Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Dying Far From Home: Corp. John Jewell, 118th USCI

After viewing the World War I documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old, last evening, I feel a certain obligation to start writing some of these memorial posts again.

While I've shared United States Colored Troops soldiers' stories from Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg, and City Point National Cemetery at Hopewell in the past, it was about a week and a half ago, after showing a couple of friends around the New Market Heights battlefield, that I first visited Fort Harrison National Cemetery. Being that it is within relatively close proximity to New Market Heights, I thought I might be able to pay my respects to some of those men killed in that fight.

One of the interpretive waysides at the cemetery states that there are several New Market Heights causalities buried there. However, most of those with names on headstones do not seem to be associated with New Market Heights, but rather died in other ways, most in the final few months of the war. Perhaps a number of those unidentified (marked with small square blocks as pictured above) were killed at New Market Heights.

One of those men that lies in an identified grave is Corporal John Jewell of Company F, 118th United States Colored Infantry. Reviewing Jewell's service records, I found some interesting information.

John Jewell was born in Spencer County, Kentucky. He is described as 5 feet 6.5 inches tall, with a black complexion, black hair, and black eyes. Another service record card claimed he was "copper" complexioned. He was 21 years old when he enlisted at Owensboro, Kentucky, on September 27, 1864. His service records indicate that he was promoted to corporal the same day that he enlisted. The 118th officially mustered into service at Baltimore, Maryland, on October 19, 1864.

The 118th became part of the XVIII Corps in the Army of the James, first as part of a provisional brigade in the Third Division. They were then transferred to the all-black XXV Corps when it was created (First Brigade, Third Division). They remained on the Petersburg/Richmond front while other elements of the XXV Corps participated in the Fort Fisher Campaign in North Carolina.

Unfortunately, Jewell was killed in action during a fight at Fort Brady on the James River called the Battle of Trent's Reach on January 24, 1865. Fort Brady was constructed by the Union army after capturing Fort Harrison and New Market Heights in the fierce late September 1864 fighting. Fort Brady, being adjacent to the James River, was posted with heavy guns and helped keep Confederate gunboats north of that location on the James River.

Jewell's final personal effects are listed among his service records forms. They included:
1 forage cap
1 uniform coat
2 pair of trousers
1 pair of cotton drawers
2 flannel shirts
1 pair of shoes
1 pair of socks
1 pair of gloves
Jewell's personal effects were "turned over to his Brother Ben Jewell - being his legal heir." Pvt. Ben Jewell was also in Co. F. He was John's older brother, listed at 26 years old. Ben survived the war and mustered out in Texas in February 1866.

John and Ben's service records show that they were owned by David Jewell of Daviess County, Kentucky. David Jewell appears in the 1860 census as a 52 year old farmer, who owned $6,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property. The 1860 slave schedules show that David Jewell owned 9 enslaved men, women, and children, who ranged in age from 4 to 75. One, a 40 year old female, is noted as an "idiot." Two males of John and Ben's approximate age (21 and 23) are included on the list and are surely the two brothers.

Benjamin Jewell probably went back to Kentucky with a heavy heart after losing his brother during the war. Ben appears in the 1870 census in Daviess County as a 32 year old "farm hand" with $100 in personal property. In his household is his wife, Jane, daughters Mariah, and Martha, and son, 4 year old John William, most likely named for his uncle, born since the end of the war.

Rest in peace Corp. Jewell.

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