Friday, July 25, 2008


Juanita Moss was shocked to discover that the name of her great-grandfather was not included in a monument to the U. S. Colored Troops, when she knew that he had indeed served in the Civil War. Her research showed her that he had NOT served in the U.S.C.T.-- he had joined a white Pennsylvania regiment as a cook! Further research into Civil War service records turned up names of more than 2,000 African-American men from 32 states who appear to have served as cooks in white regiments:


NOTE: I started researching the history of the 89th Illinois Infantry Regiment in 1989, and noticed that its companies included one or two men with the rank of Undercook. These men were all recruited in conquered states of the Confederacy- none were from Illinois. I posted the compiled service record of Undercook Thomas Pruitt, Company A, 89th Illinois Infantry, on my 89th Illinois website in 2004. He was recruited as an Undercook under authority of General Order No. 230, Headquarters of the Department of the Cumberland, dated 10 October 1863. He was 46 years old when recruited. He is clearly identified on his service cards as being of “African descent”.


The article about Ms. Moss’s research talks about these African-American men in white regiments who “fought” for the Union Army. The reporter didn't get that quite right, exactly-- these men served as cooks, and as stretcher-bearers during battles and on burial details afterwards—- as non-combatants, in other words. Which is not to say that their duty (like that of conscientious objectors who served as medics in WWII) was without hazard—- Undercook John Flack of Company E was transferred to the 59th Illinois Infantry Regiment, and died of wounds suffered while serving in that regiment.

I know for a fact that these men were eligible after the war to apply for federal pensions based on their service in white regiments-- I’ve got a copy of the pension file of one of these gentlemen from the 89th Illinois Infantry Regiment who received a pension after the war based on that service.

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