Major Magwood, Corporal
128th U.S. Colored Troops Co. A
by Amy Lyn Hedrick
Born in the 1830's, Major Magwood was formerly enslaved by George Dent in South Carolina as were his parents. George Dent was born 1 May 1821 in Charleston, South Carolina and married Ophelia Troup on 22 November 1847. His wife was the daughter of James McGilveray Troup and Camilla Brailsford.
Within the pension files of Major (No. 978236), we find that his wife was likely known to him previous to the war and his marriage, as was the area of Glynn County. His wife was enslaved on Broadfield Plantation which was owned by the Troup family and later by George C. Dent. Today the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation is a National Historic Site where you can visit the lands and home of the Dent family.
In March of 1863 at Hilton Head, South Carolina Major enlisted in Company A of the 128th U.S. Colored Troops and served until honorably discharged at Morris Island in October 1866 with the rank of corporal. Major was born and raised in slavery and some of the white men who helped him document his health and who attested to his character were his neighbors and Confederate veterans.
The pension file for Major Magwood is well over 100 pages and included numerous affidavits about his life, many in his own words. The recurring discrepancy was his date of birth and his discharge from service. Several times he stated that he did not know when exactly he was born, but one document actually stated he was born 1 March 1834 and his tombstone in Freedman's Rest Cemetery is inscribed with the date 4 March 1832.
On 14 September 1903, Major submitted an affidavit in his own words about his life; here it is in its entirety:
I can't tell my age. I reckon I am over 70. My P.O. is Evelyn, Ga. I am a farmer.
I am the Major Magwood who served as a corporal in Co. A-128 U.S.C.V.I. during the war of the Rebellion and was pensioned at $12 a month under the Act of June 27, 1890.
The above was my only U.S. military service. I was not in the navy.
I was born near Walterboro, S.C., the slave of George Dent and remained his slave until freedom.
My father was named Harry Magwood.
My mother was named Fortimore Magwood.
Both belonged to my owner. Both are dead.
I titled after my father and have never been called or known by any name except Major Magwood.
I have no living brothers or sisters. I cannot locate any of my white people at the present time.
I enlisted at Hilton Head, S.C. I can't give the date. I was examined all over by a doctor while I was naked. Our Regt. was only stationed at Beaufort and Grahamville and Morris Island, S.C. We were discharged at Morris Island, S.C. because the war was over. I was discharged with my Co. I did duty all the time with my Co. and was never on detached service. I have lived in this county ever since my discharge. I have lost my original discharge Ctf.
(He is 5-10 by actual measurement, black, no marks or scars and is in his 60's. He exhibits his commission as corporal and it is genuine beyond a doubt.)
(Voucher, Nov. 1903, and pension Ctf. in hand. Voucher OK. Ctf. shows Act of June 27, 1890—Original—No. 9982306—Major Magwood—Corporal A—128 U.S.C.V.I. Issued Oct. 13, 1900 at $12.00 to commence Nov. 15, 1899—Inablitly to earn, &c.)
I kept my own pension papers. I have never pledged them or either of them for money or thing of value.
Howard was my Col. Saxton was my Maj. His brother was my Capt. I have forgotten my Lts. I can't name either of them. Frank Jones was my [illegible] Sergt. I think he is a butcher in Savannah. Sergt. Fulk was my tent mate. The last I heard from him he was in Charleston, S.C.
Abe and Filden Bennett were my original witnesses. Neither was a soldier.
I was in the hospital at Beaufort, S.C. sick of pneumonia. I fully recovered and was discharged in good health. I never applied for pension under the old law. I have no claim pending before the pension office at the present time.
My only attorney was F.C. Satterthwait of Leachville, N.C. I paid him no fee. I suppose he was paid from Washington. My local agent was Judge Lambright, of Brunswick, Ga. I only paid him 50� each time for sealing papers.
I have been married but once. I married Mary Ann McIntosh by license in this Co. Our marriage is of record in the C.H. Rev. Nelson married us. I can't tell where he is. We have had 13 children. None are under 16 years of age.
I execute my pension vouchers before Wm. Anderson, a Notary Public of Brunswick, Ga. I never go to him before the 4th of signing month. I carry both papers, swear and pay 50¢.
I own no property and carry no life insurance.
Major Magwood was illiterate, signing many documents with his mark and relying on the good faith of local white men to convey his interests. It appears that even though he was formerly enslaved and a Union soldier, his Confederate veteran neighbors helped him file all the proper documents even attesting to his character when needed. Not long after he started the filing process, Major learned how to sign his name.
Although he could not furnish proof of his birth date by a baptismal record or bible record, he did state that his birth was recorded in a plantation journal that was in the hands of James Troup Dent, further proving Major's connection to the Hofwyl-Broadfield lands before his marriage to Mary Ann McIntosh. A letter to him dated 2 June 1910 confirmed the existence of this plantation record and requested he submit a copy.
In 1898 Major submitted affidavits stating that was 65 years old and that he developed a hernia several years ago from hard labor and was unable to perform the day to day tasks involved in farming his land. During 1865, he was detailed at Beaufort unloading coal from barges at the docks in which service he developed the hernia.
He supplied witnesses to his character stating that he did not receive this wound from any vicious behaviors but could not supply the witnesses that were there when he was injured. Two of the witnesses were Hazma and Jack Allen, who were 59 and 48 years old respectively, who stated that Major was a sober and peaceable man who had no vicious habits and that they know him to have had this hernia for several years. The other two witnesses to the same information were Fielding Troup (a black man aged 64 years) and J.E. Lambright (a white man aged 75 years).
Not only did these men attest to his illness and character, so do his doctors on physician affidavits at various dates. On 23 April 1892, Dr. H.M. Branham stated Major was suffering from the hernia and a displaced testicle and that due to these injuries was unable to perform manual labor and was in great pain. Four days later Dr. Branham passed away.
In 1894 Dr. Judson A. Butts, a Confederate veteran, stated Major was suffering from rheumatism and a gun shot wound to his leg that he received at Evelyn shortly after he was mustered out at James Island.
L.B. Davis, on 28 April 1898, stated he had been treating Major for 10 years. He, along with J.E. Lambright, was a Confederate veteran.
The 1892 affidavit included the medical sketches of Major's complaints and his vital statistics. At this time he was 58 years old, 5 foot 10 inches and 178 pounds. The 1898 affidavit said Major was 65 years old, 5 foot 9 inches and 180 pounds.
At the time of his discharge on 10 October 1866, he was granted $8 a month. On 15 November 1899 he was granted $12 a month. On 23 March 1908 he was receiving $15 a month. By 1900 he was suffering from the hernia, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and general debility.
Having read pension files for many other persons while doing research, I have found that there are always date discrepancies (and name discrepancies), on a declaration dated 24 February1892 it was written that Major was discharged on 20 September 1866 at James Island, South Carolina and that at the time of the affidavit, he was suffering from rheumatism of his hips and heart trouble contracted several years ago from exposure.
Then on another documented dated 15 September 1894 it was written that he was discharged on 12 December 1866. However, most of the documents state his enlistment date of 22 March 1865 and discharge date of 10 October 1866.
Also contained in this file was the application for a widow's pension by Mary where she stated that she was born 24 March 1843 at Broadfield Plantation. Her initial pension application was filed 7 July 1910, three days after her husband's death and was submitted 11 November 1910. This document gives a synopsis of Major's actions concerning his pension files, his death date, and the date of their marriage, 16 September 1867 in Darien, McIntosh County by Rev. Harris. His initial filing was on 27 February 1892, he was only married the one time and they never divorced. Not only this, but the document states that Mary was unable to write, and she signed with her mark.
Mary was unable to furnish proof of their marriage, the reason being, the McIntosh County court house was burned down for the second time in the 1870's, but she did provide witnesses to the marriage, Georgia Gibson 78 years of age and Adam McIntosh 58 years of age.
Both stated they were present at the marriage; Adam would have been 15 years old at that time and could possibly be a younger brother. The 1870 Glynn census lists a 22 year old Adam McIntosh living a few houses away from Major. This record places him closer in age to Mary Ann.
The other two witnesses stated they new the couple before and after the marriage. They were 81 year old Sampson McIntosh, who may have also been a brother, and 73 year old Dorcas McGuire.
And, as usual, there is a discrepancy in this date too. Major stated, in 1898, that he was married 7 years before the Civil War, in Glynn County, by Rev. A. Harris and in 1903 he said he was married in Glynn County by Rev. Nelson. This 1898 document actually lists six of their children then living: Bessy born 15 August 1868; Rebecca born 1 October 1870; Matilda born 4 April 1873; Harry born 18 June 1876; Henry 22 May 1878; and William born 26 February 1881.
Then in a letter worded by Mary Ann received in 1927, she states she was married 2 years before peace was declared. The reason for this discrepancy? Well, in order to claim an increase in her pension, she had to prove that she was married to the soldier during his service, therefore she stated she was married to him two years before peace was declared, which was when he also enlisted.
Mary Ann Magwood died 14 February 1930, the next day a receipt was filled out by the Byrd-Hall Funeral Home itemizing her funeral costs. Her casket was $85, a dress for burial was $15, and floral arrangements cost $2, no mention of place of burial, but one would assume she was interred next to her husband in Freedman's Rest.
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