Freedom Journey

Black Civil War Soldiers and The Hills Community, Westchester County, New York

By Edythe Ann Quinn

Subjects: New York/regional, African American Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438455389, 250 pages, May 2015

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Table of contents

1. The Hills in 1860
2. War Comes to Westchester and The Hills
Sidebar 1: Peekskill Men in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment
Sidebar 2: Aaron Halstead Jr. , Landsman, U. S. Navy
3. Fourteenth Regiment, Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (Colored)
Sidebar 3: Food Issues for the USCT
Sidebar 4: Abusive Discipline of Black Soldiers
4. Twenty-ninth Connecticut Regiment, Infantry Colored Volunteers
Sidebar 5: Treating Pneumonia in 1864
Sidebar 6: Excerpts from 1st Lt. Henry H. Brown’s Account of October 27, 1864
Sidebar 7: Medical Case of Pvt. John Purdy
5. Twentieth Infantry Regiment, USCT
Sidebar 8: Chaplain George W. LeVere
Sidebar 9: Battle of Port Hudson, May 27, 1863
Sidebar 10: Van Amburgh’s Circus
Sidebar 11: Attack on Milliken’s Bend, June 7, 1863
photo gallery follows page 112
6. Post-Civil War Years in The Hills
Sidebar 12: Valentine M. Hodgson and M. A. Hodgson, White Plains Pension Agents
Sidebar 13: “Colored Veteran Gets Pension”
Appendix A: Roster of the Hills Men in the Civil War
Appendix B: Letters Home: Civil War Letters of Sgt. Simeon Anderson Tierce
Letter dated November 24, 1863
Sidebar 14: Notes for Letter dated November 24, 1863
Letter dated February 15, 1864
Sidebar 15: Notes for Letter dated February 15, 1864
Letter dated February 22, 1864
Sidebar 16: Notes for Letter dated February 22, 1864
Letter dated March 11, 1864
Sidebar: 17: Notes for Letter dated March 11, 1864
Undated letter (written between March 27 and July 8, 1864)
Sidebar 18: Notes for Undated letter (written between March 27 and July 8, 1864)
Appendix C: Jacobs Williams of Harrison, Private, Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment
Appendix D: Allen Banks’ Freedom Journey
About the Author

The story of thirty-six African American men who drew upon their shared community of The Hills for support as they fought in the Civil War.


Through wonderfully detailed letters, recruit rosters, and pension records, Edythe Ann Quinn shares the story of thirty-five African American Civil War soldiers and the United States Colored Troop (USCT) regiments with which they served. Associated with The Hills community in Westchester County, New York, the soldiers served in three regiments: the 29th Connecticut Infantry, 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (11th USCT), and the 20th USCT. The thirty-sixth Hills man served in the Navy. Their ties to family, land, church, school, and occupational experiences at home buffered the brutal indifference of boredom and battle, the ravages of illness, the deprivations of unequal pay, and the hostility of some commissioned officers and white troops. At the same time, their service among kith and kin bolstered their determination and pride. They marched together, first as raw recruits, and finally as seasoned veterans, welcomed home by generals, politicians, and above all, their families and friends.

Edythe Ann Quinn is Professor of History at Hartwick College.


"Freedom Journey … add[s] new and important voices to the Civil War narrative. " — Journal of African American History

"…[this book] will be readily enjoyed by those readers interested in intensely detail-oriented Civil War sourcing … Quinn's book is an achievement in itself, on behalf of the Hills's nineteenth-century residents. " — Connecticut History Review

"…a welcome addition to the literature on African-American Civil War participation in general, and to that of New York's black soldiers in particular. " — Journal of Military History

"…Quinn sheds light on what life was like in the Hills, as well as the soldiers' wartime experiences. " — Hudson River Valley Review

"This book takes a fascinating look at 'forgotten history' and makes it clear that, although freedom was partially gained by these African Americans, their 'Freedom Journey' continued long after the shooting stopped. Highly recommended. " — Civil War News

"Quinn's meticulous research and refined historical interpretation has allowed her to recover a uniquely enlightening chapter of nineteenth-century African American history in the North. By tracing the lives of Union soldiers from a free, black community in Westchester County, New York, we discover the commitment of these men and their families from The Hills to the eradication of slavery in the South. With notable sensitivity, the author produces a tale of black men who risked their lives and the security of their families for the sake of freedom. It is a story about conviction—poignant, inspiring, and persuasive. " — Myra Young Armstead, editor of Mighty Change, Tall Within: Black Identity in the Hudson Valley

"As an in-depth case study of the African American volunteers from The Hills community who served in the Civil War, Edythe Ann Quinn's Freedom Journey is a well-researched book that explores a much needed ethnic aspect of that war. For those interested in genealogy and local history, Freedom Journey offers unique insights into the social and cultural history of The Hills community, first settled in the 1790s. Additionally, the work contains a roster of the volunteers and thirteen historical sidebars that relate to the African American wartime experience. " — Anthony F. Gero, author of Black Soldiers of New York State: A Proud Legacy

"Edythe Ann Quinn has taken a little-known community, The Hills in Westchester County, and using a comprehensively well-resourced and researched methodology, has written not only an enjoyable and engagingly attractive family history (individual and collective) of black New Yorkers from slavery to freedom, but as well the sacrifices that the community's young men gave. It is the voices of those sable warriors that are heard through the personal letters, woven into the overall engaging literary style of the author. " — A. J. Williams-Myers, author of Long Hammering: Essays on the Forging of an African American Presence in the Hudson River Valley to the Early Twentieth Century