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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.