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Lincoln Cemetery, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Documents
Harrisburg Men of the 5th Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry


Tombstone of Thomas J. Miller in Lincoln Cemetery.Name: Thomas J. Miller
Service: 5th Regt., Massachusetts Vol. Cavalry, Company G
Date of Death: October 14, 1912
Place of Burial: Lincoln Cemetery, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Unit History

Prior to the official formation of the United States Colored Troops in 1863, many African American men from Harrisburg, looking for the chance to bear arms during the Civil War, traveled to Massachusetts to join one of three units that the governor of that state had been authorized to form from African American enlisted men. Two of those units, the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, have received much attention from the success of the 1989 movie Glory, that told the story of the 54th regiment. The third unit, the 5th Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry, has not received as much attention. Like the infantry units, though, it also contained numerous men from Harrisburg. The grave of one man, a veteran who survived the war and died in Harrisburg in 1912, is shown above.

The 5th Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry was organized at Camp Meigs, near Readville, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1863 and recruitment was completed by May 1864. It was composed of African American volunteers from many different states, with white commissioned officers. Despite its designation as a cavalry unit, it was equipped and functioned as an infantry regiment, and is sometimes designated as dismounted cavalry.

Its initial deployment was to Fortress Monroe, whereupon it was reassigned to the 3rd Division, 18th Corps, at City Point, Virginia, on the James River. The regiment entered the war by performing reconnaissance and picket duties along the Appamattox River in May and June, 1864, then took part in the advance on Petersburg on June 14th. It was first actively engaged with Confederate forces at the battle of Baylor's Farm, where its casualties totaled three dead and nineteen wounded. It continued to take part in the Petersburg campaign until it was assigned to Point Lookout, Maryland in late June, 1864.

Returning to Petersburg in March, 1865, the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry took part in the final battles of the war, and some months after the surrender was transferred to Texas to guard the border with Mexico. The men of the regiment were mustered out at Clarksville, Texas in October, 1865 and returned to Massachusetts, where they were discharged the following month.1

Harrisburg Men of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry
(thanks to John C. Richardson, researcher of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, for the following information)

  • John Coates
    Enlistment information: 
    Enlisted at Boston, Massachusetts, February 13, 1864.  Born in Fairfax County, Virginia; Age: 22; Residence: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Occupation: Waiter; Height: 5' 9"; Complexion: Dark; Eyes Black; Hair Black.
    Unit information:  He was mustered in at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, February 22, 1864 as Private, Company "F". He was mustered out with the regiment at Clarksville, Texas, October 31, 1865. His enlistment papers stated that his mother was his dependent.2
  •  

  • James C. Greenley (Greenly)
    Enlistment information:  Enlisted at Boston, Massachusetts, December. 30, 1863, Age 19. Born: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Occupation: Barber; Single; Height: 5' 6"; Complexion: Black; Eyes: Black; Hair: Black.
    Unit information:  He was mustered in at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, March 4, 1864, as Private, Company. "G". He was appointed Corporal per Special Order Number 97, April 28, 1864. He was reduced to the ranks per Special Order Number 176, Oct. 20, 1864. He was charged the replacement cost of his .58 caliber Springfield Musket, which he apparently lost while he was on duty July 5, 1864. He was detached for service at Headquarters 25th Army Corps, per Special Order Number 95, May 29, 1865. He was detached as Orderly at Headquarters 25th Army Corps, per Special Order Number 88, dated May 12, 1865. He was mustered out with the regiment at Clarksville, Texas, Oct. 31, 1865.2
    Notes:  James Greenley shows up in the 1850 census for Harrisburg as the five year-old son of oysterman James Greenly, then living in the city's south ward.3 In the Harrisburg 1863-1864 City Directory, a James Greenley is listed as a laborer, living on Marion Street near Reilly Street.  It is not known if this is the elder James Greenley or his son who would shortly enlist in the service. James C. Greenley is enumerated in the 1880 census in Harrisburg, living with his aged parents. In the 1887 city directory the family is still together, living at 1336 Fulton Street.  James C. Greenley is working as a barber at the corner of Second Street and Mulberry Street and the elder James is listed as a whitewasher.4 The undated tombstones in Harrisburg's Lincoln Cemetery for James Greenley and Matilda Greenley mark the burial spot of the parents of James C. Greenley, and their names appear on the monument to the African American dead of the Civil War, erected in Lincoln Cemetery by the African American citizens of Harrisburg.
  • James C. Greenley (then spelled Greenly) transferred from GAR Post 520 in Harrisburg to the Robert Gould Shaw GAR Post 206, Pittsburgh, in February 1888.

     

  • William Leva
    Enlistment information:  Enlisted at age 22 at Dedham, Massachusetts, January 19, 1864.
    Unit information:  He was mustered in at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, January 29, 1864, as Private, Company "D". Born: Harrisburg, PA; Occupation: Barber; Height 5' 5"; Complexion: Mulatto; Eyes: Black; Hair: Black. He was reported as a deserter at Camp Meigs March 31, 1864. He was apprehended and returned to the regiment at Point Lookout, Maryland, August 13, 1864. He was tried by General Court Martial and sentenced to two years imprisonment in the penitentiary at Albany, New York. He was dishonorably discharged, August 31, 1864, by sentence of General court-martial. His name was recorded on several regiment documents as: William Lara, William Levea, William Levia, William Leba.2
  •  

  • Thomas Mason
    Enlistment information:  Enlisted at age 19 at Boston, Massachusetts, December 16, 1863, credited to Boston, Massachusetts.
    Unit information:  He was mustered in at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, January 9, 1864, Private, Company "A". Born: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Occupation: Laborer; Height: 5' 7"; Complexion: Black; Eyes: Black; Hair: Black. He was mustered out with the regiment at Clarksville, Texas, October 31, 1865.2
  •  

  • John G. Miller
    Enlistment information:  Enlisted at Springfield, Massachusetts, March 17, 1864. Born: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Age 19; Occupation: Farmer; Height: 5' 2"; Complexion: Colored; Eyes: Black; Hair: Black. He was rejected as a recruit at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, March 24, 1864.2
  •  

  • Thomas J. Miller
    Enlistment information:  Enlisted at Boston, Massachusetts, February 26, 1864, credited to Boston, Massachusetts.
    Unit information:  He was mustered in at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, March 4, 1864, as Private, Company "G". Born: Baltimore, Maryland; Age: 21; Single; Occupation: Tinsmith; Height 5' 6"; Complexion: Black; Eyes: Black; Hair: Black. He was appointed the rank of Corporal, April 28, 1864. He was mustered out with the regiment at Clarksville, Texas, October 31, 1865.
    Comments:  After the war Thomas settled in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He filed for his pension April 30, 189x, residing in Pennsylvania. Spouse (widow's pension application): Emily D. Miller Oct. 17, 1912.
    Documents:  1910 Pennsylvania Miracode Index lists: Thomas J. Miller, Black, age 66, residence: Dauphin County., Harrisburg, born: Maryland; Wife: Emma D. Miller, Black, age 64, born: Virginia; Nephew: Thomas J. Miller, age 18, born: Georgia; Niece: Emma C. Miller, Black, age 19, born: Georgia.2
  •  

  • James Rhodes
    Enlistment information:  Enlisted at Roxbury, Massachusetts, March 22, 1864, credited to Roxbury, Massachusetts. Born: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Age 21; Residence: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Single; Occupation: Laborer; Height 5' 8"; Complexion: Black; Eyes: Black; Hair: Black.
    Unit information:  He was mustered in at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, April 12, 1864, as Private, Company "K". He was appointed Corporal, March 17, 1865, to fill the vacancy left when Corporal Mathew Winters, Company "K" was reduced to ranks. He was mustered out with the regiment at Clarksville, Texas, October 31, 1865.2
  •  

  • Benjamin Watson
    Enlistment information:  Enlisted February 13, 1864, Boston, Massachusetts, credited to Boston, Massachusetts. Born: Augusta, Virginia; Age 24; Residence: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Occupation: Hostler; Height 5' 7"; Complexion: Black; Eyes: Black; Hair: Black.
    Unit information:  He was mustered in at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, February 22, 1864, as Private, Company "F". During the month of March 1864, he was assigned permanent stable guard. During the months of August-September, 1865, he was absent from the regiment on detached duty, Brazos, Texas per Special Order 48; he was attached to a construction crew whose job was to build a section of railway connecting Brownsville, Texas to the Gulf Coast. He was mustered out with the regiment at Clarksville, Texas, October 31, 1865.
    Comments:  He had a wife and one child per notation on his enlistment papers. His widow, Hattie A. Watson, filed for her pension benefits August 7, 1890, residing in Pennsylvania.2
  •  

  • George Williams
    Enlistment information:  Enlisted at Boston, Massachusetts, January 8, 1864, credited to West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Born: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Age 31; Occupation: Ironworker; Height: 6' 2"; Complexion: Sandy; Eyes: Black; Hair: Black.
    Unit information:  He was mustered in at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, January 29, 1864, as Private, Company "C". He was appointed Corporal, March. 24, 1864, per General Order 19. He was appointed Sergeant, December 10, 1864, per Special Order 223. He was reduced to the ranks per Special Order 62, dated March 30, 1865. He was absent from the regiment on detached duty, Quarter Master's Dept., during the months of April-June 1865. He was absent from the regiment on detached service, Brigade HQ., July 28, 1865, per Special Order 125. He was mustered out with the regiment at Clarksville, Texas, October 31, 1865.2

Notes:

  1. Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War, Volume VI. Massachusetts' Adjutant General's Office (Norwood, Massachusetts: 1932).
  2. Correspondence, John C. Richardson to Afrolumens Project, August 8, 2004 and May 28, 2007.  Special thanks to John C. Richardson for sharing his research on these individuals.  Please see his webpage, "Soldiers and Veterans of the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment."   Thanks also to Dennis W. Brandt for assistance.
  3. 1850 Census of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, page 7.  See the online transcripts.
  4. Boyds' Harrisburg and Steelton Directory, 1887, page 167.

Known Burials at Lincoln Cemetery:

Surnames, unknown and A-C  |  Surnames D-G | Surnames H-L | Surnames M-P | Surnames Q-S | Surnames T-Z

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This page was updated May 28, 2007.