All editions from 1861 to 1902 are digitized. Since Spottswood Rice was a minister I decided to see if his name might appear in any issue of this newspaper.

What a surprise--I found his name frequently in this publication and was able to track his life. In the 1880 census he was listed as a minister. I learned from the AME publication exactly when he was ordained. In the fall of 1874 Spottswood Rice became an elder of the AME Church. An announcement of his being promoted to an elder appeared in a fall issue of the Christian Recorder.

The Christian Recorder October 29, 1874, p. 2
Image can be seen at Accessible Archives where this journal is digitized.

Spottwood's life was an active one as a minister in the AME Church. 

He lived for several  years in St. Louis, and then later, in Clarksville Missouri to the north. He eventually was given further responbilities in the church and moved west in the 1880s.  By 1882 he was in New Mexico. 

When the thread first appeared on Facebook about this man, I learned that he had served in the Union Army just as the letter had stated. I also learned that he had filed for and received a Civil War pension. So, last week, and I traveled to the National Archives in Washington, specifically to inspect his file. Thankfully it was there, and it was an impressive file.

First of all, I noticed one thing right away. On most documents that required his signature---he signed his name. No "X" mark--but his full signature.

Signature of Spottswood Rice from Pension File

In addition, to signing his own name when required, I found one document that had been completed entirely by Spottswood himself. And on that record, he wrote down the dates of birth of his children in his own hand. 

This document was completed by the man Spottswood himself and he reveals the death of his first wife, 
and the names and birth dates of all of his living children.

As I read through the file, I could tell that Spottswood Rice the man was a strong spirited man, and a very proud man. The mere act of his completing the form himself is rarely seen. 

I inspect pension files quite often, and even in those cases where one could read and write---I often see the the signatures of the applicant but rarely do I see a document completed entirely by the applicant himself.  It struck me, and I envisioned the scenario--he did not sit passively and allow others to complete the pension forms for him---he completed them himself. 

And, just as his original letters written during the war revealed---he loved his family. He was a man so devoted to family, that he knew the exact dates of births of his children. He also knew the exact date of the death of his beloved wife Arry. His first wife Arry or Arrah had apparently died and he was now remarried to a woman called Eliza.

While researching the life of Spottswood Rice, I found a sentence that described him as the ultimate hero, husband and father. This man's love was truly deep and it showed in the documents that reflected his life. 

Arry his wife died in 1888.  What a surprise to find her obituary that was published in the Christian Recorder, the AME newspaper. And it was written by a man of notable St. Louis history---Moses Dickson.

Obituary of Arrah Rice, 1st wife of Spottswood Rice.
Source: Access Archives, Christian Recorder May 24, 1888

The respect for Spottswood and for his wife, was so strong that the noted Moses Dickson took to write her obituary himself, and submit it to the Christian Recorder. This is also noted because she died in New Mexico and  here was a reverent piece being written about her by Fr. Moses Dickson in Missouri.

I noticed that a year after Arrah's death, Spottswood re-married. The marriage occurred in New Mexico.

Spottswood reveals the date of his marriage to Eliza.

Both the obituary and the document above indicated that Spottswood was living in New Mexico in the1880s. 

Realizing that he was now in New Mexico, in the early 1880s, I became curious to see if I could find out to what church he may have had  been assigned, or had a connection. So I began searching online for AME churches in New Mexico. I found a website in Albuqueque and learned something that completely surprised me:

Spottswood Rice founded the very first Black church in the entire state of New Mexico in 1882. 

What a surprise!  

While looking to see what I could learn might have been a church to which he belonged, I came upon a site for Grant AME Church in Albuquerque.  I saw this statement on their website:

I consulted with researcher George Geder, who lives in New Mexico. I asked him if he had access to additional information about the Grant Chapel AME. He found a small photo of the Colored Methodist  Mission, a small and fragile structure that was a mission at the time that Spottswood Rice arrived. Rev. Rice soon organized the church that would become Grant Chapel AME.

This is the Colored Methodist Mission in Albuquerque that would become Grant AME Church

The history of Grant Chapel indicated that Rev. Spottswood Rice served at this mission church and after serving officially as the pastor there, for two years, he organized several other AME churches throughout the state as well. It was formed out of the Colored Methodist Mission a small dusty frail building in Albuquerque from which Grant Chapel eventually grew. An image of the old mission, mostly likely the way Spottswood Rice found it, was included in a publication called the Black Business Directors of New Mexico, that was compiled by Barbara Richardson.

I must thank genealogist and researcher George Geder for sharing some data that he was able to find for me some history about Grant Chapel AME. 

Black Director of New Mexico compiled by Barbara Richarson
Special thanks to George Geder for sharing this information

By the 1890s, Rev. Spottswood Rice and his new wife Eliza had left New Mexico and he was sent to Colorado. 

As Rev. Spottswood Rice continued his church work, his health had deteriorated. The injuries that he sustained while serving in the Civil War had begun to affect him, and this made him eligible to receive a Civil War pension. The pension file contained many documents pertaining to his health and the effects of his injuries upon his health.

Spottswood Rice letter to Pension Bureau regarding his health and injuries

In Colorado, Spottswood Rice would become the founder of yet another church, and his relationship with that church would continue for the remainder of his years. The church was Payne Chapel AME, and the church still functions to this day as a community of worship in the AME Church.

On October 31, 1907 Spottswood Rice died at the age of 88.

This man, born a slave, was motivated by of love for his wife, and children, and he was determined him to fight for his freedom and to keep his family intact. 

He was also a devoted man of faith, where he served his church as a faithful member and strong leader, and went, when asked to take his wisdom to new places.

In1901 he was an active participant in a major church conference held in Colorado Springs Colorado and was cited in the Christian Recorded as being the eldest pastor in the Pikes Peak community and still building churches in his advanced age.

Rev. Spottswood Rice would remain devoted to his work as a leader in the AME Church. His closeness to his family remained and his son Noah had followed him west, though his beloved daughter Mary remained with her own family in Missouri.

On October 31, 1901, Spottswood Rice died after an amazing life of resistance, resilience and success. This man born enslaved, became a true Freedom Fighter in the Civil War and was truly a man of  courage, that guided his life, and directed his love of freedom and family.

His story should be told repeatedly for it is a human story, and an authentic American story.

He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Spring.

Image at Find a, Photo by Ron West

Rest in peace, Spottswood Rice. Your story and your life continue to inspire us all.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Words, Actions and Life of Spottswood Rice - Freedom Fighter (Part 1)

Portion of Letter From Spottswood Rice to Former Slave holder Kitty Diggs
(Click on image to see digitized image of original letter)
The letter above was written by a father whose concern was the status and freedom of his daughter. His name was Spottswood Rice and he had left the estate of Benjamin Lewis in Howard County, and made it to the Union line not far from Glasgow Missouri. Months later, as many slaves were making a break for freedom, and many were striving to reunite their families, Spottswood Rice had made such an effort. His daughter Mary, however, was still enslaved.  This remarkable letter illustrates the determination of a strong willed man whose spirit was never broken by the yoke of slavery.

The slave holder was Mrs. Kitty Diggs. The wife and children were held by the Diggs family, and it appears that when he wrote the letter, he was still struggling to obtain freedom for his daughter Mary. He begins his letter with a strong and stern warning to the woman holding his daughter in bondage.

"I received a leteter (from Cariline telling me that you say I tried to steal to plunder my child away from you now I want you to understand that mary is my Child and she is a God given rite of my own and you may hold on to hear as long as you can but I want you to remembor this one thing that the longor you keep my Child from me the longor you will have to burn in hell....

Wow---such powerful words. Spottswood had found freedom and had enlisted in the 67th US Colored Infantry in Glasgow Missouri.

Service Record of Spottswood Rice, Pvt. 67th US Colored Infantry
Source: Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served the United States Colored Troops: 66th-82nd USCT Infantry, 1864-1866.  (Image from

But the letter from Spottswood Rice to the slave mistress is one of the more forceful letters that I have ever seen.  This letter was recently shared in one of the communities on Facebook for African American genealogists. Everyone who read the letter and commented about it was truly amazed by its tone and everyone, including myself immediately embraced this man for his spirit and determination to be with his family again. From his service record (above) it is noted that he was born in Virginia and was by the time of the war, a mature man in his late 30s. Having been born in Virginia and ending up 30 years later in Missouri, suggests that he could have already had a taste of separation from loved ones. Slaves lived and died at the mercy of their slave holders, and often loved ones were removed, sold, and kept from each other for years, and in some cases for life.

What a surprise to find a copy of a bill of sale pertaining to Spottswood when he was a young lad, being sold from one man to another slave holder Benjamin Lewis in Howard County, Missouri. This unxpected document was actually included in his military service record. This transaction took place in 1843.

Item found in Military Service Record Reflecting the Sale of a young Negro boy Spottswood.

It is possible that the slave holder was compensated for "allowing" Spottswood to enlist. 

One must remember that although it was a slave state, Missouri did not secede from the Union, so slavery was quite legal. 

I also learned, while researching a bit of Missouri history that if a slave holder was considered "loyal" to the Union and could actually prove that he owned the slave enlisting, then in the state of Missouri, the slave holder was compensated for the slave and for the loss of the slave's labor. So perhaps this receipt may have actually been given to the enlisting officers to prove ownership from a "loyal"  slave holder. The slave holder would have been eligible for a $300 payment for allowing his slave to enlist.

However, by the time this letter was written---he was a man in freedom, who was now demanding the freedom of his daughter Mary, who it appears was still being held.

His letter continues...........

.......that the longor (sic) you keep my Child from me the longor you will have to burn in hell and the qwicer (sic) youll get their (sic) for we are now makeing up a bout one thoughsand (sic) blacke troops to Come up tharough and wont to come through Glasgow and when we come wo be to Copperhood rabbels (sic)....

There is a possibility that Spottswood may have been freed before enlisting in the Union Army. He stated in the letter that he had tried to purchase his child Mary but Kitty Diggs had refused his offer.

" Children is my own and I expect to get them, and when I get ready to come after mary I will have bout a powrer and autherity (sic) to bring hear away and to exacute (sic) vengencens on them that holds my Child you will then know how to talke  to me"

What a surprise to even find a video where part of his letter was re-enacted.
Re-enactment of the words found in the letter of Spottswood Rice

So after reading that letter I had to know what other details about his life can be learned. 
Did he survive the war? Could his Union Army experience be documented further? Did he get his daughter Mary? How long did he live? And what was the nature of  his life?

Well, I was able to learn the answers to all of those questions. But one major part of the story has to be told. Spottswood Rice actually wrote two letters. He wrote one letter to his children and another letter to the slave holder--which I have already discussed. Written on the same day, it appears that Mary, the child cited in the previous letter was a child "left behind".  It also appears that possibly he was partially successful in reuniting his family, and Mary and possibly another child Cora were still missing from the family.

The previous letter written to his children still held by Kitty Diggs deserves to be discussed as well.

[Benton Barracks Hospital, St. Louis, Mo.  September 3, 1864]
My Children   I take my pen in hand to rite you A few lines to let you know that I have not forgot you and that I want to see you as bad as ever   now my Dear Children I want you to be contented with whatever may be your lots   be assured that I will have you if it cost me my life   on the 28th of the mounth. 8 hundred White and 8 hundred blacke solders expects to start up the rivore to Glasgow and above there thats to be jeneraled by a jeneral that will give me both of you   when they Come I expect to be with, them and expect to get you both in return. Dont be uneasy my children   I expect to have you. If Diggs dont give you up this Government will and I feel confident that I will get you   Your Miss Kaitty said that I tried to steal you   But I'll let her know that god never intended for man to steal his own flesh and blood. If I had no cofidence in God I could have confidence in her   But as it is If I ever had any Confidence in her I have none now and never expect to have   And I want her to remember if she meets me with ten thousand soldiers she [will?] meet her enemy   I once [thought] that I had some respect for them but now my respects is worn out and have no sympathy for Slaveholders. And as for her cristianantty I expect the Devil has Such in hell   You tell her from me that She is the frist Christian that I ever hard say that aman could Steal his own child especially out of human bondage
You can tell her that She can hold to you as long as she can   I never would expect to ask her again to let you come to me because I know that the devil has got her hot set againsts that that is write   now my Dear children I am a going to close my letter to you   Give my love to all enquiring friends   tell them all that we are well and want to see them very much and Corra and Mary receive the greater part of it you sefves and dont think hard of us not sending you any thing   I you father have a plenty for you when I see you   Spott & Noah sends their love to both of you   Oh! My Dear children how I do want to see you
[Spotswood Rice

Source of letter:[Spotswood Rice] to My Children, [3 Sept. 1864], enclosed in F. W. Diggs to Genl. Rosecrans, 10 Sept. 1864, D-296 1864, Letters Received, ser. 2593, Department of the MO, U.S. Army Continental Commands, Record Group 393 Pt. 1, National Archives. 
* * * * * 

Spottswood enlisted in the Union Army near Glasgow Missouri in February of 1864. While in the army, Spottswood suffered an injury and was sent to the military hospital at Benton Barracks to recover. I was quite surprised to find a document reflecting his hospital stay at Benton Barracks in his file.

Hospital Card From Benton Barracks Where Spottswood Rice was a Patient
Source: Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served the United States Colored Troops: 66th-82nd USCT Infantry, 1864-1866.  (Image from

On that document the name of Spottswood's wife was revealed. Her name was Ary Rice. 

 Apparently, once the men had entered the ranks of the Union Army, they considered themselves to be truly free. By the fall of 1864, Benton Barracks had become a place of refuge--slaves were arriving continually at the Barracks and it became an encampment not only for slaves but for refugee ex slaves who had freed themselves. They were contrabands. Members of Spottswood's family were apparently with him by the fall at including his sons, but his daughters Cora and Mary were still being held by Kitty Diggs.

It should be noted, when husbands and wives were reunited, many of the soldiers wanted to have their marriages recognized and officially recorded.  And Spottswood, was such a man, also wanting to have his marriage officially recorded. And that was when I found a record I never expected to find---I found a marriage record of Spottswood. It appears that while there at Benton Barracks--he and his wife Arry, of many years, who were already parents, still managed to marry officially and have a record made, at long last of their union! 

Marriage Record of Spottswood Rice and Ary Ferguson, October 1864
Due to the faintness of the image, a transcription appears below
Source: Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 [database on-line]. 
Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.
Original data: Missouri Marriage Records. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives. Microfilm.

Partial Transcription

"This is to certify that I joined in marriage October 6, 1864 at Benton Barracks Spottswood Rice and Arry Ferguson, all of  the city of St. Louis, J. P. Ives Chaplain"

 I found the document on's collection of Missouri marriages, and there appear to have been several dozen marriages performed at Benton Barracks during that time, presumably most were marriages of newly freed slaves legalizing their unions as last.

Did he survive the war? 

Yes---Spotswood Rice did survive the war, and was reunited with his daughter Mary. I found Spotswood Rice in the 1870 Federal Census in Missouri.

Spottswood Rice with Family in 1870
Source: Year: 1870; Census Place: St Louis Ward 11, St Louis, Missouri
Roll: M593_821; Page: 386B; Image: 256; Family History Library Film: 552320.

In the household with him was his wife and three children. His daughter Mary was indeed there in the household with them, along with two other children. Cora was not present and it is not known if she had died or was now married and living elsewhere.

I noticed in the 1870 census that Spottswood had apparently acquired some property as he had both personal property and real estate and the value of his property listed as well. I also noticed that of the persons in the household, in the column that indicated illiteracy of the person enumerated---his line was not marked---suggesting that he was a literate man.

Census form indicated that Spottswood was possibly a literate man

In 1880, Spottswood is living in Missouri with his wife and two sons, daughter Mary, who is now married with her own family. All share the same home on Elliott street in St. Louis.  Spottswood's life has also changed, for he is now listed as a minister by profession.

From this point, records reflecting the life of Spottswood Rice indicate that his life has taken a new direction since the years of enslavement. So--there is so much more to tell.

To be continued.......

(End of Part 1)