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tv   The Civil War Wisconsin African Americans in the Civil War  CSPAN  August 23, 2021 11:26pm-12:32am EDT

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the wisconsin veterans museum provided this video. >> welcome every one and good evening. i'm the curator of history. welcome to the museum's curator conversation. it's a virtual program that we started that was meant to make history approachable in a conversation way. what is history, but stories. stories are meant to be told and shared. that's the point of history. history is seen as a passive
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activity. something you study. chris and i have a tendency to enjoy these programs. we'll feed off of each other and almost like you're viewing us in the office and having a conversation about whatever comes up that day. we're joined by two special guests. we're joined by jeff kannel. author of our book that we're talking about which is make way for liberty. >> very, very happy to be a part of this. i'd like to thank jeff for such
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a wonderful text and for joining us this evening as well. your continued support and donations in most events such as this and i really look forward to my time as a member of the board. with that i'll say thank you very much. let's have a good evening and discussion. >> excellent, thank you. i want to give a special thanks to the wisconsin historical society press.
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>> thank you for inviting me to be here. it's the first presentation on the book. it's still not in stores but it will be fairly soon. my father was a history teacher and civil war was a special interest. all the conversations he and i had about it, neither one of us was aware that african-americans served in the civil war. it wasn't part of the history i learned or my dad taught. about ten years ago i was at the civil war museum and met a group of reenactors for company f. a group from milwaukee. because of them, i started researching after can american soldiers and found many hundreds and also found there was no written history covering the
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service. i hope with this book to pring to light the service and their lives and names as well. they proved themselves as soldiers and men to the wrong people, to their officers and often to their enemies. they took the steps towards the integration of the armed forces much later and toward the civil rights movement of the 20th century. the research i did on this was from multiple sources. one of the easiest things to do in researching this was finding the service records of the soldiers. they were federalized troops.
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these are easily available on the website. i used information from a number of local libraries and museums including the veterans museum archives. they have all the documents for all service members. these are not digitized. that required me making multiple trips to the national archive.
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they also have regimental histories. before the war there was a couple of communities i wanted to mention. one was pleasant ridge in grant county near lancaster. this was formed by a number of families formally slaves in missouri and in virginia. came together and developed a farming community in that area. the other one was cheyenne valley. this one was community was made up of multiracial group. they moved there in the 1850s
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and '60s. two other communities that i thought of very much contributed quite a few servicemen to the united states college and to the army and the civil war lacrosse and prescott. lacrosse is a river town at 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 come up that far. also nearby be there was another small farming community that contributed several soldiers to the war. during the first two years of the war african-americans were not allowed to engist.
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so there were a number of men who wrote to the governor or
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other officials and protests to this. they wanted to volunteer. this continued for about a year. there was a time when the men were taken from the draft list and were put into wisconsin regiment because wisconsin couldn't put them into the college groups yet. this continued for the rest of the war. they started with 1864 early in the year. it was believed by a lot of the army hierarchy and politicians that black men would not make good soldiers so the idea is they would be kept out of combat. many of the rejiments, that was true. they saw a lot of combat.
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one of those was the first one take into wisconsin. it was a 68 -- it took some work to figure out how this happened. 18 men from wisconsin in this unit who missouri unit. the 18 men almost all invested in green bay within a month of each other. i had to put together their service records and their pension records to figure out if they were lumber jacks. they had just come out of the forest cutting down trees in the winter in march and april into green bay. they're letting us into the army now. a number of the lumber jacks volunteered. it ends up backing part of the 68 infantry. they fought on the gulf coast, including the battle to mobile.
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another one had a lot of is the 29th color troops. they were a unit organized and recruited in illinois. got a training camp in quincy, illinois. a lot of the men who joined this regiment were enslaved men who escaped across the river and volunteer. once they volunteer, they were soldiers. they were no longer slaves. it was automatic. it provided them the relatives, family they left behind suffered consequences for their enlistment. a lot of the men in these units, in the 29th were enslaved in missouri and basically liberated themselves by going across the river and joining the army. the 29th fought in the battle in
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virginia. the battle was a fiasco but in company f of the 29th, which was known as the milwaukee company because every one in the group was from wisconsin and most were credited to milwaukee. tendied in the battle. they stuck with it and remained in petersburg. they were part of the army following lee as he tried to escape.
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some of those hands belonged to men from wisconsin. they marched all night the previous night to ride just in time to block the last avenue. they -- this regiment was involved heavily in combat and civil war and did some big things. two of the struggles that the african-american soldiers were involved in, included wisconsin men. a lot of the casualties in the creator battle went for surgery or rehabilitationrehabilitation. what happened when these black soldiers died they were not buried in the alexandria
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cemetery which was to blocks. burp ripped a soldier with the white sold soldiers. . i think we have a picture of him. we have his hospital card from his time in the hospital. he was there for several months. he was one of the people who lived his petition drive. he was buried there. i also want to mention there's
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two wisconsin african-american soldiers buried in arlington national cemetery. this all happened around the same time. the other issue that soldiers fought over was equal pay for black and white soldiers. when they started, the pay for black soldiers wasless than white soldiers plus uniforms were deducted from their pay. it was african-american regiment which weren't part of the troops. they refused pay for over a year. there were 11 serving those two.
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another group of veterans or soldiers i want to mention, this -- we'll come back later in the story. another group i researched were employees of wisconsin regiment. i didn't set out to research them but as i was going through the documents to find them, i found these employees were just as likely to die in service as the soldiers were. i started looking up as much as i could about them too. i found about 180 who had been placed on wisconsin rosters as crooks, black smiths, teamsters and many of them moved to wisconsin later. some of them after they had served as employees enlisted as
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black soldiers in color troops. one thing to remember with them is the vast majority of these men were never put on official rosters. i have 180 some. there were many more hundreds, maybe thousands who were never put on the rosters. later on they went to a roster could apply for pension and got it and the widows as well. those who were never placed on a roster could not get a pension no matter who wrote them supporting documents. i want to mention two families. the valentine family had four family members in service. two sons and grandsons. served in three different color troops. one serving in wisconsin. one of the grandsons died in
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service. the other family i mentioned is the shepard family from pleasant ridge. a father and son in the town joined the army. one in wisconsin unit and one in color troops. both of them died in service. that family was pretty devastated by the loss of their father and oldest son in the service. following the war, most of the soldiers returned to where they lived before joining the army. most of these men had no particular skill trade. many of them moved on quickly looking for opportunities in other cities in the state or moved west. one of those who moved west was carol who mentioned earlier as one of the leaders for the petition for burial rights.
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he served for eight years until about 1876. it's been said in other sources that the black soldiers did not maintain contact with each other like white soldiers did. they didn't form. they were very linked to each other for the remainder of their lives. one of the examples of this, which i did put in the book, i have a table with 25 marriages that happened between soldiers and the sisters, daughters or mothers of their comrades. i'll mention a couple. one of the soldiers was william p. stewart. i think there's a picture of him. that's him, later in life with
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his ribbon on. he married the sister of a comrade who lived nearby in south county. stewart's own sister, martha, married aaron roberts. another soldier and veteran. there was a lot of marrying among the families were interrelated. another way in which they maintained contact was when they got around to applying for pension. pension have many letters from other soldiers. soldiers supporting pension applications. they really did maintain contact. i think of one soldiers who said they met and the name william mckinney and isaac smith. they are both members of company f. they met earlier in the war when
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they both worked for the 11th wisconsin infantry during the siege of vicksburg. these two came back with them and within weeks the wisconsin started recruiting for the troops and they went right away. met in mississippi. we listed together. the veterans were important members of their community. in many situations founded the churches that served the communities. the pleasant ridge church was built by, among others, the
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soldiers in the community. black and white families working to build the church. that church building still stands at old world wisconsin. same building that is put together by the black and white veterans and non-veterans. it was a lot involved. there are several congregations in the state. they are still existing. one in milwaukee. one of the first things the veterans succeed in doing was pushing the state to grant them, grant voting rights to black men. once they got them, they used that right. most of the veterans retained their allegiance to the
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republican party because of lincoln. there were some veterans active in the prohibition party and several among the founding members of the union labor party that ran very strong campaign in late 1880s and elected members to congress and elected a black veteran. now the veteran in wisconsin faced discrimination. that got worse the further after the war went. after reconstruction was overthrown and the southern state started imposing jim crow laws. some similar things happened in wisconsin as well and the northern states. voting rights were preserved but it became harder to buy property where you wanted. there were more and more public places that will not allow them to enter. there were restrictions. the biggest one was a
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constriction of work opportunity. while industry was booming in milwaukee, there were never many civil war veterans because the factories were closed to them. late 1800s was increasing discrimination. they were pretty well educated and found no work opportunities or marriage opportunities in those little towns unless they were going to be farmers. many of them were in city and some moved to the south. teachers from the community went to the south. there are a couple veterans who
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were very active in civil rights issues again. hard to believe from melton who 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 jay miles. he was from milwaukee. he was a veteran that moved to milwaukee in the 1870s. became the headwaiter at a hotel downtown. he became fairy wealthy but used his position to help african-americans in milwaukee, including veterans to get work. i want to mention briefly, i mentioned pensions for the soldiers. anyone who was a veteran, been on a roster could apply for a pension apply for a pension bas
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on disability. later on they could apply just for old age. the widows could also apply for pensions. the pension files are just fascinating because they provide a lot of history of these individuals, of the health and disability issues they had, of their family lives, of the other veterans they were in contact with. but a lot of the documents that -- they had a tough life, facing prejudice, limited opportunity, limited income. so that relatively small pension was a big deal. they had trouble meeting all the documentation requirements. often when they did get them, their pensions were not equivalent to a white soldier with a similar disability. some of these soldiers were very successful in their post war
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lives, though. aaron roberts is one i've mentioned. he at one point ran a factory in hillsboro that was supposedly the largest manufacturer of barrel components in the west. unfortunately, he lost the factory during an economic panic in the 1890s and was left with what seemed 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 bought houses, fixed them up and sold them. he was a real entrepreneur. the other one i'll mention is john j. valentine, who owned and operated a restaurant and later
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a hotel that was pretty well regarded. one point i want to make with these veterans is about the grand army of the republic, which is the big veterans organization of the civil war. your membership had to be approved by members of the board of the local post. i started finding a few veterans who were accepted into predominantly white posts in wisconsin. the further i looked at it, there were quite a few who were in the predominantly white post in wisconsin. there was one point where six veterans in the u.s. color troops were in their post. remarkably enough, at the same time the employment rights and other rights for african-americans are being eroded and closed off, the
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g.a.r. never caved in. the local posts never caved in either. they continued to accept black members. three of the african-american soldiers were voted in as officers of the predominantly white post in wisconsin. aaron roberts from hillsboro, peter thompson and willie p. stewart. i found that a remarkable piece of information considering there were so few black veterans that were still accepted and maintained their membership in the g.a.r. after this. i think i'll stop there and defer at this point to our other speakers and come back later for questions. >> that's excellent. thank you very much, jeff. i appreciate that. as everyone knows, the wisconsin veterans museum, we firmly believe that every veteran has a
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story, but we also firmly believe that we need to understand the context and understand why it still matters and to be able to understand why wisconsin was there. so with that, i'd like to ask chris to join us here and tell us a little bit about the context of what does this legacy that starts with the u.s. color troops and what does that mean. why u.s. color troops admitted. >> that was fascinating. this is a fascinating book. before january 1863 with the emancipation proclamation taking effect. before that time the legal status of african-americans in the north, but also slaves,
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freed slaves in the south is up for question. there's the contraband decision in 1861. there were local units in south carolina and louisiana of black troops recruited among freed slaves in 1862. their legal status is very different. it's very unsettled. after the emancipation proclamation frees the slaves in the states that were in rebellion at the time, but also opens the door for enlistment into the united states army as soldiers. that's the creation of the united states color troopstroop. from that moment, it's a path to full citizenship. that's where african-americans start the path to full citizenship. if you look at it in the very
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broadest possible context, from the emancipation proclamation in 1863 all the way to 85 years later when harry truman desegregates the military in 1948. this is one of those, if you look at the chain of events that lead 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 an easy, linear process by any means. to be quite frank, after the war when the buffalo soldiers are created and segregated, they suffer a lot of the same discriminations that jeff was talking about about the u.s. cts during the civil war. then you can go further into the first world war where the 92nd division fights as a segregated unit under french command, because john pershing is not
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willing to have african-american soldiers fight as combat troops. the tuskegee airmen is a famous story from world war ii. there was an african-american veteran who told it in oral history in the mid '90s. he said the german p.o.w.s had more rights in the south than i did during the second world war. and that's just a fascinating dichotomy. it's a disturbing dichotomy as well. it illustrates that a lot of what jeff was talking about remains present well after the guns fall silent in 1865. >> it's interesting to note the connection still to the civil war legacy, even in world war i. i have a poster here i'm going to share with everyone from our poster collection our archivist
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put together for us. you can see even in the propaganda posters that were distributed at the same time harkening back to that legacy. you see the servicemen at the mantle with the flag draped across the top of the frame. and who's just as large a picture there to the right but president lincoln. it's quite fascinating looking at the understanding of that legacy 50 years afterwards. that's something to think about too, is that if you look at it in 50-year blocks even, world war i is essentially 50 years after the civil war. after that you're already into almost vietnam and korea. that legacy is very prominent still. >> i agree. you know, when you look at it from that temporal perspective, 85 years ago was 1935.
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so that puts things in perspective. again, it's a process. the process starts during the civil war. then after the war, of course, with the civil rights amendments it continues and in many ways is still going on. let's be completely honest with that. >> exactly. >> it's an unfinished process. >> one branch of service -- this might be a misnomer so correct me if i'm wrong, but one branch of service that wasn't actually initially segregated was the navy in the civil war, which is a very interesting story in and of itself. we'll have to talk about that some other time. that gives me an opportunity to segue here to our next guest here, nate millsap who is a navy veteran himself. i'm hoping, nate, you can tell us a little bit about your
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experience obviously serving in an integrated service branch and the legacy. you see a connection to that legacy. >> yes, absolutely. to those on the call who are still active duty or veterans, thank you for your service as we approach veterans day here. the military's come a long way. as some of you know on the call, i am a 1995 graduate of the u.s. naval academy at annapolis. and by far and above 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 and world war ii. i will say, though, there are some similarities. as jeff was talking, i started jotting down some notes. he said a couple things which
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struck me because as i read through the book, i picked up on the same thing. 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. the picture that we just showed is actually a portrayal of that in ever so many ways. but for african americans, even in the modern country that wily in today, military service still offers that promise. it's fulfilled in many ways. you know, i am retired, i am a disabled vet. that was a medical retirement. the country fulfilled its promise to me. i served, i became ill during my service, and i've had first class treatment ever since regardless of where i am in the
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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 commanders. one of my classmates was, i believe, the second or third african american male brigade commander. for those who are following the news, the naval academy just appointed for next semester their first black female brigade commander. it's very hard to believe that 25 years after i graduated and saw so many milestone events and appointments then, they are just now continuing to make history. 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 is about 43% of people serving in the military
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are considered minorities. yet, they rank in near single digits in top leadership. 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. you see that reflection today, whether it's intentional, historic, legacy, et cetera. there is a continued tie to service in the military, that promise in the community. but in many ways, like i said, it is a promise fulfilled. i got at pointed to the naval academy. i graduated. by all means, my life has been forever changed by that opportunity in the most positive of ways, regardless of disability. i'd sign up to serve again. so i find there's significant
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ties there. but wisconsin as a state also 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. if you're on the call and you're not aware of that, by all means research it. it's the absolute topnotch benefits. the veterans home, it's unique to wisconsin. jeff and i had a brief chat before the call on this topic. one of the things we still see in modern wisconsin is that veteran influx into the state is at the retirement level. and the home is an influence to that. i think it's by all means not the most rosy of stories. but it's such an accurate and fair portrayal. it gives credence where it's never been given to the
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soldiers. 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 anybody who came behind them. i think this is something that having been to veterans museums across the country, the wisconsin veterans museum actually does well also. 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 in caring for their stories. so i think that overall we've come a long way. i would encourage everyone to read the book. i say that from the perspective
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of i was a history major. i must say i've never had anything on the civil war like this, period. so be it for a white soldier or a black soldier, this is just topnotch. >> i completely agree. thank you for that, nate. thank you for those comments. you're right. it's that humanity behind the history that really makes it impactful, makes it a way you can connect with that legacy and that past and those stories in a way that you can't do otherwise. that's something we strive to do at the veterans museum. you're exactly right, this book is a perfect augmentation of that as well. if anyone's on the call that heard me before, i like alliteration. it's the humanity and the history. it's the faces behind the facts
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that make the difference. that's why they need to be retold. they shouldn't be hidden off somewhere or not covered. so actually, jeff, that brings me back to you. i have a couple questions for you. what are some take-aways? you got to know the individuals in this book better than any of us. you know, we've got a few of them in our collection at the veterans museum. what are some take-aways of getting to know history at that individual level and, frankly, to be able to tell their stories that haven't been told before? >> there are a lot of times when i thought i would really like to sit down somewhere with a bunch of these men around the table with a bottle of whiskey or a pitcher or beer and just listen to them talk about what they went through and what their lives were like. fascinating, because for a lot of these guys i got a lot of information, but i'd like to hear their voices.
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i'd like to hear the other things about them that, you know, wouldn't get into the document. you know, one of the people i mentioned before was william p. stewart. i need to make sure i get this in, because it's really one of the things that's very relevant today. after he was a member of the g.a.r., he eventually moved to washington state, where he lived the rest of his life 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. >> this really relates to what's going on now with confederate monuments. many of those were put up long after the war by daughters of
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the confederacy or sons of the confederacy. you know, the case of this highway, this is long after all the veterans are dead, so it's very much a political statement. in our view, the south really won. in the state of washington they named a highway after him. 2017 the legislature passed a bill signed by the governor renaming that highway the william p. stewart memorial highway for the wisconsin african-american soldier from color troops instead of jefferson davis. that's an absolutely totally appropriate response to something that shouldn't have been there to begin with and definitely shouldn't be there now. i'm so happy they did that. actually, the great granddaughter of mr. stewart was the first descendant of one of
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the black veterans that i made contact with and has been very supportive with this. she was very much a mover in getting this name change. >> 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've got these wonderful tables that have all the information about every person you found. one thing i found fascinating is it goes on for pages. the stories aren't well known, to be honest. if you ask the random person off the street how many african americans served from wisconsin in the civil war, the numbers aren't really well known as all. is there anything you could tell us about those numbers and perhaps the misnomer of how many
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served before? >> the few books that ever mention service of african americans pretty much just pull a document out of a government form and use that as the truth. the total number of rostered servicemen i found from wisconsin is thus far 469. that may want agree -- may not agree with the book because i think i've added a few since then. in the u.s. color troops and the navy and another at least 217 who were employees. i think the number of employees is probably over a thousand just based on some of these regiments in their history that make mention of 40 or 50 men working for them and not one was put on roster. i really think the actual number is probably over a thousand.
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so they're somewhere to be found. i think there are more in the wisconsin regiments. there isn't a whole lot of documentation, so they're harder to find. there were other u.s. color troop veterans that moved to wisconsin later that i may not have found. >> that's excellent. that's part of history that the discovery never ends. that's that indiana jones moment where you just keep digging to see what you can find. >> that number is out of 99,000 usct troops that are credited to the various united states color troop, infantry, cavalry units. wisconsin as a whole is credited with about 91,000 total
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enlistments during the civil war just to put it in perspective. it's slightly larger than camp randall stadium. i just want to throw some additional context to what jeff's talking about there. >> yeah. and one thing to add to that is that discovering and looking at statistics and how it changes, we have said we're credited with over 91,000. in the last couple of years we've done the research and found that it's only 81,000, that there's actually 10,000 that reenlist and are listed twice as if they're two individuals, but they're the same person. so there's always more to find and more to dig into. that number becomes even more striking when you remove that 10,000 cap from the on the too. >> i eliminated the duplications. there were a number of these soldiers who served in multiple terms or in different units. i took them off so they're only
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counted once each. >> those unique entries, if you will, yeah. >> i know where i'm going for my stats from now on is you, kevin, and you, jeff. >> we've got actually quite a few questions that i'd like to dovetail into from the audience. mike, if you're able to bring up those questions for us, we can start with the first one. were the black veterans well received by the local g.a.r.s? >> from what i've seen, it appears that they were, especially in looking at the men who were elected officers of this post is a photographer of the post. i don't know which is which.
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they were part of the picture and part of the post and one of them was an officer. i think they were accepted in the posts where they were taken in. i don't have any information as far as men who may have applied and were rejected. i think another point to make with the g.a.r. was some of those men who worked as employees 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 not officially discharged veterans, they didn't qualify for pensions, but a number of those men were accepted into local g.a.r. posts. local veterans who knew them accepted them and took them in. they were accepted for their service. they may have faced more discrimination in the community because of their race, but their service was respected.
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>> i'm going to show this one real quick. this is one of those stories in your book. it's from our collection. it's henry ashby, who's one of those cases. in your book, you really get that sense if you're registered or on the rosters versus if you're not, the additional hurdles on top of everything else they had to go through to be accepted as veterans, to get a pension possibly or not or even being denied for a pension. i love this photo. you see proudly on his chest that g.a.r. medal right there on his jacket. >> there's an interesting comment in the letter from one of your officers that wrote a letter supporting his pension application, which was denied. he wrote him a personal letter that's in his pension file that seems to indicate that his sister worked for the regiment as well, because she died at a
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site where this regiment had fought. >> that's incredible. >> i can't remember the exact comment, but there were a couple of stories in the book about women working with the regiments of wisconsin. >> all right. mike, next question? -- several black -- in grant county at this time? >> just one that i know of but it wasn't the only place in grant county where there were black residents. it was kind of the central focus, but there were black volunteers from bloomington, cassville and a few other towns. there might have been other
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families living in those areas. the big one was the one at pleasant ridge. after the war most of the black residents in that county came back to pleasant ridge. some of them went back to bloomington. >> yeah. >> there were a couple of volunteers that enlisted and went back there after the war. >> yeah. next question? beyond veterans, was it common for black teachers to move to the south to teach? >> from what i've come across -- i was going to say i don't know of any veterans, but i do. there were a couple of wisconsin veterans who became teachers.
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i can't think of any who went -- one was in nebraska. some of the daughters of the veterans became teachers, taught in the south. there was a veteran who lives in evansville and his daughter went to university and his son became a teacher in texas and oklahoma. so there were more than a few who did that. >> excellent. next one. you come across either newark valley, a small african american community or adams? and how common was it for
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enlistees to be -- >> that's where the valentine family lived, in newark valley. so the two sons went into the u.s. color troops. one of the grandsons enlisted in a wisconsin regiment along with three or four other people from that community. the regiment was in adams county. these guys were taken into that regiment. they were listed officially as privates but also listed as cooks. so they were in white regiments, wisconsin regiments. this was fairly late in the war. yeah, i did come across it. there's another interesting one from earlier in the war, someone from adams county who attempted to enlist and was refused. he attempted to volunteer for wisconsin regiment and was refused. that was probably 1863, 1864.
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there were others. there was a manly and i can't remember the other names now, but there were four or five from that community who all went together. >> interesting. next question? weren't there several black paricipants in 1932? >> let me quickly explain what the bonus army is, first of all. in 1932 we're in the throes of the great depression. congress voted bonuses to soldiers who served overseas in the american expeditionary force, payable in 1945.
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in 1932 we're in the throes of the great depression. many go and camp out in the anacostia flats, they basically don't have anywhere to go. they're camped out begging congress to see if they could get an advance on their pensions. a sizable minority of them -- sizable, i don't know the exact numbers, but there's a significant minority of them were african americans that had served either in the segregated 92nd division. there were a couple of flyers who served in the french air force. but they were there with their families also. 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.
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george patton is involved as well. one of the things the newspaper picks up on that's very symbolic of the whole thing, patton runs across the guy who saved his life in 1918 and said i don't know who he is. it's a very dark chapter. there's no question that some of the african-american veterans were there as well. the promise of citizenship, the promise of you serve the country, you do your duty as a citizen, the country has made some promises to return. yeah, there's no question they were part of the bonus army. actually, that's a good picture there actually from world war i period of doing that duty as part of the american expeditionary force. >> and that fulfillment of the promise you would see and we see that legacy connecting it all back. all right. last question?
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what did the research for the book reveal about the motivation of african-americans who volunteered to serve in the union army? >> if you read biographies of written histories from white soldiers, they had mixed reasons for joining. some were abolitionists and most weren't. some were mad the south seceded and were attacking the flag. some were looking for adventure and thought it was going to be a nice quick war. 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 to slavery. i took the title of the book from an editorial in the new york anglo african newspaper, which is a weekly newspaper.
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the first editorial after the war started was titled "make way for liberty." it basically said, this is it, this war is going to be about slavery. and we need to be ready to join it and support in any way possible as much as we can. so you think about some of these guys, the two guys i said before who stayed together for the rest of their lives and they did. they got out of the south. they hooked up with the wisconsin regiment, got to wisconsin. they were free, they were out of enslavement. two weeks later they volunteered to go back and finish the job. i don't think they had any doubts or much variation as far as their motivations go. they were in it to end slavery. >> that's very telling, the
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timeline of when they arrive versus when they enlist to go back essentially. >> another guy came back to wisconsin and was going to go back and work with him again, but he heard on the way to chicago they were recruiting in chicago for black soldiers to become full fledged soldiers, so he got off the train and joined the u.s. color troops. >> wow. mike, do we have one or two more? that's a good comment. i like that. have the book in every middle school in wisconsin. i'd donate to that. it's a very important story too that needs to be added. >> kristin gillpatrick in the press responded to that in the chat.
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so they planted a very fruitful seed there for sure. all right. and we've got one last question. here we go. a multipart question. did any soldiers serve in -- units? how long did they typically serve? and what was the typical pension? >> don't know about the first two. anybody else? i would imagine some of those details -- there are some famous pictures of the cold harbor battlefield. you could tell it's african-americans burying them. a lot of them would be employees, would fall into the employee category that you're talking about, jeff. for the enlistment papers, by that point volunteers signed on the dotted line for three years or the duration of the war, whichever comes first. that's what they're signing up
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for. administratively for most of these uscts, administratively the war ends in 1866, august 20th, 1866, is the administrative end of the war. many of these uscts get two solid years with the colors before they come home and are discharged. some of them go right back into the army and join the buffalo soldiers. three years of the war is the enlistment term. >> what was the third question on that screen? >> i think it was what was the widows pension? >> depends on the time. commonly, you know in the 1890s it was about $8 a month, which doesn't seem like much. but when you think what people were paid for domestic work or
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farm labor, putting together a pension with a small farm might be survivable if you had grown kids around to help out with. it was the difference between survival and not. you didn't live well on it, but putting that together withon mat


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