Friday, April 4, 2014

On the trail of Yarmouth Cartwright

A recent article by Drusilla Pair, reflected the names of several black soldiers who were captured after the battle at Petersburg.  An article in the Richmond Dispatch listed the names of the soldiers simply as "captured Negroes" and although they were soldiers, the men were listed in the Richmond Dispatch only by first name. Since there was an actual reference to the fact that these men were "enlisted troops" the disrespectful posting of only their first names intentionally treated them as still enslaved men.

Like Ms. Pair, the article that she shared on her blog, Let Freedom Ring made me wonder about these men, and about their fate.

How were they treated? The policy of the confederate army was that they would "give no Negro any quarter" meant that they did not see these men of color as human enough to imprison, but simply as property to return or evil beings to kill. So the question rang again in my head, "how were they treated?"

Did any of these men survive being captured? It is widely known how many of the soldiers at Ft. Pillow were viciously killed and given no quarter, only three months earlier. So were the men on this list given food, and shelter?

The only way to find out was to see if any such men could be researched. So I examined the list that she shared.

There were many who had common names, so I knew that Johns, Henry's George's would not be easily traceable. But perhaps a man with a unique name could be found.  I saw a name of a man called Yarmouth, said to have been enslaved by a man called Alexander Kilga of Montgomery County MD.

The name of Yarmouth appears as the slave of Alexander Kilga

Since the name "Yarmouth" is unique, I decided to see if I could find such a soldier among the thousands of US Colored Troops.

I decided to use the Civil War Soldier and Sailors Database hosted by the National Park Service.

National Park Service Database

Two possibilities emerged: Yarmouth Carr of the 107th US Colored Infantry, and Yarmouth Cartwright of the 23rd US Colored Infantry.

I clicked on the first soldier to see if he was in a regiment that served in Virginia, which would be essential, since the men on the list were captured near Petersburg, Virginia. So I had to explore a brief history of both regiments and then to look at each soldier. I learned that the 107th USColored Infantry, was organized in Kentucky and in 1864 was ordered to Baltimore, and was in Petersburg from October 1864 till early December.

So this regiment would not have had soldiers in Petersburg around the time that "Yarmouth slave of Alexander Kilga", because that article was written in August of 1864, several weeks before the 107th was there.

The other regiment with a soldier called Yarmouth was the 23rd US Colored Infantry. This regiment was also in Petersburg and at the time of the big mine explosion.

So it was possible that the Yarmouth in this regiment was the Yarmouth on the list of "captured Negroes" listed in the Richmond Dispatch.

I decided to look at the Military Service records of the US Colored Troops and opened the images on Fold 3.

I had no idea which surname Yarmouth of the 23rd US Colored Infantry may have had, so I then made a very broad search for a soldier with only the name of Yarmouth.

Only one soldier appeared and his name was Yarmouth Cartwright.

So Yarmouth Cartwright served in Company A of the 23rd US Colored Infantry, By clicking on the image to go the service record I saw the following:

From this image I learned that this soldier Yarmouth was taken prisoner in early July of 1864.

From this image I learned that this was the man!! 

Yarmouth Cartwright was taken prisoner after being captured at Petersburg! So the man called Yarmouth, "slave of Alexander Kilga", was most likely Yarmouth Cartwright, a man who was a soldier, fighting for his own freedom!

I then wondered more about this man, did he survive being imprisoned? This was only a few weeks after the terrible massacre at Ft. Pillow, the battle in which Confederate soldiers vowed to give no Negro quarter. So, did this man survive the treatment as a prisoner, which was most likely not to have been kind for his very humanity was not even recognized by the enemy.

The answer was in the service record itself. The image above indicates that the soldier did return to duty! And the following image shows that he followed the regiment when they were sent to Texas and he was mustered out in Brazos Santiago, Texas in November.

After looking at the record on Fold3 and locating the service record of Yarmouth Cartwright, I was pleased to see that he lived through imprisonment and was not killed by those who were holding him prisoner. I had hoped that he would have lived to have enjoyed his hard earned freedom, and would have been able to marry and have a family.

A search on Ancestry provided the information that I sought. In 1870, he went had returned to Montgomery County Maryland, and was found living with a wife Mary, and three young children, Jesse, Joseph, and Samuel. He was free and was with his family.

Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: District 4, Montgomery, Maryland; Roll: M593_591; Page: 475A; Image: 511; Family History Library Film: 552090.

Finding this man living free with wife and family was relieving. He was working as a farm laborer. I looked at others who lived nearby, and the closest neighbor did catch my attention. A woman of means lived close to the Cartwright family. The surname caught my attention. Margaret Kilgour. 

I then remembered that the article in the Richmond Dispatch referred to the soldier as Yarmouth slave of Alexander Kilga. The neighbor in 1870 was Margaret Kilgour. Could "Kilga", have possibly been "Kilgour", and was Margaret most likely the widow of Alexander, the said slave holder?

I wondered what the relationship might have been for this man, now a free man to have remained in the same area living close to the family that had once enslaved him. However, I have seen this occur in other states and in other families that I have researched. Many families returned to the community they knew as home, for they have lived in the area for decades and regardless of who the neighbors were, it was home.

I looked at 1880, and found the family still in Montgomery County, but without Yarmouth. An older Cartwright man was living with Mary and her children, and some additional children were now in the household. And interestingly, they still lived next door to Margaret Kilgour.

In 1890, Mary was found on the 1890 Surviving Widow's Census, in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Source Citation: Year: 1890; Census Place: Potomac, Montgomery, Maryland
Roll: 10; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 139.

My goal was to find the "captured negro" and to find him as a man.

I found Yarmouth the soldier, Yarmouth the man and Yarmouth the free man who survived the war and who lived to taste freedom. His story is a short one with few details, but we was so much more than a slave. He freed himself, enlisted to fight, served honorably and won his freedom. He returned home to live in the small farming community in Montgomery County Maryland. He married, had a family, and the Cartwright family continued to thrive, into the 20th century. I am happy and humbled that I can say his name. Yarmouth Cartwright, survived! May he not be forgotten.


  1. Great research. I'm glad he lived to live free and had a family.

  2. Enjoyed your chronological deductive process and can see how to use your process to help document USCTs. Thanks!