Franklin County Visitors Bureau focuses on the service of the USCT (U.S. Colored Troops) and Buffalo soldiers as America commemorates Black History Month. In July 1862, when the United States Congress passed the Confiscation Act and the Militia Act, the law emancipated slaves of the Confederacy in Union-controlled territory and allowed “persons of African descent” to participate in the military and the navy. The Militia Act was a first step to removing the limitations on people of color to serve in times of conflict.
Henry Watson, an African American barber in Chambersburg, served in the 29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, Company E, as a private. His Chambersburg barber shop was less than a block west of the square on Route 30. Watson helped to organize the meeting of Frederick Douglass and John Brown on August 19, 1859, prior to Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry in October. Notably, Douglass was key in convincing Abraham Lincoln to allow people of color to serve and also recruited men to serve in the USCT. The 29th Connecticut mustered in March 8, 1864 and mustered out November 25, 1865. Watson died on May 20, 1898 and is buried in Mount Vernon/Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Chambersburg, which is the final resting place of twenty-six USCT.
Wesley Krunkleton was a farmer, born in Welsh Run near Mercersburg in 1839. Krunkleton enlisted in May 1863 and became a member of 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company K. Krunkleton was significantly wounded above the knee during the Battle of Grimball’s Landing in South Carolina in July 1863. He was discharged in August 1865 and received a pension for his disability. He died on October 31, 1902 and is buried in the Zion Union Cemetery in Mercersburg. Zion Union Cemetery contains thirty-six USCT veterans.
With the Militia Act of 1862, the door to military service was opened for African American citizens, and Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, ensuring the same rights to male citizens regardless of race. This provided for peacetime enlistment of all races in the military. Franklin County native Emanuel Alonza Miller enlisted on April 29, 1899 and joined the 9th Cavalry, which was one of the original regiments of U.S. Army for African American men. Men of the 9th and 10th Cavalry are commonly called the Buffalo Soldiers.
Emanuel Alonza Miller served during the Philippine Insurrection, in the Punitive Expeditionary Force against Mexican Insurgents, and in World War I. Miller was honorably discharged on July 21, 1925 with a rank of First Sergeant. His records note his character as excellent; his service as honest and faithful. He died at age 74 and is buried in Mount Lebanon Cemetery.
Check out the African American Veterans of Franklin County brochure here. The Franklin County Military Trail of History guide book is also a good starting point to exploring the contributions of African American veterans of Franklin County. Download the guidebook here and visit the gravesites of Franklin County’s USCT and Buffalo Soldiers. Or contact the Franklin County Visitors Bureau at 866.646.8060 to secure a copy.