A Black Civil War Soldier’s Death is Reported in a Letter Back Home to Friends and Family
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Charles Moore writes to Elick Johnson in Bordentown N. J. about the death of fellow soldier and friend, James Harrison. He asks in his letter that it be given to James’s friends or relatives in Crosswick. A tintype of a black soldier is included. [AFRICAN-AMERICAN SOLDIERS].
Autograph Letter Signed, Camp William Penn, February 6, 1864, 5 x 8 in., 2 pp., with a tintype of an unidentified black soldier, presumably Harrison or Moore.
Feb 6th 1864 Pa
Chilton Hills Camp Wm Penn
This is A Certificate for James Harrison Who Is Decease And this for his Nearest friends or his Nearest Renections [sic. relations?] for to Draw the Amount of State Mony If there is any for the Soldiers He was Burried on Satturday Last this is from one of his School Mates, Chas. Moore
To,, Mis,, Elick Johnson.
And Send me A letter As Soon As you find his friends Or Father Or Mother < p. 2 > My Best Respects to All my, Inquiring Friends that I am Well & hoping To Find you the same
Your Affectionate Friend
Who lived With John Collier < p. 3 >
Mis Elick Johnson
Bordentown,, Burlington Co
To. Give this to James Harrison
Friends With Live in Crosswick
In 1862, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation opened the door for African Americans to enlist in the Union Army. Although many had wanted to join the war effort earlier, they were prohibited from enlisting by a federal law dating back to 1792. President Lincoln had also feared that if he authorized their recruitment, border states would secede from the Union. By the end of the war, approximately 180,000 African-American soldiers had joined the fight.
In addition to the problems of war faced by all soldiers, African-American soldiers faced additional difficulties created by racial prejudice. Although many served in the infantry and artillery, discriminatory practices resulted in large numbers of African-American soldiers being assigned to perform non-combat, support duties as cooks, laborers, and teamsters. African-American soldiers were paid $10 per month, from which $3 was deducted for clothing. White soldiers were paid $13 per month, from which no clothing allowance was deducted. If captured by the Confederate Army, African-American soldiers confronted a much greater threat than did their white counterparts.
In spite of their many hardships, African-American soldiers served the Union Army well and distinguished themselves in many battles. Of their service to the nation Frederick Douglass said, “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.” African-American soldiers comprised about 10 percent of the Union Army. It is estimated that one-third of all African Americans who enlisted lost their lives.
Letters by African American Civil War soldiers rarely come on the market. We have not seen another announcing the death of a fellow soldier.
James Harrison (c. 1842-1864), an African American, was born in Crosswick, New Jersey about 1842. He served as a Private in the 45th U.S. Colored Infantry and died at Philadelphia February 5, 1864. He is buried in Philadelphia National Cemetery.
Charles E. Moore (c. 1844-?) joined the 45th U.S. Colored Infantry in Pennsylvania in 1864. While the name “Charles Moore” appears repeatedly in the USCT, only the 45th was mustered in at Camp William Penn, making it likely that this was the unit of Harrison and Moore.
Fine. Folds, toning, and age wear, else.