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AfriGeneas States Research Forum

[OH] [MS] Crew members of USS Petrel

African-American crew members of USS Petrel (Ohio & Mississippi)

Thanks for responding. Did you know that at least three ancestors of this African-American Strange family were Civil War army veterans? Reuben Strange (c. 1817-1889) and sons William E. Strange (c. 1846-1886), and George F. Strange (c. 1849-1913) all served in the Union army. At least two of them, Reuben and William, also served in the Union navy on the USS Petrel, a tin-clad gunboat that was captured during battle at Yazoo City, Mississippi.

I recently got word that a relative of one of the Confederate officers who helped capture the USS Petrel is looking for information about Petrel crew members, including several African Americans, for a memorial ceremony and historical marker at the Yazoo River battle site. In some battle reports I've read the black crew members are referred to as “contrabands” (formerly enslaved war refugees). Apparently some escaping slaves and war refugees were recruited “on the river.”

Reuben Strange and William Strange were USS Petrel crew members, although I’m not absolutely sure they were present at the Yazoo City battle. After the capture of USS Petrel, Reuben (wife Maria), William (wife Sarah), and George (wife Mary) all enlisted as privates in Ohio USCT regiments. They definitely were not “contrabands” but free residents of Ohio since about 1840. Reuben and William held the navy rating or rank of “seaman” while many of the war refugees were ranked at the lowest rating, “boy.” Others were rated as “coal heaver,” “fireman,” or possibly “landsman” (inexperienced sailor).

Members of the Strange family applied for and probably received military pensions, apparently with the help of Amos Huffman of who worked as a clerk/attorney specializing in pensions. This is probably the same Amos Huffman of Wilmington, OH who also served in an Ohio regiment of the Union army and later moved to California.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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