There were over 30 free black men and boys who volunteered to fight for the Union from Lawrence County.
Joyce Brunson has submitted this summary for the Civil War Biography Files:
Oliver Russell was born April 7, 1847 to James and Maria Russell in Lawrence County, Ill. He was listed as 3 years old during the 1850 census. His father was a 44 year old farmer who had come from Kentucky with his wife and 4 children sometime between 1840 and 1842. There were 4 more children born before 1850. By 1860 they were listed as farming in Russell township; the value of his parents’ real estate was listed as $1200 with $500 in personal property. Oliver was now 13, a middle child of 6 still at home.
On November, 30, 1863, the U S Dept of War authorized the governor of Indiana to raise one regiment of infantry composed of African Americans. Enlistments were accepted beginning Dec 24, 1863. Several young men from Oliver’s neighborhood joined Co D of the 28th U S Colored Infantry at Lafayette, Ind. The company descriptive book lists 18 year old, Private Oliver Russell as a 5’ 6” farmer with brown complexion, black eyes and hair from Lawrence County, IL . He mustered in December 28, 1863; all the recruits trained until the end of March at Camp Fremont.
Their Captain was Charles S Russell. On April 25, six companies of the 28th left Indianapolis for Washington, DC where they were attached to the Capitol’s defenses. They were involved in the Battle of the Crater at the siege of Petersburg, Va on July 30, 1864 and their company sustained heavy casualties; nearly half of their soldiers were killed or wounded.
After the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, the 28th was moved to the Mexican border in Texas. They were mustered out at Corpus Christi, Texas Nov 8, 1865. They returned to Indianapolis Jan 6, 1866 to a reception in their honor. Their regiment had suffered a total of 212 fatalities, two officers and 45 enlistees killed and mortally wounded and one officer and 164 enlistees who died of disease.
In 2004, an historical marker commemorating this regiment was erected in Indianapolis.
After the war, Oliver returned to Lawrence county where he married Elizabeth Gowen Oct 8, 1871. Children listed with Oliver on the 1880 census were Edgar and Commodore. Oliver married Catherine “Cassie’ Cole in September of 1880. She was the daughter of Emanuel and Sara Cole. Children born to this union were Rosa, Bud, Arnett, Maude, Lemuel, Addie and Marie. They and some other relatives settled in Carrier Mills, Saline County, IL about 1894. The 1900 census listed 53 year old Oliver with his wife who said she was the mother of 8 children, 7 still living at home; Oliver’s 51 year old brother Zacariah was also in the home. Oliver died June 30, 1911 at Carrier Mills and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery there.
Oliver had filed for his pension August 28, 1884. His widow applied for her pension July 7th and the certification number indicates she received it. She lived with her daughter Addie Jahren in 1920 and another daughter Maude Farrar in 1930 in Carrier Mills. She died at the age of 91 in 1950.
Ladies: Help insure that the Lunch and Learn programs will continue next fall by showing your support and attending the last one in the 2015 Series Wednesday December 2 at the Lawrence County Public Library. Please make your reservations immediately if you haven't already! Bring your friends and call it your Christmas get together!