Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dying Far Far From Home: Daniel Anderson, 116th USCI

It didn't take me long being back in Petersburg to head over to Poplar Grove National Cemetery. I had visited there a couple of times when I lived here previously, but I had not done much other than walk through glancing at the graves of men from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Wisconsin, Michigan and many other states. However, even back then, I do remember seeing a number of United States Colored Troops' grave stones.

This time, and now knowing that a number of Kentucky USCT regiments served in the Petersburg Campaign, I got to wondering if there might be some Bluegrass State men buried there. After a little bit of searching on the internet, I found a brief list that indeed enumerated a number of men serving in USCT regiments from Kentucky. Fortunately, that list included the grave numbers where those men rest. With these numbers it was not difficult at all to find the individual graves.

All of the stones in Poplar Grove have been placed on the ground rather than standing perpendicular as in most national cemeteries, such as Arlington. This practice was started apparently in effort to help speed the required mowing maintenance of the cemetery. The only down side is that it seems this has also sped up the erosion of the wording on some of the stones.

One of the first stones I found was number 5130 and that of Daniel Anderson, who served in Company K of the 116th United States Colored Infantry. To find out more about Anderson I searched his service records on the Fold 3 website. Anderson's service records indicate that he was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, but apparently lived in Fayette County, as that county was credited for his enlistment. His owner's name was Thomas Barber. Apparently Anderson enlisted without Barber's permission.

Anderson enlisted at Camp Nelson on July 6, 1864. He was only twenty years old and stood five feet nine inches tall. His complexion was listed as black. Anderson's service records seem to show that he was a solid soldier, but as so often happened to many Civil War soldiers, he contracted a disease. His was small pox. Small pox is caused by an infection by the variola virus and can be contracted from person to person or though contaminated items, such as clothing and blankets. In addition to the visible feature of red spots, which often leave large pock marks on the skin, small pox's flu-like symptoms include: fever, headaches, severe fatigue and back pain, and possibly vomiting.

Anderson was admitted to the U.S. Flying Hospital (the MASH of the day) on December 8, 1864, just five months after enlisting. The young Kentuckian did not last long. Anderson died in the army hospital at Point of Rocks, Virginia (just outside of Petersburg) on December 27, 1864. Anderson's service records note that he was first buried "between Bermuda Hundred, Va & Jones Landing, N(orth) of Road." Anderson was moved to Poplar Grove when it was established as a national cemetery in 1866. Apparently Anderson's original grave contained some marker for identification.

One wonders if young Daniel Anderson had family back in Kentucky. And if so, were they notified of his death in a far off place called Petersburg, Virginia? If so, they were likely proud that their son served, and although he did not die on the battlefield, he nonetheless gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country and those that remained in slavery.

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