Japanese who served in the Union Army

Apr 18, 2020
Hello, I am a War Veteran Member, and Historian with the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), Washington, D.C. JAVA is researching two (2) Japanese nationals who purportedly served in the Union Army during the US Civil War. Both individuals used Anglicized names and historical records list Japan as place of birth. The National Park Service (NPS) also lists both individuals as Japanese nationals. JAVA is attempting to identify the veteran's true ‘Japanese’ name, place of birth in Japan, and any additional biographic information.

The following is researched and basic identifying information for the two (2) individuals:

DUNN, Simon
DPOB: ca 1842; Japan
Simon Dunn (surname also borne as Dim), born Japan; previous occupation, laborer; enlisted at Brooklyn, aged 21, to serve 3 years, and mustered in as a Private, in Company E, 158th New York Infantry, on December 7, 1863; personal details, at the time of enlistment shown as black eyes, black hair, dark complexion, and standing at 5 feet tall; transferred to Company D, 100th New York Infantry on June 30, 1865; mustered out with the company on August 28, 1865, at Richmond, Virginia.

DPOB: ca 1842; Japan
John Williams, born Japan; occupation, laborer; enlisted, aged 22, at Brooklyn, for three years, on August 25, 1864, as a substitute for William E. Bailey, Jr., 3rd Congressional District, New York, and mustered in on the same day, as a Private in Company I, 1st New York Cavalry; personal details at the time of enlistment shown as black eyes, black hair, dark complexion, and standing 5 feet 6 inches tall; mustered out June 16, 1865, at Washington, D. C.
NOTE: The potential exists —
1. John WILLIAMS may have been from Samurai background as only the warrior class were trained in riding horses.
2. Based on the history of the 1st New York Cavalry (Lincoln) John WILLIAMS may have been at Gettysburg, and in the vicinity of Appomattox Court House during the surrender of General Lee (April 9, 1865)

Of note, in the December 30, 1867 issue of the Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser, a short article appears, “Death of a Japanese. — A Japanse (sic) who came to this city during the war as a soldier in the United States Army, and has resided here ever since, and who was familiarly known as “Jap,” died on Saturday night last, and was buried yesterday.

JAVA is also attempting to identify the burial location and any additional information for this individual who potentially could be DUNN, Simon or WILLIAMS, John.

Identification of one, or both individuals above will cement them as an “Issei” (1st generation) predecessor of the heralded "Nisei" (2nd generation) American of Japanese Ancestry (AJA) 100th Infantry Battalion (Remember Pearl Harbor), the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Go for Broke), and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) veterans, many who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for America, the country of birth during World War II.

All research ideas/leads, information, and comments welcomed…!

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
May 23, 2018
On Simon Dunn it says he was 5 feet tall . I read that the minimum height for Union soldiers was 5'3" . Of course there could be an error in listing his height or the enlisting officer could have looked the other way .


Apr 13, 2020
This is a very interesting project. I had not heard about these two before. I hope you can find more on their background.
One point on your post, if John Williams enlisted in Aug. 1864 he would not have been at Gettysburg although the regiment may have been.

John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
You possibly already have these, from N.Y. Muster Roll Abstracts at fold4.com. They don't add much more than you already have.
1st N.Y. Cavalry:

158th N.Y.:
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100th N.Y.:
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