Thursday, February 21, 2008

In June 1867, Calvin Williams marched from Ft. Harker, Kansas to Ft. Selden, New Mexico. Five months later he was detached to Ft. Craig, New Mexico, where he was stationed for the next two years.

The photo is of Ft. Craig, taken in 1867, around the time of Calvin's service there. Note the cannon in the lower right hand corner. Much of the soldiers' time was spent making repairs to the Fort, including planting the trees seen in the foreground.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Preparing for Guard Duty

This is a rare photo, and the only photo of the 38th Infantry that I have seen. It shows the troops preparing for guard duty in the background. They are in Nebraska protecting railroad workers. Two of these workers can be seen kneeling in front of the tent. Joe William's grandfather Calvin Williams was in the 38th Infantry, but I don't know if he is one of the soldiers in the photo.

I think there is an interesting similarity between this photo of Calvin's Army unit and some of Joe's team photos, like this one from the 1930 Homestead Grays.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Buffalo Soldier

After the Civil War, Calvin Williams worked as a hired hand on a farm in Tennessee for about a year, then re-enlisted in the Army. This is his enlistment paper into the 38th Infantry. Note the brief physical description at the bottom of the paper. (Click on image to enlarge.)

From Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, Calvin and his Company marched west through Nebraska and eventually southwest to Ft. Craig, New Mexico. W.B. Ball, an army buddy of Calvin's, wrote years later that during the long march 2-3 men died each day from dysentery. Not much is known about the 38th Infantry -- apparently many of their records were lost or destroyed -- but we do know that Calvin was stationed for two years at Ft. Craig before being transferred to Texas in 1870.

I enjoy reading and handling old documents like this one, and am amazed (and grateful) that many former slaves who joined the U.S. Army, like Calvin, have such a rich documentary record of their lives in our National Archives.