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Nearly seventy Ypsilanti men served in the Civil War’s Black regiments, including many who had previously escaped from slavery. A dozen never returned. Whether with Michigan’s 102nd United States Colored Troops or the “Glory” regiments of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantries, Ypsilanti men were largely stationed on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. There they were at some of the War’s most iconic moments like the assault on Fort Wagner, the liberation of Charleston, and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

In this episode, we will learn from historian Matt Siegfried about who the Ypsilanti volunteers were, their life in camp, the racism they faced in the military, the battles they fought, the plantations they liberated, and the lives lived in Ypsilanti after the war as we take a look at Ypsilanti’s Black Civil War experience.

More about our podcast speaker
Matt Siegfried is a historian, writer and researcher based in Ypsilanti. A graduate of Eastern Michigan University with degrees in History and Historic Preservation, much of his work has been on connecting local history to broad historical moments and trends, with a focus on how race, class, gender, and power impact our social landscape. He has given many presentations at the Ypsilanti District Library, and is a Historian and Cultural Landscapes Expert at the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition, where he works with teachers to integrate place based learning into curricula.
Bibliography of additional materials to explore


Features the facsimile of the petition signed by Ypsilanti soldiers to President Abraham Lincoln demanding equal pay
Explains better than anything what the civil war fight was really about and the consequences of it.
Elmore, Tom. Potter’s Raid through South Carolina : the final days of the Confederacy. The History Press, 2015.
The only book that will really focus on the activities of the 102 USCT in combat.
About Detroit, this shows Black Michigan as it’s going into the civil war. It shows what’s going on here and what our community looks like and talks about recruiting for the 102 United States Colored Troops.
The only book on Michigan Black soldiers.
Talks about African American participation in the Civil War.
Features letters from Ypsilanti soldiers.
Talks about radical politics in the Civil War that doesn’t show up in a lot of other works about the Civil War.
Photograph of Charles Pattison
The story of the image
Ypsilanti’s African American community is bound by blood to one of the most iconic events in United States history. Five Ypsilanti men were participants in the event depicted here, made famous in modern times through the movie Glory. The assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina in July, 1863 by the Fifty Fourth Massachusetts Infantry was a turning point in African American involvement in the Civil War.
Of the 600 men that charged Fort Wagner, 272 were killed, wounded, or captured. Of the five Ypsilanti men there that day, four would be killed or wounded.
Ypsilanti men Charles August and John Leatherman were among those that died from the events of that day. John Leatherman was killed in the assault. August was wounded and captured, a terrifying fate for a black soldier, and died shortly after at Andersonville Prison. William Scott, Napoleon Hamilton and Elias Rouse were also in the assault. Rouse and Hamilton were both wounded.
After the war, Elias Rouse married Mary Gay, the widow of John Gay, an Ypsilanti man who had died of disease serving with the 102nd USCT in South Carolina. Together Elias and Mary raised the fatherless children and had a child of their own. They lived at the northeast corner of Emmet and Ballard Streets for decades. Elias died in 1899 and is the only member of the Fifty Fourth Massachusetts buried in Ypsilanti’s Highland Cemetery.
The story of the image
At least seven Ypsilantians were at this iconic moment of the Civil War. Entering the ruins singing “John Brown’s Body,” the freedom fighters of the 55th Massachusetts Infantry liberated the citadel of the Confederacy, Charleston, South Carolina on February 21, 1865. Dozens of other Black Ypsilanti soldiers would enter Charleston the following days with the 102nd USCT and 54th Massachusetts Infantry.
The story of the image
“They Died To Make Their Country Free.” View of Ypsilanti’s Highland Cemetery Civil War Soldiers Monument from around the time it was erected in 1895.
Without the view on the heights above the Huron River obscured by trees, the monument was visible from many parts of the city, as the city is visible in the valley below the cemetery. The monument was meant to be seen and see over. The causes and meaning of the Civil War were being contested, and in many cases “rewritten” in 1895, as Jim Crow and the retreat from Reconstruction remolded the war in many minds.
The monument is a reminder to this community, as the generation that fought the war began to pass away, of both the cause of those who fought and the memory of their lives by their children, friends and family. Below the monument lie both Black and white soldiers, their Ypsilanti resting place less segregated than their lived lives here, the plot being consecrated at a time when segregation was brutally codified in law and practice across the country.
The monument speaks as much to the concerns, memories, and aspirations of the people who dedicated it in 1895 as it does to those that fought in 1865. Monuments are often more about their own time and history than the stories they seek to tell.
The story of the image
A list of the Michigan-raised 102d United States Colored Troops who were killed, died, or wounded during the Civil War. Included are many Ypsilantians.
Died (Name, where enlisted, age at enlistment, cause of death, place of death, date of death, place of burial)
Archie, Turner Detroit 44 Disease Beaufort SC June 6, 1864 Beaufort SC
Artis, Heziah Calvin, Cass County 23 Disease Beaufort SC July 4,1865
Artis, Levi Detroit 18 Disease Detroit February 24, 1864
Artis, Matthew Calvin, Cass County 27 Died Detroit April 10,1864 Detroit
Bailey, James Detroit 18 Disease Beaufort SC November 20, 1864 Beaufort SC
Barton, Thomas Porter, Cass County 45 Died April 3, 1865 Buried Arlington Lower
Basey, James S Detroit 28 Disease Willets Point, NY March 12,1865 Cypress Hill Cemetery, NY
Batt, Andrew J Detroit 20 Wounds at Devaux Neck December 26, 1864 Beaufort SC
Berry, Allison Marshall 35 Died Beaufort SC October 8,1864 Beaufort SC
Bowden, John Cassopolis 19 Disease Beaufort SC November 14, 1864 Beaufort SC
Bright, Thomas 33 Died Detroit March 7, 1864
Brown, Cornelius 18 Kalamazoo Died Beaufort SC June 18, 1865 Beaufort SC
Brown, John 27 Detroit Died Detroit January 17, 1864
Caleman, Benjamin Sodus 27 Died New York Harbor February, 6, 1865 Cypress Hill Cemetery, NY
Callaway, Albert Porter 37 Died Beaufort SC July 26, 1864
Campbell, Harrison Detroit 27 KIA Devaux Neck December 10, 1864
Carter, Henry Detroit 19 Died Beaufort SC March 26, 1865 Beaufort SC
Chin, Charles Detroit 19 Died Beaufort SC July 5, 1864 Beaufort SC
Coleman, John W Madison 18 Disease Beaufort SC July 2, 1864 Beaufort SC
Connor, Aldrick Detroit 18 Died Beaufort SC June 27, 1864 Beaufort SC
Conway, David R Detroit 28 Died Beaufort SC August 1, 1864 Beaufort SC
Cox, Newell Died May 1, 1865 Beaufort SC
Day, Chauncey Detroit 23 Died Pocataligo SC February 7, 1865
Dotson, John Ypsilanti 23 Disease Mt. Pleasant SC September 26, 1865
Douglas, Stephen Died February 16, 1864 buried Detroit
Dudley, George A Grand Haven 37 Died Beaufort SC July 6, 1864 Beaufort SC
Duncan, Frederick Detroit 40 Disease Beaufort SC October 13, 1864 Beaufort SC
Edwards, William Detroit 37 Died Beaufort SC June 29, 1864 Beaufort SC
Emmons, Joshua Detroit 31 Died Beaufort SC July 4, 1864 Beaufort SC
Evans, Daniel Columbus 21 Died Beaufort SC October 14, 1864 Beaufort SC
Fitzgerald, Edward Kalamazoo 18 Died April 9, 1864 Detroit
Ford, Edward Howard, MI 18 Disease Beaufort SC January 14, 1865 Beaufort SC
Franklin, West Richmond 21 Died Beaufort SC June 28, 1864 Beaufort SC
Fulks, Samuel Detroit 21 Died Beaufort SC October 14, 1864 Beaufort SC
Gay, John Ypsilanti 34 Disease Beaufort SC March 11, 1865 Beaufort SC
Gayton, Allen Kalamazoo 21 Disease Annapolis Junction, MD April 24, 1864 National Cemetery, Baltimore
Gibson, Jefferson Monguagon 28 Died Baltimore, MD June 18, 1864 Laurel Hill National Cemetery, Baltimore
Grayson, Amos Pontiac 21 Died Beaufort SC May 16, 1865 Beaufort SC
Grayson, Charles H Grass Lake 23 Died Beaufort SC November 11, 1864 Beaufort SC
Grayson, John W Grass Lake 18 Died Beaufort SC July 4, 1864 Beaufort SC
Green, Benjamin Lansing 18 Accidentally Shot Detroit February 21, 1864
Gray (Guy?), Martin L Kalamazoo 21 Died Detroit December 3, 1863
Hall, Eli Detroit 18 Disease Beaufort SC January 5, 1865
Hansen, Henry Detroit 36 Disease Detroit June 23, 1864
Hardee, William Detroit 29 Died of Accidental Wounds Beaufort SC January 11, 1865 Beaufort SC
Harris, Henry Detroit 25 Died Annapolis, MD January 20, 1865
Harris, Henry S Detroit 22 Of Wounds Honey Hill Charleston SC February 28, 1865
Henderson, William S Detroit 23 Died Beaufort SC May 26, 1864 Beaufort SC
Henry, William Detroit 18 Died Annapolis, MD April 21, 1864
Herssler, Henry Died January 21, 1864 buried Detroit
Hill, John Macomb 41 Died Savanah, GA June 18, 1865
Hill, John Jackson 27 Died Beaufort SC May 11, 1865 Beaufort SC
Hill, Noah Lansing 18 KIA Swift Creek, SC April 19, 1865
Holmes, David Detroit 32 Died Detroit April 5, 1864 Detroit
Holmes, John Detroit 32 Died Beaufort SC June 24, 1864 Beaufort SC
Holmes, John Died February 16, 1864 Detroit
Howland, Robert J Detroit 21 Died Hilton Head SC June 14, 1864 Hilton Head SC
Huddleston, Richard Jackson 22 Died Baltimore, MD May 28, 1864 Laurel Hill National Cemetery, Baltimore
Jefferson, Reuben T New Florence 32 Died Beaufort SC December 31, 1864 Beaufort SC
Johnson, Alexander Detroit 20 Of Wounds Devaux Neck December 22, 1864 Beaufort SC
Johnson, Josiah Detroit 18 Disease Hilton Head SC May 20, 1864 Hilton Head SC
Jordan, George Detroit 17 Died Beaufort SC March 8, 1865 Beaufort SC
Lee, John Detroit 18 Disease Hilton Head SC May 9, 1864 Hilton Head SC
Lett, John Sodus 23 Died Beaufort SC June 24, 1865 Beaufort SC
Lett, William Detroit 43 Disease Beaufort SC October 28, 1864 Beaufort SC
Lindsay, Arad E (white officer) Ionia KIA Honey Hill November 30, 1864
Love, Abraham Niles 21 Disease Detroit February 13, 1864 Detroit
Lyons, George Detroit 19 “Shot while attempting to run the guards” Detroit February 4, 1864
Manuel, Miles Detroit 23 Died Detroit December 29, 1863
Martin, Henry Detroit 42 Died Savannah, GA May 10, 1865
Marshall, Joseph Pontiac 22 Of Wounds Honey Hill Beaufort SC December 22, 1864 Beaufort SC
Mason, William Detroit 48 Of Wounds Salkehatchie, SC February 9, 1865
Mathews, Benjamin Detroit 23 Disease January 25, 1864
Mathews, Allison L Calvin, Cass 21 Disease Orangeburg, SC August 6, 1865
Miller, Michael Detroit 27 Died Beaufort SC September 30, 1864 Beaufort SC
Mitchell, Allen Detroit 38 Died Beaufort SC May 17, 1865 Beaufort SC
Moore, George Detroit 22 Died Hilton Head SC July 1, 1864
Moore, Thomas Detroit 33 Disease Detroit March 21, 1864
Moran, Charles A Detroit 18 Disease Beaufort SC October 20, 1864 Beaufort SC
Murray, John L Detroit 34 Died Charleston SC April 12, 1865
Nelson, William R Detroit 23 Disease Orangeburg SC June 30, 1865
Norman, William St. Joseph 22 Died Beaufort SC February 4, 1865 Beaufort SC
Ogden, Robert Detroit 28 Died Beaufort SC February 5, 1865 Beaufort SC
Oliver, Jesse Ypsilanti 35 Of Wounds Bradford Springs Charlestown SC July 6, 1865
Page, William Detroit 21 Died Beaufort SC September, 1864 Beaufort SC
Patterson, Samuel Kalamazoo 21 Disease Beaufort SC October 11, 1864 Beaufort SC
Payne, David Detroit 44 Died Baltimore MD May 30, 1864
Payton, Harrison Detroit 32 Disease Detroit February 8, 1864 Detroit
Perdue, Noah Kalamazoo 23 Disease Beaufort SC August 4, 1864 Beaufort SC
Perynce, Henry Died April 12, 1864 Detroit
Porter, William Detroit 27 MIA Magnolia, FL August 17, 1864
Reed, Elijah Grand Rapids 19 Disease Orangeburg SC May 31, 1865
Reed, Jeremiah Grand Rapids 28 Disease September 29, 1865
Rice, Wilson Detroit 34 Died Beaufort SC September 14, 1864 Beaufort SC
Richardson, George Detroit 40 Disease Beaufort SC April 10, 1865 Beaufort SC
Robertson, Alexander Detroit 36 Died Beaufort SC March 5, 1865 Beaufort SC
Robinson, Alexander Detroit 19 Disease Annapolis MD April 15, 1864 Annapolis MD
Robinson, Thomas Detroit 18 Died Beaufort SC January 29, 1865 Beaufort SC
Rolland, George W Detroit 41 Died October 11, 1865 buried Hilton Head SC
Russell, James Pontiac 25 Died Beaufort SC May 22, 1865 Beaufort SC
Sandy, William Detroit 23 Died Georgetown SC April 12, 1865
Scott, Andrew Battle Creek 29 Died Deveaux Neck December 27, 1864
Shamberg, James Detroit 35 Disease Beaufort SC October 17, 1864 Beaufort SC
Silwood, Silas Detroit 40 Disease David’s Island NY Harbor January 28, 1865
Simpson, Peter Detroit 23 Disease Beaufort SC July 14, 1864 Beaufort SC
Smith, Greyson Detroit 20 Died Beaufort SC July 9, 1864 Beaufort SC
Smith, James Detroit 18 Disease Beaufort SC October 18, 1864 Beaufort SC
Smith, James Flint 18 Died October 24, 1864 Lower Cemetery, Arlington
Smith, William Detroit 29 Disease Beaufort SC September 25, 1864 Beaufort SC
Smith, William H Detroit 32 KIA near Bradford Springs SC April 18, 1865
Steele, William Detroit 41 Died Beaufort SC July 29, 1864 Beaufort SC
Stephenson, Martin Detroit 21 Died Coosa SC October 7, 1864 Beaufort SC
Stewart, George W Calvin, Cass County 21 Died Beaufort SC July 27, 1864 Beaufort SC
Streight, William P Died Beaufort SC December 28, 1864 Beaufort SC
Summerville, Jack Detroit 48 Died Beaufort SC July 28, 1865 Beaufort SC
Thompson, John F Died September 1, 1864 Beaufort SC
Valentine, Shadrick Grand Rapids 32 Died November 1, 1864 Lower Cemetery, Arlington
Wade, Berry Calvin, Cass County 21 Died Beaufort SC September 22, 1864 Beaufort SC
Wade, John Detroit 18 KIA Honey Hill November 30, 1864
Walker, Jacob Detroit 19 Disease Hilton Head SC June 8, 1864 Hilton Head SC
Walker, Wilson Detroit 36 Died Orangeburg SC July 5, 1865
Wanzer, Charles H Detroit 19 Died Baltimore, MD July 15, 1864 Laurel Hill National Cemetery Baltimore MD
Washington, William E Detroit 18 Died Niles, MI December 12, 1863
Weaver, William P Ypsilanti 27 Died Beaufort SC June 28, 1864 Beaufort SC
White, Henry Cassopolis 20 Died Beaufort SC August 7, 1864 Beaufort SC
Wiggins, John C Detroit 25 “From Wounds Received Running the Guard” April 4, 1865 Savannah GA
Williams, George W Calvin, Cass County 27 Disease Columbia SC August 14, 1865
Williams, John Died Orangeburg SC July 8, 1865
Wilson, George Kalamazoo 18 Died December 10, 1864 Lower Cemetery Arlington VA
Wilson, Thomas Detroit 19 Died Beaufort SC July 4, 1864 Beaufort SC
Wright, Cortes Detroit 23 Drowned in Congaree River Columbia SC September 10, 1865
Yarba, Jerry Detroit 18 Disease Beaufort SC June 25, 1865 Beaufort SC
York, George Ypsilanti 15 Died Ypsilanti April 18, 1864
Wounded (Name, place of enlistment, age at enlistment, where wounded)
Allen, Squire Detroit 25 Deveaux Neck
Alvord, Henry Honey Hill
Appleton, George Detroit 34 Deveaux Neck
Bass, Sylvester Detroit 22 Deveaux Neck
Battles, Wilson Detroit 37 Deveaux Neck
Bell, Nathaniel Detroit 26 Deveaux Neck
Bradbury, Sherrod Detroit 28 Deveaux Neck
Brown, Theodore Detroit 36 Deveaux Neck
Buckner, John Detroit 26 Honey Hill
Byrd, Crawford Detroit 17 Deveaux Neck
Carey, Aquilla R Overiell 38 Bradford Springs
Crockett, David Detroit 28 Deveaux Neck
Daly, Henry Mt. Clemens 21 Deveaux Neck
Davis, Nathan Detroit 18 Deveaux Neck
Estes, James Detroit 22 Honey Hill
Fanner, Andrew Buchanan, Michigan 18 wounded
Ford, Jerry Ann Arbor 23 Honey Hill
Gaines, Thomas S Battle Creek 17 Deveaux Neck
Goodman, Daniel Detroit 26 Honey Hill
Gray, John e Ypsilanti 22 Honey Hill
Grigsby, Andrew Detroit 21 Deveaux Neck
Hackley, Asbery Niles 26 Deveaux Neck
Harper, Benjamin Ypsilanti 20 Bradford Springs
Harrison, Henry Detroit 21 Honey Hill
Hoard, Richard Marshall 23 Deveaux Neck
Hopkins, James Detroit 21 Deveaux Neck
Horden, Isaac Kalamazoo 19 Honey Hill
Jackson, Simon S Detroit 21 Deveaux Neck
Jefferson, Thomas Kalamazoo 22 Deveaux Neck
Johnson, Isaac Detroit 29 Honey Hill
Johnson, Richard Salem 37 Deveaux Neck
Jones, George Detroit 26 Georgetown SC
Kersey, Edward Detroit 18 Deveaux Neck
Lett, John Detroit 29 Deveaux Neck
Lewis, Thomas Detroit 21 Bradford Springs
Madry, Jesse Detroit 23 Deveaux Neck
Marshall, Ehpriam 40 Deveaux Neck
Mathews, Francis Detroit 30 Deveaux Neck
Mitchell, John Kalamazoo 19 Deveaux Neck
Morgan, Joseph H Ypsilanti 21 Honey Hill
Mow, Robert Detroit 26 Bradford Springs
Murphy, William J Detroit 45 Bradford Springs
Parrot, Nelson Detroit 26 Deveaux Neck
Powell, Thomas H Jackson 34 Honey Hill
Ross, James H Parma 19 Bradford Springs
Russell, John Kalamazoo 18 Deveaux Neck
Smith, Jacob Detroit 21 Honey Hill
Strother, David Battle Creek 22 Honey Hill
Thomas, Alfred E, Jackson 27 Deveaux Neck
Thompson, Ezekial Detroit 45 Honey Hill
Thompson, William Detroit 18 Deveuax Neck
Turner, Taylor Annapolis 18 Deveaux Neck
VenDyke, Lewis Detroit 23 Deveaux Neck
Washington, George Detroit 26 Deveaux Neck
Washington, George Detroit 24 Honey Hill
Washington, George E 19 Deveaux Neck
Watts, Albert Detroit 23 Deveaux Neck
West, Joseph Detroit 23 Deveaux Neck
White, Philip Detroit 20 Honey Hill
Williams, Gabriel Detroit 30 Deveaux Neck
The story of the image

John Anderson was born Edmund and enslaved by the Sullivan family (namesakes of Sullivan, Missouri) when he made his escape as a young man in the early 1850s. John headed for Canada, but ended up here in Washtenaw at first living on the Rowe farm near Manchester. John married Ypsilanti’s Lucy York in 1867. Lucy was born in Ypsilanti to Washington and Sarah York, from Kentucky, in the 1840s and were founders of Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal church. The Yorks were among Ypsilanti’s earliest Black families.

Two of their sons, David and George York fought in the Civil War (George dying at only 15 of disease) with John, who joined Company A of the 102d United States Colored Troops in the last months of the War, but participated in Potter’s Raid through South Carolina where he, himself a fugitive from slavery, and his comrades, including his future brother-in-law David York, helped to liberate thousands of people in April, 1865.

On return, John and family had a small farm in Sharon Township before moving to Ypsilanti. They lived and raised their five children at 303 South Adams for nearly fifty years, just across the street from Lucy’s brother David and his family. The Andersons contributed greatly to the building of Ypsilanti and the life of its Black community. Lucy and John’s son, Fred Anderson, became an early President of Ypsilanti’s pioneering NAACP Chapter in the 1910s.

The man who owned him, Stephen Sullivan, was ruined during the Civil War, arrested for supporting Confederate guerillas in Missouri. Two of the Sullivan boys fought with Confederate guerillas and were killed by Union cavalry troops “refusing to surrender.” John lived to old age and to see his great grand-children before he died.