Sherry Hinant, Genealogy Librarian of Harrisburg District Library, is researching a Civil War veteran and a veteran’s organization in Harrisburg.
Clifton Jackson of Springfield is a relative of James H. Barnett, one of the few African American Civil War veterans who lived in Saline County. Jackson provided Hinant a copy of a photo of Barnett sitting with other Civil War veterans possibly taken in 1915 and asked for her help in identifying them.
The project will be part of a display of Civil War quilts at the Illinois State Museum that runs Feb. 3 through Sept. 8.
Hinant has learned when the Civil War broke out, James Barnett (1840-1926) was a slave in Kentucky. His owner enlisted in the Confederate Army and was arrested recruiting rebel soldiers in Kentucky, a state was supposed to be neutral. Barnett made his way north and with his six brothers enlisted in the Union Army. Barnett rose to the rank of sergeant in the 28th Indiana Infantry U. S. Colored Troops and served until the end of the war as the only brother to survive.
After the war, Barnett returned to Kentucky to bring his wife and three children to Illinois. He established a farm outside of Shawneetown in Gallatin County, Illinois. By 1875, the Barnett family had moved to Harrisburg in Saline County.
The back of this photograph does not list its sitters, but an inscription reads: "Grandfather Jim Barnett and his Revolutionary buddies." This mysterious note may simply be a mistaken war, or it may be that Barnett and his friends were somewhat revolutionary, Hinant notes. Racial tensions and violence were especially high in the early 20th century. Civil War veterans groups were known advocates for Union soldiers rights regardless of their race. In the photograph as in the flag quilt, James Barnett is integrated with equal standing to his peers.
Hinant believes Jackson’s photo may have been of members of the Harrisburg George Newell Grand Army of the Republic Post 454. The GAR was among the first organized advocacy groups, supporting voting rights for African Americans and the establishment of pensions for Civil War veterans, including African Americans.
They were also instrumental in establishing Soldiers and Sailors Homes. In 1868, Commander-in-Chief of the GAR, John A. Logan issued General Order No.11 calling for all GAR Departments and Posts to set aside the 30th of May as a day for remembering the sacrifices of fallen comrades, thereby beginning the celebration of Memorial Day.
The display in Springfield is intended to present the Civil War through a woman’s point of view. Called “Civil War Quilters: Loyal Hearts of Illinois” will include a quilt from Saline County. The maker of the Saline County Commemorative Flag Quilt is unknown, but it is believed to have been made between the years 1912-1915 and is made of hand-pieced and quilted cotton.
Page 2 of 2 - Made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil War, this memorial quilt is in the form of an American flag with 48 stars, the number used from 1912-1959. The quilt is believed to have been made as a fundraiser raffle quilt for a Harrisburg, reunion of Saline County veterans, Hinant said. It is embroidered with the names and regiments of Civil War veterans living in Saline County, Illinois, by 1912. The first of the men listed here died in 1915.
Among the names of veterans on the quilt is Barnett.
Hinant hopes someone locally can help her with the project by providing information about the veterans in the photograph and on records or information pertaining to the GAR post in Harrisburg.
Anyone with information may contact Hinant at the library at 253-7455 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.