African Americans have always fought for their country. It is documented that a black man, Crispus Attucks, was the country’s first casualty in the American Revolution when he was killed at the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770.
Now researchers have found a U.S. Colored Troop soldier who was wounded on the last day of the American Civil War, April 9, 1865. Fighting continued that morning until a truce flag was brought out at 11 a.m. Later that day General Robert E. Lee surrendered and the war was officially over.
William Johnson, a Private in company H of the 8th U.S.C.T. appears on the company’s May-June muster roll as “absent – in the hospital – wounded Apl. 9/65 at Appomattox Court House.” Johnson, a soldier from Kentucky, was 26 years old at his enlistment in 1863. He trained at Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia, a camp where eleven colored regiments were established.
Johnson survived the war and mustered out at Brownsville, TX on November 10.1865. He was one of over 209,000 African Americans who are documented as having fought in the Union army or the Union navy.
While Attucks is immortalized as “the first to defy, the first to die,” and has been lauded as a true martyr as the “the first to pour out his blood as a precious libation on the altar of a people’s rights,” Johnson was definitely not the last actual casualty of the war. Fighting continued in areas where the message had not been received that the war was actually over. But Pvt. Johnson was at least one of the last casualties on the “official” last day of the war.
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