Monday, May 30, 2016
Dying Far From Home: Jackson Terry, 114th USCI
Although his name is incorrectly inscribed on the headstone, resting in plot #2054 in the City Point National Cemetery are the remains of Jackson Terry, Company H, 114th United States Colored Infantry.
How might I know this? The information that I found at the cemetery identified this plot to a soldier in Company H, 116th USCI, who died on Valentine's Day, 1865. I searched the service records for a soldier in the 116th with the last name of Telly. Not finding it, I went to the closest last name spelling that I could find with the same first name initial. Jackson Terry was the closest fit. I then reviewed his records and found that he died on February 14, 1865. Many of the soldiers that were buried in national cemeteries were moved from their original graves. They often had temporary wooden grave markers that deteriorated making them difficult to read. Or, sometimes, those that placed the wooden grave marker were not the best at spelling. Regardless, I feel confident that this soldier's grave belongs to Jackson Terry.
Interestingly, Jackson Terry's service records show that he was born in Virginia. Unfortunately, it does not give a more specific location. Terry was owned by Harrison County, Kentucky farmer, Thomas Terry. The forty-four year old Thomas Terry, too, was born in Virginia, as was his thirty-four year old wife Susan. However, all of their six children, the oldest being twelve years old, were born in Kentucky. Owner and slave being only about ten years different in age makes one wonder if they did not come west together as younger men.
Thomas Terry owned eight slaves in 1860, who lived in two slave dwellings. Two of those slaves match Jackson Terry's age (forty in 1860). Thomas Terry had real estate wealth worth $8000 and personal property worth $9000.
Jackson Terry was an early enlistee. He signed up on June 4, 1864, at Camp Nelson, Kentucky, without his master's written consent. He was forty-four when he enlisted and was five feet four inches tall. He officially mustered into the Union army on June 16. A note on one of Terry's service record cards claims that "He was a very obedient, willing soldier, always ready, and kept his accouterments in the best of order."
The 114th spent time at Camp Nelson and then were sent to Louisa, Kentucky on the eastern mountain border with West Virginia. It appears that Terry was detailed as cook at this time. The 114th stayed in Louisa until ordered to Petersburg in January 1865. It is unknown, but Jackson Terry may have been sick before reaching the trenches at Petersburg. If so, landing there in the wintertime probably did not help his condition. He is next noted at dying at Point of Rocks general hospital on February 14, 1865, of pneumonia. His records note that he had received clothing from the government at the cost of $59.54, but he was not indebted to any sutlers or laundresses. Terry's last effects were itemized as one pair of trousers, one pair of drawers, two flannel shirts, one rubber blanket, one knapsack, and $33.75 in money.
It is not surprising that government army service records would be so cold. The only hint of Terry's soldering abilities limited to the previously mentioned obedience, willingness, and readiness. One wonders what Jackson Terry thought of his service to the Union army. Was he proud of serving? Was he pragmatic or philosophical about his service? Did he think his life was worth giving to reunite the country and help end slavery? On this Memorial Day, I remember Jackson Terry's service to a country that did not even consider him a citizen.