Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Civil War Pension Files of Harrison Washington and William H. Johnson, African American Recruits from Sandusky

An article in the June 6, 1863 issue of the Sandusky Register reported on several African American recruits from Sandusky who were traveling by train to Readville, Massachusetts to enlist in the Massachusetts 55th Infantry. The group included a large majority of the able bodied men of color in the city of Sandusky ranging from 18 to 40 years of age. The Massachusetts 55th Infantry was a sister regiment to the Massachusetts 54th, the military unit featured in the film Glory. Fourteen men from Sandusky served in Company I of the 55th Massachusetts Infantry. They were led by Captain George T. Garrison, the son of well-known abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. A previous blog post about these soldiers included pictures of the tombstones of two Civil War Veterans of the Massachusetts 55th who were buried in Sandusky at Oakland Cemetery.

In the pension file for Harrison Washington from the National Archives, we learn that he enlisted in the Massachusetts 55th in June of 1863. At that time, he was 5 feet 6 inches tall and he had been born on May 15, 1833 in Fleming County, Kentucky. Harrison Washington was honorably discharged in Massachusetts in October of 1865. He returned to Ohio for about thirty years, and then moved back to Fleming County, Kentucky.

Another page from Mr. Washington’s pension file provides the name of his wife, Frances Washington, whom Harrison married in 1890, his third wife. One of his previous wives had been the former Cordelia Winfield from Sandusky, Ohio, who died in 1866. The file also includes the names and birth dates of Harrison Washington’s children, who were named Matilda, Charlie, Cordelia, and Mary. In 1898, Harrison Washington was still living in Kentucky.

A note in the pension file of Harrison Washington stated that he was dropped from the pension roll due to his death in September of 1917.

William H. Johnson was another Sandusky resident who served with Co. I of the Massachusetts 55th Infantry. He enlisted when he was 22 years old, and his occupation was listed as carpenter. He died from wounds he received in battle on July 2, 1864 at James Island, South Carolina. On September 3, 1883, Mrs. William H. Johnson, the former Anna McGuire, applied for a widow’s military pension. She stated that she had married Mr. Johnson on December 25, 1861, in Augusta County, Virginia. A Sandusky attorney, John E. Moore, presented the widow’s claim, though at the time she had moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

A recent article in the Charleston Post and Courier reports on the unveiling of a historic marker at Folly River Park which honors the service of the Massachusetts 55th Infantry during the Civil War. In the 129th Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio House of Representatives passed H.R. No. 297, to honor the 511 African American Ohioans who enlisted in the 54th and 55th Regiments of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.

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