Enlisted: 11 March 1864 (Norfolk, VA/Washington, NC)
Mustered Out: 11 February 1867 (Raleigh, NC)
AUTHOR: Nia Jai
Originally, this story was supposed to be about the things I’d already learned about the Griffins. But as I pulled together information for the post, I first went back and found a document that I hadn’t looked at in quite a while—the Griffin Bible. I realized that I had failed to include a ton of information from it in my family tree! So that was a huge step. Second, I got pulled on a “tangent” trying to confirm that my g-g-g-grandfather had indeed served in the Civil War. Boy what a ride that has been! But it’s all so exciting!
For North Carolina farmers, the Griffin family has been quite easy to find and trace all the way back to the 1860 Brick Wall (as I call it). Because of a few things that I have found I theorized that Jonas Griffin (1819-1898) may have been a free man. Unfortunately, so far I have not been able to confirm one way or the other. His son, Joshua L. Griffin (1849-?) most certainly was educated and savvy (as seen in his executorship of his father’s estate). But before I get too ahead of myself, here’s part of the Griffin family tree:
Jonas Griffin – Mary Lanier Griffin
Joshua Larnee Griffin = Fannie Griffin Smith =
Fed Griffin = Alice Griffin Spruil = Amanda Griffin Gaylor
Jonas Griffin was born around 1819 to Fed Crisp and Frankie Griffin (unconfirmed), but the where and under what conditions, is still a mystery. The first evidence I thought I had of him was the 1870 census. But as I’ve researched, I’ve realized that the first evidence I have of him is his Civil War record!
The first clue that he served came when I found him in the 1890 Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War:
I searched and searched but couldn’t find any record of him anywhere else on Ancestry or any other websites that claimed to list Civil War soldiers. I started to think that maybe he had “misremembered” his service in the War (unsettling, but understandable).
In my desperation, I paid to retrieve any records of his service from the National Archives, using the information provided in the Census, as I deciphered it — service in Company H, of the 5th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), from 11 November 1865 to 11 July 1867. [That’s $30 down the drain. In this case, it literally pays to be patient.]
Sidenote: I did think it odd that he enlisted in the last days of war and served until way after the official end of the war on 10 May 1865. But then again many of the southern states did not go quietly back into the Union, and then there was reconstruction, so I supposed that there was still much to do.
After many, many, many Google searches and a detour to Family Search, looking for information about the 5th Regiment, I wound up (thanks to Michael Hait’s blog post on Archives.com) back at Ancestry.com and the U.S., Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1861-1865 database. Instead of searching the database, I decided to browse the images. I looked for Jonas Griffin in each 5th Regiment included in the database — Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry — but to no avail.
I decided to just search the database for Griffin and see if anything jumped out at me. Sure enough, on the first page, there was an entry for a Griffin from Martin County (Jonas’s county!) who was in the 37th Regiment (not the one I was looking for), BUT his name was Josiah (Josiah – Jonas, close enough). I looked at the multi-page file and sure enough, the first entry had the name Josiah on it, the second had Jonah and then the rest had Jonas! I imagine that with a name like Jonas, particularly for a black man, Josiah/Jonah/Jonas was close enough for his regiment leaders. [I did check the rest of the search results to make sure there were no other Griffins from Martin County (all 411 of them) and no others fit]
The dates in this file also fit with what was listed in the 1890 Census, although the regiment is wrong and the enlistment year is off (but the month and day are correct!).
While Jonas’s records were very interesting, they didn’t have as much detail or extra information as other soldier’s. BUT I’m grateful for finding them at all and confirming that at least one of my g-g-g-grandfathers was a Union Army Veteran.
It looks like Jonas and his widow Rosa [remember her from Jonas’s will!] both applied for a pension (invalid and widow’s). Next week I will be headed straight for the National Archives to see what’s included in the file. Hopefully it will be filled with new and exciting details about my g-g-g-grandfather and his life!
All of my googling wasn’t in vain. I did stumble across this great website – the North Carolina U.S. Colored Troops Project. This is some of what they compiled on the activities of the USCT 37th Regiment:
HISTORY OF COMPANY “F”
This Company was organized at City Point, Virginia, and mustered into the service of the United States on the 25th day of May, 1864, and immediately ordered to Wilson’s Wharf, Virginia where it, however, remained but a few days, being ordered with the remainder of the regiment to the front of Petersburg. While there this Company saw some hard service. Although raw recruits, just mustered in, the men behaved like veterans, displaying dauntless courage and much bravery in this their first and consequently most trying engagement. The Company participated in all the battles this regiment has been engaged in, doing throughout good service and behaving in a soldierly manner, thereby eliciting the well-merited approbation of the commanding officers. In November 1865, this Company was ordered to Newbern, North Carolina, and from thence transferred to Fort Hatteras, where it now constitutes the garrison.
BATTLES (In Which The Regiment Was Engaged)
Second Petersburg – June 27, 1864
New Market Heights – September 27, 1864
Fort Harrison, Va. – September 30, 1864
Fair Oaks, Va. – October 27, 1864
First Fort Fisher Campaign – December 3, 1864
Second Fort Fisher Campaign – January, 1865
Sugar Loaf – February 12, 1865
Near Wilmington, N.C. – February 21, 1865
North-East Station, N.C. – February 22, 1865
Cox’s Ferry, N.C. – March 24, 1866
It provides a list of the commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and privates, as well. Why they leave out my g-g-g-grandfather on this list is beyond me, because they include him on the Descriptive Rolls for Company F. They also have a great resources page for anyone doing research on North Carolina-based Colored Troops in the Civil War.