There are several versions of the service records of black soldiers
who served from Yates County. The most complete seems to be from Robert
H. Graham's Yates County's "Boys in Blue" 1861-1865. In the section
on 1863 recruits, beginning on page 106, Graham says: "On December 28th
the first colored men in the county to volunteer were recruited, and
they, with others who enlisted during the week following, were assigned
to the 26th US Colored Troops...."
But there were a few black county residents drafted in 1863. The 8th
USCT was organized and mustered into service November 3rd.
Most of its men were from Pennsylvania, but practically all the black
draftees or substitutes from western NY were sent to it, among them
2 Yates County men: James R. Fayette, age 22 and Abraham Patterson,
age 25, both of Starkey, both drafted July 31. Fayette died of wounds
in March 1865.
William Lawson of Starkey, age 35, enlisted in the 5th Massachusetts
Colored Cavalry at Newton MA on 24 Dec 1863. He was discharged for disability
the following June.
Authority to raise the 26th USCT was granted to the Loyal
League of New York City, and its ranks were filled in 20 days. All the
Yates County men who enlisted were mustered in at Cananadaigua 5 January
1864 for 3 years. They saw service at Charleston SC and were mustered
out 28 August 1865 at Hilton Head. Recruits from this County included:
Sidney M. Babcock of Torrey, age 20; Stephen J. Beames of Penn Yan,
age 28; John Butler of Penn Yan, age 40; William Johnson of Milo, age
30; William Kane of Starkey, age 28; Amos Riggs Jr of Branchport, age
20; Henry Shears of Starkey, age 37; George Steadman of Benton, age
22; Samuel Steadman of Milo, age 21; Charles W. Taylor of Benton, age
21. Jacob Finess of Otsego County was credited to Torrey, and Benjamin
Williams, another out-of-county recruit, was credited to Milo. Of these,
Beames was wounded and Riggs died of disease during his term.
By the summer of 1864 local communities were offering tremendous bounties
to recruits. In August 1864, the County Treasurer traveled to New Berne
NC to secure some recruits who might be credited to the county against
the draft quota. He did enlist 11 men, 10 of them black. By the end
of the year the county was offering up to $850, to which the towns were
adding inducements of up to $450. Recruits came from all over, including
an entire squad from Bradford Co., PA.
Henderson M. Leary of New Berne, age 18, enlisted for Benton in the
1st NC Cavalry.
The following men enlisted in the 37th USCT at New Berne:
Henry Fennell for Milo, Redman Grice for Middlesex; Providence James
for Benton; Fleet Johnson for Milo; Charles Oats for Middlesex; Dick
Strinkfield for Potter; Isaac Vaughn for Potter; James Wells for Milo;
Toney Wells for Potter; and Isaac Whitby for Benton.
The following enlisted in the 20th USCT: George Bliss of
Prattsburg for Torrey; Nelson Jones of Milo, age 19, for Leicester in
Livingston Co.; John Perry of Prattsburg for Torrey; William VanHorn
of Potter, age 34; Peter Washington of Potter, age 18, a substitute
for Frank O. Chamberlain of Potter; Martin Wigden of Prattsburg for
Charles Sanders of Penn Yan, age 15 years (he said he was 18), enlisted
in the 29th USCT 26 Sep 1864 and was discharged for disability
William H. McClure of Winchester VA enlisted in the 2nd
District of Columbia Infantry for Potter on 3 October 1864. He deserted
1 November. He was a substitute for James W. Corey of Potter.
The last draft, that of 1865, was for 335 men. So few were secured
against this quota that once again bounties were raised, to the point
where the banks were refusing to handle any more bonds for the purpose,
and private subscriptions were sought. There are records of men receiving
as much as $1200 for enlistment bounties.
Ebenezer Haddin was an out-of-county substitute for George H. Banks
of Benton; he served in the 25th USCT.
The following served in the 38th USCT: William Brooks, a
Canadian, was a substitute for James R. Secor of Potter (he is on record
as deserting from three different regiments, including this one); John
Butler was an out-of-county substitute for Morgan D. Tracey of Milo;
Joseph VanCleaf was an out-of-county substitute for Ransom White of
William H. Corey of Staten Island was credited to Starkey; he served
in the 114th USCT.
The following, all from out of county, enlisted in the 10th
USCT: John Allen for Benton; George Connell of Delaware for Benton;
James M. Davis of Maryland for Benton; John Minisee (formerly of Penn
Yan) of Michigan for Milo.
Charles Johnson of Prattsburg enlisted in the 20th USCT
for Torrey; he was paid a county bounty but never turned up on the regiment's
records. He is one of only three men (out of nearly 2000) credited to
or a resident of Yates County who Graham was unable to locate on War
Department documents, a remarkable achievement.
Walter Wolcott's 1895 Military History of Yates County only
lists a few black soldiers, beginning on page 123, as follows:
Company A, 26th NY Infantry: Privates Sidney Babcock, Stephen
John Beames, John Butler, William Johnson, Amos Riggs, George Steadman,
Henry Hamilton, private, Comapny E, 54th MA Infantry; Nelson
Jones, private, Company K, 20th NY Infantry; William Maxfield,
private, Company I, 6th USCT; Frank Suzey, private, Company
K, 14th RI Infantry; Thomas Jefferson VanHouten, private,
Company E, 14th RI Infantry; Henry Hale, wagoner.
In addition to these, Robert Smith of Company F, 54th MA;
and Henry C. Jacobs of Company F, 20th USCT have marked graves
in Lakeview Cemetery in Penn Yan. Butler and Beames from Graham's book,
and Maxfield and VanHouten from Wolcott's list are also buried in Lakeview,
with their service noted on their gravestones.