Saturday, March 14, 2020

Dying Close to Home: Cpl. Anderson Carrington, Co. C, 117th USCI

I apologize for the lack of recent posts, but I'm sure that I'm not the only one who feels that the last week and a half has been a true time of trial. However, in an effort to regain some sense of normalcy, I thought I'd share another soldier's story from Poplar Grove National Cemetery. These posts are usually titled "Dying Far From Home," but this particular story has somewhat of a different twist.

Having lived in Kentucky for six years, and thus studied some of the United States Colored Troops regiments raised there, I was fairly familiar with the 117th USCI (Infantry). The 117th was raised at Covington, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Like other black Kentucky troops, their recruitment was delayed until 1864. Once organized, equipped, and trained they were transferred to Baltimore, and then to the Petersburg front, where Gen. Grant was grappling with Gen. Lee.

The spring of 1865 found the 117th (officially part of XXV Corps) serving on detached duty with the XXIV Corps near Hatcher's Run, southwest of Petersburg. They joined as part of that corps in the capture of Petersburg on April 3, and then pursued the Army of Northern Virginia to the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, playing an important role as part of the force that cut off any possible chance of further retreat to the west. After the surrender, the 117th returned to Petersburg and City Point as occupation troops for a few months before being sent to the Texas and Mexico border, where they remained for over two years before being mustered out of service.

It was while on post-surrender occupation duty in Petersburg that Anderson Carrington enlisted in the 117th. Carrington's complied service records show his enlistment date as April 28, 1865. Unlike the majority of his comrades who hailed from the Bluegrass State, Carrington appears to have been enslaved in Petersburg before and during the Civil War. The 20-year-old recruit is listed as being 5 feet 4 inches tall, with a "brown" complexion, and having previously worked as a "tobacconist." Laboring in Petersburg's many tobacco factories was a common occupation for both enslaved and free people of color during the antebellum years. Carrington eventually received a $300 bounty for his service commitment.

Although Pvt. Carrington enlisted after the Appomattox surrender, it appears that he took his soldier responsibilities seriously, as he appears as "present" on each muster card up to his final muster out. As additional evidence of this commitment, he received a promotion to corporal on November 1, 1866, in Brownsville, Texas.

But, obviously, Carrington's life story doesn't end there. We do not know Cpl. Carrington's line of thinking nor direction of immediate travel when he left the service in the fall of 1867. However, it appears that he returned to Virginia by 1869, as I found a marriage record for Carrington to Neila Ann Bruce on December 29, 1869 in Halifax County, Virginia. Another marriage record shows for Carrington four years later. This one wed Martha Smith on November 26, 1874, in Petersburg. Yet another marriage record appears for Carrington tying the knot with Bolena (Paulina?) Pryor in Petersburg on May 28, 1879. I was unable to find Carrington in the 1870 census.

Anderson Carrington does appear in the 1880 census in Petersburg. He is listed working in a tobacco factory and living with Paulina, his wife, who worked as a laundress. Also in the household was two-month-old daughter Martha, and brother-in-law Samuel Pryor, who worked as a carpenter. Several other Pryors were neighbors. Carrington also appears in an 1890 veterans census, living in Petersburg. I wonder if he participated in any G.A.R. activities?

In 1910, Petersburg remained Carrington's hometown. That census shows he was still married to Paulina and they had a 16-year-old son named Peter. Carrington's age is noted as 62 and he is shown as a "laborer" working "odd jobs." He could apparently read, but not write, and owned his own home mortgage free.

Records show that Anderson Carrington died before the next census. His death certificate indicates he died on October 9, 1916, from cerebral apolexy, a stroke. Although  Carrington's military enlistment record shows his place of birth as Petersburg, his death certificate (according to information provided by Paulina) states that he was born in Charlottesville. It also lists his father as Richard Carrington and his mother was Millie.

The last bit of information on Carrington's death certificate is that he was buried in Poplar Grove National Cemetery two days after he died. He rests in peace there today in burial plot #5592.

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