Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I wrote this out of the need to try to understand the Civil War, the role of African Americans in the Civil War and American history. After six years of genealogy, I accidently came across the Civil War pensions of two of my great great grandfather's brothers. Finding these records forever changed how I look at this great conflict and how the union survived.

During the waning muggy hours, seconds and moments of August eighteen and sixty-four, two colored men from Belmont County, Ohio joined the Union Army. They joined because colored men were finally allowed to join after Abraham Lincoln and his generals found out that these colored gentlemen could help swing victory in the direction of the Union. Walker and his brother James Edward Goins, "officially" volunteered with the Union Army of the United States of America because they knew the stakes were exceedingly high; and yet the feeling of going off to fight in a Civil War-- any war in the United States as a matter of fact-- must have been the most frightening prospect for a colored man in this country during a period when colored men had few if any civil, social rights and or protections enumerated the United States Constitution.

According to the eighteen and sixty Belmont County, Ohio census, Walker was twenty-one. He humbly began his military career in the fifth regiment of Ohio and finished his duty in the 101st U.S. Federal troops. James who lived with his parents Michael and Verlinda Goins was, according to another sheet in the Belmont County, Ohio census, fourteen years old. He served in the seventeenth regiment of and from the Buckeye State. These brothers, born in Ohio, Walker circa eighteen and thirty-eight and the younger James Edward, circa eighteen and forty-six took on this duty and fought on the front lines of Tennessee. Although the War of the Rebellion officially began with canon balls flying in and over Fort Sumter in South Carolina, the first major battle took place in Virginia at "First Manassass or First Bull Run in the seventh month and twenty-first day of eighteen and sixty.

The Confederate Army won that first battle at Manassass. They also lost many battles. The Union Army took many causalities as well. It looked like draw in the early stages of the conflict. It was a bloody battle right down to the last shot. Each side had to figure a way to out maneuver the opponent in the tug of Civil War. One method the Union planned to use to out maneuver its Southern counterpart involved enlisting the services of colored people who might become troops. It is as though Abraham Lincoln and his generals used the same move Lord Dunmore, who was the British governor of Virginia during her colonlial period, used when the upstart Americans decided to declare themselves independent of the crown in the late seventeen hundreds.

Walker and James were two of a multitude of colored volunteers who made the sacrifice of life, limb and family during America's hour internal restlessness. The eldest of these two brothers took Mary Jackson Curry as his wife before leaving and their home in Barnesville. James, the younger of the two brothers, was about to turn eighteen. This is the ripe old age of young men when military units try to increase, almost swell its ranks with soldiers. According to his pension, Walker married Mary Jackson-Curry " in the year of Our Lord eighteen and fifty-nine." The nuptials, again according to Walker's pension, took place in the fair county of Belmont. The same county where Walker and James' parents Michael and Verlinda, married in during the late spring of eighteen and thirty-five. Michael and Verlinda, former Virginians resided, in this county which sits next to the vulernable Ohio River.

Michael and Verlinda, it seems, grew restless knowing that they and their younger children were near--too close for comfort anyway-- the Civil War's front. They were so restless they moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan sometime after 1861 with their daughter Emily, their grandchildren and her husband Gabriel Green. The certain internal and Civil restlessness in America pulled and tugged at the hearts of families on both sides of the War. It pulled, tugged and tore families asunder as if it seemed the Civil War was a storm cloud covering every square inch of the United States without plans to move.

Walker left his bride, Mary of seven years or so in Barnesville where most of his and James' brothers and sisters lived as well. The Goins family , according to the eighteen and sixty Belmont County, Ohio census, identifies the household of Michael and Verlinda Goins, Walker and James' parents. This household included Michael (the younger), Emily ( perhaps the twin of James Edward ?) James Edward, John, Robert, Stewart and Roswell. One brother, Riley, the eldest known brother of these Colored Civil War Veterans, according to the 1860 Muskingum County, Ohio census, lived with his wife Clarissa and their children in that county. The Goins family lived far, wide and beyond the State of Ohio. Again the elder Goins', Michael and Verlinda, as old as they were--in their sixties--, migrated to Michigan with their two youngest sons Stewart and Roswell sometime before or during the conflict

Although some of the Goins' left the potential war front of Ohio for the relative safety of Michigan, Mary and her children remained at least and until hopefully Walker and James returned from their tedious and tremendous task of fighting the Confederate Army. The Union Army won the Civil War and Walker discharged from his most honorable and courageous civic duty in April, eighteen and sxity-five. He returned home to his bride Mary and the his remaining siblings. He came back home alone. James, the younger of the two brothers unfortunately met his death in the course of battle according to his ever so brief pension file. He died in a Nashville, Tennessee hospital. The records from the National Archives says, this "Private of Captain Geo. H.Haywood of Company C ( I believe it is C--I can't read the hand writing), of the seventeenth the United States Infantry Volunteers, who enrolled the sixth day of December, in the State of Ohio as a recruit and mustered into the service the sixth day of December 1864 at Barnesville...died in Wilson Hospital on the twenty-second day of June, eighteen and sixty-five." I am far from knowing how Walker must have felt. Perhaps it was a most joyous occasion to see his wife and the rest of his family. Nevertheless, some part of him remained in Tennessee on one of those bloody battlefields. That specific part came in the shape and form of his younger brother James; he must have been important to Walker because he named one of his children James and still another Edward, James' middle name. James was perhaps so important to Walker, that the name remained in the Goins family for a few generations.

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