Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gone Off With Some Regiment

The men (and a few women) who joined in to participate in our nation's greatest tragedy contributed to the war effort for diverse reasons. Some fought for personal or national principles, some joined to pay the bills, others went looking for an amazing adventure. The potential opportunity to escape one's workaday world, see new sights, and visit new lands was simply just too appealing for some to avoid.

Naturally, the majority of those with stars in their eyes and glory in their hearts, those seeking thrills and adventure were in their youth. Myriads of young men joined up; some with their parents' permission, some without. Young men, many of whom had been raised on father's, uncle's, and grandfather's tales of army adventures in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War envisioned similar experiences for themselves.

I came across the above "Information Wanted" advertisement in the Louisville Daily Democrat, which ran in the fall of 1862, and probably involved a similar thrill-seeking individual. It reads:

Information Wanted.
A COLORED BOY (FREE) ABOUT 13 YEARS OLD, named James Oglesby, left home October 2d, and had not been heard from since.  It is probable he has gone off with some regiment.  Any information of his whereabouts will be gratefully received and liberally rewarded by his parents. Send word to Joshua Oglesby, corner of Thirteenth and Magazine streets.

Obviously, this young man could not join up to fight as an enlisted man in October 1862. Although some African Americans served as soldiers as early as that date, that was not the case in Kentucky. Since he was already free, he did not go off the the Union army to gain his liberty. This young man probably joined up with some one of the scores of regiments that were campaigning in Kentucky at that time to work as a camp servant or in another laboring position in effort to see the sights of war.

Like arms-bearing soldiers, the lure of adventure probably faded fast for this young man. Long hours of duties in camp, cold winter nights and blistering summer days, poor rations, sickness, and death were likely far more common experiences for him than any martial glory. One has to wonder if he survived the war. Were his parents able to confirm their suspicions early, or did they have to wait weeks, months, or years to find out his fate? Did he join a USCT regiment in some capacity when African Americans were finally allowed to enlist in Kentucky? If he survived, did he have a welcomed return? We may never know the answers to these questions, but it seems pretty obvious that the allure of wartime adventure cut across the color line.

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