From Slavery to Union Soldier: Pleasant Whitely Escapes Slavery in Virginia to Join the Union Army 43rd USCT

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
5,450
#1
1550295585764.png
*

"When I enlisted I gave my name as Philip Pleasant. My slave name was Pleasant Whitely. I took the name Philip from my uncle, who was named Philip Thompson. Since the war I have been known and called Pleasant Whitely."

Pleasant Whitely was born in Bedford County, Virginia, around 1845. He was a slave on the plantation of Hopkins A. Whitely. On June 18, 1864, during the Battle of Lynchburg, Pleasant Whitely made a bold decision; he ran away from the plantation where he was enslaved and joined the Union Army.
1550296361845.png
Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., MSS 11820

Pleasant Whitely made his way to Boston, Massachusetts where he arranged to enter the army as substitute for O. F. Clark.
1550296589978.png
[Fold 3, Union Records, Colored Troops, 43rd Infantry, Philip Pleasant, p. 15.]

On July 22, 1864, Whitely enlisted into the 43rd USCT as Phillip [Philip] Pleasant and was sent to join the regiment near Petersburg, Va where he arrived September 3, 1864.
1550297062958.png
[Fold 3, Union Records, Colored Troops, 43rd Infantry, Philip Pleasant, p. 11.]

On his pension application, filed in 1911, Whitely detailed his service as follows:
"In June 1864 I ran away from my master…joined Union army, went to Charleston, W.Va., and from there to Boston, Mass., where I enlisted in Co. B, 43rd U.S.C.T. about July 22, 1864, and about Sept. 1864, went with regiment to Petersburg, Va., where command remained, until about June 1865, when went to Brownsville, Tex. by steamer. Mustered out in Texas and there by steamer to Philadelphia, Pa., where finally mustered out. Took train from New York to Philadelphia, Pa."
1550296976160.png
[Fold 3, Union Records, Colored Troops, 43rd Infantry, Philip Pleasant, p. 12.]
After the war, Whitely returned to Lynchburg and purchased property at 407 Floyd Street.

In 1911, on his pension application, he described his health as follows:
“....My disability is such as it disables me from hard labor. It does exist all the time, slightly in the summer, and warm weather, but suffers very much in the winter, with my side, which contracted while in the service of the United States, in or about the first of March year of 1865. I have been taken medicine, internals, and treated with waring Plasters on my side. .....I suffers mightily in the winter and spring with my side. I have violent attacks at times in the winter and spring...."

Apparently his disability resulted from being struck by his Captain with a sword on or about March 1865.
"...My captain struck me with his sword and ask me what was the matter while I was on drill...”

Whitely continued to live in Lynchburg the rest of his life - until April 10, 1937, when he died of kidney disease at age 92.

He was buried in the Old City Cemetery, right there in Lynchburg, just a block from his home. Of all those buried in the Old City Cemetery at Lynchburg, Pleasant Whitely is the only one known to have escaped slavery to join the Union Army.
1550298489576.png

https://www.gravegarden.org/phillip-pleasant-ples-whiteley-c-1848-1937/
*Portrait of Pleasant Whitely courtesy of Rosemary McDaniel via https://www.gravegarden.org/phillip-pleasant-ples-whiteley-c-1848-1937/
 
Last edited:

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Messages
18,129
Location
Central Pennsylvania
#4
Your image of Pleasant's grave brings home the stories beneath our GAR markers, doesn't it? Hate to read his injury was the result of a brutal officer- his-wonder how common that was?

Only skeleton in our closet is a grgrgrandfather who purchased a sub. Wouldn't mind a deserter- it was an awful war, men left. Sub? Tougher time with that, men like Pleasant stepping up while others insulated themselves with cash.

Thanks for posting!
 

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
5,450
#5
Your image of Pleasant's grave brings home the stories beneath our GAR markers, doesn't it?
When scanning through the USCT files you see the names, and sometimes the remark "slave," but rarely do we have "the rest of the story" to connect the person and their life to the soldier represented by the cards. That's what makes this one really fascinating I think. It's not often that we have something like this quote below that allows us to make the connections.
"When I enlisted I gave my name as Philip Pleasant. My slave name was Pleasant Whitely. I took the name Philip from my uncle, who was named Philip Thompson. Since the war I have been known and called Pleasant Whitely."
Hate to read his injury was the result of a brutal officer- his-wonder how common that was?
I don't know how common it was, but agree it is regrettable. It would probably be possible to determine the name of the Captain at the time. Pleasant says it happened around the first of March 1865, which would have been at Petersburg. I checked and there is no notation about the injury in his cards.
 
Last edited:

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
30,344
Location
Long Island, NY
#6
View attachment 292596 *

"When I enlisted I gave my name as Philip Pleasant. My slave name was Pleasant Whitely. I took the name Philip from my uncle, who was named Philip Thompson. Since the war I have been known and called Pleasant Whitely."

Pleasant Whitely was born in Bedford County, Virginia, around 1845. He was a slave on the plantation of Hopkins A. Whiteley. On June 18, 1864, during the Battle of Lynchburg, Pleasant Whitely made a bold decision; he ran away from the plantation where he was enslaved and joined the Union Army.
View attachment 292598 Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., MSS 11820

Pleasant Whitely made his way to Boston, Massachusetts where he arranged to enter the army as substitute for O. F. Clark.
View attachment 292600 [Fold 3, Union Records, Colored Troops, 43rd Infantry, Philip Pleasant, p. 15.]

On July 22, 1864, Whitely enlisted into the 43rd USCT as Phillip [Philip] Pleasant and was sent to join the regiment near Petersburg, Va where he arrived September 3, 1864.
View attachment 292603 [Fold 3, Union Records, Colored Troops, 43rd Infantry, Philip Pleasant, p. 11.]

On his pension application, filed in 1911, Whitely detailed his service as follows:
"In June 1864 I ran away from my master…joined Union army, went to Charleston, W.Va., and from there to Boston, Mass., where I enlisted in Co. B, 43rd U.S.C.T. about July 22, 1864, and about Sept. 1864, went with regiment to Petersburg, Va., where command remained, until about June 1865, when went to Brownsville, Tex. by steamer. Mustered out in Texas and there by steamer to Philadelphia, Pa., where finally mustered out. Took train from New York to Philadelphia, Pa."
View attachment 292602 [Fold 3, Union Records, Colored Troops, 43rd Infantry, Philip Pleasant, p. 12.]
After the war, Whitely returned to Lynchburg and purchased property at 407 Floyd Street.

In 1911, on his pension application, he described his health as follows:
“....My disability is such as it disables me from hard labor. It does exist all the time, slightly in the summer, and warm weather, but suffers very much in the winter, with my side, which contracted while in the service of the United States, in or about the first of March year of 1865. I have been taken medicine, internals, and treated with waring Plasters on my side. .....I suffers mightily in the winter and spring with my side. I have violent attacks at times in the winter and spring...."

Apparently his disability resulted from being struck by his Captain with a sword on or about March 1865.
"...My captain struck me with his sword and ask me what was the matter while I was on drill...”

Whitely continued to live in Lynchburg the rest of his life - until April 10, 1937, when he died of kidney disease at age 92.

He was buried in the Old City Cemetery, right there in Lynchburg, just a block from his home. Of all those buried in the Old City Cemetery at Lynchburg, Pleasant Whitely is the only one known to have escaped slavery to join the Union Army.
View attachment 292604
https://www.gravegarden.org/phillip-pleasant-ples-whiteley-c-1848-1937/
*Portrait of Pleasant Whitely courtesy of Rosemary McDaniel via https://www.gravegarden.org/phillip-pleasant-ples-whiteley-c-1848-1937/
Thanks for posting. I never heard his story before.
 

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
5,450
#7
What a remarkable life, and yet he would return to Virginia to live, to die and to rest in peace. I find the "paying for a substitute" a rather interesting and troubling phenomena at this time. I guess the saying "the rich man's war and the poor man's fight", is clearly seen in this practice.
Apparently, the "O. F. Clark" for whom Pleasant Whitely served as a substitute, was Oren F. Clark.

Clark was born in 1835, the son of John B. Clark, maker of pianofortes from Hew Hampshire. Enumerated as Oren F Clark, age 15, male.
1550354123475.png


At the time of Pleasant's substitution in July 1864, Oren F. Clark was 29 years old. He was enumerated on the 1860 US Census for the 10th Ward Boston as O.F. Clark, age 25, male, Bank Messenger, along with his wife, S. Fanny Clark, age 22, female. The couple was living in household #495 with Edward J. Dale, an accountant, his wife, Sarah; son, Charles E Dale; and daughter Adelaide.
1550354306194.png
 
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Messages
957
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
#12
A few mysteries in this story confront me, drawing special interest. His monetary circumstance when mustered out, whether he was docked for expense of passage homeward. Also on his escape, he made good time to travel from West Virginia tp Boston, become familiar with these surroundings and enlist, all in less than two months. Again another mystery is the sword slap, probably a blow with the flat side, but causing internal bruising or slight rupture/hemorrhage, eventually leading to a kidney disease.
Lubliner.
 

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
5,450
#13
... his escape, he made good time to travel from West Virginia tp Boston, become familiar with these surroundings and enlist, all in less than two months.
According to a sketch by volunteers and staff of the Old City Cemetery where Pleasant is buried:
"During the Battle of Lynchburg (June 17–18, 1864) he escaped to the Union forces commanded by Gen. David Hunter. He followed the army in their retreat from Lynchburg and eventually made his way to Boston, Massachusetts..." https://www.gravegarden.org/phillip-pleasant-ples-whiteley-c-1848-1937/

His monetary circumstance when mustered out, whether he was docked for expense of passage homeward.
According to his carded records, he was docked for camp equipage and ordnance, but there is no record of transportation being provided from Philadelphia or of any record of charges for same.

According to The Forty-third regiment United States Colored Troops, by Jeremiah Marion Mickley (2014) located here https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46181/46181.txt
After the surrender of Lee, and in anticipation of the expedition southward, this Regiment marched back to Camp Lincoln, near City Point. May 30th it embarked on the steamer "Atlanta," and proceeding by the Ocean and Gulf routes, arrived at Brazos Santiago, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico, June 23rd. During this expedition it lost, by death, one man, whose body was committed to the great deep. On its march thence to Brownsville, it passed over Taylor's battle grounds of the Mexican war, Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. These preserve some marks of the conflict, but the achievement of our arms then, has been greatly surpassed, by victories on fields recently obtained. It camped, finally, on the bank of the Rio Grande River, opposite the city of Matamoras, Mexico.​
.....at the time of its muster-out at Brownsville, Texas, during its perilous Gulf and Ocean voyage thence to New York, and up to its final discharge at Phila[delphia]....​

the sword slap, probably a blow with the flat side, but causing internal bruising or slight rupture/hemorrhage, eventually leading to a kidney disease.
According to Mickley, the blow with the sword was likely inflicted by Captain John D. Brown who was in command of Company B:

CAPTAIN JOHN D. BROWN, commanding Co. B., is a native of Uxbridge, Mass. His grand-father was the boy-patriot of the Revolution, who entered the ranks fighting for Independence when only fifteen years of age, and who obtained for himself a bright record. The Captain entered the United States service first, Aug. 8th, 1862, as a volunteer PRIVATE in Co. D., 18th Conn. Infantry. He received the appointment of Captain in this Regt., March 8th, 1862, and was assigned to the command of Co. B. His service with this command extends throughout Grant's Wilderness campaign of 1864, and in the subsequent actions, in which the Regt., was engaged to the close of the war.​

Pleasant's complete file of carded records from Fold3 is attached.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
5,450
#14
Pleasant's carded records say he was mustered out October 20, 1865.

Mickley's description got me wondering what was so perilous about the Gulf and ocean voyage. Check out the details of the dangerous voyage from Brownsville to Philadelphia (via New York) for final discharge:
"The Regiment was ordered North, for final discharge, and returning as far as New Orleans, after waiting there for transportation, it embarked Nov. 9th [1865] on the steamer Merrimac, having other passengers besides. After a considerable distance at sea, this vessel sprung a leak. The water gained so rapidly, as, in a very short time, to put out the fires, and stop the engine. She now depended entirely on her sails for motive power. The case was a most critical one. Horses had to be thrown overboard, as well as a large amount of goods. The pumps of the main engine were useless, and the other pumps on deck were discovered, certainly by a criminal neglect, to be out of order. Buckets, pails, kettles and barrels were all mustered for bailing, which was conducted through two of the hatchways, fore and aft of the engine, and for the management of which the Regiment was divided into two reliefs. This systematized work was continued day and night for sixty-five hours successively, barely keeping even with the water, until the steamer was run upon the bar, at the mouth of the Mississippi. For the credit of the brave men, and in behalf of the endurance of the race, it ought to be recorded, that they worked cheerfully and well, during all those weary and anxious hours. The Regiment was landed again at New Orleans. After a gratuitous issue of clothing by order of Gen. Sheridan, to supply, in part, the loss incident to this perilous trip, it embarked in the steamer "Costa Rica," arrived at New York, Nov. 26th, and was finally discharged at Philadelphia, Nov. 30th, 1865.​
 
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Messages
957
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
#15
According to a sketch by volunteers and staff of the Old City Cemetery where Pleasant is buried:
"During the Battle of Lynchburg (June 17–18, 1864) he escaped to the Union forces commanded by Gen. David Hunter. He followed the army in their retreat from Lynchburg and eventually made his way to Boston, Massachusetts..."​


According to his carded records, he was docked for camp equipage and ordnance, but there is no record of transportation being provided from Philadelphia or of any record of charges for same.

According to The Forty-third regiment United States Colored Troops, by Jeremiah Marion Mickley (2014) located here https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46181/46181.txt
After the surrender of Lee, and in anticipation of the expedition southward, this Regiment marched back to Camp Lincoln, near City Point. May 30th it embarked on the steamer "Atlanta," and proceeding by the Ocean and Gulf routes, arrived at Brazos Santiago, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico, June 23rd. During this expedition it lost, by death, one man, whose body was committed to the great deep. On its march thence to Brownsville, it passed over Taylor's battle grounds of the Mexican war, Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. These preserve some marks of the conflict, but the achievement of our arms then, has been greatly surpassed, by victories on fields recently obtained. It camped, finally, on the bank of the Rio Grande River, opposite the city of Matamoras, Mexico.​
.....at the time of its muster-out at Brownsville, Texas, during its perilous Gulf and Ocean voyage thence to New York, and up to its final discharge at Phila[delphia]....​


According to Mickley, likely inflicted by Captain John D. Brown who was in command of Company B:

CAPTAIN JOHN D. BROWN, commanding Co. B., is a native of Uxbridge, Mass. His grand-father was the boy-patriot of the Revolution, who entered the ranks fighting for Independence when only fifteen years of age, and who obtained for himself a bright record. The Captain entered the United States service first, Aug. 8th, 1862, as a volunteer PRIVATE in Co. D., 18th Conn. Infantry. He received the appointment of Captain in this Regt., March 8th, 1862, and was assigned to the command of Co. B. His service with this command extends throughout Grant's Wilderness campaign of 1864, and in the subsequent actions, in which the Regt., was engaged to the close of the war.​

Pleasant's complete file of carded records from Fold3 are attached.
Did you notice on 3rd page of attachment the remark of being in a skirmish at Hatcher's Run and acted very cowardly. Joined the company Sept 3rd, and the skirmish was Oct. 27. Makes me wonder if that was when he got slapped with the comment "What's the matter boy?"
My wonder of his unit being transported out of Texas and back to New York, having been mustered out at Brownsville, and with the final discharge at Philly, if these expenses were paid by the Government. Thank you, again @lelliott19.
Lubliner.
 



(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top