Posts Tagged ‘oystermen’

According to Samuel Washington’s Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) he was born free in Gloucester, Virginia. Washington worked as a farmer before enlisting at Yorktown. He entered as a Private and mustered out as a Sergeant. 
— Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served with the United States Colored Troops [microform]: 1st through 5th United States Colored Cavalry, 5th Massachusetts Cavalry (Colored), 6th United States Colored Cavalry (1997). Reel 0014 – 1st United States Colored Cavalry: Tines, Archer – Wheldon, Charles M. (online at  https://archive.org/details/compiledmili0014akesunit/  ).

Invalid — 447,976 / 670,226

Sworn Statement, Donald Hudgins and Jackson Toliver, 17 February 1883
“[They have known the claimant] from boyhood and worked with him in farming etc long before the Rebellion of 1861 …”

General Affidavit, William B. Gransby, 18 February 1883
38 years old; residence, Williamsburg, James City Co., Va.
“… and while in Texas I knew he was in the hospital.”

General Affidavit, Dr. William H. Shield, 2 November 1889
“[He knew the claimant], he attended him professionally for fracture of the frontal bone over the left sinus caused as he reported by gunshot would received in battle….”

Deposition, Moses Carter, 26 May 1890
51 years old; occupation, farmer; post-office address, Yorktown, York County, Virginia
“I have known the claimant since in 1862. We worked together, he in Co K 1st USCC and I in Co B 2d USCC. Our Regts. were together during all of our service and I saw saw clmt almost daily and was frequently on duty with him. I remember distinctly of visiting him in his quarters at Newport News, Va.  some time in the summer of 1864. I heard that he had been wounded while on an expedition to Smithfield, Va. …”

Deposition, Phelan Washington, 26 May 1890
56 years old; occupation, farmer; post-office address, c/o Lee Hall, Warwick Co., Va.
“I became acquainted with the claimant … in Feby 1864 at the date of my enlistment … and I have known him well ever since. We are not related.”

Deposition, William Gransby, 26 May 1890
46 years old; occupation, driver at Eastern Lunatic Asylum; post-office address, Williamsburg, James City Co., Va.
“I served as Q[uarter] M[aster] Sergeant of Co. K … During the summer of 1864 we were bunkmates and I well remember of his going from our camp at Newport News in July or August 1864 with a detail of me under command of Captain Whiteman to Springfield, Va.”
Note: Eastern Lunatic Asylum now known as Eastern State Hospital, Williamsburg, Virginia was founded in 1773. A psychiatric hospital for African Americans, Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane now known as Central State Hospital, Petersburg, Virginia was founded in 1869 — Leslie

Deposition, Samuel B. Humphries, 2 June 1890
49 years old; occupation, driver, residence and post-office address, 46 Moseley St., Norfolk, Norfolk Co., Va.
“I served during the late war … but I do not recall the claimant as having belonged to said co. No, sir, I do not remember him but I do remember the expedition to Smithfield, Va. of which he makes mention …”

Deposition, Stephen Riddick, 2 June 1890
about fifty-five years old; occupation, laborer; address and post-office address, Berkley, Norfolk Co., Va.
“I served during the late war … and I remember Samuel Washington the claimant but my recollection of him is not clear.”

Questionnaire (Form 3-402), Samuel Washington, 4 June 1898
[married] yes
[when, where, by whom] Dec 1864
[record?] none
[previously married] no
[living children] two; Sambo and Willie, five years old and four years old, not by my first wife

General Affidavit, Samuel Humphries, 13 January 1890
“I am unable furnish the affidavit of my Regimental Surgeon Dr. Wm. H. Gray because he is dead.
“I am also unable to furnish further medical evidence besides that of Dr. Wm. H. Shield because he is the only one who has treated me since discharge for my wound of head.”

General Affidavit, Samuel Humphries, 18 February 1899
[residence] Tampico, York Co., Va.
[residence since discharge] “I have lived in this neighborhood since Feby 4th 1866
[nearest post-office address] Yorktown since Tampico was opened
[occupation] oysterman and farmer
[known by any other name] no
[previous service] none

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Before enlistment, the soldier worked as an oysterman. His sight and hearing were seriously impaired during his service at Brazos Santiago, Texas. After he was mustered out, he lived in Nansemond County, Virginia and worked as a farmer. 

Invalid — 707,863 / 542,833 

Declaration for Original Invalid Pension, William Elliott, 1 June 1889
“In the line of his duty at Turnpike near Richmond, in the state of Virginia on or about the spring day of May 1865, he was shot, the ball striking his breast plate causing him to be internally hurt from which he has suffered to present time and while at Brazos Texas became blind & deaf was attended to Camp Hospital by Dr. Grey, he still is very deaf and blind.”
“That he was treated in hospitals as follows: Camp Hospital at Brazos, Texas by Doctors Manly and Grey.
“That since leaving the service this applicant has resided in Nansemond Co. in the State of Virginia, and his occupation has been that of a farmer. That prior to his entry into the service above named he was a man of good, sound, physical health, being when enrolled an oysterman. That he is now 2/3 disabled form obtaining his subsistence by manual labor by reason of his injuries …”
“Also personally appeared Raphael Wright, residing at Norfolk, Va. … Geo. Tarrall, residing at Nansemond Co….”

Declaration for Invalid Pension, William Elliott, 2 August 1890
53 years old; partially unable to earn a support by reason of shock received from shot while in the service of the US
Witnessed by Jacob Ashburn, Norfolk County, Va. & Edward R. Pitt, Bowers Hill, Norfolk County, Va.”
[NOTE: Ashburn and Pitt both signed their names — Leslie]

Claim for Increase, Joseph H. Hunter, Attorney, 25 April 1896
Witnessed by Wills Baker, Bowers Hill, Va. & Henry Francis, Bowers Hill

Questionnaire (Form 3-173), William Elliott, 20 November 1897
[married] No, my wife is dead
[when, where, and by whom] I was married according to the manner of colored people
[record?] none whatever
[previously married?] no
[living children] Yes. Three. James Elliot, 36 years old; William Elliott, 25 years old; Victoria Elliott, 22 years old

Questionnaire (Form 3-402), William Elliot, 24 March 1898
[married] no, widowed
[when where, and by whom] —
[record] —
[previously married?] —
[living children] Yes. Five children. James born Dec 1863; William, born June 1873; Victoria born April 1875; Lovey born June 1878; Annie born May 1884

Declaration for Increase of Pension , William Elliott, 4 July 1900
“Also personally appeared Joseph Ridgeway, residing at M[illegible?], Nansemond Co., Va. and Albert Howell, residing at M[illegible?], Nansemond Co., Va.
[Note: The word might be “Melvin” but I couldn’t find a match in the Gazetteer of Virginia by Henry Gannett. However, the Greater Chuckatuck Historical Foundation website includes the following entry by Robert Archer and Lynn Rose, “Milner’s Town was located on the western branch of the Nansemond River, about ten miles north of Suffolk.  An inspection station and tobacco warehouse were located there.  One branch of the Nansemond River and tributaries of the Nottoway and Blackwater River led to Milner’s Town.” — Leslie]

Deposition, William Elliott, 29 April 1901
69 years old; occupation, laborer; residence, Churchland, Norfolk Co., Va.
“I was freeborn and never had any other name.
“I was born at Churchland, Norfolk Co., Va. and have resided there all of my life. James Elliott was my father and Sallie Elliott was my mother. I had two brothers, Wright and James Elliott. They were not in the Army. I had two sisters, Lovy and Mary Elliott.”

“I don’t know how old I was when I enlisted, nor do I remember what age I gave Capt. Schwartz when I enlisted right down Main Street here in Norfolk. I do know however that I shall be 70 years age on June 4, next if I live….I was an oysterman when I enlisted. I have never been employed as a servant.

“Garrard was my Col.
Major Seip was Lt.
Capt. Brown was Major.
Charles Schwartz was my Capt.
Garrett and Stearne were Lts.
Beverly West was Ord. Sgt.
[illegible] Elliott and Albert Taylor were Sgts.
James Brooks and James Gardner were Corpls.
Isaac Dean and Thomas Cuffy tented with me.”

“I contracted scurvy in Texas …. Dr. Rain and Dr. Ashman have been my physicians since the war. Daniel Wright and Dempsey Elliott were witnesses for me. I testified for them – that they had not been in any other army since the war.

“I am single. My wife, Huldy, died five years ago. I have no children under 16 years of age. Hunter, of Washington, was my atty. Barnes, Clerk of County Court, Portsmouth did the writing. I paid 50 c for each affidavit.”

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John Pitt, Company F

John Pitt’s pension application might seem to have very few details about his personal life but it has a number of identifiers that could distinguish him from men with the same name i.e. father’s name, approximate year of birth, residence, occupation, wife’s name. The U.S. Federal Census should certainly be examined — not just the population schedules but also the non-population schedules.

Invalid 1,041,586 / 834,533

Deposition, John Pitt, 28 August 1902
“I am about 63 or 64 years of age: laborer and I live in Norfolk Co.  I was always free. My father was James Pitt … height 5’9”; complexion, yellow; hair and eyes black and says he was an oysterman before enlistment”

“I have lived right around here ever since I left the Army and have been a farm laborer …”

“I have only been married once – married Margaret Elliott.  We were married in Norfolk, Va. about 10 years ago.  We were married by Rev. Powell.”

“I was living with a woman named Sarah Patrick but she is now married and is in Hampton, Va. but we were never married.  She is now the wife of Bill Walker.  I lived with her for two years when I first came from the army …”

“I have no children under 16 years of age.”

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“Mine Oyster – Dredging-Boats in the Chesapeake” by William Ludwell Sheppard, Harper’s Weekly, 14 March 1872

“Oystering was a favorite occupation among blacks for several reasons. One was that oystering was seasonal work. Large amounts of money could be made during the two-month oyster season, often enough to sustain a person for the rest of the year. The real attraction of the oystering trade was the independence it allowed the men who practiced it. Black oystermen, many of whom owned their own boats, harvested the oyster crop at their own pace and sold their catch to one of the seafood factories …There was another advantage of the oyster trade for those who owned their boats. These vessels could be used for profit even after the oyster season ended. … [M]ost black oystermen were fishermen in the off season. The area around Hampton Roads remained heavily dependent on water routes for transportation, so black boat owners found ready opportunities for hauling cargo and passengers.”

Robert F. Engs. Freedom’s First Generation: Black Hampton, Virginia, 1861-1890. New York: Fordham University Press, 2004, page 134


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Zachariah Johnson, a freeborn oysterman, was 18 years old when he enlisted at Fortress Monroe on 13 December 1863. His pension application folder included the usual forms — questionnaires, affidavits, depositions — and also copies of his marriage license and his death certificate.

Invalid — 1,197,289 / 979,597
Widow — 1,132,228 / 866, 374, Susan Johnson

Marriage License [copy], Zackari [sic] Johnson & Susan Elliott,
12 February 1872
[Time / Place ] 15 February 1872, Norfolk Co., Va.
[Ages ] 23 and 21, respectively
[Condition] Both were single
[Place of birth / Residence] Husband and wife were born in Norfolk Co., Va. and resided in Norfolk Co., Va.
[Husband’s parents] Robert & Patsey Johnson
[Wife’s parents]  Robert & Mary Elliott
[Husband’s occupation] Oysterman
[Officiant] Reuben Jones


Deposition, Zachariah Johnson, 13 March 1889 
55 years old, oysterman, West Norfolk, Norfolk County, Va. … “I was born and reared and have always lived where I now live, on Western Branch, not Bend, Norfolk Co., Va. … I must have been between 18 and 21 when I enlisted … Wm. Thomas Pitt was our Orderly Sergeant who died in Norfolk Co., Va.. … Edward R. Pitt, was a Sergeant and was also a Sergeant during the last part of our service.  Edward R. Pitt lives at Bowers Hill, Norfolk Co, Va., and Stephen Riddick lives in Berkley, Va.”


Deposition, Squire Bright, 13 March 1889 
59 years old, 313 Dinwiddie St., Portsmouth, Norfolk Co., Va … “I knew Zachariah Johnson who served as a Corporal in said company, from the time we joined the company near Fort Monroe, Va. in Dec 1863 until we were discharged from service and I have known and associated with him ever since our discharge from service.  Until a few years ago we were neighbors on Western Branch, Va about 3 miles from where I now live.  We followed oystering when I lived near him and I saw him almost daily …”


Deposition, Nelson Elliott, 13 March 1889 
56 years old, cor Pine & County St, Portsmouth, Norfolk Co., Va. … “We tented and slept together.  He and I followed oystering prior to our enlistment.  Since his return home after his discharge from the army we have been as socials and neighbors.  I have known him well and intimately from my earliest recollection & from his early childhood.”


Deposition, Zachariah Johnson, 19 August 1902
“I lost my original discharge … a boatman before enlistment … I was born free and am the son of Robert Johnson … Wm Thomas Pitt was Ord. Sgt.  His brother Edward Pitt was QM Sgt.  Wm. Granby was a duty Sgt so was Alfred JonesNelson Elliott and Sgt. Pitt were my bunk and mess mates … We were in fights at Bermuda Hundred, White House, around Petersburg, Chichihominie [sic].  To my recollection we lost no men on the battlefield. I was on detached duty at Brazos Texas as orderly to carry dispatches … I was sick in service and used to go to the Dr. for medicine but never went in hospital.


Questionnaire, Zachariah Johnson, 17 April 1915 
[living with … ] my wife …
[names, birth dates of all children] Margret Johnson, 48 years old, born Sept 8, 1867 … Octavia Johnson, 44 years old, born May 21, 1871


Death Certificate, Zachariah Johnson, 15 June 1918
Died 9 June 1918, Western Branch, Norfolk Co., Va.
[Birth date / age] unknown; about 70 years old
[Occupation] Laborer, public works
[Birthplace] Virginia
[Parents’ names] Not known
[Informant] Vanderbilt Johnson, Western Branch, Norfolk Co., Va.
[Death date] 9 June 1918
[Cause of death] Chronic nephritis
[Burial place / Burial date] Churchland, Va.; 12 June 1918
[Undertaker / Address] John T. Fisher, Portsmouth, Va.


Letter [handwritten] from Susan Johnson to Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions, 27 June 1918
“Dear Sirs,
I write to you to let you know that Zachariah Johnson my husband died on the 9th of June 1918.
Susan Johnson
My address is Box 65, West Norfolk, Va.*
Send here.

*Susan Johnson wrote the following address at the top of the letter: “Hale St., 2521, Lindenwood, Norfolk, Va.”


General Affidavit, Mary Eastwood & Salina Deans, 19 February 1919 
[Eastwood] 60 years old, 1015 Sumler Ave., Mt. Hermon, Portsmouth, Va. … and [Deans], 74 years old, 110 Wool Ave., Mt. Hermon, Portsmouth, Va. … “they have been intimately acquainted with the claimant Susan Johnson, from her childhood, also knew her husband Zachariah Johnson, before he went into the civil war, before he was well grown, and long before he and the claimant were married.”

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