Local Black Civil War Veterans

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During the summer of 1862, Congress was facing a shortage of Federal troops. They passed the Confiscation Act authorizing President Lincoln to use escaped slaves to fight for the Union cause. The Act further allowed the drafting of the African-Americans for any military or naval service where needed. The President called for a full-scale recruitment of these men and the three great African-American leaders of the day, Martin Robison Delany, John Mercer Langston and Frederick Douglass set out to sign up entire black regiments for the Federal armies. The three men traveled extensively for recruitment. Many of those they recruited enlisted and became the Massachusetts 54th and 55th units. The three then recruited heavily for regiments that were established in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and other states. Their recruiting gave the Federal Army about 10% of all who wore the blue during the Civil War.

A few black officers were commissioned in state regiments but the Federal War Department didn't okay these appointments until the last year of the war. The majority of these men served as noncombatants but a number of all-African-American regiments saw combat action. These units participated in more than 33 major battles. Many Yankees were moved to support the African-American soldier by the desire to gain commissions for themselves in those units.

Racially, the Northern Army was predominately white. African-Americans numbered about 187,000 according to muster rolls. About 135,000 of these came from slave states but northern states contributed the most.

By August, 1863, there were 14 African-American regiments serving with the Union Army and 24 regiments being formed. The Federal Government awarded at least 21 of these brave soldiers its newly created Medal of Honor.

One of these brave men was William H. Steptoe. He was from Pleasant Township in Madison County, OH. He served proudly with Co H of the 27th United States Colored Troops (USCT), enlisting May 12, 1864 at the age of 28. He mustered out September 21, 1865 and returned to Pleasant Twp. and his family.

Dyer's Compendium shows the following about the 27th USCT: Col., Albert M. Blackman; Lt. Col. John W. Donnellon; Majors William G. Neilson, Matthew R. Mitchell. This regiment was organized at Camp Delaware from January 16 to August 6, 1864, to serve three years. Shortly after mustering in they were ordered to Camp Casey in Washington D.C. They were on garrison duty there for awhile. They were ordered to City Point and Petersburg, VA and distinguished themselves for unsurpassed gallantry and good conduct upon the battlefield. They then fought at Chaffin's farm and the Weldon railroad with great bravery. They were then sent to North Carolina for garrison and other duties in an around Fort Fisher, Wilmington, Goldsboro and Raleigh. The 27th did heroic service, won the confidence and approval of its superior officers and after as honorable service as any of the regiments, it mustered out September 21, 1865 at Smithville, N.C. Major battles were Petersburg, Fair Oaks and Hatcher's Run, VA. The roll of honor shows 18 killed in action and 149 died in hospital of disease or wounds received in battle.

William Steptoe married Nancy Austin in Ross Co., OH on October 15, 1866. He died of old age April 27, 1913 in Mt. Sterling, OH, aged 76. His Civil War pension record lists his widow as Nancy. William and Nancy Steptoe are buried in Pleasant Cemetery. He's in sect. 7, lot 46, space 6 and Nancy is in sect. 7, lot 46, space 5. Buried in this same lot, space 7, is, no doubt, a daughter Jeany who died June 14, 1904 in Mt. Sterling at the age of 16 of consumption. Nancy Steptoe died September 14, 1921, age about 75, of liver cancer.

The 1920 Ohio Census shows Nancy, age 75, born in OH, housekeeper at home, living on the Columbus Pike, Pleasant Twp. A boarder, Henry Seward age 26, born in VA was living with her.

The other verifiable veteran of the USCT buried at Pleasant Cemetery is Horace D Seward. His Civil War service record also shows the surname spelling as Soward. Mr. Seward was born in Virginia about 1827. His enlistment date wasn't found but his GAR stone is marked Pvt., Co B 5th USCT.

According to Dyer's Compendium, the 5th Regiment of the USCT formed at Camp Delaware, OH during August to November of 1863. They moved to Norfolk, VA and were attached to United States Forces of Norfolk and Portsmouth, VA, Department of Virginia and North Carolina until January of 1864. In addition to duty in Norfolk and Portsmouth they were a part of Wild's Expedition to South Mills and Camden Court House, NC, December 5-24 of 1863. They saw action at Sandy Swamp, NC, December 8. They moved to Yorktown, VA, January until May of 1864. They were an expedition to New Kent Court House to aid Kilpatrick's Cavalry March 1-4. They continued into King and Queen counties March 9th through 12th . They went further into Matthews and Middlesex counties March 17th through 21st. They were part of Butler's operations on the south side of the James River and against Petersburg and Richmond May 4 through June 15. They aided in the capture of City Point on May 4. Then they took fatigue duty at City Point and near the Appomattox River until June 15th. They attacked Fort Converse May 20th. They stood at Petersburg June 15-18 and at Bailor's farm June 15th. They were involved in siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond June 16th to December 6th. They were in the trenches before Petersburg till August 27. They moved to Deep Bottom August 28th. From September 28--30 they were in the battle of Chaffin's farm and New Market Heights. On September 29 they fought at Fort Harrison. They served in the battle of Fair Oaks October 27th and 28th. They were in the trenches before Richmond till December. There was an expedition to Fort Fisher, NC January 7--15 where they assaulted and captured the fort January 15th. They fought at Sugar Loaf Hill January 19th, Federal Point on February 11th, Fort Anderson February 18th to 20th and captured Wilmington February 22nd. They moved on to Northeast Ferry February 22nd. They served in the campaign of the Carolinas from March 1st through April 26. They advanced on Kinston and Goldsboro March 6--21. They occupied Goldsboro March 21st. They saw action at Cox's Bridge March 23rd and 24th. They advanced on Raleigh April 9--14. They occupied Raleigh April 14th and Bennett's House April 26th. They saw the surrender of Johnston and his army. Their later duty was a Goldsboro, New Berne and Carolina City, NC, until September. They mustered out September 20, 1865. During their tour of service 4 officers and 77 enlisted men were killed and mortally wounded. 2 officers and 166 enlisted men died by disease.

The 1880 Census of Ohio, Madison Co., Pleasant Twp. shows Mr. Seward, age 53, farm laborer living with wife Martha, age 53, born in Kentucky, occupation: housekeeper, at home. Living with them was Edward Seward, nephew, age 26, born in Ohio whose occupation was farm laborer.

Horace D. Seward's death date is unknown but he's buried in Pleasant Cemetery sect. 6, lot 40, space 10. His wife Martha died in Orient, OH, December 1, 1906 at age 73. She lies in the same section and lot in space 9, next to Horace. Also buried in the same lot and section but in unknown space is Stanley Seward who died in Columbus March 25, 1930 at 40 years from heart disease. Burial location would indicate relationship but what it was is unknown.

Information came from National Archives, Civil War muster and pension rolls, census listings and cemetery burial records.

Genealogical Data collected and assimilated in part by Mary Lou Stiverson.