Franklin Larabee, officer in the US Colored Troops, 27th Regiment
Franklin Larabee was born in Jefferson, OH in 1828. His Civil War story begins in 1861 when, with a wife and 4 children, he enlisted as a private in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. His war records indicate that he was 5’11” with brown hair and blue eyes. He was a nurse at Antietam where he would have been exposed to the bloody consequences of that battle in Maryland. In 1863, he reenlisted as an officer in the 27th regiment of the US Colored Troops. (Black regiments had white officers.) Letters in his file reveal that his father was “a notorious Copperhead,” a Northerner who opposed the war and wanted the restoration of slavery, so it is likely that Larabee went against his father’s wishes when he reenlisted. These sentiments seem to be reaffirmed in his obituary, where there is no mention of his service with the 27th. During a time of deep prejudices and discrimination against African Americans, this white officer’s decision to reenlist in this regiment paints a picture of a man with integrity and bravery. Captain Larabee fought in the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, VA where white officers of black troops could be killed if captured. Union General Alfred Terry, who is most known for his successful role in the battle for Fort Fisher, referred to Larabee’s regiment as one of the best of the Colored Troops. When Wilmington fell to Union forces on February 22, 1865, the 27th eventually became a part of the Union occupation forces. Military records and a notice in The Wilmington Herald reveal that Larabee was Public Health Inspector for the city until July 1865. Larabee served his country until the war was over. On September 21, 1865, he mustered out in Smithville, later called Southport, just miles away from my residence in Bolivia. I have a box Larabee crafted at the age of 79 (two years before his death in 1909) and his daughter Ruth’s wedding ring which I proudly wear on my finger. I plan to continue my research and uncover even more of Larabee’s story. The process made me feel close to my great-great-grandfather because he mustered out here. Excerpted from 4/3/12 Wilmington Star News article, Chanda Marlowe, Star News Correspondent.