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Black History Month
Reliving the stories from black Civil War veterans who lived in Southern Illinois

MURPHYSBORO — It’s no secret that black soldiers played a prominent role in the Union Army during the Civil War.

There are reported numbers of more than 200,000 black soldiers entering the union, and 37,000 soldiers died. Most black soldiers were escaped slaves who served in segregated units.

Many of these soldiers are scattered throughout the country, several buried in unmarked graves. The following reflects a few of the many black soldiers who landed in Jackson County after the Civil War. Most of the information was compiled by P. Michael Jones at the John A. Logan Museum and a sixth grade class he taught in 1993 for a class project.

Samuel Dalton (1839-1920)

Part of Samuel Dalton’s life is still visible in Murphysboro at 1610 Oak St. The home he purchased from Gen. John A. Logan’s estate in 1887 for $150 now stands just feet from the John A. Logan Museum.

Like many of the black soldiers in the war, Dalton’s history before discharging from combat is mostly unknown. It is known he was born a slave near Richmond, Virginia, in about 1839, and at the beginning of the war, he was a field hand in Bolivar County, Mississippi.

Nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on Jan. 1, 1863, Dalton ran away from his owner and enlisted in the Union Navy at White Station, Mississippi.

He spent seven months on the U.S.S. Juliet, which was attacked in April 1864 by the Confederate Army. From there, Dalton was transferred to the U.S.S. Hastings until his discharge at Cairo in December 1864.

Navy records describe Dalton as about 5 feet 5 inches tall, with brown eyes and a dark complexion. He married Mary S. Stanton in Murphysboro in March 1870. Reports say Dalton stated he could not read, but he could write.

Records say Dalton died at 1:30 p.m. June 7, 1920, in his home. He is buried in Tower Grove Cemetery in an unmarked grave. He was one of very few black men for whom an obituary appeared in the Murphysboro Independent.

The Rev. Henry Guy (1827-1902)

Henry Guy was born a slave in Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1827. He married a slave named Nancy from a nearby farm, but her owner sold her to a man in Mississippi and they never saw each other again.

After he gained his freedom with the Emancipation Proclamation, Guy joined Company A of the First Alabama Colored Troops in May 1863, and one month later married his second wife, former slave Hannah Ricks. Along with other freed slaves, Hannah then traveled to Cairo to await the war’s end while her husband returned to military duty.

Jackson County's African-American Civil War Veterans: The Rev. Henry Guy

Editor's Note: Throughout February, The Southern will run a series of profiles of Civil War veterans on Sundays. The profiles are from a special exhibit at the John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro called "Forgotten Soldiers: Jackson County's African-American Civil War Veterans." The exhibit is part of A Celebration of Freedom, which commemorates Black History Month.

Redesignated the 55th USCT, Guy’s regiment fought at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads. Taken prisoner along with 2,200 Union soldiers at Ripley, Mississippi, Guy was treated for injuries to his ear and eye by a doctor at a Confederate hospital. He attempted escape, but was recaptured and taken to Brook’s Station near Meridian, Mississippi.

Guy was able to escape and get to Memphis, where he rejoined his unit. He was eventually promoted to corporal in October 1864 and discharged Dec. 31, 1865.

After the war, he returned to Cairo to start a family in Elkville, an active black community by 1870. He began his career as a farmer, but by 1880, he was the community’s minister. In 1885, he moved his family to Murphysboro.

Guy died on Dec. 25, 1902, and is buried in an unmarked grave in Holliday Cemetery north of Murphysboro. He received a memorial headstone in City Cemetery in 1994.

Provided by P. Michael Jones 

The tombstone of Civil War soldier Henry Guy.

Harrison Green (1846-1929)

Harrison Green was born in Mississippi on May 25, 1846.

He enlisted as a private in Company H of the 2nd Missouri Colored infantry at Benton Barracks, Missouri, in late 1863 or early 1864. He rose to the rank of sergeant major before his regiment was disbanded in January 1867 in Louisiana.

After the war, Green attended Hillsdale College in Michigan from December 1875 to March 1876, as preparation to become a teacher. By 1880, he was a minister of the Free Baptist denomination, pastoring in Missouri and Kentucky.

Jackson County's African-American Civil War Veterans: Harrison Green

Editor's Note: Throughout February, The Southern will run a series of profiles of Civil War veterans on Sundays. The profiles are from a special exhibit at the John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro called "Forgotten Soldiers: Jackson County's African-American Civil War Veterans." The exhibit is part of A Celebration of Freedom, which commemorates Black History Month.

In 1906, Green moved to Carbondale to become the pastor of Olivet Free Will Baptist Church, at 409 N. Marion St., until his retirement. That church is still active in Carbondale.

Green had his obituary published in both the Murphysboro and Carbondale newspapers when he died on Jan. 1, 1929. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery.

Provided by P. Michael Jones 

The headstone of Harrison Green.

Alexander Beaver (1829-1893)

Alexander Beaver was born a slave in 1829 in Tennessee.

On Aug. 4, 1863, he volunteered for the Union Army, serving as a private in Company E Fourth United States Colored Heavy Artillery. The company assembled in Columbus, Kentucky on Sept. 7, 1863, spending most of its time guarding the town of about 1,000 residents at the time.

After the war, Beaver arrived in Jackson County and in 1870, records show he lived with the family in De Soto Township working as a farm laborer. By 1880, he lived in Somerset Township and farmed for himself.

Beaver could not read or write, indicated by the fact he signed his name with a “X” when needed. But on Aug. 4, 1890, Beaver applied for a veteran’s pension with the help of attorney John Q.A. Kimmel. He was approved for the pension on June 27, 1891, and was paid $12 a month retroactive to Aug. 4.

Beaver died at age 64 in Murphysboro, but the exact date of his death in undetermined. It is likely he is buried in Murphysboro City Cemetery.

Richard Bass (1848-1929)

Richard Bass was born a free man on Oct. 8, 1848, in Henry County, Tennessee. He is the only man mentioned in this article who was born a free man.

His family moved to Illinois in 1851. In 1853 state laws were passed to keep black families out of the state, but the Bass family was “grandfathered in,” because they were already living here.

Civil War Timeline: A forgotten soldier

Editor’s note: This continues a series of reports on what happened in Southern Illinois 150 years ago during the Civil War. Reports will appear on days of significance to Southern Illinois — known at the time as Egypt.

In 1860, records show, the family lived in Union County and Bass was a farmer, before he enrolled in the Union Army in Springfield on his 16th birthday.

He was a private in Company B of the Third Regiment of the United States Colored Heavy Artillery. Because of complications from rheumatism and heart disease from exposure in May 1865, he was discharged from the military.

After the war, Bass returned to Union County, but later moved to Jackson County. He married four times. His first three wives died before him. Records show he was last married about 1900 to Nettie Walter Johnston in Decatur.

Bass died Jan. 12, 1929, at 81 years old with his last recorded address in East Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Provided by P. Michael Jones 

The tombstone of Civil War soldier Henry Guy.

Southern Illinois law enforcement officers receive training, kits for control of bleeding

CARTERVILLE — Imagine being the first person responding to an emergency call, finding someone profusely bleeding, and not being able to help.

Dr. Joseph Haake, an emergency room clinician and emergency services director for Southern Illinois Regional EMS, said this situation is not uncommon in Southern Illinois.

While emergency medical technicians, paramedics and first responders complete training on bleeding control and have equipment available, other EMS personnel may not have the equipment or the training to use it. Shawnee Preparedness and Response Coalition (SPARC) and Southern Illinois Healthcare (SIH) are working to change that.

More than 30 law enforcement officers and firefighters received Stop the Bleed training Tuesday at John A. Logan College in Carterville. Narcan training also was available to EMS personnel who needed the training to be able to deal with drug overdoses.

“SIH along with SPARC is providing training and a program that will put Narcan and Stop the Bleed kits into squad cars in the seven-county region SIH serves,” Brad Robinson, EMS systems coordinator for SIH, said.


Stop the Bleed kits of the items shown were given to officers completing training Tuesday at John A. Logan College in Carterville. 

Stop the Bleed is a national effort to make kits to treat life-threatening bleeding and the training needed to use them widely available to laypersons, similar to CPR and automated external defibrillator training. The program is sponsored by The Hartford Consensus, American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care and National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

After training, officers were given Stop the Bleed kits for their squad cars. The kits contain a bleeding control booklet, miniature compression bandage, Quick Clot Bleeding Control Dressing, gloves, a tourniquet and a waterproof permanent marker.

Angie Bailey, community benefits manager at SIH, said the training cost about $48,000 and will place kits in 400 squad cars in Franklin, Jackson, Johnson, Perry, Saline, Union and Williamson counties.

Bailey added the reality of living in Southern Illinois is that an ambulance, law enforcement and sometimes even first responders may be too far away to offer life-saving treatment for bleeding.

“The goal is to train laypersons to respond to life-threatening bleeds,” Robinson said.

“Once you take a class, you can become a trainer, if you have any medical license down to first responder,” Haake said.

The hope of SIH and SPARC is that those who qualify as trainers will offer training to community groups and churches. They will receive two kits, one to use as door prize and one to use for training. Lay persons will receive training free of charge, but will be required to purchase their own Stop the Bleed kits, which cost $69.

For many officers, the training was a refresher, so Robinson reviewed first aid basics for bleeding. First, apply pressure with hands.

“Once you apply direct pressure, don’t stop,” Robinson said.

He added that the reason little cuts at home bleed more than you expect is because people tend to lift the bandage to see if the wound is still bleeding. That destroys the clot and it has to form again.

The next step is to apply a dressing and press. Participants practiced packing specialized gauze into simulated wounds common in bleeding situations.


Brad Graul (from left) answers questions from Sgt. Rob Terry and Officer Dan Baker of Energy Police Department Tuesday during Stop the Bleed training at John A. Logan College in Carterville. 

The final step is to apply a tourniquet. Robinson said this is very painful to a person with a wound.

Haake also suggested making the brand of tourniquet part of each department’s protocol because there are slight differences among brands. He also warned officers about fake tourniquets that could result in loss of life for a person who is bleeding.

The motivation for the training is that in a case like the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, victims bled to death while waiting for EMS. While Southern Illinois has not seen mass casualty, local emergency rooms see gunshot wounds, explosions and vehicle accidents that cause life-threatening bleeding.

Sgt. Rob Terry of Energy Police Department said the training was mostly a refresher for him, but he did see some newer officers in the room.

“This training will probably save someone’s life,” Terry said.

An art teacher is on a mission to give every Southern Illinois student an art class, and he's starting in Ullin

ULLIN — Josh Shearer wants every student in Illinois to have what he had — a life-changing art teacher.

From kindergarten to his senior year in Century School District, Shearer had Nancy Murray for art, and he said her influence was a big lift for him, even early on.

“When I was 12, I decided I wanted her job, and at 22 I had it,” Shearer said.

He started his teaching career at Century as an art educator.

While the arts may not have been a top priority for schools when he was young, Shearer said by the time he got his own classroom, things were certainly not in a good way. This has led him to be an arts advocate for students across the state.

“It is my goal to get every kid in public schools an art teacher,” he said.

As budgets have shrunk, so have art offerings in schools — despite a mandate at the federal level through the Every Child Succeeds Act that students be offered art opportunities. Shearer said many schools in Southern Illinois have no dedicated art teacher, including a place close to his heart — Century.

It's a tough pill for him to swallow.

“What breaks my heart is poor people, poor people can’t afford an art teacher,” he said. “It makes me want to swear.”

Shearer said he has made it his mission to bring art back to these Southern Illinois students and he shared this mission with Landon Sommers, Century’s superintendent, last month.

Sommers said he and Shearer had dinner a few weeks ago, where he heard all about Shearer’s plans for local schools. He was intrigued, especially when he was told Shearer knew how to bring art back “for free.” This was through a grant, which Sommers intends to apply for, through the Illinois Arts Council.

Sommers explained that the grant would fund the development of an arts program and provide funding for four years of art instruction. However, the funding decreases each year, the goal being to wean schools off the need for the grant money and become more self-sufficient.

The grant would be great, but Sommers said he has to do some math to see if — even with grant support — this would be possible. He said he doesn’t want to bring art back for four years, only to lose it when the funding dries up. 

Another concern comes from the potential applicant pool. Sommers said he has had a hard time filling positions for physical education, among others — he doesn’t want to get approved for the grant and not be able to fill the opening.

Still, with a March 8 deadline, Sommers said he is willing to give the grant a shot.

Sommers said his school is trying, but recovering from the budget impasse has been no easy task. He said they have recently brought music back to Century. This is done in part by sharing a teacher with Joppa Maple Grove. Sommers said he knows and sees the value in providing art, but said it’s just a matter for finances.

Shearer, an art teacher in Anna, brought up his mission Tuesday to the Century school board. It has been eight years since Century has had a dedicated art instructor, he said.

“I want the board to make a motion to start to look for an art teacher,” he said.

Shearer said with the new funding formula, these rural schools should see a boost in cash flow and could use some of this to bring the arts back in a bigger way.

While it’s the law that schools provide art, districts have gotten around not having an art instructor, Shearer said, by having teachers integrate the arts into the classroom. Sommers confirmed this was the case at Century.

Shearer, who was the visual arts team leader for the Illinois State Board of Education’s new Core Arts Standards Initiative, said art is as important as teaching math and science.

“Visual art predates written language,” Shearer said adding that it also helps develop the mind and can broadly help students in other subjects.

“To not teach art is to not teach kids.”

In quick succession, Shearer pointed to facts and statistics that say children who participate in some capacity with the arts score better on standardized tests — the current language of success for schools — and are taught how to think critically, something he said businesses are hiring for more than perfect scores on exams.

“Art is the only class where there isn’t a right answer,” Shearer pointed out.

After making his pitch to the Century School Board on Tuesday, Shearer said the board unanimously voted to begin to search for funding to bring art back to the district. 

It wasn't exactly what he had hoped for, but Shearer said it was a positive decision.

“It’s steps in the right direction,” he said. 

Next he is on to the other schools on his list, Jonesboro, Cairo, Meridian and Lick Creek. Shearer is optimistic about the impact he can have and is already thinking about the next steps. 

“Now we’ve got to find art teachers,” he said.