Black Soldiers In The Nation’s Wars
In The Continental Army (Or The American Revolution):
Found in the Simsbury Land Records (vol. 12, p. 541) “Ranna Cossitt and Ezra Holcomb purchased a Negro, Phillip, from Andrew Adams of Litchfield, and freed him for his agreeing to serve as a soldier in the Continental Army June 8, 1778.” The selectmen then certified that he “may answer for Continental Service.” Ranna Cossitt was a Loyalist, loyal to the English crown.
In 1778 Zickory (or Zachery) Prince, slave of Abel Forward, was offered his freedom if he would go to the Revolutionary War as a substitute for Jesse Forward, the son of Abel. Abel was also a Loyalist. In 1779 Zickory “died in ye continental service” and “received his freedom.” When Zickory, or Zachery, died, his wife, Citty Prince, was freed.
A Divided North; A Divided Town:
We Northerners think of ourselves as “the good guys” in regards to the Civil War. It was not as clear cut as that.
According to the book Connecticut in the American Civil War by CCSU professor Matthew Warshauer, “nearly half of Connecticut’s population was steadfastly opposed to fighting the South.”
In July of 1860 Milo Holcomb, a prominent Granby citizen, wrote to presidential nominee Abraham Lincoln expressing his support of slavery with the idea that all parts of the union should be alike in their approach. Holcomb wrote “I am a pro Slavery man. I would if I could have my way, authorize Slavery in New England and the importation of African servants.” ..…”I am willing You should try the experiment [emancipation]. I do not believe you can effect emancipation. If you can I have no obj[ection]. I only want all sections [of the country] to be alike.”
Black Soldiers Who Died Were Honored On Granby’s Civil War Monument:
The names of seven Black soldiers who died in the war are inscribed on the Civil War monument on the Granby Green: Leonard Percy, George F. Elkey, Henry Elkey, Austin Goodman, George F. Sands, Edwin W. Thompson and Ira Wood. Four others should have been included – Edward Freeman, Cornelius Reeder, Austin Elkey and James Jackson. Perhaps there were even more – records were incomplete.
More Black Men Who Served In The Civil War And Where They Lived:
Alexander Rogers made Sergeant in April 1865 and survived the war. Rogers lived at the home of Lewis Elmore, 1 Barn Door Hills Road and worked as a farm laborer. John Elkey also survived. He was 30 years old when he enlisted. He left his wife, and two young children at home. He lived in the Mountain Road area of North Granby. Leonard Percy was a 57-year-old soldier who died in 1864. He had three soldier sons in the 29th Regiment. George Sands and Edwin W. Thompson also died in the Civil War. Sands was born in 1842; as a child he lived in the home of Rhoda Strong in the Bushy Hill school district. Later he lived at the home of Luther Griffin on Hungary Rd. Thompson, also born in 1842, was the oldest child of Leander and Ellen Thompson. They lived near the Bushy Hill intersection with West Granby Road.
By late 1865, the 29th Connecticut and the Connecticut men from the 31st United States Regiment were ordered back home and arrived in Hartford in November. All were honorably discharged from service during a large celebration, during which Governor William Buckingham thanked the men for their service and noted that “…although Connecticut now denies you privileges which it grants to others…the voice of a majority of liberty-loving freemen will be heard demanding for you every right and every privilege.” Though this prognosis proved to be optimistic, Connecticut’s African American troops had indeed moved the cause for equality forward.
Todd Jones, a life-long resident of the Nutmeg State, holds a graduate degree in Public History from Central Connecticut State University and is a Historic Preservation Specialist for the US government.
Black Soldiers In Granby:
Granby’s Black men served in the French and Indian War as well as the Revolutionary War and Civil War. Slaves were sometimes purchased and sent to war in the place of a white land-owner. They were promised freedom after they served, or if they died in the war, their spouse was promised freedom. In the Civil War, Black men were paid to enlist.
In The French And Indian War:
London Wallis was the slave of Stephen Griffin of East Granby. He served in the French and Indian War and was given his freedom in the late 1750’s.
In the Civil War (or the War of the Great Rebellion):
At the time of the Civil War only 1,720 people lived in Granby. Records show 153 recruits, half of the men between the ages of 18 and 45 living in Granby at that time, enlisted. And 48 died in the war; many more died soon after, from injuries and disease.
More than 25 Black men with Granby roots enlisted to fight in the Civil War and 11 of them died there. Many volunteers served in 29th and 30th Colored Regiments of the Volunteer Infantry. Others joined the 14th Rhode Island Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment that was organized in late 1863.
Refusing Black Citizens The Right To Vote In CT:
When Connecticut’s Black regiments were honorably discharged in late 1865, Governor William Buckingham thanked them for their service and said “…although Connecticut now denies you privileges which it grants to others…the voice of a majority of liberty-loving freemen will be heard demanding for you every right and every privilege.” He was overly optimistic.
As the war came to an end and emancipation was enshrined within the protection of the U.S. Constitution through the Thirteenth Amendment, Connecticut was still unable to shed its animosity to black rights. “In 1865 the General Assembly passed an amendment to the state constitution removing the word ‘white’ in describing who could vote and authorized a general referendum among the state’s residents to decide the matter. Voters readily demolished the amendment at the polls, revealing the unwillingness of Connecticut to accept any blacks as true members of the state or nation.”