I had no family oral history of anyone serving during the Civil War. I had not found any names of any direct ancestors when searching databases for the Civil War, specifically, none of my ancestors of color, either in the regular military or in the USCT. However, when planning for a trip to Tallahassee, I looked up places of interest to visit. I was going to be visiting the Eaton Archives at Florida A & M, to donate some items that belonged to my grandmother, Lela Virginia Farnell Williams, who had been among the first students. I thought I might have time to see some other places before leaving town (I didn’t as it turned out). I found the website of the 2nd Infantry USCT Living History Association, which had a muster roll of those in the units. On it was Silas Lightfoot. I knew that the name of the husband of my great grandmother’s sister, Harriet Jacobs was Silas Lightfoot. I had a USCT ancestor, albeit a collateral in-law, but who’s quibbling? I began to research his background.
Silas Lightfoot was born on 25 December 1844, in Southampton, Virginia. He was my 2nd great uncle by marriage, being married to Harriett Jacobs, sister of my great grandmother, Sallie Jacobs Farnell. On 23 June 1863, he enlisted in Company A, 2nd Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry, on Craney Island, Virginia, located in the waters of the Elizabeth River where Hampton Roads, Portsmouth, Newport News and Norfolk converge. It was off the waters of Craney Island that the Merrimac was sunk in 1862. Craney Island was thus under Union control.
In 1863, General Benjamin Butler, at nearby Fort Monroe, the Old Point Comfort, was faced with the decision of whether to return fugitive slaves, since President Lincoln had said the war was not about slavery. Butler chose not to do that, resulting in over 1600 freed slaves, identified as “contraband,” seeking refuge on Craney Island. Apparently, Silas was one of them.
Silas was described in his enlistment papers as 19 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches, dark skinned, with dark eyes, dark hair, and a farmer. He was enlisted by a Captain Wilder for three years and subsequently mustered in by Captain Cogswell. He was assigned to Fort Monroe, where he would serve until February of 1865, when he was transferred to Fort Taylor on Key West, Florida, where he served as the Post baker. His service records, however, indicate that he had several different occupations. In April 1864, he was assigned as a carpenter with the Quartermaster’s department. In May 1864, he was assigned to the Medical Director. He served in that capacity until November, when he was assigned as a hospital attendant.
Silas mustered out of the military 5 January 1866, in Tallahassee, according to the record of military service in the Bureau of Pensions file, for his widow, Harriet, dated 13 November 1890. On 6 October 1868, he married Caledonia Hinton there. They had two children, Robert and Frances (“Fanny”). Caledonia died 28 May 1874, in Madison, Madison County, according to a neighbor, Sallie Garvin. and the children went to live with relatives. Subsequently, on 7 November1874, in Live Oak, Suwannee, Florida, Silas married Harriett Jacobs. They would go on to have three children: Silas Jr., Charlotte, and Willie Caledonia. Charlotte was most likely named after Harriett’s mother, Charlotte Jacobs, and Willie Caledonia appears to have been named for his first wife, Caledonia.
By 1880, Silas was working for the railroad and was living in Orange County, in what would become Sanford, now in Seminole County. However, on 25 March 1884, he died intestate. Harriett petitioned the court to be named Administratrix of the estate and was so granted. The following year, on 21 August 1885, she sold her property in Live Oak, Suwannee County, to her sister, Sallie Jacobs Farnell, with the contingency that, on her death, it be passed next to Sallie’s daughter, Lela Virginia Farnell, my grandmother.
In 1890, Harriett filed for a widow’s pension, which was granted. In support of her application, her brother, Green Jacobs, submitted testimony that he was personally aware of the date of death for Silas Lightfoot. In 1916, in support of an application for an increase in pension benefits, another of Harriet’s brothers, Richard Jacobs, provided a statement in support of her claim, commenting that their family members were dead, except a younger brother “Joe.” It is assumed he meant other than her children. Also, as part of the request for increased benefits, friends John Morague and A. S. Stokes provided testimony wherein Harriet was described as a woman with,
“no property except a small lot and house thereon that she resides on in Sanford, Florida, and that said claimant … has to work to maintain herself and family and that she has no other means of support than her labor… derived from washing and cooking and that she has no other source of income whatever.”
The increase was granted.
 Silas Lightfoot (#716), Company A, Private In/Private Out. In Muster Roll of the Officers and Soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Regiment United States Colored Troops. Retrieved from: Muster Roll–2nd Infantry USCT
 Military Service: Silas Lightfoot in Pension Application # 447.541 (13 Nov 1890). War Department Record and Pension Division. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.
 Declaration for Original Pension of a Widow, Child or Children under Sixteen Years of Age Surviving: Harriet Lightfoot. “His by a former marriage: Robert, born 1870; Frances, born 1873.” Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.
 General Affidavit of Sallie Garvin18 April 1892. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.
 1880 US Federal Census Place: Precinct 1 and 2, Putnam, Florida; Nathaniel Hinton, head; Fanny Lightfoot, niece. NARA Roll: 131; Family History Film: #1254131; Page: 37A; Enumeration District: 130. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com
And, Florida, State Census, 1867-1945 [Database on-line]. Edith Austin, head; Robert C. Lightfoot, great nephew. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com
 Widow’s Pension: Harriet Lightfoot, 447541. Silas, born 16 Dec 1879; Charlotte, born 18 September 1881; Willie Caledonia, born 18 July 1883. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.
 1870 US Federal Census, Place: Subdivision 9, Suwannee, Florida; William Jacobs, head; Charlotte Jacobs, Harriet Jacobs. NARA Roll: M593-133; Page: 686A; Image: 507; Family History Library Film: #545632. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com
 1880 US Federal Census, Place: Precinct 2, Orange, Florida; Silas Lightfoot, head. NARA Roll: 131; Family History Film: #1254131; Page: 429B; Enumeration District: 126; Image: 0501. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com
 Declaration for Original Pension of a Widow, Child or Children under Sixteen Years of Age Surviving: Harriet LightfootVeterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.
 Florida, Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1974 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot, Deceased; Hattie Lightfoot, Administratrix. Probate Packet 91, Orange County, Florida. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com
 Widow’s Pension: Harriet Lightfoot, 447541. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.
 General Affidavit, Green Jacobs, 9 February 1892 and 18 April 1892, Sanford, Florida, in support of Claim for Pension by Harriet Lightfoot. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.
 Notarized Statement of Richard Jacobs, 22 December 1916, Sanford, Florida, in support of Claim for Increase in Benefits by Harriet Lightfoot. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.
 General Affidavit, John Morague and A. S. Stokes, Sanford, Florida, in support of increase of pension benefits, Harriet Lightfoot. Veterans Application Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.
 Death Compensation or Pension Award Account Card, Payee: Harriet Lightfoot, Died 8-24-45. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.