Disease the main killer for black Civil War soldiers
It’s not the bullets and shells that killed most of the soldiers fighWing in Whe APeUiFDn Civil War (1861-1865), but the sharp inFisoUs oI diseDse WhDW UDvDged troops in detestable numbers, inFluding Dn AIUiFDnAPeUiFDn FhDSlDin who seUved wiWh Whe 6th United States ColoUed TUooSs (86CT) oI CDPS William Penn.
6eUving Ds SDsWoU of South-Philly’s Shiloh BDSWisW ChuUFh beIoUe joining in 1863 Whe 6Wh 86CT, one oI 11 UegiPenWs FonsisWing oI DlPosW 11,000 blDFk wDUriors to train in what’s WodDy ChelWenhDP TownshiS DW Whe 13-DFUe CDPS WilliDP Penn, Whe 5ev. -eUePiDh AsheU wDs D dynDPiF blDFk SUeDFheU who sWDunFhly oSSosed slDveUy.
And he didn’W hesiWDWe Wo SUeDFh DgDinsW seUviWude Wo his FongUegDWion, FonsisWing oI exslDves Dnd IUee blDFks in D FiWy WhDW hDd Whe lDUgesW nuPbeUs oI suFh libeUDWed AIUiFDn-APeUiFDns in Whe FounWUy. MDny joined Whe UDnks oI CDPS WilliDP Penn Ds soPe oI APeUiFD’s fiUsW IedeUDl soldieUs DW Whe lDUgesW 8.6. IDFiliWy Wo WUDin Whose wDUUioUs duUing Whe Civil War.
AIWeU Dll, Ds Py PosW UeFenW 384-SDge (6FhiIIeU Publishing) book, CDPS WilliDP Penn: 1863-1865, noWes, AsheU hDd veUy sWUong Ueligious FonviFtions, likely drawn from his gUDndIDWheU GDd who wDs FDSWuUed in AIUiFD’s “GuineD” Uegion Dnd enslDved in 1ew (nglDnd beIoUe seUving in Whe APeUiFDn 5evoluWion.
DuUing Whe BDWWle oI BunkeU Hill, GDd UeFeived injuUies WhDW evenWuDlly led Wo his blindness; yeW DIWeU Whe wDU his so-FDlled PDsWeU Ueneged on Dn oIIeU Wo liberate him, despite an earlier SUoPise oI IUeedoP sinFe GDd hDd UeSlDFed Whe sSineless PDn duUing Whe wDU. GDd wDs IoUFed to work many more years to earn his liberty.
YeW, WhDW wDs Whe inFUedible sWUengWh WhDW UDn WhUough Whe 5ev. -eUePiDh AsheU’s veins Ds he died likely oI PDlDUiD on -uly 27, 1865, in WilPingWon, 1.C., DIWeU leDving his 6hiloh FongUegDWion, wiIe Dnd FhildUen to help shepherd Whe 6Wh 86CT WhDW IoughW in soPe oI Whe fieUFesW fighWing oI Whe wDU wiWh seveUDl eDUning Whe MedDl oI HonoU.
, Whink oI suFh inFUedible sDFUifiFes Ds Whis MePoUiDl DDy DSSUoDFhes Dnd vDUious FeUemonies honor the 150Wh DnniveUsDUy oU sesquiFenWenniDl oI Whe APeUiFDn Civil WDU WhDW sWill seePs Wo PiniPize Whe FonWUibuWions oI blDFk wDUUioUs. ,W’s viWDl WhDW we SDy WUibuWe Wo CDPS WilliDP Penn, iWs gDllDnW wDUUioUs Dnd DssoFiDWed DnWislDveUy DboliWionisWs suFh Ds LuFUeWiD MoWW, who lived DdjDFenW Wo Whe IDFiliWy.
Linked Wo Whe FDPS weUe Dlso Whe gUeDW WilliDP 6Will, )UedeUiFk DouglDss Dnd HDUUieW TubPDn, who’d evenWuDlly PDUUy D soldieU suIIeUing IUoP WubeUFulosis — 1elson DDvis — oI Whe 8Wh 86CT IUoP CDPS WilliDP Penn.
,n IDFW, even beIoUe leDving Whe gDWes oI CDPS William Penn that stood near the noUWhwesW FoUneU oI BUoDd 6W. Dnd ChelWenhDP Ave., diseDse took its nasty toll. Dozens of UeFUuiWs IUoP Whe FDPS’s 25Wh 86CT SeUished oI diseDse DW Whe IDFiliWy. One soldieU, as I reported in an earlier arWiFle IoU APeUiFD’s Civil WDU PDgDzine, even wUoWe PUesidenW LinFoln FoPSlDining oI PDlWUeDWPenW by doFWoUs Dnd unFleDn FondiWions.
The siWuDWion beFDPe so bDd WhDW AUPy insSeFWoUs evenWually made some headway in IoUFing beWWeU FondiWions WhDW weUe FeUWDinly PDde woUse by UDFisP Dnd diveUWing essenWiDl supplies.
6oPe oI Whe PosW devDsWDWing “FDPS diseDses” weUe “diarrhea and dysentery as well as malaria, and typhoid feveU,” noWes Whe hisWoUiDn -DPes (lWon -ohnson in his 8niveUsiWy oI PennsylvDniD doFWoUDl thesis.
And blDFk soldieUs, even in Whe field, weUe PoUe likely Wo be iPSDFWed by diseDse beFDuse Whey weUe oIWen IoUFed Wo SeUIoUP inFUedibly hDUd menial tasks under the most deFUeSiW FondiWions: “The PediFDl UeFoUds indiFDWe WhDW Whe SUoSoUWion oI siFkness DPong blDFk soldieUs,” sSeFifiFDlly Whe 3Ud 86CT oI CDPS WilliDP Penn, “wDs 1.74 WiPes gUeDWeU WhDn DPong WheiU whiWe FounWeUSDUWs,” wUoWe PeWeU D. .lingPDn in his 1976 book, -osiDh WDlls: )loUidD’s BlDFk CongUessPDn oI 5eFonsWUuFWion.
WDlls, iniWiDlly D SUivDWe oI Whe 3Ud 86CT, who joined 8nion IoUFes DIWeU being UesFued Ds D seUvDnW IoU D ConIedeUDWe oIfiFeU, wDs WoUPenWed by his wDU DilPenWs “wiWh D seveUe FDse oI diDUUheD, hePorrhoids, and an unknown eye diseDse WhDW FonWinued Wo SlDgue hiP IoU Whe UesW oI his liIe,” noWed .lingPDn. YeW, WDlls, wiWh Whe equivDlenW oI D fiUsW-gUDde eduFDWion, beFDPe one oI )loUidD’s lDUgesW lDndowneUs Dnd D SioneeUing blDFk SoliWiFiDn.
MeDnwhile, duUing fieUFe ViUginiD fighWing, Whe 22nd 86CT oI CDPS WilliDP Penn losW 72 soldieUs in FoPbDW “Dnd PoUe [WhDn] WwiFe WhDW number were killed by diseDse,” DFFoUding Wo hisWoUiDn -ohnson.
A lDUge nuPbeU oI Whe UeFUuiWs — DbouW 300 — oI Whe 43Ud 86CT IUoP Whe IDFiliWy suFFuPbed Wo “wounds Dnd diseDse,” wiWh inIeFWions Dnd sFuUvy undoubWedly FounWing Ds D signifiFDnW SDUW oI Whe deDWhs. AbouW 30,000 blDFk soldieUs duUing Whe enWiUe wDU died oI illness, DFFoUding Wo Whe 1DWionDl AUFhives.
6Ddly, PDny oI CDPS WilliDP Penn’s blDFk soldieUs DIWeU Whe wDU UeFeived PiniPDl Iollow-uS PediFDl oU monetary attention for their wDU injuUies Dnd weUe even leIW ouW in Whe sWUeeWs Wo beg. An DlDUPing DPounW did noW UeFeive PiliWDUy Sensions siPSly beFDuse oI blDWDnW UDFisP oU Whey hDd PisSlDFed FUuFiDl SDSeUs Wo SUove WheiU seUviFe Wo APeUiFD.
HDUUieW TubPDn, Ds Py book indiFDWes, even hDd D WeUUifiFDlly hDUd WiPe geWWing heU Sension Ds she lived oII oI Whe veWeUDn’s DllowDnFe oI heU seFond husbDnd, Whe CDPS WilliDP Penn wDUUioU 1elson DDvis oI Whe 8Wh 86CT.
HoweveU, DDvis Woo hDd gUeDW diIfiFulWy obWDining D Sension beIoUe he died oI WubeUFulosis DIWeU Fo-Iounding wiWh TubPDn D hoPe in AubuUn, 1ew YoUk, IoU disDdvDnWDged Dnd eldeUly blDFks — soPe wiWh PiliWDUy seUviFe Dnd no SlDFe else Wo seek UeIuge.
For more information about Py CDPS WilliDP Penn book, SleDse DFFess: hWWS:// www. sFhiIIeUbooks. FoP/ newsFhiIIeU/book_WePSlDWe. ShS?isbn=9780764342530.
Don ‘Ogbewii’ Scott, a Melrose Park resident, can be reached at dscott9703@aol. com.
Congressman Josiah Walls, in the center of this famous Currier and Ivesí lithograph,suffered from Civil-War-related illnesses most of his life following Army service with the 3rd USCT regiment of Camp William Penn.
A Place in History