Biographical Profile of Corp. Wilson Weir, 108th U.S. Colored Infantry

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

Wilson Weir left his home in Greenville, Kentucky, with a friend, and joined the Union army in the summer of 1864.363 The twenty-one-year-old did so with the knowledge and consent of his enslaver, Edward Weir, who, despite owning human beings, supported emancipation.

An historian described Edward Weir, who kept Wilson and about forty other enslaved people before the war, as “an influential merchant, lawyer, and politician, a slave-holder, an abolitionist, and a strong Union man” who owned a fine home and built brick cabins to house the people he enslaved.364

Wilson lived in one of the cabins with his mother, Lucinda, and father, Jube. Young Wilson had a reputation as one of the best enslaved ministers in the area. He preached at worship meetings in schoolhouses and churches across his home county. Military service temporarily suspended his local ministry and forever ended his enslaved status.365

Wilson was assigned to a new regiment, the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry. After less than two weeks in uniform he received a promotion to corporal of the color guard.366 He earned the respect of one company officer as “a thorough soldier.”367

Wilson served in this capacity at various posts in Kentucky and Mississippi and in Rock Island, Illinois, where the regiment guarded Confederate prisoners.

In March 1866, he mustered out of the army with his comrades at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and returned via steamboat to Greenville. He resumed life as a preacher and married a local girl, Francis Martin.368

Chronic diarrhea, which he had developed during the war, continued to plague him intermittently. In early 1877, while on a trip to get medicine in Louisville, he suffered another bout of the disease and fell ill with smallpox. Too sick to make the return trip home, he remained in Louisville and there succumbed to his afflictions at about age thirty-four. His wife survived him.369

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

363 The friend, Hudson Sturt, became a private in Company B of the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry. He survived the war. Hudson Sturt military service record, NARA.
364 Edward Rumsey Weir Sr. (1816–1891) lived in Greenville his entire life. In 1861, he raised and partially equipped a company of soldiers for the Eleventh Kentucky Infantry. The volunteers he recruited elected his son, Edward Rumsey Weir Jr. (1839–1906), as captain and company commander. The younger Weir resigned in January 1863. He rejoined the army later that year as lieutenant colonel of the Thirty-fifth Kentucky Infantry. 1860 Slave Schedules; Rothert, A History of Muhlenberg County, pp. 60, 252; Edward R. Weir military service record, NARA.
365 Rothert, A History of Muhlenberg County, p. 340.
366 Wilson Weir military service record, NARA.
367 Theodore Francis Wright, who served as first lieutenant of Company F, wrote these words on the back of his carte de visite of Weir. The complete note reads: “Is Color Corp: marches between the color bearers—is a thorough soldier—does not go on guard.”
368 Lucinda Weir pension file, NARA.
369 Ibid.

*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.

How would you rate your experience with the website resources you have used?
Please tell us about your general location (optional):

We welcome your feedback

You can help us improve the Kentucky U.S. Colored Troops website by taking a very short survey.

Thank you for your feedback!