Saving History Saturday: One Community’s Effort to Honor a USCT Hero

Tucked away in the historic village of Sandwich, Massachusetts, is a worn-down headstone.

This is no ordinary gravesite, though. In fact, it is the resting place of a Civil War hero – Sandwich’s only known African American Union soldier.

Joe Wilson Gravestone
The worn headstone of Joe Wilson. Courtesy of Sandwich Archives.

While enslaved in Louisiana, Pvt. Joseph Wilson joined the 1st Louisiana Native Guard (US) in September 1862, one of the very first African-American units to serve in the Civil War. The Union unit was authorized by the Army of the Gulf commander Maj. Gen. Ben Butler. Though early on they performed fatigue duty, the regiment eventually saw combat in 1863 during the Siege of Port Hudson. In 1864, many members of the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, including Wilson, joined the 73rd United States Colored Troops.

Sometime after the war, Wilson moved to Sandwich and got married. According to local land records, he is buried on his small farm. Historians speculate he practiced subsistence farming on the land. Sadly, Wilson succumbed to tuberculosis in 1886. To honor his service, his gravesite was marked with an official Civil War veteran’s headstone.

Today, the headstone is so worn that it is barely legible.

Luckily, one member of the community and local author, James Coogan, Jr. hopes to raise funds to replace the headstone and honor this Union war hero.

Though there is no specific information laid out on how to contribute to Coogan’s effort, there may be more information from the Sandwich Community Preservation Committee.

Read more about this story here, from The Sandwich Enterprise. 



8 Responses to Saving History Saturday: One Community’s Effort to Honor a USCT Hero

  1. A humble suggestion — Y’all should tag Port Hudson and really any engagement mentioned in any article.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! We try our best to make sure this happens, but we’re volunteers doing our best to remember the categories and tagging methods. 🙂

  2. I have often wondered about ways to keep history in front of the eyes of each succeeding generation. That is why we have monuments, I hope when they are set up they are presented with care , without taking “sides”. The village of Sandston, Virginia, built upon the site of the battle of Seven Pines has just about all streets named for Civil War actions or characters. I drove through the intersection of Confederate Avenue and Union Street.

    1. Frank, you might check with Kristen Pawlak. I know she gathered the information for this article.

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