Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dying Far Far From Home - Temple Beard, 109th USCI

As Memorial Day approaches, I wanted to get in yet another tribute to a United States Colored Troop soldier from Kentucky who is buried in Poplar Grove Cemetery near Petersburg, Virginia. This particular soldier, Temple Beard, rests in grave number 4446.

Beard was from Butler County, Kentucky. He joined Company K, 109th United States Colored Infantry on June 19, 1864, in Bowling Green. Beard was twenty-seven years old when he mustered into the army and was listed as five feet ten and three-quarters inches tall. One of his service record cards lists his complexion was as "brown," another description card says "d[ar]k brown." His his eye color, too, was noted as brown. 

One of Beard's cards claims that his service was owed to David Beard; meaning, of course, David Beard was Temple's owner in Butler County. David M. Beard is listed in Butler County's 1860 census as being forty three years old and married to Mary J. Beard, who was forty-one. The Beard's had a daughter, Hester Ann, who was seven years old. David Beard is listed as a "Farmer" and owning $2800 in real estate and $4500 in personal property, which included Temple Beard. From Temple's enlistment form it appears that he enlisted without his owner's consent.

Temple Beard is shown as present for duty from his enlistment through the his regiment's transfer to Virginia in October 1864 and on through March 1865. Especially interesting to me, the 109th, served near Hatcher's Run (just about four miles from where I currently sit typing) in the spring of 1865. Temple's regiment witnessed the fall of Petersburg and was among the USCT units that pursued Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to Appomattox. The 109th returned to Petersburg and served guard duty there and at City Point (later known as Hopewell).

It was during this service of guard duty that Temple Beard died due to complications from pneumonia on May 3, 1865. Temple may actually have missed the chase of Lee, as his service records show that he was "Absent sick" at a post hospital at Point of Rocks (in nearby Chesterfield County) on March 26, 1865. Perhaps Beard had recovered from his March bout with illness and participated in the grueling chase of Lee, where he developed pneumonia. Or, maybe he was transferred to Petersburg for better care after the city fell on the night of April 2nd and early morning of the 3rd. Regardless, Beard was buried at the Fair Grounds Hospital at Petersburg.  

Temple Beard was, of course, not present when the 109th mustered out of service in March 1866. Instead, he was a war casualty; not by lead or steel, but by the deadliest killer, disease. Historians estimate that about two of every three soldiers who died in the Civil War died from disease. A host of illnesses including, typhoid, measles, small pox, dysentery, and pneumonia all claimed thousands of lives during the four year conflict; including that of Temple Beard. 

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