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Re: Still unable to document Civil War service

Yes, that is my ancestor, Uriah Wise (born c. 1840 in Virginia), married to Hannah, with several children and stepchildren, living in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania c. 1878-1909. His name is misspelled in 1900 census. My ancestors are also listed in tax rolls as freeholders (property owners) in Chambersburg from 1899. That's the information I've compiled already.

The difficulty I'm having is to prove (or disprove) that my ancestor served in the Civil War, as seems to be indicated by the 1890 Veterans Census that includes Uriah Wise, US soldier, of Chambersburg, PA. I have never found membership lists for the two GAR organizations in the Chambersburg area.

There is no pension file indexed for Uriah Wise or widow Hannah Wise of Chambersburg, PA and so far no military record for my ancestor. Perhaps he was one of the many "contrabands" (formerly enslaved war refugees) who worked for the Union without actually joining the army. I've always assumed that he was born into slavery because I've found no written record of him before his 1867 marriage to Hannah in Fauquier County, VA. I know that former slaves helped to build fortifications at Manassas Junction. Perhaps Uriah was one of them. (See passage below from NY TIMES)

Of the six Civil War military records for Uriah Wise or similar name (at least five different men, in six different white military units) not one seems to match what I know of my ancestor unless he is the unknown Uriah Wise who served with Co. H, G, 6th KS cavalry, a white Civil War regiment. If I apply for that man's military file it might include something about his background; but I've never heard or found any information that would place my ancestor in Kansas. I have ruled out all the other men by a process of elimination. I've traced each Civil War soldier with the same or similar name in census & other available records in order to be sure that none was my ancestor, and that none other than my ancestor was born in Virginia.

According to family legend, our ancestor Uriah Wise was possibly biracial, with a pale complexion. Therefore I have entertained the possibility that during the Civil War he could have joined a white regiment, as I've found no Uriah Wise in any USCT regiment. I just read about a forthcoming book by Juanita Patience Moss, listing 2,000 black Civil War soldiers who served with white regiments, like her ancestor who was a cook in a white Union regiment.

My ancestor seems to be counted twice in the 1880 census of Franklin County, PA: as a black household head in Chambersburg, and also as a white hired laborer in Guilford, five miles from Chambersburg. These two could be one as their age is similar and both were born in Virginia. In every other census year my ancestor is the only Uriah Wise that was born in Virgina. I've found no Confederate soldiers or slaveholders named Uriah Wise. All known Civil War soldiers with this name were on the Union side. I know that Uriah's stepdaughter Celia was also counted twice in several years: as a family member of her black household, and also as a servant in a white household. So it is possible to speculate that in 1880 Uriah was counted as a black man with his family, and also counted as a white man at work. (If so, Uriah would not be the only African American to be identified as "white" in the census.) Therefore it seems reasonable to believe that my ancestor is the "US Soldier" of Chambersburg, PA that is counted in the 1890 Veterans Schedule.

From New York Times, June 16, 1861:

Some seventy-five negroes, from Fauquier County, arrived here this evening, and were immediately put at the fortifications, for which purpose they came. Others are said to be coming. “Affairs at Manassas Junction: A letter to the Lynchburgh Republican, dated Manassas Junction, June 6,” New York Times (1857-Current file); June 16, 1861; ProQuest Historical Newspapers THE NEW YORK TIMES (1851-2003), pg. 3

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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