Did African-American Soldiers Serve in the 126th Ohio?

According to an undated article from the Canton Repository written by Gary Brown at least two African Americans served in the 126th Ohio of the VI Corps. The soldiers were Abner and Hiram Gray. Abner enlisted in the 126th Ohio, Co. F on September 4, 1862, a fact born out by Civil War Data systems.  Although the article states that his brother enlisted with Abner, the roster on CWD states that Abner’s brother Hiram enlisted in the same regiment two years later on August 30, 1864.

If it is true that Abner and Hiram Gray were African-American, it would make the 126th Ohio quite unique among U.S. Army units during the Civil War. However, I am not an expert by any means on this topic and my main purpose in writing this post is to call upon some of you who have studied the role of black soldiers in the Union Army for your input on this article. The definitive answer mostly likely rests at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. As I’ve said many times over the years, the next time I’m there…

I hope someone can shed some light on this and let me know how rare such an occurrence was in the Union army. I would like to thank Mike Robey of the Buckeye State for sharing a copy of this article with me many years ago. Mike had done a great deal of research on the 126th Ohio.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Did African-American Soldiers Serve in the 126th Ohio?

  1. Interesting. Did they serve as cooks or teamsters, or were they regular foot soldiers? I found that the African-Americans in the 1st Alabama Cavalry (US) served mostly in support capacities, but were still officially on the muster rolls.

    • The article states that there is a post war framed document that credits Abner Gray with having participated in 17 battles from Martinsburg in June 1863 to Cedar Creek in October 1864. It appears that Abner at least was a combat soldier. Also, the Gray family was respected in Carrollton, Ohio and remained there after the war. The Gray brothers enlisted in their home town with the rest of the men.

  2. JE

    The pre/post was census for Carroll County, Ohio confirms that the family was “Mulatto.” Their father Enoch was born in Virginia and moved or escaped to Ohio sometime before 1840; both Abner and Hiram were born in Ohio.

    Does the history of the 126th make any mention? I don’t recall anything off the top of my head but I can grab it off the bookshelf when I get home this evening. Interesting stuff…keep us posted!

  3. Thanks much. I’m going to have to take a day off and pull Abner and Hiram’s service and pension records. Abner is on the roster in Gilson’s History but I don’t think it mentions him elsewhere. The article states that Enoch Gray and his wife moved to Ohio from Franklin Co. PA in 1819 and purchased a 10 acre plot.

  4. Aren’t there other accounts of African-Americans in Union regiments. I seem to recall a story about one being in a New Jersey Cavalry regiment.

  5. Wonderful web page, exactly where did you obtain the web theme?

  6. I realize that this is very late but i just saw this on tv on the 186th episode of american pickers (history channel) this lady named patsy has the mustering record of abner gray. She found it in her farm house when she moved in but she said he had actually lived on the farm next door. It was interesting that a african american soldier appeared served in that capacity so i did a search and thats how i found your article. oh yeah this show aired last week so it may be on demand and the title of the episode is called “Full Speedo Ahead” but patsy’s pick is last pick of the show.

    • Better late than never, like my reply. I will look for that episode. A gentleman named Mike Mobely gave me a copy of that years ago and had done much research on the topic but was unable to find anything definitive. Next time I am at the National Archives I will look up his service file and pension record as this story deserves more research.

  7. Lisa

    i just saw a show on the history channel, American Pickers. They were filming in Carroll County Ohio, the home of Patsy Varner. She had several items in her home from Abner Grey, black soldier, civil war. I believe it is the same subject you are referring to, You may want to check it out.

    http://www.cantonrep.com/article/20150927/NEWS/150929414

  8. I was just watching American Pickers and they found “mustering out” document on wall…listing all battles he fought in. Interesting!

  9. Bethany

    Hi, I read your article and wanted to ask if you have seen episode #251 aired on 2/03/16 of American Pickers? The men in this show, Mike and Frank, meet a woman who had the Muster Papers for Abner Gray. This document was 1864 and listed all the battles he had been in. I hope this helps you.

  10. Joseph Manigault

    The Muster Papers should be shown in the African Museum. It should have gotten more attention. I salute Abner Gray. May he rest in peace.

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