Saturday, October 5, 2013

Hometown Hero: Levi Berry, Co. I, 107th USCI

It has been some time since I last posted a "Hometown Heroes" selection, so I thought I put one in before a relaxing day of reading and college football. Here goes:

Levi Berry's headstone at Greenhill Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky, leans noticeably to the right. It is covered with a light layer of moss and shows the signs of age. It tells us very little about this man's life.

Although few details are provided, Berry's Civil War service records give us a brief physical picture of the man.  He was 23 years old, a pretty common age for a Civil War soldier.  He was five feet five inches, also quite typical. He is noted as having a black complexion. His records indicate he was born in Taylor County, Kentucky, and enlisted and mustered in at Lebanon, Kentucky, on September 5, 1864, for three years of service.

Berry's service records also note what while enslaved he was owned by William Collins of Taylor County. It is noted that Berry enlisted without Collins's consent. Likely Berry absconded and made the short trip to Lebanon in Marion County from its southern neighbor Taylor County.

William Collins is listed in the 1860 census as a 42 year old farmer living with his wife Eliza, who was 43. Collins owned $2004 in real estate, and $7736 in personal property. Collins owned 11 slaves, four are listed a mulatto and seven as black. They ranged in ages from a 40 year old woman to a two year old infant boy. Two men, aged 21 and 19, are also noted, either of which could have been Levi Berry. 

Berry's service records indicate that he was an upstanding soldier that fulfilled his duty. There are no discouraging remarks and no special commendations, which is, of course, normal for Civil War soldiers - black or white, Union or Confederate. Also common to Civil War soldiers, Berry's records note that he was sick during his term of service. He was apparently assigned or asked to do other tasks such as serving as company cook, and after the war, but while still in the 107th, he served as a teamster.

Similar to many USCT soldiers Berry's post war life was difficult to track without access to pension records. However, some information can be found through public records.  

I was unable to located Berry in the 1870 census, but he was listed in the 1880 census. At that time he was living in Lexington, Kentucky, in the Second Ward. He is shown as a 40 year old laborer. It appears that Berry was a widower and the census indicated he was illiterate. Apparently Berry had not learned to write since his service days as his Civil War records show that he made his mark rather than signing his name upon enlisting. In 1881, Berry was also listed in the Lexington city directory with a residence near the C.S.R.R. (Cincinnati Southern Railroad, I think), south of Prall Street.

In the 1900 census Berry is shown living in Frankfort with daughters Mary Francis, who was eight years old and in school, and Martha J., who was five. Berry is noted as being 61 years old with the occupation of truck farmer. It is speculation, but Berry likely remarried sometime after the 1880 census and had the two girls. Berry's second wife probably either died or left before the 1900 census, as she is not listed.

It is not known when Levi Berry died. It appears that Berry applied for a pension in 1888, but after that little can be found in public records. However, Mary and Martha Berry, age 25 and 21 respectively, are listed in the 1920 census with a Belle Buckner, who was 65, in Frankfort.   

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