Biographical Profile of Pvt. George Davis Long, 108th U.S. Colored Infantry

Pvt. George Davis Long, Company F, 108th U.S. Colored Infantry
Pvt. George Davis Long, Company F, 108th U.S. Colored Infantry*
George Davis Long Muster and Descriptive Roll
George Davis Long Muster and Descriptive Roll

The beginning of the end of the military service of Dave Long can be traced to a single march in eastern Mississippi. “We went double quick,” he remembered of the journey one day in late August 1865. He fell ill with fever and diarrhea after his return and was admitted to the post hospital at Meridian.733

Long had arrived in the state two months earlier with his regiment, the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry, for duty in Vicksburg. His stay there was unpleasant. Night after night of sleeping on cold ground as spring turned to summer left him with chronic joint pain. He also dislocated his left ankle while carrying water.734

The thirty-year-old formerly enslaved soldier had no history of health problems before he entered Mississippi. He was born George Davis Long in Shelby County, Kentucky, but most folks called him “Dave” or “David.” He and his mother and father were part of a group of about thirteen individuals enslaved by Robert Long, a farmer who hailed from Pennsylvania. After Robert’s death in 1847, ownership of twelve-year-old Dave and the other enslaved people passed to Long’s son William, who sided with the Union during the war.735

In 1864, with his enslaver’s consent, Dave traveled to nearby Louisville and joined the army. He summarized his service, which included a stint at the Rock Island, Illinois, prisoner of war camp, in one sentence: “I enlisted as a private and excepting a short time at Rock Island when I cooked I carried a gun, but was never in battles.”736 Shortly before the regiment left Rock Island for Mississippi, one of his company officers described Dave as a “good and faithful soldier.”737

Within months, he landed in the hospital at Meridian. The fever and diarrhea persisted. In November 1865 he was transferred to a general hospital at Columbus, Mississippi. His condition remained unchanged. The doctor assigned to his case declared Dave unfit for further service and ordered him discharged a week before Christmas 1865.738

He returned to Shelby County and there regained his health and lived a long life. He outlived his wife Emily, whom he married in 1872. She died in 1913. He succumbed to kidney disease two years later at age eighty. Four children, two sons and two daughters, survived him.739

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

733 David (George D.) Long pension record, NARA.
734 Ibid.
735 According to the 1840 U.S. Census, the household of Robert Long (1773–1847) included eighteen persons, five of whom were free white people. Twenty years later, his son William (1813–1894) owned fifteen slaves, according to the 1860 Slave Schedules. In 1866, William Long filed an application for compensation for Dave from the federal government. He received a $300 payment in 1867. David (George D.) Long military service record, NARA.
736 David (George D.) Long pension record, NARA.
737 Theodore Francis Wright, who served as first lieutenant of Company F, wrote these words on the back of the carte de visite of Long.
738 David (George D.) Long pension record, NARA.
739 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.

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