More on the Civil War and tangents

Posted on July 3, 2011 by

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Funny how things seem to work…

Recently, I made yet another visit to Winchester National Cemetery (I seem to be doing that a lot these days), looking to take a photo of a headstone for a trooper from Cole’s Maryland Cavalry. He died of illness in a hospital in Martinsburg, and, like most Union soldiers interred in the national cem., was later reburied here.

Winchester Natl Cemetery's famous caretaker... the black squirrel. Appropriate, no? I think I should name it. Thanks to blogosphere pal Harry Smeltzer, over at Bull Runnings, for this good shot that he took a few weeks back, when we walked the grounds.

Well, being one not to seek assistance in finding something, I didn’t bother to stop at the building at the front of the cemetery, and just started walking around (as if I haven’t been there before! Geez!). In the process of doing so, I ran across a couple graves of men from Troop F, 5th United States Cavalry. All three that I saw died between 1866 and 1867… so, now I know this troop was among the postwar occupation forces in Winchester. That’s interesting, but also helps in figuring out which troop John W. Saylor (you may recall the name from my post from June 26) joined-up with in 1867. So, I actually tied up yet another little mystery.

But that isn’t it…

I also ran across two graves of USCT soldiers… one which I mentioned yesterday. Of course, this started me thinkin’, and before I knew it, I was trying to figure out if those two USCT soldiers were locals. Obviously, I figured out that one was (once again, see yesterday’s post which focuses much attention on Phillip Lewis Brent)… still workin’ on the other (and looking through digital records, I see that there is another in the cemetery). Fact is, however, this has led me down yet another path (my tangent for the day)… today, (in addition to working on some of my entries for Encyclopedia Virginia) I find myself deep into records of the USCT, looking to see just how many were from the different counties in the Valley. In short… I’m floored at the numbers I’ve found (the number from Winchester is HUGE!)… and I’ve only finished three counties.

Of course, I like to look at not only the individuals, but also info about the units in which they served in… and that includes the unit flags. I’m finding these former slaves and free men from the Shenandoah Valley, in a number of units (and yes, even the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry), but one stands out as quite interesting, if coupled with the unit flag. Specifically, I’m talking about the flag of the 22nd United States Colored Infantry. Take a look here…

As I said in my Facebook post, earlier today, I gotta say… I wonder if the scene in the regimental flag gives us a fair idea of what they thought about the Valley men who donned gray (by the way… isn’t that a white flag in the Confederate soldier’s hand? Ouch!). Not only is the image striking, but the use of Virginia’s motto makes no less of a statement. Sure does stand in stark contrast with what the image that Thomas Almond Ashby painted for us in Chapters 1 and 27, in his book, The Valley Campaigns. HT to the Jubilo! site for posting this and making it available.

More to come on this… count on it.

Oh, and yes, I did eventually find the headstone for that trooper from Cole’s Cavalry (the original reason for my visit that day)… after I consulted the grave locator book at the cemetery headquarters building.

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