Saturday, December 12, 2020

Dying Far From Home: Sgt. Jacob A. Moss, Co. H, 5th USCI


What’s in a name? For a Civil War soldier, in a day before carrying one’s identity was a common practice, a name and the reputation behind it was sometimes all a man had. That is one reason why it is disappointing to find so many soldiers’ names misspelled on their government gravestones.

A case in point is Sergeant Jacob A. Moss. His grave marker spells his last name as Morse, which apparently comes from his inventory of effects form in his Compiled Military Service Record, as that is the only record that incorporates that particular spelling. Several earlier documents from various sources confirm his last name as Moss.

Jacob Moss was only 21 years old when he enlisted in Company H of the 5th United States Colored Infantry at Lancaster, Ohio, on June 29, 1863. Jacob may have been following the example of his younger brother, Charles, who at 19, enlisted in Company G, 12 days before in nearby Chillicothe.   

Jacob and Charles Moss appear in the 1850 census living in Fairfield County, Ohio. They resided in the household of their parents, Edmund and Martha and siblings. Edmund worked as a blacksmith. He, Martha, and the three oldest children were all born in Virginia. Jacob was the first of the siblings born in Ohio. He along with his three older siblings attended school, an opportunity that would not have been readily available in the Old Dominion. Included in the Moss household, too, was Fleming Crump, an 18 year old blacksmith born in Virginia. Crump was likely serving as an assistant or apprentice to Edmund Moss. One wonders if Edmund and his family left the slave state of Virginia as an enslaved or free people of color.

Interestingly, the 1850 census also shows Jacob Moss in the Crump household in Fairfield County, Ohio. Other records tell us that Fleming Crump enlisted in the 27th USCI in 1864. The Moss and Crump families likely were related. Jacob Moss does not appear in the 1860 census, but his father and brother do. They are the only residents in their Ross County, Ohio, household.  

Described in his service records as a five feet six inch tall blacksmith, with a “brown” complexion, Jacob Moss formally mustered into U.S. service at Camp Delaware, Ohio in July. Although his promotion date is not included among his service records, by the end of October 1863, Jacob was a sergeant. Over the next 11 months, Sgt. Moss apparently always answered roll as “present.”

Moved from the Petersburg front to north of the James River, the 5th USCI, along with the rest of the 3rd Division of the XVIII Corps, received orders to attack the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights on the morning of September 29, 1864. Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Maj. Milton Holland, also fighting in the 5th USCI, remembered, “The shot and shell of the enemy mowed down the front ranks of the colored troops like blades of grass beneath the sickle’s deadly touch. But, with a courage that knew no bounds, the men stood like granite figures. They routed the enemy and captured the breastworks.” During the second concerted assault at the Battle of New Market Heights, led by the 5th USCI, Sgt. Moss received a wound to the head damaging his skull. Removed from the battlefield and transported to the general hospital at Fort Monroe, Jacob died of his wounds three days later on October 2. In addition to his army issued clothing, which consisted of a cap, blouse, trousers, drawers, shirt, shoes, and socks, he also owned a money purse and a knife.

Jacob’s brother Charles also received a wound at New Market Heights. However, Charles’ service records are not clear if he fully recovered, although his hospital stay proved lengthy. Charles appears in the 1880 census, living in Columbus with his wife Sarah and their three sons. That census noted that Charles had not worked during the last year due to consumption (tuberculosis). Other documentation shows that Fleming Crump died on June 7, 1906. He was buried in the Dayton, Ohio, National Cemetery.

Today, Sgt. Moss rests in peace in grave number 3868 in the Hampton National Cemetery. Although his gravestone misspells his name, we remember him and his courageous participation in the Battle of New Market Heights. He and his family earned a worthy reputation for their service and sacrifice.

No comments:

Post a Comment