A Native American serves the Union
As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel in southern Ohio on a temporary business assignment. This area, Ross County, is rife with Native American lore and legend, and the town, Chillicothe, was once a bustling chief town of the Shawnee Nation. Legendary war chief Tecumseh is a popular figure in these parts, and there is a well attended outdoor drama remembering his exploits and life.
In some respects, this area during the Civil War was similar to York County. Both counties provided significant numbers of troops for the Union Army; both were comprised primarily of people of Germanic and Scotch-Irish heritage. Farming was still king, and the county seats were beginning to develop a strong industrial base. There were still vestiges of Native American culture and people scattered in the rural areas, and some of these men also joined the army to fight under Old Glory.
York Daily Record writer Scott Rappold back in 2004 combed through the records of the library of the York County Heritage Trust looking for records and accounts of black soldiers who fought in the segregated regiments raised starting in the middle of the war.
He also found this interesting tidbit, “Henry Bear, an American Indian from York County, served in the 127th U.S. Colored Troops, a unit that participated in the final crushing of Robert E. Lee’s army. He was wounded by a cannon shell while on a skirmish line.”
Henry Bear was very common name in the ranks of volunteer soldiers from Pennsylvania. Military records in the state archives mention at least eight men by this same name. There was another Henry Bear from York, this one a Caucasian, His story is indicative a long ago military practice where a man with access to money could buy his way out of the army by paying $300 and finding someone to take his place. The 32-year-old Bear briefly served in 166th Pennsylvania as a private, mustering into the army in November of 1862. His service records reveal that he was “discharged by procuring a sub. — date unknown.”