tv The Civil War Wisconsin African Americans in the Civil War CSPAN August 23, 2021 5:53pm-7:00pm EDT
visual experience as telling that story. and thank you. the wisconsin veteran's museum hosts a conversation with jeff kannel. author of "make way for liberty, wisconsin african-americans in the civil war." mr. kannel describes how he researched the topic, and what life was like for many of the veterans after the war.
the wisconsin veterans museum provided this video. welcome, everyone, and good evening. thank you for joining us. my name is kevin. i am curator of history at the wisconsin veterans museum and welcome to the museum's curator conversations. it's a virtual program that we started that was meant to really make history approachable in a conversational way because, after all, what is history but stories? stories that are meant to be told and retold and shared. and that's really the point of history. often, history is seen -- or seen as a very passive -- passive activity. it's something that you study. but in reality, history is -- is the discussion that comes from those studies. and so, i welcome our opportunity to chat. for those of you that have joined us before, you know that chris and i have a tendency to enjoy these programs. we -- we'll feed off of each other, and almost like you're viewing us as if we were in the
office and having a conversation about whatever topic comes up that day. but tonight, we are actually joined by two very special guests. we are joined by jeff kannel, author of our book tonight that we are talking about, which is "make way for liberty." and we are also joined by nate milsap. u.s. navy veteran, as well as a member of our foundation's board. and with that, nate, would you give us a few welcoming remarks? >> absolutely. good evening, everyone. welcome to the curator's event this evening. very, very happy to be a part of this. um, i'd like to thank jeff for such a wonderful text and for joining us this evening as well. and if you've not had the chance to look at "make way for liberty," i highly recommend that you pick it up. and i will give the shameless plug as most of you know, the wisconsin veterans museum foundation works in partnership with the museum that provide
funding for programs such as this, artifacts to add to the collection. so your continued support and donations enables events such as this. and i really look forward to meeting more of you over my time as a member of the board. and with that, i'll say thank you very much. let's have a good evening of discussion. >> excellent. thank you, nate. i also want to give a special thanks to the wisconsin historical society press since this is their book that it's coming out here. and what better way to talk about the upcoming book than with the author, himself, jeff kannel? so, jeff, let's talk about the book if we can. >> okay. well, thank you a lot for inviting me to be here. this is the first presentation i made since -- on the book. and it's -- it's still not in stores but it will be fairly soon i hear. um -- my father was a history teacher. and civil war was a special
interest of his. and in all the conversations he and i had about it, neither one of us was aware that african-americans from wisconsin had served in the civil war. it wasn't part of the history that i learned or that my dad taught. about ten years ago, i was at the kenosha civil war museum and met a group of reenactors for company f. a group from milwaukee. because of them, i started researching -- um -- african-american soldiers from wisconsin, and found many hundreds. and also, found that there was no written history covering their service. so i hope, with this book, to bring to light their service and their lives and their names, as well. they proved themselves as soldiers and men. to their own people, to their officers. and often, to their enemies. after they joined the fight and for a brief period after the war, the black veterans lived in a country which offered them
more hope than it was had before. but the promises were not fulfilled. during and after their service, they took the first permanent steps toward the integration of the armed forces much later. and toward the civil rights movement of the 20th century. servicemen from wisconsin were actively involved in every step along the way, and i think their stories make a very rich history. the research i did on this was -- were from multiple sources. one of the easiest things to do in -- in researching this was finding the service records of the soldiers. they were federalized troops, the u.s. colored troops are federalized so all of their records were in -- were in the national archives in washington and were digitized. so these are easily available on -- on full tree, a website. the other resources i used were the wisconsin historical library
for their wisconsin service records. their wonderful newspaper collection. and the archives. i -- i used information from a number of local libraries and museums, including the wisconsin veterans museum archives, milton house museum, cunningham museum in lancaster, and the civil war museum in kenosha, among others. the national archives in washington was a great source, too, because they have all the pension documents for all -- all service members. these are not digitized so that required me making multiple, multiple trips to -- to the national archives. and they also have regimental histories there, which i did make use of. before the war, there was the african-american population of wisconsin was scattered over the whole state. predominantly, rural and small town. there were a couple of communities i want to mention.
one was pleasant ridge community in -- in grant county near lancaster. this was formed by a number of families formerly enslaved in missouri and -- and virginia. who came together and found, developed a farming community in that area. the other one was cheyenne valley in rural vernon county and that one was -- community was made up of -- um -- a multiracial group, white, black, native american, and various combinations who moved there in the 1850s and '60s. two other -- two other communities that aren't thought of very much but contributed quite a few servicemen to the united states color troops and to the army and the civil war. lacrosse and prescott. lacrosse, as a river town, had a number of african-americans who
made it there either because they worked on the river or because they had escaped in the south and they had come up river that far. the other one was prescott. the small town in pierce county, which will come up a couple times in this presentation. again, it was a river town so there were a number of men who came there or were settled there when recruitment happened who had been river workers. and also, nearby there was another small farming community, which contributed several -- several soldiers to the war. during the first two years of the war, african-americans were not allowed to enlist in wisconsin regiments because of their race. anyone of african ancestry was prohibited from entering. there were, however, a few who did get in because the local recruiter bent the color line a little bit and allowed a few individuals to come in either because they were well known locally and it was a
locally-recruited regiment or no one knew of the african-american soldier's ancestry. later on, the draft law was changed and added to the draft rules. and what happened then was there was about a year of a catch 22. where african-american men in wisconsin could be drafted. but wisconsin was not recruiting for the u.s. colored troops. so what this meant was they could not volunteer. they could not volunteer for the army, in which case they get a bonus. but they could be drafted, in which case they got no enlistment bonus. so there were a number of men who -- who wrote to the governor or other officials and protested this because they wanted to volunteer. they didn't want to be drafted. this continued for about a year. there was a time when then men were taken from the draft list, and were put into wisconsin regiments because wisconsin wouldn't put -- couldn't put them into u.s. color troops yet
because they weren't recruiting for that. so there late 1863 wisconsin started drafting a few soldiers into wisconsin regiments. a few african-american men. and this continued for the rest of the war. wisconsin finally did start recruiting for the u.s. color troops in 1864 early in the year. it was believed by a lot of the army hierarchy and politicians that black soldiers wouldn't -- black men would not make good soldiers. so the idea was they would be kept out of combat. and many of the regiments of the u.s. color troops, that was true. there were two regiments from wisconsin, though, that saw a lot of combat. and one of those was the first one -- first regiment to take men in from wisconsin, that was the 68th u.s. colored infantry. there were 18 men from wisconsin in this unit who came -- who was a missouri unit of the united states color troops.
and these 18 men almost all enlisted in green bay within a month of each other, march, 1864. i had to put -- put together their service records and their pension records to figure out that they were lumberjacks. and they had just come out of the forest from chopping down trees in the winter. and march and april, came to green bay, said oh look at this. they're letting us into the army now. so a number of these ex-lumberjacks volunteered and they ended up becoming part of the 68th united states colored infantry. they fought on the gulf coast, including the battle to conquer mobile. the other one which had a lot of combat experience was the 29th u.s. color troops. they were a unit that was organized and recruited in illinois. had a training camp in quincy, illinois, right across from slaveholding missouri. so a lot of men who joined this
regiment were formerly enslaved men who escaped across the river and volunteered. once they volunteered, they were soldiers. they were no longer slaves. it was automatic, at that point. problem for a lot of them, that i won't go into here, was that their relatives family they left behind suffered consequences for their enlistments. so a lot of the men in these -- in these units and the 29th were previously enslaved in -- in missouri. and basically, liberated themselves by going across the river and joining the army. the 29th u.s. colored troops fought in the battle of the creator near petersburg, virginia, in july of 1864. the battle was a fiasco and i won't go into the details of it now. but in company f of the 29th, which was known as the milwaukee company because almost everyone was from wisconsin and most were credited to milwaukee. that unit, there were about 125
soldiers in that regiment, by the end of the war who had come from wisconsin. ten of them died in the battle of the creator. and many, many more were -- were wounded in that battle. but they -- they stuck with it. they remained in the siege of petersburg. they were involved in the con -- conquest of richmond, virginia, in the spring of 1865 they were part of the army following lee's army as he tried to escape. and in the words of george washington williams who is a former soldier and african-american historian, the last guns fired at lee's army were in the hands of negro soldiers. some of those hands belonged to men from wisconsin. they marched all night, the previous night to arrive just in time to block lee's last avenue of escape. so they -- this -- this regiment
really did. was involved heavily in combat in civil war and did some big things. two of the -- two of the struggles that the -- the african-american soldiers were involved in -- um -- included wisconsin men. loverture hospital was a segregated hospital in alexandria, virginia, where a lot of casualties from the creator battle went for surgery or rehabilitation. what happened when these black soldiers died is that they were not buried in the alexandria national cemetery, which was two blocks from the hospital. but they were taken and buried in unmarked graves in friedman cemetery a couple miles away. the soldiers protested this and had a petition drive demanding the right to be buried as soldiers with the white soldiers in the alexandria cemetery. one of the leaders of this was -- was alfred carol.
and i think we have a picture of him to -- no, we have his hospital card from his time in the -- in the -- in the hospital. he was there for several months. he was a sergeant and he was one of the people who -- who led this petition drive. one of the other soldiers from wisconsin who -- who had died at the hospital was buried in the friedman cemetery. but -- um -- after their petition drive, he was reentered at the alexandria cemetery so he is buried there. i also wanted to mention here that there were at least two wisconsin african-american soldiers buried in arlington national cemetery. and this all happened around the same time. around the same time they broke open the alexandria cemetery for black soldiers. the other issue that soldiers fought over was equal pay for
black and white soldiers. when the u.s. colored troops had started, the pay for black soldiers was less than white soldiers. plus, their uniform expenses were deducted from their pay. so the 54th and 55th massachusetts infantry, which were african-american regiments which weren't part of the u.s. color troops but they refused their pay for over a year. and their white officers, with them. until it was made equal to white soldiers. and i bring this in here because there were at least 11 wisconsin men serving in those two regiments, including arthur b. lee, who lived his entire postwar life in the area of milton. another group of veterans or soldiers i want to mention. you know, that's -- this is arthur b. lee. and we will come back to him later in the -- in the story. another group that i researched were employees of wisconsin
regiments or wisconsin officers. and i -- i didn't set out to research them. but as i was going through the documents that i could find, i found that these employees were just as likely to die in service as the soldiers were. so i started looking up as much as i could about them, too. and found about 180 who had actually been placed on wisconsin rosters as cooks, blacksmiths, teamsters. and many -- many of them moved to wisconsin later. some of them, after they had served as employees, enlisted as full-fledged soldiers in the u.s. color troops. now, one thing to remember with them is the vast majority of these -- these men were never put on official rosters. so i have 180 some who were -- there -- there were many-more hundreds, maybe thousands, whose -- who were never put on
the rosters. later on, the ones who were rostered could apply for pensions and got them. and their widows, as well. but those who were never placed on a roster could not get a pension no matter who wrote them supporting documents. so that's kind of one of the sadder parts of all this. i -- i want to mention two families in terms of service. the valentine family had four family members in service. two sons and two grandsons. served in three different u.s. colored troops regiments and one served in a wisconsin regiment. one of the grandsons died in service, and is buried at arlington. the other family i will mention is the shepherd family from -- from pleasant ridge in -- in -- in grant county. a father and son in the shepherd family en -- joined the army. one in the wisconsin unit and one in the u.s. color troops
unit. both of them died in service. so that family was pretty devastated by the loss of their father and their oldest son. in the service. following the war, most of the soldiers returned to where they had lived before joining the army. most of these men, however, had no particular skill trade. so many of them moved on quickly looking for opportunities in other cities in the state or moved west. so one of those who moved west was alfred carol as we mentioned earlier as one of the leaders of the petition for burial rights. he served for eight years in the buffalo soldier's west until about 1876. now, it's been said in a number of sources that the -- the black soldiers did not maintain contact with each other like white soldiers did. they didn't form -- um -- you know, regimental associations.
they didn't publish books. but in looking up the wisconsin soldiers, they were very linked to each other socially for the remainder of their lives. one of the examples of this which i did put in the book. i have a table with at least 25 marriages that happened between soldiers and the sisters, daughters, or mothers of their comrades. i'll mention a couple here. one of them was -- one of the soldiers was william p. stewart and i think we have a picture of him. that's him. later in life with his gar ribbon on. william stewart married eliza thornton. he was from the shine valley settlement and he married the sister of a comrade, eliza thornton, who lived nearby in saw county. stewart's own sister martha married aaron roberts, another soldier, veteran from the
cheyenne valley settlement. there was a lot of marrying among these families were very interrelated. another way in which they maintained contact was when they got around to applying for pensions. the pension would have many letters from other soldiers, fellow soldiers, supporting pension applications for these men. so they -- they really did maintain -- maintain contact. i think of one pair of soldiers who -- who said they met. it was -- the names william mckenny and isaac. isaac smith. they were both members of company f 29th u.s. colored troops. but they met earlier in the war when they both worked for the 11th wisconsin infantry during the siege of vicksburg. when the officers they worked for came back to wisconsin, these two came back with them. and within weeks, the wisconsin started recruiting for the u.s. colored troops and they both went right away and enlisted. one of them wrote in one of the
pension documents that -- describing, we met. we met in -- in mississippi. we came to wisconsin. we enlisted together. we were tent mates throughout the war, and will probably be together till the day we die which actually turned out to be the case. so now, the -- the -- the veterans who stayed in wisconsin really were very often important members of their communities. they, in many situations, founded the churches that served the communities. the pleasant ridge church was built by, among others, the soldiers who lived in the community. black and white families working together to build the church. and that church building still stands in wisconsin in their african-american settlement. that same building that was put together by the hands of black and white veterans and nonveterans in -- in pleasant ridge settlement.
the act with a lot of their veterans and the children. there are several congregations in the state that owe their -- you know, their birth to the civil war veterans that are still existent. and one in racine and one in milwaukee. one of the first things the veterans succeeded in doing was pushing the state to grant them -- grant voting rights to -- to black men. and once they got them, they used those -- they used that right. most of the veterans retained their allegiance to the republican party because of lincoln. but there were some veterans who were active in the prohibition party. and several who were among the founding members of the union labor party which ran a very strong campaign in the late 18 -- 1880s. and actually, elected some members to congress and elected a black veteran, peter d. thomas, to a countywide office
in racine. now, the veterans who stayed in wisconsin faced discrimination in their postwar lives and that got worse, the further after the war went. after reconstruction was over, in the south and the southern states started imposing jim crow laws. some similar things happened in wisconsin as well and in the northern states. voting rights were -- were preserved. but it became harder to buy property where you wanted. there were more and more public places that would not allow african-americans to enter. so there was a -- a restriction. and the -- probably, the biggest one was a constriction of work opportunities. so while industry was booming in milwaukee, for instance, there were never very many civil war veterans in the city because the factories were closed to them. they could not get work in the factories. so the late 1800s was a period of increasing discrimination.
at the same time, the small-town and rural populations were shrinking because of isolation and because their children generally got pretty good educations. in pleasant valley, cheyenne valley, and some of the rural communities, they were pretty well educated and found no work opportunities or marriage opportunities in those little towns where they lived unless they were going to be farmers. so many of them moved to the cities and some moved to the south actually. several teachers from the pleasant ridge community went to the south and taught. um, there are a couple -- couple veterans who were very active in civil rights issues. again, arthur b. lee from -- from milton who we showed a picture of him before. was a prolific letter writer and was very involved in political activity of the republican party. for all of his adult life. the other one i want to mention is john j. myles who was from
milwaukee. he was a veteran who moved to milwaukee in the 1870s. became the head waiter at the plankonton hotel downtown. and became fairly wealthy but used his position to help african-americans in milwaukee, including some veterans to get work not just at the plankenton but at other locations, as well. i want to just mention, briefly, i mentioned pensions for the soldiers. anyone who -- who was a veteran who had been on a roster for wisconsin regiment or u.s. colored troops could apply for a pension based on disability. later on, they could apply just for old age. and the widows could also apply for pensions. the pension files are -- are just fascinating because they provide a lot of history of -- of these individuals. of the health and -- and disability issues they had. of their family lives. of the other veterans they were
in contact with. but a lot of it documents that they -- they -- they had a tough life facing prejudice, limited opportunity, limited income. so that small -- relatively small pension was -- was a big deal. black veterans were not as likely to get them because they had trouble meeting all the documentation requirements. and often, when they did get them, their pensions were not equivalent to a white soldier with a similar disability. now, some of these soldiers were very successful in their postwar lives. aaron roberts is one i mentioned. he is from cheyenne valley. he at one point owned a factory? hillsboro that was supposedly the largest manufacturer of barrel components in the west. and unfortunately, he -- he lost the factory during an economic panic in the 1890s. and was left with what seems
like a fair amount of cash but probably just a sliver of what he had put into that factory. he turned it around, moved to oshkosh, and started another business which also appears to have been very successful. something we now call flipping houses. he bought old houses, flipped 'em up, fixed 'em up and sold 'em. and did that, you know, if you read the oshkosh northwestern, there's many weeks when he's got an entry in there for a house purchase or a house sold. he was a very -- he was a real entrepreneur. the other one i'll mention is john j. valentine who owned and operated a restaurant, and later a hotel in waukesha that was fairly, pretty well regarded. one other point i want to make with these veterans is about the grand army of the republic, which is the -- the big veterans organization of the civil war. to be a member of that, you had to be an honorably-discharged veteran. and you -- your membership had to be approved by a vote of the
members of the local g.a.r. post. and i started finding a few black veterans who had -- who were accepted into predominantly white posts in wisconsin. the further i looked at it, there were actually quite a few who were -- who were again predominantly white posts in wisconsin. and there was one point where one of the madison posts has six veterans of the u.s. colored troops in their -- in their post. and remarkably enough, at the same time that employment rights and other rights for african-americans are being eroded and closed off, the gr never caved in. and the gr local posts never caved in, either. but they continued to accept black members and three of the -- three of the african-american soldiers were voted -- voted in as officers of their predominantly white posts in wisconsin. it was aaron roberts from
hillsboro. peter thomas in racine. and william p. stewart. i just found that remarkable piece of information, considering that there were so few black veterans that they were still accepted and kept in. maintained their membership in the gar through this. i think i'll stop there, and defer at this point to our -- our other speakers. and come back later for questions. >> that's excellent. thank you very much, jeff, i appreciate that. um -- as -- as everyone knows, the wisconsin veterans museum. we -- we firmly believe that every veteran has a story but we also firmly believe that need to understand the context. understand why it still matters and to be able to understand why wisconsin was there. um -- so, with that, i'd like to ask chris to join us here. and tell us a little bit about the context of why -- or what -- what does this -- this legacy
obviously starts with u.s. colored troops. and why u.s. colored troops at the time they are admitted to the union army, as well. why not from the very beginning? >> the big reason is -- first of all, that was fascinating. this -- this is a fascinating book and it -- i commend it to everybody's attention. one of the big things is that when the war begins, you really -- it's really from an african-american perspective, it's really two -- two stages of the same conflict. before and after january 1st, 1863, with the emancipation proclamation taking effect. before that time, the legal status of african-americans in the north but also slaves -- freed slaves in the south -- is up for question. there is the whole contraband decision. contraband of war at the beginning of 1861. there are some local units in louisiana and south carolina of black troops that are recruited among freed slaves in 1862. but it -- it's very informal and
their legal status is very different. it is very unsettled. after the emancipation proclamation, not only frees the slaves in the states that are in rebellion at the time. it, also, opens the door for enlistment into the united states army as -- as soldiers. and that's the creation of the united states colored troops. and from that moment is really a path to full citizen -- that's where african-americans start the path to full citizenship. and in some ways, if you look at it from the very broadest possible context, a lot of the civil rights advances are tied somehow to military service. from the emancipation proclamation in 1863. all the way to 85 years later when harry truman desegregates the military in 1948. and so, this is one of those, if you look at the chain of events -- um -- that lead from -- from point a to point b and everything in between.
the many twists and turns in between. i'm not trying to say it's a linear, easy process, by any means. because to be quite frank, after the war when the buffalo soldiers are created and segregated units with white officers, the 24th, 25th infantry, 9th and 10th u.s. cavalry. they suffered a lot of same discriminations that jeff was talking about during the civil war. and you can go even further into -- into the first world war where the 92nd division fights as a segregated unit under french command because john pershing for many political reasons is not willing to have african-american soldiers fight his combat troops in the american expeditionary force. all the way through tuskegee airmen, which of course that's a very famous told story. and i always remember an african-american veteran in the mid--'90s he said the german pows had more rights in the south than i did during the second world war.
and it was -- that's just a fascinating dichotomy. it's a -- it's a disturbing dichotomy, as well. but it's a -- and it -- it illustrates that a lot of what jeff was talking about remains present well in -- well after the guns fall silent in 1865. >> and i think it -- it's -- it's interesting to note the connection still to the civil war legacy. if you will. even in world war i. i've got a poster here i'm going to share with everyone from our poster collection. our archivists put together for us. and you can see, even in the propaganda posters that were distributed at the time, harkening back to that legacy. you see the service member above the mantle with the flag draped across the top of the frame and who is just as large of a picture there just to the right but president lincoln. um, and it's -- it's quite fascinating even just looking at
how they -- the understanding of that legacy 50 years afterwards. and that's something to think about, too. if you look at it in 50-year blocks even. you know, world war i is essentially 50 years after the civil war. 50 years after that, you are already into almost vietnam, korea. so you -- that legacy is -- is very prominent, still. >> no, i agree. i agree. and it's -- you know, when you look at it from that temporal perspective. 85 years. we just cited an 85-year period. 85 years ago was 1935. so that puts things in perspective. um -- and it's -- again, it -- you know, it's a process. the process starts during the civil war. and then, after the war, of course, with the 14th, 15th
amendments and in many ways it's still going on, let's be completely honest with that. it's an unfinished process. >> yep. >> and one -- one branch of service and this might be a misnomer so correct me if i am wrong. but one branch of service that wasn't actually, initially segregated was the navy in world war -- or in -- in the civil war. um, which is a very interesting story, in and of itself. and we will have to talk about that some other time. but that -- that gives me an opportunity actually to segue here to our next guest here, nate milsap, who is a navy veteran, himself. i am hoping, nate, you can tell us a little about your experience. obviously, serving in an integrated service branch and the legacy that you have -- you see that connection to that legacy. >> so, yes, absolutely. and to those on the call who are still active duty or veterans, thank you for your services. we approach veterans day here. so the military's come a long way and, you know, as some of
you know on the call, i am a 1995 graduate of the u.s. naval academy in annapolis. and by far and above, you know, the -- the conditions of african-americans or any minorities in services today is nowhere near the same as it was during the civil-war period or even world war i to world war ii. and i will say, though, there -- there are some similarities. and so, as jeff was talking, i -- i started jotting down some notes and he said a couple things. which struck me because as i read through the book, i picked up on the same thing. and there's one portion of the book where jeff discusses the fact that it was almost a promise unfulfilled. so african-americans served in the military. they expected to return home and have some better life.
and the picture that you just showed is actually a portrayal of that in -- in ever so many ways. but for african-americans, even in the modern country that we live in today, military service still offers up promise. and it's fulfilled in many ways. you know, i am retired. i am a disabled vet. that was a medical retirement. and the country fulfilled its promise to me. i served. i became ill during my service. and i've had first-class treatment ever since. um -- regardless of where i am in the country. however, when you look at it, we're still, like i said, not so far removed. when i was at the academy, we had our first female brigade commander. and one of my classmates was, i believe, the second or third african-american male brigade commander. but for those of -- who -- who are following the news, the
naval academy just appointed for next semester their first black female brigade commander. and it's very hard to believe that 25 years after i graduated and -- and saw so many milestone-achieving events and appointments then. that first class barber is just now continuing to make history. so it's reflective of the slow nature, i think, of progress in the military in the country. i think about -- right now, i think the ratio's about 43% of people serving in the military are considered minorities. yet, they rank in near-single digits in top leadership. and so, a common theme in the book was there had to be white officers above these black soldiers because the black soldiers couldn't lead themselves and make effective leaders. and you see that reflection ever
so much today. whether it's intentional, historic, legacy, et cetera. so there's a continued tie to service in the military, that promise to the community. but in many ways, like i said, it is a promise fulfilled. i mean, i -- i got appointed to the naval academy. i graduated and by all means, my life has been forever changed by that opportunity. in the most positive of ways. regardless of disability. i -- i'd sign up to serve, again. so i -- i find that there's a significant tie there. but wisconsin, also, as a state offers some things to its veterans currently that other states in our country don't do. namely, the education program through the wisconsin department of veterans affairs. and if you are on the call and you're not aware of that, by all means, research it. there -- it's the absolute top-notch benefit.
the veteran's home. it's unique to wisconsin and jeff and i had a brief chat before the call on this topic. but one of the things we still see in modern wisconsin is is that veteran influx into the state is actually at the retiree level. and the wisconsin veteran's home are an influence to that. so i think it's a, by all means, not the most rosy of stories. slavery. the reasons for the civil war, et cetera aren't. but it's such an accurate and fair portrayal and it gives credence where it's never been given to the soldiers. so again, jeff, thank you for such a wonderful text because you gave history not to a group of people, not to a concept, but to individuals. and to what they did for the state, their families, their countries, and everybody who came behind them. so i think this is something
that, having been to veterans' museums across the country, the wisconsin veterans museum actually does well, also. just it tells the individual stories. the collections that are there and available to everyone. this book really complements wisconsin's history in portrayal of its veterans and caring for their stories. so i think that, overall, we have come a long way. i would encourage everyone to read the book. it's -- you can't get it and i say that from the perspective of, you know, i was a history major. and i must say i have never read anything on the civil war like this period. and so, be it for a white soldier or black soldier, this is just top-notch. so -- >> i agree. i -- i completely agree. thank you for that, nate. and thank you for those
comments. um, you're right. it's that humanity behind the history that really makes it impactful. makes it a way you can connect with your -- with that legacy and that -- and that past and those stories. and in a way that you can't do, otherwise. and that's something that we strive to do at the veterans museum. i think you are exactly right. this book is a perfect -- perfect augmentation of that, as well. where you can -- you learn the stories of the people. and i always say, if anyone's on the call that's heard me before, i like illiteration. that's what makes these stories what they are, which is stories and that's why they need to be retold. they shouldn't be hidden off somewhere, or not covered. um -- so, actually, jeff, that brings me back to you. we had a couple questions for you. um what -- what -- what are some takeaways? you got to know the individuals in this book better than any of us. you know, we've got a few of 'em
in our collection at the veterans museum but what's -- what are some takeaways of getting to know history at that individual level? and frankly, being able to tell their stories that haven't been told before. >> there are a lot of times when i thought it would be -- i would really like to sit down somewhere with a bunch of these -- these men around a table with a bottle of whiskey or pitcher of beer or coffee for the prohibitionists. and just listen to them talk about what they went through and what their lives were like. i just -- that would fascinate me because for a lot of these guys, i got a lot of information. but i -- i'd like -- i'd like to hear their voices. i'd like to hear -- hear the other things about them that, you know, was -- that wouldn't get into the documents. they're -- you know, one of the people i mentioned before was william p. stewart. and i need to get -- make sure i get this in because it's really one of the things that's very
relevant today. he -- after he -- he was a member of the gar. eventually, he and his family moved to washington state where he lived the rest of his life and -- and was a farmer. in washington state, there was a highway running from seattle up to the canadian border that in the 1930s, the daughters of the confederacy got the state of washington to name that the jefferson davis memorial highway. >> oh, wow. >> so this really relates to a lot of what's going on now with confederate monuments. many of those were put up long after the war was over by daughters of the confederacy or sons of the confederacy or -- you know, this one. the case of this highway. this is long after all the veterans are dead. so it's very much a political statement that, well, in our view, the south really won. you know, the state of washington, they are naming a highway after him. 2017, the washington legislature passed a bill signed by the
governor renaming that highway the william p. stewart memorial highway. for the wisconsin african-american soldier from company f 29th u.s. colored troops, instead of jefferson davis. i think that's an absolutely, totally appropriate response to -- um -- to something that shouldn't have been there, to begin with. but definitely, shouldn't be there now. # i am so happy they did that and actually the -- a great granddaughter of -- of mr. stewart was the first descendent of a vet, of one of the black veterans that i made contact with and has been very supportive with this. and she was very much a mover in getting this name change. so -- >> excellent. >> that's one story i wanted to make sure i got in there. >> that's an excellent story and definitely needs to be remembered. one thing i really enjoyed about the book, too, is it's not just a book of stories but it's an
excellent, excellent resource to actually go through the last part of your book. where you have got these wonderful tables that have all the information about every person you found. and one thing that i found fascinating and was just -- it goes on for pages. and you think -- you know, the stories aren't well known, to be honest. you -- you had asked a random person off the street, you know, how many african-americans served from wisconsin in the civil war? so the number -- and the numbers aren't really well known at all. is there anything you could tell us about those numbers and perhaps the misnomer of what was perceived as how many served before? >> the -- the few books that actually -- that ever mention service of african-americans pretty much just pull a document out of a government forum and use that as -- as the truth. the total number of rostered servicemen i found from wisconsin is, thus far, 469. that may not agree with the book
because i think i've added a few since then. so 469 who were rostered soldiers in wisconsin regiments, in the u.s. colored troops, in the navy. and then, another at least 217 who were employees. i think the number of employees, whether rostered or not, is probably over 1,000. >> wow. >> just based on some of these regiments that, in their histories, make mention of, you know, 40 or 50 men working for them at the time and not one of them was put on roster. so i really think that the actual number's -- is probably over 1,000. # so there's still more to be found. i think there are more in the wisconsin regiments. it's very hard to -- to tease out from there who was black and who was white. and there isn't a whole lot of documentation so they're harder to find. >> yeah. >> and there were other u.s. color troops veterans who moved
to wisconsin later that i may not have found. so -- um -- >> that's excellent. and -- and that's the best part of history is that the discovery never ends. and there's always more to research. that's that indiana jones moment, where you just keep digging to see what you can find. >> for the record, kevin, that's -- that number, just so people understand what -- that number is 99 -- out of 99,000 usct troops that are credited to the various united states color troop infantry cavalry and artillery units that served with the union army during the war. wisconsin, as a whole, is credited with about 91,000 total enlistments during the civil war. so just to put it in perspective. it's slightly larger than camp randal stadium. but just -- i just wanted to throw -- to give some additional context to what jeff's talking about there. >> yeah. and -- and one thing to add to that -- um -- is that -- that discovering and looking at
statistics and how it changes. you know, we have said that we're credited with over 91,000. and actually, within the last couple of years, we have done the research and we found out it's only 81,000. that there's actually 10,000 that re-enlist and are listed twice as if they're two different individuals but they're the same person. um -- so, there's always more to find and there is always more to dig into. so that number even becomes even more striking, when you remove that 10,000 cap from the top, too. >> i eliminated the duplications. there were a number of these soldiers who served in multiple terms or in different units. and i -- i took them off. so they are only counted once, each. >> yep. so it's those unique -- those unique entries, if you will. yeah. >> i -- i know where i'm going for my stats from now on is you, kevin. and you, jeff. >> well, we have got -- we have got actually quite a few questions that i would like to dovetail into from the audience.
and, michael, if you are able to bring up those questions for us, we can start with the first one. were the black veterans well received by the local gars? >> from what i've seen, it appears that they were. especially, in -- in looking at -- at the -- the men who were elected officers of these posts. there's a -- a photograph of the post. and at least two of the soldiers in there are african-american. i don't know which is which, though. but they were -- they were part of the picture. they were part of the post. and one of them was an officer. so i think they were accepted in the posts where they were taken in. i don't know. i don't have any information as far as men who were -- may have applied and were rejected. but i -- i think another point to make with -- with the gar was some of those -- some of those men who worked as employees but
were never put on a roster so they may have served two or three years. they carried a weapon during battles but they weren't on the roster. so they were -- they were not officially veterans, discharged veterans. they didn't qualify for pensions. but a number of those men were accepted into local gar posts. the local veterans who knew them accepted them and took them in. so i think that -- that may be a -- an indication that in general because -- they were accepted for their service. >> yeah. >> they may have faced more discrimination in the community because of their race but their service was respected. >> and i'll just show this one here quick. this one is one of the stories in your book. it's actually from our collection. it's henry ashby who is one of those -- one of those cases. you know, and actually love the way you phrased it in your book. you really get that sense in the -- if you are registered or if you are on the rosters, versus if you're not. and the -- the additional
hurdles on top of everything else they had to go through. or even being denied for a pension even though you sacrificed. i love this photo, though, of ashby. you can see right there, proudly, on his chest that gar medal right there on his jacket. >> there's -- there's an interesting comment in a letter from one of the officers that wrote a letter supporting his pension application which was denied. wrote him a personal letter that he is that's in his pension file that seems to indicate that his sister worked for the regiment, as well. because she died at a -- at a site where this regiment had fought. and -- >> that's incredible. >> i can't remember the exact comment. but there -- there are -- and i mention these in the book -- there are a couple of stories in the book about women working with the regiments the wisconsin men served in. >> yeah. all right. mike, next question.
weren't there several black settlements in grant county at this time? >> pleasant ridge is the one i know of but it wasn't the only place in grant county where there were black residents. it was kind of the -- the central focus. but there were -- um -- there were black volunteers from bloomington. and a few other -- other towns so there may have been other people. other -- other families living in those areas. but the -- the -- the big one was -- was the one at pleasant ridge. after the war, there were -- most of the -- the -- the black veterans from that county came back to pleasant ridge. but again, some of them went
back to bloomington or cassville or other town where there may have been a little settlement, too. and take it back. a couple volunteers who enlisted and went back after the war. >> yep. next question. beyond veterans, was it common for black teachers to move south or move to the south to teach? >> from what i've -- i've come across, i don't -- well, no, i take it back. i was going to say i don't know of any veterans that did that but i do. there were a couple of wisconsin veterans who became teachers. and although i can't think of any who went -- one was in nebraska. some are in wisconsin. but some are the daughters of the -- the veterans. particularly, from pleasant ridge, again. or, you know, became teachers. taught in the south. there was a veteran who lived in
evansville. and one of his -- his daughter went to fisk university and his son became a teacher in texas and oklahoma. so there were -- there were more than a few who did that. >> excellent. next one. did you come across either newark valley, a small african-american community near adams? and how common was it for enlistees who were black being assigned to all-white regiments, as in this case in roles of subservient laborer? >> that's where the valentine family lived was it newark valley, adams county. so the -- the two sons went into u.s. color troops and the -- um -- one of the grandsons enlisted in a wisconsin regiment along with three or four other people from that -- from that community.
soldiers who had served overseas in the ameri well, here we are, many veterans go to washington and camp out in the anacostia flats protesting and some of them, quite frankly, don't have anywhere else to go. and they are basically camped out there asking congress, begging congress really, in some ways, to -- to get -- see if they can get an advance on their pensions. and a sizeable minority of
them -- sizeable -- i don't know the exact numbers. but there is a -- there is a significant minority of them were african-americans that had served either in the segregated 92nd division. there were a couple of flyers that had flown with the french air force. um, there were also several that had served in pioneer units and construction units and things like that over in france, as well. but they are there with their families, also. and then, at the end of july, it's one of the darkest moments in the history of general douglas mcarthur's career because he sends the 3rd cavalry to disperse them using tear gas. and george patton is -- is involved in that as well and actually one of the thins the newspaper picks up on that's very symbolic of the whole thing. patton runs across the guy that saved his life on the battlefield in 1918 and says i take away from this man, i don't know who he is. so it's a very, very dark chapter but there's no question that some of the african-american veterans were there as well. again, it goes back to what nate
was talking about. the promise of citizenship. the promise of what you serve the country, you do your duty, the country has made some promises to return. but yeah. there's no question they were part of -- part of the bonus army. and actually, that's a good picture there of -- of actually from world war i period but that same sort of thing. doing that duty as part of the american expeditionary force. >> yep. and that fulfillment of the promise you -- you -- you would see. and you see that legacy, again, connecting it all back. >> uh-huh. >> all right. last question. what did the research for the book research for the book reveal about the motivation of the african-americans who volunteered to serve in the union army? >> i think they had -- if you -- if you read biographies or written histories from white soldiers, they had mixed reasons for joining.
they were -- some were abolitionists. some weren't. some were just mad the south seceded and were attacking the flag and they can't do that. some were looking for adventure, at the first part when it looked like it was going to be a nice, quick war. so i think the white soldiers had very mixed motivations for it. i don't think the african-americans had mixed motivations. i think they saw the war, from day one, as the possible end of slavery. that -- i took the title of the book from an editorial in the new york anglo african newspaper which is a weekly newspaper. the first editorial after the war started was make way for liberty and it basically said this is it. this -- this war -- this war is going to be about slavery. it's going to be about ending slavery. and we need to be ready to join it. in any way -- join it and support in any way possible as much as we can. so i think -- you think about
some of these guys -- the -- the two guys i said before who would -- who would stay together for the rest of their lives and they did. they got out of the south. they hooked up with wisconsin regiment. got out of the south. got to wisconsin. they were free. they were out of the war. they were out of enslavement. two weeks later, they both volunteered. yeah. and they volunteered to go back and finish the job. they volunteered to go back and end slavery. so i don't think they had, you know, many doubts or much variation as far as their motivations go. they were -- >> i was going to say that's very telling, their timeline of when they arrive, versus when they enlist to go back essentially. >> it's true. a lot -- you know, a lot of -- another guy was in madison for a while. came back with his wisconsin unit. was going to go back and work with them, again. but he heard on the way to chicago that they were recruiting in chicago for black
soldiers to become full-fledged soldiers so he got off the train. left his wisconsin unit and joined the u.s. color troops. so -- >> wow. wow. and, mike, do we have one last -- one or two more? well, that's a good comment. there we go. i like that. how can we book every school in wisconsin? i'd donate to that. i think it's a very important message. a very important story, too, that needs to be added. >> i notice kristen gilpatrick of the press responded to that in the chat. so planted a very fruitful seed there, for sure. >> all right. and we have got one last question. oh, here we go. okay. multipart question. did any soldiers serve in the burial units? how long did they typically
serve? and what was the typical widow pension? >> don't know about the first two. anybody else? >> i -- i would imagine some of those details. there are some famous pictures of, for example, dead on the cold harbor battlefield. and you can tell it's african-americans burying them. the lot of them would be employees. would fall in the employee category that you're talking about, jeff. >> right. >> and then, for the -- the -- the enlistment papers. by that point, volunteers signed on the dotted line for three years or the duration of the war, whichever comes first. so that's -- that's what they are signing up for. administratively, for most of these uscts because it's an interesting thing and this is a whole-other talk, kevin, for a whole other time, probably. administratively, the war ends in 1866. august 20th, 1866, is the administrative end of the war. so for many of these -- many of these uscts that sign up in 1864, they get two solid years with the colors before they come
home. and are discharged. and some of them go right back into the army and join the buffalo soldiers. but it's three years of the war is the enlistment -- is the enlistment term. >> what was the third question on that screen? >> i think it was, what was the widow's pension? what was the typical widow's pension? >> oh. widow -- depends on the time. um, commonly, you know, the 1890s was about $8 a month which doesn't seem like much. but when you think that -- what people were paid for domestic work or farm labor. putting together a pension with a small farm you might have might be survivable if you had grown kids around to help out with. it was -- it was the difference between survival and not. so you didn't live well on it but putting that together with some other things allowed them to stay independent.
>> thank you, all, for joining us. and take care. on may 23rd and 2o military processions in >> on may 23rd and 24th of 1865, two military processions in washington, d.c. called the grand review of the armies drew thousands of spectators to pennsylvania avenue. general ulysses' s. grant watched from this reviewing stand in front of the white house. on may 23rd an estimated 80,000 soldiers of the army of the
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