African American Civil War Veterans

This Directory documents the names, companies, and regiments of 1,868 African American Delaware residents in 49 regiments who were veterans of the Civil War. The total encompasses 1,446 native-born residents and 422 veterans who moved to Delaware after the war. Also included are an explanation of the research methodology underpinning the identification of these veterans and a historical background to enlistment and the regiments.

“History, Chronology, and Analysis of Local U.S. Colored Infantry Regiments” as a printable/downloadable PDF document.

About the Author

Ken Finlayson is the 2021-22 Vice President of the Delaware Genealogical Society and Senior Vice Commander of the Appomattox Camp 2, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Wilmington, Delaware.

Ken has 29 years of experience in genealogy and historical research. His book: “The Butterfield Trail in Western Yuma County, Arizona” received the Arizona Historical Society ‘Bent Spittoon’ best nominated annual research award. He authored “Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery, GAR Soldier’s Section History, Relocation, and Soldiers’ Biographies”.

Mr. Finlayson has completed almost 300 biographies of Civil War veterans and coordinated several ancestor-descendant memorial ceremonies. He is a descendant of a Civil War cavalry sergeant and is a U.S. Army combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

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Given the history of African American participation in the Civil War was encased in a very complex overriding social order that effected every aspect of military events, it was an honor for me to have the review and counsel of three knowledgeable and recognized African American historians. While not only reviewing the data and analysis, their comments and advice on the social context of the presenting data in this Directory was invaluable.

Fred Minus, who has a long and rich family history in Kent County, Delaware is a national lecturer and reenactor in slavery, Revolutionary War, and Civil War history. He is a descendant of a veteran of the Revolutionary War and veterans of both the 3rd and 22nd U.S. Colored Infantry. His review and deep knowledge of regimental histories was indispensable. I am honored to have spent many hours in uniform with Fred at many events. 

Syl Woolford is a masters-level Rutgers University graduate who is currently a prolific lecturer of all facets of black history. His family history extends back over 200 years in the City of Newark, Delaware, as well as connections with Harriet Tubman’s legendary efforts of freeing slaves in Dorchester County, Maryland. Syl has been active in the Delaware Heritage Commission, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the Delaware Genealogical Society, and the National African American Civil War Museum. Syl’s goal of integrating black history is inspiring.

Cheryl Renee Gooch, PhD, is the author of Hinsonville’s Heroes: Black Civil War Soldiers of Chester County, Pennsylvania, as well as numerous articles on the African American experience. She is an avid genealogist and has a deep interest in uncovering the overlooked and forgotten African American cultural history. Cheryl’s future research advice, especially in the area of pension discrimination and descendant participation, is a valuable contribution to further work in this important subject. 

Special acknowledgement to the DGS Board team for review and webpage technical support and DGS past president Irene Heffran Monley for her tireless assistance with formatting and review.

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Photograph: Cpl. William E. Oliver, Company K, 32nd U.S. Colored Infantry

William was born in 1835 in Milton, Delaware, to Thomas Oliver and Mary Jane Collins. He was bound to a white farmer, Thomas Robinson, until he was 21. William married Nancy Jane Welburn in Blackwater, Delaware, near Millville on March 1858.

Corporal Oliver was drafted as a free man for three years with Company K, 32nd U.S. Colored Infantry at 26 years of age on 4 March 1864 in Upper Providence Township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He trained at Camp William Penn. William spent his entire tour of duty in South Carolina where his regiment fought in the battles of Honey Hill, Boyd’s Neck, Devaux’s Neck, James Island, Dingle’s Mills, Statesboro, Boykin’s Mills, and the occupation of Charleston and Camden, South Carolina. He mustered out on 22 August 1865.

After the war, Nancy and William settled in Baltimore Hundred, Sussex County, and successfully owned and farmed 119 acres and raised eight children. In 1884, the family sold the farm and became ministers with the A.M.E. Church. He received his veteran pension in 1887. William E. Oliver died on 8 September 1912, and is buried in the Antioch A.M.E. Church Cemetery in Frankford, Delaware. Nancy died six years later.

With Permission, Kimberly Chase-Longus

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