Friday, May 19, 2017

"He Left No Effects": Pvt. Joseph Gatewood, Co. A, 43rd USCI

On April 28, I made a post about Joseph Crossman, a free man of color, who fought and died in the actions near Hatcher's Run on October 27, 1864. Crossman served in Company B of the 43rd United States Colored Infantry. While searching for African American soldiers who were killed in that day's engagement, I also came across another soldier named Joseph, and who was in the 43rd USCI, but who was from Company A, Joseph Gatewood (sometimes noted as Gaitwood).

Reviewing Gatewood's service records, several things caught my attention. First, was Gatewood's place of birth, and yet his place of enlistment. He was noted as being born in Alabama, most likely enslaved. However, he enlisted in Buffalo, New York. If I were speculating, I would guess that Gatewood somehow managed to escape his life as a slave and made his way to Buffalo, which due to it extreme northern location and proximity to Canada, proved to be somewhat of a haven for runaway slaves, especially after the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

The second thing that drew my notice was Gatewood's age. He was only 18 at the time of his enlistment on September 2, 1864. His age made me wonder how old he was when he arrived in Buffalo. Did he come to the city on Lake Erie alone or with family and friends? His given occupation was the ubiquitous description of "laborer," so often listed for enlisting men of color. He is described as five feet five inches tall and with a black complexion, and with black eyes and black hair.

Thirdly, and associated with the previous, was the fact that Gatewood's service records note that he was a "substitute for [a] drafted man." Did Gatewood receive compensation from the "drafted man" to serve in his stead? Did Gatewood enlist out of monetary concerns, or out of patriotic or other altruistic motivations? Or, was it some combination of the two, or a multiple of other reasons?

Lastly, if you haven't already caught it yourself, was the realization that Gatewood was killed in action less than two months after enlisting. Unlike some other soldiers, his records do not give further details on where on his person he received the wounds that took his life. The inventory of his personal effects has two big X marks across it and plainly states "He left no effects." Another page states "He has not drawn any clothing with the exception of his outfit when enlisted."

Like Joseph Crossman, his fellow 43rd USCI soldier, Gatewood's place of burial is not noted. He was likely buried on the field where he fell. Regardless of where his remains reside, it is fitting and proper to at least note the service of this young man, otherwise lost to history and who apparently did not have to serve, yet did and in another's place, only to fall a victim of battle.

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