It has been only relatively recently that the service of African-American soldiers in the Civil War has been adequately recognized. In the Sandusky area during the war, fifteen African-American men volunteered for service in Company I of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The men were mustered into service in May and June of 1863 at Camp Meigs in Readville, Massachusetts.
In January 1863, Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts received permission to recruit an African-American regiment to fight for the Union. The 55th was a sister regiment to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, whose heroic service in the war was featured in the movie, Glory. This second unit was formed due to the overwhelming response from men who sought to serve in the 54th. A total of 222 men from Ohio served in the Massachusetts 55th.
Among the Sanduskians who served, William H. Johnson was killed in battle on July 2, 1864 at James Island, South Carolina. Morris Darnell and Elijah J. Brown
returned home to Sandusky after the war, and are buried in Oakland Cemetery; Frank Gardner, Joshua Cole, and Thomas Robinson are buried at the Ohio Veterans Home.
African American soldiers comprised over ten percent of the Union Army, and over 18,000 African-American men served in the Navy. You can read an article about the Sandusky recruits in the June 2, 1863 issue of the Sandusky Daily Commercial Register, available on microfilm in the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. Military records from the Civil War and other wars may be found on the Ancestry Library Edition research database, which can be accessed from within the library.