Biographical Profile of Corp. Henry Lively, 108th U.S. Colored Infantry

Corp. Henry Lively, Company F, 108th U.S. Colored Infantry
Corp. Henry Lively, Company F, 108th U.S. Colored Infantry*
Henry Lively Muster and Descriptive Roll
Henry Lively Muster and Descriptive Roll

On May 30, 1865, as large numbers of Union volunteers prepared to muster out of the army in the dawn of the postwar period, Corp. Henry Lively and his comrades in the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry geared up for a new assignment. They marched out of the barracks at Rock Island, Illinois, where they had spent the previous nine months guarding Confederate prisoners, for duty in Mississippi as part of the garrison at Vicksburg.

The regiment arrived in the once-formidable Confederate stronghold ten days later. The conditions were awful. “The weather was very hot and the water was very bad,” recalled one soldier. Many became sick, including Lively, who fell ill with malaria.712 The chronic fever and chills symptomatic of the disease took many men out of action, but not Henry. He remained in the ranks despite his infirmity, although he reported for duty only half the time.713

Born enslaved about seventy-five miles south of Louisville, Kentucky, in Hart County, Henry lived on the farm of his enslaver, Billy Mansfield, who also owned at least two of Henry’s brothers.714 At some point, Mansfield sold young Henry to Ben Lively. Henry took his new enslaver’s last name as his own.

During the late 1850s, then teen-aged Henry united in an unofficial slave marriage with a woman named Mandy. After her sudden and unexpected death a short time later, he began a relationship with a Martha Smith. She was about four years his senior and had two children fathered by a white man named Harvey Adams.715

Martha noted of her marriage, “We didn’t have any kind of ceremony performed but we just took up with each other like the slaves did. We did so with the permission of our masters and mistresses.” They had their first child, a son, about 1860. He grew up in the same household with his two half-white siblings.716

In the summer of 1864, having been freed by his enslaver, Henry bid farewell to his family and joined the army. He was assigned to Company F of the 108th. He earned his corporal’s stripes and assisted company sergeants and officers in maintaining order and discipline at various posts in Kentucky, at Rock Island, and in Mississippi, where the regiment remained until it disbanded in March 1866.717 Lively’s lieutenant described him as the “best man in the company.”718

Lively mustered out with his comrades and returned to Martha and the children in Kentucky. He died six years later of the malaria contracted at Vicksburg. He was about thirty-eight. Martha, pregnant with another son, survived him. She collected a government pension for Henry’s war service until her death in 1908.719

Excerpted from African American Faces of the Civil War by Ronald S. Coddington.
Copyright 2012 by Johns Hopkins University Press. Reprinted by permission of the author and Johns Hopkins University Press.

See Footnotes

712 Martha A. Lively pension record, NARA.
713 Ibid.
714 Several men named William Mansfield lived in Hart and the surrounding counties. Henry’s two brothers, Richard and Thomas, kept the Mansfield name. This suggests that Henry was sold away from them.
715 A search of federal census records to determine the identity and background of Harvey Adams had been inconclusive. Martha A. Lively pension record, NARA.
716 Ibid.
717 Henry Lively military service record, NARA.
718 Theodore Francis Wright, who served as first lieutenant of Company F, wrote these words on the back of the carte de visite of Lively.
719 Martha A. Lively pension record, NARA.

*Photo courtesy of the Randolph Linsly Simpson African-American Collection, James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

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