In Their Own Words: Cpl. Henry Jolly, 35th U. S. Colored Infantry (1865)

In December of 1865, Cpl. Henry Jolly, of the 35th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry, penned a letter to the South Carolina Leader, an African American newspaper based in Charleston, South Carolina, in which he reflected on the racial abuse and hostility towards the freedmen and U. S. Colored Troops in postwar South Carolina.

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 17, 2014, New Bern, North Carolina. All rights reserved.

“Mr. Editor, I am a colored soldier who came across the sea to serve in the army of the United States. I offered my services and have served two years. When my time is out I am willing to serve three years more if necessary. But I think that the Southern States have got enough of Union Colored Troops by the way they act. The Union men will be sorrowful when we depart, and the Rebels will rejoice. We feel, however, that we have done our duty, and an important service to the country, and look not to be rewarded by anything save the rights which belong to the citizens of America.”George’s Station, Dorchester County, South Carolina, 15 December 1865.1


Cpl. Henry Jolly, of Company G, 35th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry, was born enslaved about 1843 in Williamston, Martin County, North Carolina. He was the son of Jesse Jolly and Bashey Jolly. He enlisted at the age of twenty on May 27, 1863, at New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina, and mustered in one month later on June 30, 1863. In his enlistment record, he was described as five feet, five inches tall, with a “black” complexion, eyes, and hair.

Henry Jolly was appointed Corporal on September 1, 1864. During his service in Florida, Cpl. Jolly suffered two bouts of illness: in St. Augustine, Florida, in October, 1864, and later while on duty in Jacksonville, Florida, in late November of 1864. Cpl. Henry Jolly mustered out of service on June 1, 1866, at Charleston, South Carolina.2

Johnson and Ward (New York) map of North Carolina and South Carolina (1864). David Rumsey Map Collection. St. George (George’s Station), Dorchester County, South Carolina, Williamston, Martin County, and New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina, are indicated.

After the war, Cpl. Jolly married Miss Olivia Oden, of Craven County, North Carolina, on October 28, 1868.3 Olivia was the daughter of Starkey W. Oden, Sr., and Patience Oden. She was the sister of Starkey W. Oden, Jr., Augustus Oden, Edward W. Oden, and Sarah Oden Slade. Olivia’s brother, Starkey, Jr., was a musician/drummer with the 37th U. S. Colored Infantry. 4

In the 1870 U. S. Census, Henry Jolly and family were documented in the Wildwood district (Township No. 7) of Craven County, North Carolina. The household included, Henry (26), wife Olivia (19), son Earnest (10 months), and Georgiana Jones (16), noted as a nurse. Henry and Olivia both worked as farm laborers. 5

1870 U. S. Census, Wildwood District (Township No. 7), Craven County, North Carolina. Source: Ancestry.com

Cpl. Henry Jolly filed for his (approved) pension, in 1889, but must have passed away soon after, as his wife, Olivia, was documented as his widow in the 1890 Veterans Schedule. 6

I assumed (wrongly), that Cpl. Jolly was laid to rest in New Bern National Cemetery, but records of the cemetery do not contain any information of his burial. It is possible that Cpl. Jolly rests, along with his family, in historic Greenwood Cemetery, New Bern, along with ten other United States Colored Troops.

Greenwood Cemetery sign. October 17, 2014.
Greenwood Cemetery entrance. October 17, 2014.
Greenwood Cemetery historical wayside marker, October 17, 2014. Photo: Nadia K. Orton. All rights reserved.
Greenwood Cemetery, October 17, 2014. Photo: Nadia K. Orton. All rights reserved.

  1. The South Carolina Leader (Charleston, SC), 23 December 1865, p. 2, col. 5; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://newspapers.com: accessed 17 November 2019.)
  2. The National Archives, “Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served with the United States Colored Troops: Infantry Organizations, 31st through 35th,” database online, Fold3 (https://fold3.com: accessed 17 November 2019), citing entry for Henry Jolly, Cpl., Co. G, 35th U. S. Colored Infantry, Union.
  3. Ancestry.com, “North Carolina Marriage Records, 1741-2011,” Henry Jolly-Olivia Oden, 28 October 1868; image, “Craven County Marriage Register, 1851-1981,” Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com: accessed 17 November 2019.)
  4. The National Archives, “Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served with the United States Colored Troops: Infantry Organizations, 36th through 40th,” database online, Fold3 (https://fold3.com: accessed 17 November 2019), citing entry for Starkey Oden, Musician, Co. K, 37th U. S. Colored Infantry, Union.
  5. “U. S. Census 1870,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com: accessed 17 November 2019); Wildwood Township (No. 7), New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina, p.3; citing “Year: 1870; Census Place: Wildwood, Craven, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1132; Page: 433A; Family History Library Film: 552631.”
  6. Ancestry.com, “1890 Veterans Schedule, Craven County, North Carolina” database online, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com: accessed 17 November 2019), entry for Henry Jolly, Pvt., Co. G, 35th U. S. Colored Infantry, Union.

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