Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Today is "Zeke Johnson" Day

A week from this Thursday, which would be June 14, 2007, is the 160th anniversary of the birth of my great-great-grandfather, Ezekiel Johnson. I've written about him before (here, here, and here). For awhile, he was one of my very difficult brickwalls. And then one day, a sudden breakthrough gave me some special insight into his origins and at the same time raised more questions. I've been trying to solve some of those questions.

In genealogy, it never hurts to go over ground that may have been plowed once or twice before. I was exploring various databases for "Ezekiel Johnson" or "Zeke Johnson," when I found buried treasure! I'm so thrilled about this that I hereby declare today to be "Zeke Johnson Day" at GeneaBlogie.

What I found were Grandpa Zeke's military records in a database labeled "U.S. Colored Troops Compiled Military Records." I realized that I had looked here before for "Ezekiel" but not for "Zeke," which is how the records were indexed. These records contain a lot of information.

A key element of these records is a card which is transcribed as follows:

18 | USCT

Zeke Johnson,
Co. D, 18 Reg't US Col'd Inf
Appears on
Company Descriptive Book
of the organization named above.

Age 17 years; height 5 feet 4 inches
Complexion Black
Eyes Black Hair Black
Where Born Missouri
Occupation Farmer

When July 23, 1864
Where Kansas City
By Whom Capt Hall; term 3 years
Remarks: Battle of Sand Mountain,
Ala.; Jan 29, '85

That document tells me several things I did not know: that he was a short man (his granddaughter and great-granddaughter are in miniature as well). He enlisted at age 17.

Another significant document is this one:

Click on image to enlarge
Image Copyright (c) The Generations Network, Inc. Used in accordance with Limited Use License

Now we know quite bit more about Ezekiel Johnson, to wit:

Born in Clay County in 1847, Zeke Johnson was in 1864 the slave of one Henry Wilhite. In May, 1864, he "left" Wilhite and in July, 1864, in Kansas City, he enlisted in the 18th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. He received a bounty7y of $300 for enlisting. In September 1864, he joined the regiment at Benton Barracks near St Louis.

The regiment moved to Nashville in November 1864 and participated in the Battle of Nashville in December of 1864. They then moved on into Alabama, fighting the Battle f Sand Mountain in January 1865 and then remaining in Alabama until February 1865. Moving to Tennessee next, the 18th remained there until being reassigned to Huntsville, Alabama in 1866. The unit was mustered out at Huntsville in February 1866. Zeke Johnson was present for duty at all of these times except part of August 1864 and Sept-Oct 1864 when he was hospitalized for diarrhea

When he was mustered out, Zeke Johnson was entitled to keep his musket and "accoutrements." He owed the Government $21.54 for clothing, but the Government still owed him $100 as part of his bounty.

We don't know exactly what Grandpa Zeke did immediately after leaving the Army, but we know that on September 5, 1867, he married Sarah Gilbert back in Clay County. In the late 1880's, the Kansas City directory showed him residing at 2544 Cherry and working as a carpenter for Standard Implement Co.

And what of his erstwhile master, Henry Wilhite? He joined the Confederate Army, but beyond that, we don't know any more about him.

I had never known the name of Zeke's slave-owning family until I saw it in these records. This knowledge will advance my research significantly. For reasons that I've written about before, I don't think Wilhite was Zeke's original or only master. I think Zeke is the 3 year old male shown in the ownership of Emmons Johnson on the 1850 slave schedule. We need to find some transaction between Emmons Johnson and Henry Wilhite.

Ezekiel Johnson died on August 8, 1933, having lived long enough to see his great-granddaughter, my mother.

The U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records are on Ancestry.com as part of their Military collection. Curiously, they are not part of the Civil War collection. The records are from the National Archives, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, Record Group 94.
The use we made of these records here illustrates the value of such records to the family historian. Of course, the National Archives has available similar records for military personnel of all races. Check this page for pre-World War I records.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Congratulations, Craig! A good day indeed and definitely a great find. There sure is a lot of information in those military records!