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

Civil War Vets

Reynolds, Norris & Parker last to live in Muskingum County

Written by Chuck Martin Times Recorder historian.

Originally published Feb. 17, 1996.

Submitted by Connie Quarles


Copyright 1996. Zanesville, Ohio, Times Recorder. Reprinted and posted by permission.

Slavery may have been the spark that ignited the conflagration of the Civil war, but for the first two years it was almost exclusively a white man's fight.

Some Union commanders tried to arm escaped slaves to fight against their former masters, but President Lincoln overruled them, sensing that the time was not yet right to add a crusade to free the slaves to the war to restore the Union. But when authorization was finally given to recruit African American soldiers, free blacks in the north and escaped slaves in the south flocked to the colors.

One black veteran, Charles Brook Frazier, grandfather of David Matthews of Morgan County, told. his children to tell their children "no white man 'gave' them their freedom, he (Frazier) fought for it." Eventually, something like 200,000 black men donned the Union blue and fought for their freedom and the preservation of the Union.

Three of them eventually became the last Civil War veterans living in Muskingum County: John B. Reynolds, Noah Norris and John H. Parker.

They were born into an agricultural society where railroads were just beginning to bind the nation together with ribbons of steel. When they died, automobiles were replacing the railroad, air planes were criss-crossing the country and the world was embroiled in its second world war.

John B. Reynolds of 123 Chapman St. died Aug. 7, 1941, at the age of 96. When he was born in Meigs Township, James K. Polk was president. According to his obituary in the Signal, Reynolds did not attend school but learned the trades of interior decorating and shoe making.

In 1863, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the Union army. He was assigned to the Fifth U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery and was stationed at Vicksburg and Jackson, Miss. According to Verb Washington of Louisiana, the regiment was primarily recruited in that state in the second half of 1863. It was not unusual for black enlistees in one state to be assigned to regiments elsewhere if his home state regiments were filled.)

Although designated as artillery and used primarily in garrison duty, the regiment also saw action as infantry and participated in expeditions from Vicksburg to Rodney, Miss., and Yazoo City. It was mustered out of service on May 20,1866.

Reynolds married Malinda J. Simpson "four years after leaving Meigs Township," the Signal reported. They came to Zanesville in 1875 and lived in Putnam a short time before moving to Chapman Street, where he lived for the last 66 years of his life. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Noah Norris (also known as Morris) of 1530 Railroad St. died July 20, 1942, at the age of 98. According to genealogy information compiled by Ben Bain of Marietta and provided by Glenn Barnett of Columbus, Norris was born Feb. 28, 1844, at Phillippi in Barbour County, Va. (now West Virginia). John Tyler was still president.

Norris was 19 when he enlisted in Company C, Fifth U.S. Colored Infantry on June 22, 1863, in Washington County. The unit mustered at Camp Delaware and was originally designated the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. It was the first black regiment recruited in Ohio, although individual black Ohioans were already serving in other regiments, including the 54th and 55th Massachusetts.

Norris was described as being about five feet, 10 inches to six feet in height and weighing 160 to 170 pounds. He was of mixed race, including Delaware Indian. According to Jerry Devol of Devola, who provided information on Norris's war record and the Fifth Infantry, Norris originally en- listed in a white regiment, the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in October of 1861. He was discharged for "disability" two months later, but Devol has been unable to determine if that was because of illness, injury or other reasons.

When he enlisted in the Fifth, a mistake occurred which would affect the rest of his life. The recruiting officer apparently misunderstood his name and recorded it as "Morris". When Noah later applied for a pension he was told his name would have to be Morris to receive his pension. As a result, he often went by Morris, which is on his tombstone at Woodlawn Cemetery.

As part of the Third Brigade, Third Division, XVI-II Corps in the Army of the James, the Fifth Infantry saw a lot of action in Virginia and North Carolina and recorded 280 deaths. Norris took part in fighting at City Point, Petersburg, Black Swamp, Bottom's Bridge, Fair Oaks, Deep Bottom, Fort Gilmore, Fort Harrison, Dutch Gap and Chaffin's Farm. However, at the end of September 1864 he was disabled by chronic rheumatism and spent the remainder of the war in various hospitals, missing the expedition to Fort Fisher in February and the spring campaigns in 1865.

The regiment mustered out in September, but Norris apparently was not discharged until December, when he was finally discharged from a Baltimore hospital and sent to Columbus.

After the war Norris returned to farming, living at various times in Washington and Athens counties and in Taylor County, W.Va., until moving to Zanesville in 1905. His first wife, Harriet Gibson, died in 1882. In Zanesville he lived at State Street and Licking Road, then on Beech Street and in 1936 moved to his final home on Railroad Street.

The final Civil War veteran in Muskingum county was John H. Parker of 604 Baker St., who died Dec. 28,1943, at the age of 96. Unfortunately, I have less information on him than on Reynolds and Norris. The obituaries in the Signal and the Tirnes Recorder do not say where Parker was born but note that he spent the greater part of his life in Zanesville.

He may have been as young as 16 or 17 when he enlisted in the Civil War. Like Reynolds, he was assigned to the Fifth U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, serving in Company M.

A Memorial Day feature in the Signal in 1938, when Parker was living on Mount Auburn Street, said "He enjoys good health and when weather conditions warrant, enjoys nothing more than to putter about the garden near his home. He smokes a pipe in moderation and scoffs at the idea that tobacco is harmful." He was active in veterans' events. A little item in the Signal on Aug. 24,1941, reported he attended a Civil War reunion in Xenia over the weekend.

When Parker died, services were held at St. Paul A.M.E. Church and he was buried next to Noah Norris in the Veterans' Mound at Woodlawn Cemetery.

(Larry Tumblin and Jeff Cornett at Ohio University- Zanesville and Joyce Hill of the Zanesville Fair Housing Office provided valuable assistance in finding some of the information used here.)

Category: Genealogy | Subcategory: Civil war Vets | Tags: North Carolina , Virginia , Louisiana , Washington , 1941 , Reynolds , Norris , Parker , 1866 , 1941 , 1863 , 1875 , 1942 , 1844 , 1861
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