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Adams County Pa. Related Historical Articles

Black Civil War Veterans from Biglerville?

Debra McCauslin

February is Black History Month and to commemorate the event locally, let's learn of two veterans of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) who were buried at the Yellow Hill church and cemetery near Biglerville in 1876 and 1891.

Charles H. Parker, born in 1847, enlisted on December 7, 1864 and trained at Camp William Penn at Philadelphia prior to service in Company F, 3rd USCT. According to the pension records, Parker was "shot in the right leg in the Battle of Gainesville" and contracted pneumonia. He was mustered out of service on October 31, 1865.

Returning to Adams County, Charles married Sarah Butler of Menallen Township in 1867. They were blessed with four children: Mary Jane, William, Harriet and Elmer. The last child was born in February of 1877. Charles was never well after his discharge, suffering from a chronic cough as the result of pneumonia. In delicate health, Charles Parker died in July of 1876 at the age of 29 "from his disabilities." When Sarah Parker applied for a widow's pension, she was described as "very poor and almost starving."

Buried at Yellow Hill, Parker's body was moved to the Gettysburg's National Cemetery in 1936.

William H. Mathews, born August 4, 1849, was a son of Annie and Edward Mathews of Butler Township. William was mustered into Company I, 127th USCT on September 3, 1864 when he was only 15 years old. Trained at Camp William Penn, William was assigned to the Army of the James and mustered out a year later at Brazos Santiago, Texas on September 8, 1865. According to pension records, during his service William contracted a severe cold, suffered from exposure and contracted a pulmonary disease that left him unable to perform manual labor. He had also been shot in the right knee and, more or less, suffered all the time.

Returning to Adams County, he married Mary Jane or "Jennie" Walker in 1869 and the couple had six children: Lewis, Nettie, George, Mary, Cora and Jessie Ellen. Mary Jane died in 1890. William followed his wife in death in September of 1891 leaving behind his youngest daughter, aged six.

According to a story in the Star and Sentinel, "the funeral was largely attended and [those present] paid their last tribute of respect to one whose character was unimpeachable and above that of the majority of ordinary men". Initially buried at Yellow Hill, his remains were moved to the Lincoln Cemetery in Gettysburg, though no stone can be found there today.

There are no gravestones left standing to mark the lives of any of these forgotten people at the Yellow Hill cemetery. Only with the passage of time was Charles Parker allowed to be buried at the National Cemetery while other Black Civil War soldiers were not. Betty's Myers recently published book, Segregation in Death, Gettysburg's Lincoln Cemetery provides a few biographies of these forgotten soldiers.

So on some quiet Sunday afternoon, take your family on drive to honor the 30 plus Black Civil War veterans buried at the Lincoln Cemetery along Gettysburg's Long Lane or visit the grave of Charles Parker in the National Cemetery. Hopefully someday there will be a restored cemetery on Yellow Hill to visit.

Read other articles on the civil war

If you have any information on the residents who served in United States
 Colored Troops, please send it to us at
: History@myGettysburg.net