tv The Civil War Lives of Civil War African American Soldiers CSPAN July 3, 2021 6:00pm-7:05pm EDT
the history of the smallpox vaccines development and looks at some of the controversies surrounding its distribution. in two hours on lectures in history university of california riverside professor catherine allgor teaches a class on the lives of women during the american revolution and the early republic. i'm caroline janney director of the now center and i'm delighted to welcome you to the 2021 signature conference. we are especially excited about this year's conference for two reasons first because we were unable to hold our conference last year. we are especially grateful that all of our panelists were willing to save the date and join us again this year. second we are extremely excited to be launching the now centers much anticipated website black virginians and blue. and tonight's program will focus
on just that focus on the website. well her first from elizabeth varon about some of the stories that this project has revealed and then we'll turn to will kurtz to learn more about the website itself. so with that i am pleased to introduce my colleague elizabeth warren. professor veron is the langborn em williams professional professor of american history and a member of the now center's executive council. her books include a biography of union spy elizabeth van lu and an account of lee's surrender to grant at appomattox her most recent book armies of deliverance a new history of the civil war when the 2020 guilderleman lincoln prize and was named one of wall street one of the wall street journals best books of 2020. please join me in welcoming professor van. thanks so much. so in the summer of 1887 the cleveland gazette leading black newspaper of the late 19th century published a feature
story on prominent clergyman who had triumphed over the barriers of slavery and prejudice as a paper put it the article recounted the remarkable life of the reverend jesse s coles of new york's ame zion church coles had been enslaved in virginia before the civil war and during mcclellan's richmond campaign of 1862. cole's escaped slavery and fled to union lines becoming part of a mass exodus of fugitive slaves to the federal army during the war cole's made his way to new england and in march of 1864. he enlisted in the 29th, connecticut color infantry. calls then returned to virginia with this regimen to the richmond front where he participated in several pitched battles and sustained a crippling gunshot wound in his left arm in the fall of 1864 in an unforgettably dramatic. team closes regimen the 29th connecticut was among the very first infantry units to enter richmond when union forces took
possession of the rebel capital in april of 1865. after the war kohl's returned to connecticut and was ordained as a minister playing a leadership role in church postings across the north and he worked tirelessly to protest against racial discrimination and to keep the memory of the union victory alive in 1885. for example, kohl's help raise funds in new york city's black churches tourect a monument to the union general and and former president us grant who adjusts passed away. at the same moment that the cleveland gazette was heralding the achievements of coals. it was also praising the activism of another civil war veteran named frank lee like coles lee had been a slave in virginia and it fled to union lines and enlisted in the union army. lee's regimen the fifth massachusetts volunteer colored cavalry was the first federal cavalry unit to enter richmond in trial in april of 1865. after the war frankly settled in cleveland, ohio where he
established a prominent place in black civic life like the reverend coles lee both protested against jim crow repression and work to preserve the memory of the civil war as an active member of the venerable veterans group the grand army of the republic. in 1900 frankly gave him a memorial day speech. so moving that it was still being quoted by community leaders years later. lee's message was a stray forward one learn from the deeds and valor of the nation's black veterans righteousness is the only thing that will bring peace through our lives and characters lee said each of us can be a monument to truth. jesse s coles and frank lee had more in common than the fact that they were union veterans and community leaders both men were born here in albemarle county, virginia all together some 256 men with albemarle county roots fought in us ct regimen said and in the un union navy and our new black virginians in blue database and
web project or bvib short charts there journeys. collectively their stories demonstrate that we should not equate the south with the confederacy in virginia and across the landscape of the civil war black southerners hoped for and worked for and gave their lives for union victory their patriotism provided a wellspring of hope on which future activists in the long freedom struggle could draw so, let me start by saying a few words about how we know what we know about the historical sources we use to recover these men's lives much of what will tell you tonight comes from one very illuminating set of historical documents namely post-war pension records. held in the national archives in washington dc beginning in 1862 the us federal government offered pensions to union veterans with war related disabilities and to the widows and minor children and dependent parents of deceased soldiers. the now civil war center is
gathered the pension records of some 133 men with albemarle roots. now because pension applicants were required to fill out forms and provide depositions establishing their identities and their experiences and their ailments and because they so often called in friends and relatives and comrades and arms to vouch for them. these pension files are full of insights into the civil war era. the men in the bvib regiments we learned fought in a huge range of battles and campaigns in the crater in 1864 the appomattox campaign of 1865. their service records speak to every aspect of military life recruiting and training camp life promotion desertion combat disease injury and death. tonight i will address the broad ways. these men's lives illuminate the freedom struggle in the 19th century. i'll focus on the theme of movement the displacements of the slave trade the daring risks
of slave flight the progress of the union army across the south and the post-war journeys of civil war veterans to build new lives. one theme more than any other stands out in the historical sources on black veterans from virginia and that theme is the trauma inflicted by slavery and the slave trade particularly the trauma of family separation. take the case. for example of matthew gardner. conveyed by slave traders from virginia to jefferson county arkansas on the eve of the civil war gardner went on to fight for freedom as a member of the 69th usct regimen. gardeners pension file makes it possible for us to reconstruct his journey in some detail. he was born into slavery in july of 1847 and grew up on properties owned by the fretwell family of albemarle county near meacham's river depot. the fret wells owned more than 20 slaves and as we can see in their family letters in uva
special collections library the fret wells reported to each other regularly on their buying and selling of enslaved men women and children. after the family matriarch elizabeth threatwell died in 1859, her estate was divided up and some of her slaves were concerned to the auction block among them matthew gardner who had aged 12 was separated from his family taken by slave traders from virginia to arkansas where he was bought by a doctor john barry up plantation owner in the pine bluff region. when gardner was sold from virginia to arkansas in 1859. he entered what historians have called the great jugular vein of slavery the domestic slave trade that moved 1 million enslaved people from the upper south to the cotton south between 1790 and 1860 as one of the largest slaveholding counties in virginia in an area transitioning from tobacco growing to more diversified farming albemarle county was a
major exporter of enslaved people and the cotton frontier of the arkansas. delta was a major destination point of the trade. slaves toiling in the deep south had little chance for escape until the union army penetrated the delta during the civil war. when federal troops occupied pine bluff arkansas in the fall of 1863 matthew garder joined the thousands of black arkansas who flocked to the recruiting stations that the union army set up. his regimen's primary assignment was garrison duty in the vicksburg, mississippi region. garrison troops conducted raids and expeditions and counterinsurgency warfare, they enforced emancipation. they dislodged rebel guerrilla. in vicksburg, of course wants a bastion of the confederacy before grants famous campaign us ct troops helped establish an infrastructure of black schools and churches and businesses among the freed people in other
words gardner service mattered a great deal. after the war matthew gardner returned to pine bluff and worked as a sharecropper. he initially applied for a veteran's pension in the summer of 1890 and his claims were repeatedly rejected until in 1897. he finally secured a minimal monthly payment of six dollars for his heart disease. now as gardener's case illustrates black veterans faced many obstacles in applying for pensions among them poverty illiteracy and the racism of pension bureau agents. due to inferior medical provisions medical care including access to vaccines black soldiers died of disease at a higher rate than white ones in the union army and those black veterans who survived bouts with disease and were left chronically ill often found it difficult to provide documents. tracing their disabilities to their wartime service this meant that gardeners monthly pension
some was a small fraction of the payments received by soldiers who could trace their disabilities directly to the war easier to do for example in the case of a wound than the after effects of disease. gardner tried in vain to prove that his primary ailment of heart disease originated during his military service. now from the start gardner's case was clouded by questions about his identity. he tried to explain a pension bureau officials the discrepancy between the name. he enlisted under matthew berry a name assigned him by his arkansas master and the surname gardner that he went by after the war when he applied for his pension. gardner had been his father's name back in virginia. such discrepancies were not unusual usc team men who fled slavery often used aliases or when they listed or opted to cast off slaveholder assigned names once they achieved freedom. in his pension application gardner call on fellow veterans
to testify that matthew berry and matthew garner were one and the same man. gardeners journey points up one of the most fascinating and salient facts about our sample of 256 soldiers and sailors none of them enlisted here in albemarle county, virginia. the union army didn't make inroads here until the very end of the war. instead fascinatingly the our albemarle of albemarle men enlisted in 95 different regiments across the north and south in the places. they had been dispersed by sail by force migration and by flight and in places in which the wartime presence of the union army increased the chances of successfully reaching freedom. so in other words this bvib story is a story of a sort of virginia diaspora now typically scholars classify us ct soldiers by the state in which they enlisted and by that measure most black troops came from louisiana where the union army had some early victories and
begin recruiting early in the war. but if we classify troops by their birthplace a very different picture emerges as the largest slave holding state and because of its centrality to the domestic slave trade virginia looms large is the beginning point of the stories of black troops of these complex journeys to points of enlistment and word again across the landscape of the civil war the perilousness of these journeys is further illustrated by the case of solomon perkins who enlisted in the second us ct in washington dc in 1863. perkins was born in 1839 and the stony point neighborhood of albemarle county and was owned by a man named jacob moon when moon's daughter louisa married a man named timolian trice in 1845 perkins was bequeath to trice three years later trice moved perkins to louisa county, virginia separating young solomon from his albemarle. kin.
during the war tries hired perkins out to work on the virginia central railroad a key artery that ran through louisa county perkins was one of thousands of enslaved laborers who worked on railroads during the civil war and and before it two grading tracks building bridges blasting tunnels and so on. the virginia central railroad was an especially crucial confederate asset as it conveyed supplies and troops from the shenandoah valley to lee's army in the east and knowing this the federal army targeted this railroad in a series of audacious raids and these raids in turn made the railroad a vector of freedom for fugitive slaves who followed the union raiders of back to federal lines as they moved through there. solomon perkins escaped in just this way in august of 1863 and then after a union rate on the railroad depot and in louisa and a year later, he joined the union ranks august 1863 in washington, dc.
now we should recognize that slaveholders tried everything they could to discourage and preempt such flight meeting out terrible punishments to those who are suspected or caught or moving or hiding slaves as the federal army encroached indeed timoli, and trice perkins's owner was arrested by the union army in may of 1863 during another raid on louisa because he had hidden his slaves and refused to tell the union army where they were hidden perkins, of course had already fled and avoided crisis roos. but making its union lines was just the beginning of another perilous chapter as fugitives who enlisted then took on the dangers of life as soldiers. and this brings me to another key theme just as the presence of the union army could bring freedom into view freedom receded where the union army lost ground confederate policy
was to enslave or execute captured black soldiers rather than treating them as prisoners of war to be paroled or exchanged. in march of 1865 perkins's regimen the second us ct. while deployed in florida led a charge at the battle of natural bridge near tallahassee. perkins was seriously wounded. and as the official records put it quote unavoidably left in the hands of the enemy unquote. where he died? whether he died of his wounds or was executed by his confederate captors as unclear. it is clear that perkins had risked both his freedom and his life by moving with his regimen into the deepest reaches of confederate territory. now these stories again collectively demonstrate that while black union soldiers had much in common with their white counterparts black soldering was also in some key respects distinct all union soldiers left their families behind and risk wounds and death and imprisonment. but black union soldiers very
journeys to the army were especially fraught and they're separations from family whom they so often had to leave behind an enemy territory or especially daunting. enslaved people flew fled in such a great numbers because they knew whatever the personal risks might be their collective withdrawal from slavery would undermine the institution and this is true even in the four slaveholding border states that did not secede and that were therefore exempt from lincoln's emancipation proclamation. they're too slave light eroded slavery and us ct soldiers from albemarle county provide a window into this process too through the story of the carter family of missouri. 25 of the albemarle men in black regiments in our bvib sample were enslaved by the carters john coles carter a descendant of one of the wealthiest families in colonial virginia with vast states in albemarle county centered at carter's mountain.
as such a states were subdivided among successive generations slaveholders looked west for additional lands to turn into plantations john cole's carter inherited 1,500 acres in missouri from his mother and he migrated from virginia to missouri in 1852 with more than 120 enslaved people in tow. john kohl's carter settled in missouri, so called little dixie a plantation belt near other slaveholding migrants from virginia. on december 7th 1863 daniel w carter 26 years old fled john cole's carter's plantation and made his way to the union army recruiting station at troy, missouri joining the 62nd us ct regimen a few days later. he was followed by lewis carter warner carter for others who listed in the 65th us ct. in subsequent waves more and more enslaved men from the carter plantation headed to union recruiting stations inside on as soldiers. and we can't emphasize enough.
that these acts of localized resistance reverberated at the highest levels of government again all of this resistance mattered that flight of missouri's slaves to union lines over 8,000 in all helped to convince many white missourians that slavery had reached its limit and on january 11th. 1865 a missouri constitutional convention abolished slavery. this was a political development that had seemed inconceivable at the beginning of the war. now so far i focused on union recruits who escaped slavery during the war but representatives of albemarle counties small pre-war population of free blacks also entered the lists as union soldiers. on the eve of the civil war. there were roughly 600 free people of color in albemarle county they made up about four percent of the black population. and the stories of two families the evans family and the garland family can serve to illustrate how free blacks fought to claim
the full measure of citizenship rights. these families illustrate two the centrality of african-american women as unionists to the bvib project. the sacrifices of the evans family come to light and the pension application of francis evans a free black washer woman in charlottesville from a fascinating family her grandmother. chloe had won a freedom suit based on her native american ancestry and established the family's freedom in that way. after the civil war francis evans saw pension payments as her son william evans had died in combat. parents of a deceased soldier could claim support if they could prove that they had been dependent for their subsistence on that soldier. as francis evans the mother in this case related to the pension bureau her own mother nancy had migrated to the free state of ohio before the war to join a community of other black virginian migrants there and in 1855 francis had sent her then
eight year old son william to join his grandmother in ohio near chillicothe. fast forward to the war in june of 1863 young william at age 16 joined the union army. he told recruiters that he was 18 and he enlisted and company e of the fifth us ct there in chillicothe, ohio. the decision to enlist carried william evans back to virginia where he was killed in action in the battle of newmarket heights on september 29th, 1864 a union victory in which black troops launched a crucial assault on robert e. lee's richmond fortifications. in 1867 a few years after william's death his mother frances traveled from charlottesville to washington dc to file her pension request. for more than a decade she would submit and resubmit her application with her supporters here in albemarle county testifying that she was quote in bad health and giving way under the heavy work. she has to perform in order to
make living as her friends put it. but francis's application was denied. because she didn't have sufficient documentation proving that she had depended on her son financially. before and during the war now such documentation might include letters of soldier sent a home with his paycheck enclosed. for example. but as francis evans explained with palpable frustration. because she spent the war in confederate territory in charlottesville place the union army did not reach. her son had no way of contacting her while he was in the army to send such paychecks home. the pension bureau conceded in its finding that francis evans was caught in a sort of catch-22 her failure to prove her dependence on her son sprang not only from geography, but from the fact that her son was so young when he enlisted and when he died in battle that he hadn't yet had the chance to support his mother.
and equally revealing story can be found in the pension file of james henry garland. garland was born in the early 1840s and emancipated in the 1857 will of charlottesville merchant thomas grady the teenage garland and his mother then left, virginia for pennsylvania to join a community of free blacks and mercer county, pennsylvania. after arriving there in pennsylvania james garland attended school. he trained to be a barber in 1863. he opened his own barbershop and married a young woman named mary jackson. he then enlisted in the union army in the summer of 1864. he joined the 127th us ct regimen it trained at philadelphia's famous camp william penn and was then sent to the virginia front in other words like jesse coles and frank lee and william evans garland risked his freedom to return to the site of his enslavement to liberate others. as is later pension application discloses garland fell ill in the winter of 1864-65.
he was detailed with some other soldiers to build a bridge across the james river. exposed to the elements of water cold and so on he was hospitalized and diagnosed with rheumatism, which at the time was a sort of catch-all phrase to cover a wide range of musculoskeletal diseases and joint inflammation. his disease presented as a debilitating swelling of his legs, but garland remembered that he had been so ill in that winter of 1864-65 while building the bridge that he had lost his hearing and power of speech for a time. he was hospitalized during the dramatic spring 1865 campaign the appomattox campaign in which his regimen the 127th participated, but he rejoined them thereafter and did a tour of duty on the texas frontier garland was honorably discharged in texas in the fall of 1865. after the war garland returned to pennsylvania, and he attempted to restart his career as a barber only to be dogged by ill health and chronic pain.
in november of 1888 he applied for a pension and he compiled a model pension file. it contained testimonials from a local constable a lawyer a doctor a justice of the peace his bunk mates from the 127th regimen all testify that garland had been a healthy man before the war but had come home crippled and in constant pain. the pension agent in charge of his case found that garland was quote a general favorite with the best people in the towns where he lived unquote and granted him a pension for war incurred disabilities rheumatism and heart disease. garland's wells were not over. however. his mental health and his physical health sharply deteriorated in his old age. he was so incapacitated that his wife mary moved to ohio to be near the couples adults on charles and she assumed the legal role of as guardian of james and his estate finding james is 17 dollar a month pension payment to be woefully insufficient. she applied in 1909 for an
increase in his pension. and she enlisted the help of a remarkable a dynamic pioneering pension lawyer in washington dc none other than jeanette carter a leading black clubwoman and and labor organizer journalist and suffragist. carter herself encountered obstacles in working on this case the pension bureau initially tried to suggest that carter wasn't accredited for such work and then had to back down when she proved that she was. carter skillfully gathered depositions from witnesses and all the places that the family lived who specified that james henry garland's mental impairments were the consequences of his war induced physical if afflictions they testified too that mary garland's own health had been impaired by the burden of caring for her very ill husband. thanks to jeanette carter's expert aid mary garland secured an increase in james's pension to $30 a month. but the garland family's pension odyssey had one last dramatic chapter.
when james died of pneumonia in 1918 mary applied for a widow's pension. and although there was a vast written record in all of these previous filings and depositions in affidavits of her long-term care for her veteran husband the pension bureau refused to recognize her legal widowhood because she couldn't provide a wedding certificate authenticating the couples 1863 marriage all this time later in 1918. mary obtained testimonials from individuals would attended their wedding in mercer county, pennsylvania, surely that would satisfy the pension bureau but pension bureau officials declared those testimonials invalid because the family now lived in ohio no longer lived in, pennsylvania. the garland's son charles a successful insurance agent in cleveland stepped in writing a series of utterly exasperated letters to the local republican congressman william emerson asking for his help and decrying
the pension offices delaying tactics. how was it charles asked that a widow of 77 years of age? husband served in a revolution as the eloquently put it could receive such indifferent. attention from the government the bureaucrats charles garland charged were seeking refuge in arbitrary lines of argument redolent of the jim crow discrimination in the south. charles eventually prevailed in securing a widow's pension for his mother, but had taken decades of effort. james garland the veteran is buried in an unmarked grave alongside many other us ct soldiers in cleveland's woodland cemetery in 2012. a us ct monument was erected at this burial site and bears his name. there is no monument here in central, virginia to garland and his comrades and arms but their lives to quote frank lee are a monument to truth. these soldiers complex journeys into the union army their
wartime sacrifices their post-war struggles for recognition. we're all forms of protest against southern slavery and american racism. here in albemarle county and across the south these protests met with a vicious and violent backlash from confederate whites who refused to give up their lost cause in the aftermath of reconstruction defiant white southerners, not only sought to disfranchise and segregate and terrorized black veterans. they also sought to erase them from the history books. one could never glean listening to the dedication speeches at the lee and jackson statue unveilings here in charlottesville in the 1920s that african-american americans outnumbered whites in albemarle county during the civil war era or that this majority experience the union armies arrival in the city in march of 1865 as a moment of liberation one could never glean the 256 men black men with albemarle roots fought in the federal military for the causes of freedom and union or glean that those who survived the war laid the groundwork
during the nadier period at the turn of the century for the modern freedom struggle. the loss caused creed and the confederate statues that memorialized that were meant to sweep that history away. we owe it to these brave union soldiers to finally give them their due. thank you. thank you so much professor van. and now we are going to hear from dr. william kurtz. dr. kurtz is the now center's managing director and digital historian. he is the author of ex-communicated from the union how the civil war created a separate catholic america and editor of david p. conningham's soldiers of the cross the authoritative text the heroism of catholic chaplains and sisters in the american civil war. and he has recently published an article in the albemarle county magazine titled black virginians and blue the untold stories of albemarle counties us colored
troops. please join me in welcoming, dr. kurtz. thank you very much gary for that introduction. thank you all for being here today. it's very exciting for us to finally get to show you the website. and here it is. we've given so many talks about this project. we've just heard a wonderful talk from dr. veren and so i'm just going to give you the the basic tour of the website so that we can get to your questions that you might have about the what doctor veron said or about what i'll show you right now. so black virginians in blue is is a project that started back in 2016. i want to say it was dr. veron's idea. in fact, and it benefited from some early research by a local historian the guru of all things civil war local urban jordan who
works in the special collections library who's just a wonderfully generous and shared his initial research into this question of how many? were there any local black men who were union sailors or soldiers? and in fact, we found out that there were 256 men who enlisted in the union army or navy 250 in the army and the us-colored troops and and six in the navy. and then what started out as a civil war project really became a project about african-american history in the 19th century is social history we it was really important to me that in writing biographies of these men that we also included a lot of details about their family their nuclear families. so we wrote biographies not just that the men but of there's spouses as well. we wanted to give you those individual biographies and
essays to put those individual stories and context just like dr. veron did so eloquently and then we will also wanted to you know, not just give you our version of the story like our distilled biography are. essay that we compiled from the evidence. we have probably tens of thousands of images. my 10,000 images or so of photos that we took at the national archives or we've downloaded of service records or newspapers etc. and we just put up a selection of the the best that really give you the voice of these people. so it's not just me telling you what happened to james ts taylor you get to hear his voice as well. so with that being let me go. through the website so the first place you're going to want to go? is probably right here to the people search and this will if
you you know someone you want to to research if you know someone of a regimen that you were interested in, so like how many of these men are in the 54th? well, there's actually only one man who was in the 54th from albemarle county and he enlisted too late to be involved in the famous battle of fort wagner, which is in the movie glory, but there are a lot of men who were in the 55th which and you can search here for you can select for just the men you can select just for the women you can search for the children as well. you can search on where they enlisted when they enlisted some basic data like that. so, let me just pull up all the soldiers for us just to give you a sense of what you're gonna find when you do this search. so we've done this search for soldiers and let's go to the the very first one john adams. now john adams, that's a very common name very difficult to find a name like that and genealogical resources.
and so for a number of these men, we have only been able to trace what they did during the civil war so they have very very short biographies. just just basically when they came in and when they left so there's still more work to be done. this project will never quite ever be done. there's it's more work to be done to find out if we can what john adams's story was before and after the civil war? now if i go back and let's go to there are 250 of them. so just give bear with me for a second we go to one of the men that dr. veran talked about in her talk jesse coles or the reverend coles and this is a much longer biography and then part because we have a pension record for him. we don't have a pension record for john adams. we have a pension record for reverend polls. and so we're able to trace him after the war the pension records as dr. veron said are really wonderful rich resources for post for history the post
for history of the family. not just the soldier but sometimes they also reveal a lot of great detail about the the soldiers antebellum life too and maybe even his wife's antebellum life as well. so those are just such a rich resources. you will be able to tell right away. okay, they had a pension record for that one because that's a really amazing biography if we this is actually an image of reverend coles from a newspaper published during his lifetime. there are several images of images of him. we only have images of a handful of our men. you'll see i'll get to this in just a second some of them have document links at the bottom of the biographies and that's those. primary sources. i was mentioning earlier those those sources where we get at the void the voices of the actual men themselves, and if you keep scrolling down past the written biography you're going to get the database and the database pretty much just the same kind of data. you're going to get up in the biography. we wrote except a little bit
more standardized very regular and it's kind of cool because you can see the connections very easily in the in the database you can see okay here. his wife was nancy his he was the parent to ether and clara polls and so it's just basically this is the database content is what's driving that search on the initial search page. so called polls is a person who shows up all over our all over our website. he's a very prominent very important very inspirational. he has a very inspirational story. let me move on to so if you you want to, you know, look up people by regimen by name things like that and see if we have a biography about them. you know, you're you're looking up your ancestor like is there a battles or something like that? is there a man named battles? you can do that on the people page, but maybe you're sort of
interested in i kind of want to see where these men entered the army. what's that story look like and so we have a map to let you do that now the more you zoom in there aren't really 127 people enlisting right in this one spot the more you zoom in though. those numbers get smaller and smaller and then you start to get these little points on the map. and if you click on one of those points. here we have john adams again. john adams 30th regimen infantry enlisted in wilmington, march 3rd, 1865 and this link right here will take you right to john adams's biography. let's go to muster out real quick. now i'm and the muster out is sort of the same thing, except it has a little bit more detail it shows movement over time that where men enlisted is not necessary where they mustered out. there's also more reasons for mustering out. like why did you leave the army?
you might have left it for several reasons you might have just served your full term and you're done. you might have been discharged for disability. you might have been captured or in 72 cases. you might have died during the civil war 72 of our 256 men 72 of our 250 soldiers to be precise all that all the deaths are are soldiers none of them are sailors during the war. that's a staggering figure about 28% 28% death rate, which is far above. the overall usep mortality rate actually, so these men really are our subset of the larger usbt story these men really suffered and really gave the last full measure on behalf of saving the union and ending slavery. moving quickly here. i told you about the contextual essays. it was really important for us to have essays that put those individual biographies into context, you know, sometimes we
don't have as much details we want about an individual, but we do know something about the regimen we can place them in the context of their regimen's story. we can place them in the context of the story of other people enlisted in the same areas, for example people who enlisted in ohio, pennsylvania, or maybe who enlisted in vicksburg something like that. what you're going to want to do here is you're going to want to go to our overview essays which are the very top of the essay list. and the first three are written by an undergraduate. in fact, most of the essays on this site are written by undergraduates peer-reviewed or reviewed i should say for quality and accuracy by myself doctors. therein janie and dr. gallagher when he was who's now our former director? of course? these overview isas will give you a sense of what life was like for these men our albemarle usa team men and black sailors before the war during the war. after the war and then we have a
few more over a few essays that are all about the larger african-american experience. those are all done by frank. sorillo a recent graduate our phd program. if you've seen those overview essays, and you don't want it you want to select something else which you can do is you can just unclick the kind of essay. you don't want to you don't want to see anymore if you click it. you'll get it back again or you refresh the page and if we do that we can isolate essays that are about battles. so now if you're interested in i'm curious about all the men in your group who fought at the battle of the creator here. they are we have about a half dozen essays about the most important battles that are album are all men were involved in the creator a lot of these dials take place as part of the petersburg campaign the battle of chaffin's farm or new market heights as dr. barron referred to it the little known battle of honey hill which was part of a diversion in support of william sherman's march to the sea the
mashing success in 1864 of the battle of nashville by a virginia born general union general named george h, thomas that's all right here so you can get we also have essays about african-american family life about disease about the high mortality rate that i mentioned earlier we and for some of our really prominent people especially james ts taylor who was very important in charlottesville politics after the war. he was a leader of the black community leader of the black political community in charlottesville. we have an essay just about him as well. now if we go to the next section and we're looking at documents, i've we've transcribed and proof read about 60 or so documents. there's plenty more to add as i told you. there's you know thousands and thousands of images but these are sort of the highlights i try to choose a selection that was
that had an interesting story to tell that we're told in the voice of the people themselves when possible or if it was something like an obituary in a newspaper. what did what did the community think of these people so trying to get at different perspectives of? this experience of this story through these these records my hope is that you know students who are writing research papers about this will use these. sources in combination with other parts of the website and they could i mean if they could pretty much write a research paper based upon all of that all of the sources that we've made available all those sources being linked to essays as well. so if i just do a quick search for garland, sorry. james h garland dr. barron mentioned him in her talk here is his testimony his pension
testimony not all pension testimonies. are this this rich not all pension testimonies are this long, but it's amazing the amount of detail it goes into some of those service records. the military service records can be very bare-bones. it's basically, you know, did anything interesting happen to this person in a two month period and usually there's not a lot of detail, but he goes into great detail about what he did during the civil war how we contracted his disease why he needs his pension all all the doctors you saw after the war. it's really amazing some of the the details that you can get in the voices of of these people themselves. not just not just in historian distilling it for you. this is their voice this is them speaking to us and telling us their story. i think it's and i think there's we are currently transcribing even more sources to put up as well because there are just so many i could only choose the highlight to get them in ready in time for the website launch,
but i think there are even more and we are very happy of course to share additional resources to if people would like to see them. the last thing is the search feature right here if you want to just search across everything you said? okay? well, i don't want to just look at people or just the stories or just document show me everything if i do a search for taylor i get james t s taylor. here's his biography here are some letters that he wrote. he wrote a series of letters that i've been blogging on our website to the angle african-american detailing the the story of his regimen and then finally if i go right here, you'll see it's all polling from essay. so here's that essay. i told you about this essay was the very first thing ever written publicly by about our project. it was written by an historian named jonathan w, white from christopher newport university. he was extremely generous and was working on this for his own book, which is just now coming
out but he shared this letter with us and it is an amazing letter that taylor writes to president abraham lincoln explaining why he ran away what his sir and what services, like during the civil war absolutely amazing letter. i'm afraid to say there's only one such letter from our 256 men to president lincoln the final page just really quickly because i know i'm running a little bit over here and that is just the about section and that tells you about the history of the project and all the people who worked on it. i'd like to thank especially the institute for advanced technology in the humanities for their technical support the jefferson trust for a grant that was vital for the completion of this project are of course our founder john l. now the third and the and the generous support of our directors past and present dr. veron, dr. janie and dr. gallagher without them this project would not have been successfully completed it took a lot of people to finish finish it and to make it what it is
today, and it's something that can continue to grow there can continue to be more people discovered more information better biographies more essays. i just want to close briefly by thanking all the many uva undergraduates who helped us out over the years. thank you so much. i'm only going to name those who worked for us this year as a representative example, marvin hicks paul davidson, that's still and annie valentine. annie valentine's been with us for two whole years working on this project. and so i just want to thank you all and i want to thank brian newman recent graduate at the phd program for his help and rec. a current graduate student named ian iverson who's been helping out as well. these are only a few of the many people that i should thank but now we have so much time. so thank you all very much. i look forward to your questions. we'll publish the url for the website in the chat and i'll send it out via our social media
as well after today's event. thank you. thank you so much will for that wonderful presentation. i was going to begin by asking about where they could find the url, so you'll send it out, but it will also be available through the national center website. yes, i can do that. i can i'll put it up on the website. i'll put it up on social media and i will have it out through our e newsletter if that's the way you choose to get. tuned into the niles so it'll be everywhere. okay, so we're gonna start taking some questions from the audience now and we'll start with the first question that we might want to talk a bit about tomorrow night, but i'll ask both doctors barons and kurtz to address this are there ways to recover the lives of black southerners during the war who did not become soldiers and therefore did not have pension records. so men women children who might have fled to union lines and served in other roles roles
beyond just soldiers or sailors. that that's a great question and such an important one and as and as he said on tomorrow night, we'll have some of the great experts on this question who will who you'll you'll you'll interview and we'll hear from but but in the meantime, yes, it's essential to understand that the kind of resistance. i refer to the flight enlisting in the union army as part of a broad spectrum of contributions of african-american to the union war effort resistance large-scale and small-scale was absolutely essential and we have a huge range of sources for getting it at non-combatants both primary sources and a very wonderful rich scholarship and just just to give a few examples. we do have some letters and diaries and memoirs from african-american women from the civil war charlotte fort in the teacher who went south to teach free people susie king taylor a camp follower who became a nurse elizabeth and harriet jacobs
very, a storied women fascinating lives who did relief work for free people relief workers term at the time for sort of charitable work and and these are sources among many others that scholars like civilia glyph draw on. we had a wonderful now center event with her this past fall one of the many important points in her scholarship. is that is that as important as those who fled to union lines are we also have to think about those who didn't flee who for whatever reason the union army never came near their their communities didn't penetrate the region of the south they were in they they chose other forms of resistance that were that were just as important in destabilizing slavery. there's also a rich literature on on the destinations of refugees in the so called
contrabands camps that the union army set up and i'm sure that we'll hear, you know, learn a lot more about that tomorrow night. but yes, it's it's very very important theme and and again, you know as as will said, um our art we're very proud of the essays and particularly the student work on the website, but it's it's the tip of the iceberg in terms of the interpretive possibilities of the material we've presented and particularly. there's so much in each of these pension files about families and about women and about marriage and out, you know family relationships so much there to be recovered. yes. yeah, that's absolutely right if i could i just briefly say it's amazing that you can recreate. these african-american communities through the pension records, especially the pension records from the carter family. you see the same people over and over again testifying there's a there's a woman named nancy red who must be like the communities
historian local historian, basically because she knows everything about everybody and she's the person that they went to to corroborate information. you know, i i need to prove i was married to this person in this state and she's constantly testifying. so yeah you do you do get certainly soldiers testifying on behalf of soldiers, but you get the community showing up as well. and that's i think why so many of our men were successful in their pension records. i mean 93% of them got pension records, which is much larger than other studies have shown other studies by donald schaefer says about 75% of black. tension applications were successful 75 only 75% ninety three percent of ours were really speaks to their suffering and i think it also speaks to that community, especially in that the former carter plantations. i think the community rallied together and and they they got it done. they got they got the they needed. at least part of it.
so here's another question. have you established relationships with descendants? are they involved in shaping the project and will their stories be incorporated? we have only heard from a few descendants so far. we have been very blessed to have had descendants from the taylor family not directly from james but of the taylor family in attendance at our past talks for liberation freedom day. i just met a descendant of the coles family about a month ago. and so he was extremely thrilled to hear about the research that we had been doing but also research that have been going on up in pennsylvania reverend coles died and york, pennsylvania. and so, you know, we hope to keep building on that. we hope to keep building those relationships and you know, sharing what we have and then hopefully people will also, you know continue to share with us. we've been very fortunate in that a lot of people local genealogists included to have
heard about what we're doing and have volunteered more information or said. hey you've over there's another person you should know about you should and and for example just a month ago. we just found our 256th. black virginian in blue and that was he was given to us by a local researcher. so we're just people have been very very generous with us. professor barron, can you talk a bit more about the payments made to black union soldiers do the pension records give you a sense of how black soldiers entered into the period of freedom economically. that's that's a great question. and and we do it. i haven't made a systematic study of this but it's a great question because it's precisely the sort of question that these pension records could could could could answer again the words, you know discrepancies in in the sort of a pensions men were able to secure based on a whole number of factors the
nature of their ailments the degree to which there were sympathetic doctors in the vicinity who would testify honestly about the nature's the nature of those of those ailments there were financial transactions involved with securing a pension sometimes men reached out to lawyers and and others to help them navigate. navigate the the bureaucracy, so i i you know and one of the most interesting questions here gets back to what you all were just discussing. this is very much a virginia story in an albemarle story in a sense, but it also isn't it's so much more than that. the james taylor the remarkable individual who will refer to as one of the few men who returns to albemarle county and he's fascinating not only because he writes a letter to lincoln and wrote letters to a new york paper which we have preserved. but he also becomes a political leader in this community after the war. so so people here know of him
and we've been able to again be in touch with with descendants, but most of the men in these 200 among the 256 didn't come back to virginia. they went to other places to settle and and one of the things will researchers will need to ask as we pose questions like the one that we've just heard is how can we disaggregate this sample. what was the different fate of men who had been for example in the rank and file and those would become non-commissioned officers corporals or sergeants. how do we compare the post-war prospects of men who went to the south after the word of settle and men who went to the north of men who had been free before the war amendment became free during war and so on but but i think questions about their economic fortunes are answerable with this material, but that's not something we've done a systematic study of yet. and professor can hero will probably talk about that tomorrow night when he talks
about the families from philadelphia in particularly. absolutely. i will could you talk a bit? we've had a couple questions about whether other counties and other places in virginia are doing types of projects. could you elaborate on that? i only know of a few who are there might be a lot of people who are doing them, but they just haven't made them wildly as widely known as we would like. i know that down in rockbridge county that one of our local historians understand is working on something along these lines and then there's actually an effort up in culpeper county to they just broke ground on a monument to their local usa tea troops. so, you know, i hope that people see those efforts and our effort and they're inspired to do the same thing across the rest of the state of virginia and across the south as because there's just a a lot of you know people don't i think because the usat
story those stories are held. often in the national archives and they're not necessarily those records aren't necessarily local right that sometimes people forget about that story and i think that you know, what we've done is to show them how to do it how to say okay. i want to do the local black soldier and sailor story of my my area. this is how you do it. up in there and say you know it to build on what will his large because what this is an exercise in is reimagining local history. so for years decades and longer the notion was that albemarle county has a confederate history, but it doesn't have any other history and that's just simply wrong. we thought that there was no us ct so story here because the union army didn't recruit here, but there is a us ct story here. and so so there it is a way of reimagining local history and can be that for many other communities that sort of flip side of that which is another
fascinating question, which is out there for people to explore is that one of the things that makes the experiences of these african-american troops distinct is is the centrality of national allegiance in the sense that white soldiers in the confederate and union army often enlisted with into companies with communities and and then we're mustered in with state regiments and there was a very strong community and state allegiance that drove, you know, motivated their service for so many of these men again the way they were dispersed. they really are making a commitment and to a national army and to and to a national project and and thinking about it's sort of, you know gets back to will's point again. there's a sort of balance here of trying to keep the local and the particularistic in view all so keeping the the, you know, the broad national story in view and the maps helped that just remind us again. oh the ways in which it's a national story and if i can add one more thing real quick the links that we had to go to to
make sure we did our due diligence and search through every single usgt regimen were the poor the undergraduates who are involved in looking through fold three for me through 20,000 different. service records, they deserve some kind of star in heaven or something because who is an incredible amount of work and i spend a whole week going through service records or descriptive books at the national archives on top of what you can search online on ancestry, which is only part of the whole usat, but there is a project out of new york that was was or has transcribed all the service records all that basic data about where they were born. so if somebody's watching and saying well, i how do i do that? effectively. i can't go to narrow. well, hopefully soon that data will be public and you'll be able to search it and you'll be able to find your people your local african-american story all of those people quickly.
you can already do that by going to the soldiers and sailors national park database for the sailors. you can go right there and it has birthplace and it's it's unbelievably easy there were about 200 i think 2,800 sounds about right african-american sailors from virginia. so staggering number only six of them are from albemarle. so i mean there's that whole story too as well. we tend to focus on the usct, but there's a great there's a there's a there's a very large interesting black sailor story to tell too. i suspect that that story would be larger and more, you know, it would just be larger and there'd be more material for people who live on the eastern parts of the state. yeah, and i'll just add you know that as well as saying these digital humanities projects are sort of course multipliers, they build on each other. this one wouldn't have been possible without ancestry and full three and all of the digitized newspaper databases in
which we found things like obituaries. if someone like coals that that we would have been very difficult to access before we had these these these digital tools. so well, i will close with one. hopefully quick final question and that is if people have information about family members ancestors that were from albemarle county and they want to share that information with us. what's the best way for them to go about doing so that's a great question. so the best way to do that is to email the now center i will type in the before we end here. i will type in our now center email address, but just email us with your questions if you if you need information you want something we have very happy to share it if you have information you'd like to share or you'd like to comment on something we've written. please do so. we have benefited so much from everybody's generosity. we want to continue this dialogue as we you know, keep
working on this website. thank you to dr. kurtz and dr. barron for these fantastic presentations. have a good evening. here listen to lectures in history on the go by streaming our podcasts anywhere anytime. you're watching american history tv only on c-span 3. in 1796, dr. edward jenner created the world's first vaccine to combat the smallpox
virus a highly contagious disease that killed on average 30% of those infected. up next karen sherry gives the history of the vaccines development and looks at some of the controversies surrounding its distribution. she's an exhibitions curator at the virginia museum of history and culture which provided this video. as we enter the second year of dealing with the global covid-19 pandemic, it seems like kind of a an opportune moment to look back at the history of other infectious diseases and i wanted to talk about smallpox because there are many parallels as you'll notice over the course of this talk between smallpox and the coronavirus and how societies dealt