Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

Civil War

Civil War 

Black Sailors Aboard the USS Hunchback 

C. V. Brooks

(Constance Brooks) 

Extracts from Hunchback's Muster Roll Dated

July 1, 1864 

James River, Virginia 

Adapted from the researcher's

"In the Picture:  Black Sailors in Virginia Waters,"

Names on Record: A Journal Featuring Virginians of African Descent

(Civil War Sailors) 

      Hunchback, an armed ferryboat belonging to the Union navy, left the sounds of North Carolina in the latter part of 1863 and began repairing in Baltimore, Maryland.  In the spring of 1864, Hunchback left Baltimore for Virginia, where the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army were preparing a massive, coordinated drive up the James River to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital.  The sailors on the Hunchback would spend much time on the James, for the capture of Richmond would take almost a year.  A number of African-American sailors form part of the Hunchback's crew gazing from a familiar Matthew Brady photograph taken on Virginia's James River (1864-65).  

      On the following list of Civil War sailors taken from the Hunchback's muster roll for July 1, 1864, all are described as "Negro" except William Weaver (having been transferred on May 21, 1864, to the gunboat Commodore Morris) and James McCastor, a brown-haired, grey-eyed, dark-complexioned man noted as a "mullato" [mulatto] in the column for "Remarks."  Subsequent Hunchback rolls do not describe McCastor either as a Negro or a mulatto.  The quarterly required muster rolls include a sailor's physical description; rating; date, place, and term of enlistment; vessel or place from which received; and place of birth.  (Note the number of Hunchback sailors born in the port city of Baltimore, from which, nearly twenty-three years before the Civil War began, Frederick Douglass escaped, posing as a free black sailor.) 


USS Hunchback

July 1, 1864


Name, Description, and Place of Birth


Brown, William, age 26, Negro, 5'6", Philadelphia, Pa.

Chalk, Mordecai, age 25, Negro, 5'5-1/2", Baltimore, Md.

Cole, Charles H., age 26, Negro, 5'7", Baltimore, Md.

Colter, Thomas, age 26, Negro, 5'7", Baltimore, Md.

Cornish, John, age 23, Negro, 5'7-1/4", Baltimore, Md.

Fleming, Joseph, 21, Negro, 5'5", Norfolk, Va.

Francis, Daniel, age 21, Negro, 5'3-1/2", Baltimore, Md.

Garrison, Nathaniel, age 22, Negro, 5'6", Frederick, Md.

Gibson, Perry, age 21, Negro, 5'6", Baltimore, Md.

Grose, John H. age 23, Negro, 5'7", Baltimore, Md.

Grose, Joseph H., age 20, Negro, 5'7", Baltimore, Md.

Holland, Joseph, age 24, Negro, 5'3-3/4", Virginia

Howard, Samuel, age 21, Negro, 5'3-1/2", Baltimore, Md.

Huges, William J., age 21, Negro, 5'4", Baltimore, Md.

Jones, Thomas H., age 21, Negro, 5'3", Baltimore, Md.

Lane, William, age 30, Negro, 5'7", Philadelphia, Pa.

Livingston, Radford, age 22, Negro, 5'5", New York, N.Y.

Lloyd, James E., age 21, Negro, 5', Baltimore, Md.

McCastor, James, age 19, eyes, grey; hair, brown; complexion, dark.

Remarks:  mullatto [sic], Boston, Mass.

McKenzie, James, age 25, Negro, 5'5", Norfolk, Va.

[Mathews Co., Va., on Commodore Morris's muster roll dated March 31, 1964]

Maise, George H., age 20, Negro, 6'1", Baltimore, Md.

Morris, James, age 21, Negro, 5'6", Baltimore, Md.

Nixon, William, age 24, Negro, 5'8", Philadelphia, Pa.

Rice, Alexander, age 25, Negro, 5'5-1/2", Philadelphia, Pa.

Scott, James W., age 22, Negro, 5'4", Baltimore, Md.

Stiles, Henry M., age 21, Negro, 5'6", Savannah, Ga.

Strickland, Zackariah, age 22, Negro, 5'10", Baltimore, Md.

Weaver, William, age 22, mullatto [sic], 5'10", Hertford, N.C.

[Transferred May 21, 1864, to the Commodore Morris]

Wye, Charles, age 27, Negro, 4'10", Baltimore, Md. 

Note:  John Hill, ordinary seaman born in Canada, is described as an Indian on the roll dated July 1, 1864. In October 1864 and January 1865, Hill is described as an ordinary seaman with black eyes, hair, and complexion. 

Black Virginians on Roll Dated

July 1, 1864 

Fleming, Joseph, age 21, 5'5, Norfolk, Va.

Holland, Joseph, age 24, 5'3-3/4", Virginia

McKenzie, James, age 25, 5'5", Norfolk, Va.

[Mathews Co., Va., on Commodore Morris's muster roll dated March 31, 1865] 

Note:  Moses Carey, 40 (York Co.), and James Root, 22 (Carolina Co.), enlisted on July 1, 1864.  Hunchback got them from the James River, but they do not appear on the July roll.

Constance Brooks will research for organizations and individuals.  Write to P.O. Box 23827, Washington, DC 20026-3827.



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Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Colored Troops | Tags: North Carolina , Virginia , Washington
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1863, 1864, 1865, 1964, 2002, African-American, Ark, Army, Baltimore, Baltimore (Maryland), Boston (Massachusetts), Civil War, Daniel, DC, Frederick (Maryland), Henry, Howard, Indian, James River (Virginia), January 1865, John, Jones, Livingston, Mary, Maryland, New York, New York (New York), Norfolk (Virginia), North Carolina, Richmond, Savannah (Georgia), Virginia, Ward, Washington (DC),