Tillman Valentine was twenty-seven years old when he enlisted with the Third US Colored Infantry on June 30, 1863. Standing ﬁve feet four inches tall, with black hair, gray eyes, and a yellow complexion, the mulatto laborer from Chester County, Pennsylvania, bade farewell to his wife of seven years, Annie, and his children, Elijah (born February 13, 1858), Clara (born February 4, 1860), and Ida (born August 11, 1861).
Tillman gave Annie “an affectionate good bye” that morning, as one longtime family friend remembered. The couple did not know it yet, but Annie was pregnant with their fourth child, Samuel, who would be born on March 3, 1864.1 Valentine’s enlistment was part of a wave of recruitment of black soldiers in Pennsylvania during the summer of 1863. Prominent public ﬁgures such as Pennsylvania’s Republican governor Andrew G. Curtin, abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Anna Dickinson, and Congressman William D. Kelley all made broad appeals to the black men of the Keystone State to enlist. On July 6, 1863, Frederick Douglass proclaimed: “Young men of Philadelphia, you are without excuse. The hour has arrived, and your place is in the Union Army. Remember that the musket—the United States musket with its bayonet of steel—is better than all mere parchment guarantees of liberty.”
Learn more in “The Civil War Letters of Tillman Valentine, Third US Colored Troops” by Jonathan W. White, Katie Fisher and Elizabeth Wall, originally appearing in the April 2015 issue of The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.
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