New marker near Utica remembers black soldier

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 4, 2000

Marie Davenport stands with an American Flag presented to her during a memorial service Sunday in honor of her great-grandfather Tom Scott. Family members placed a headstone in the cemetery next to the church where Scotts remains are buried. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

UTICA Descendants of Tom Scott gathered at a little church between Utica and Port Gibson Sunday to remember and honor the Civil War veteran whose grave has been unmarked since his death more than 75 years ago.

Scott, who was a slave on a horse farm in Kentucky when the War Between the States broke out, died in Mississippi in August 1925. Family members say no one is certain exactly where in the Second Union Baptist Church Cemetery Scott was buried, but they found a good site for a marker.

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Until a few years ago, few knew the story of Scott’s life.

About five years ago, Scott’s great-granddaughter, Marie Davenport, a teacher in Germany with the Department of Defense, wanted to know more about the man her grandmother called “Pappy.” It was her crusade to discover her heritage that led to Sunday’s memorial service.

“He made the sacrifice for you and for me,” Davenport told family and friends. “We honor him today for that bravery.”

In 1864, Scott, then 19, was one of about 600 black men recruited from Lebanon, Ky., for the U.S. Army. Most of the men who joined were former slaves or runaways who could neither read nor write. Military documents uncovered by Davenport show an “X” Scott made in the space for his name.

As part of the Union forces, Scott would leave his mark on history as a part of the U.S. 5th Colored Cavalry, which first saw battle at Saltville, in the mountains of southwest Virginia.

The troops had little training when they were issued untrained horses and single-shot rifles and sent into battle on Oct. 1 of that year.

Pvt. Scott’s role in the battle is not certain, but he did survive the slaughter of wounded black and white soldiers on the battlefield by a band of Confederates. History would remember the battle as the Saltville Massacre.

Scott would participate in five other major battles before the end of the war.

“I was honored to know that my great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War,” said Loretta Burnett, another of Scott’s descendants.

After the war, Scott moved to Rocky Springs where he became one of the first blacks to own land in the community southeast of Vicksburg in Claiborne County. He had two children there, Ada and Bettie, and spent the rest of his days working his own land where he grew cotton and raised horses.

“We talk a lot about role models,” said Rick Randall of the Department of Veterans Affairs. But, “Mr. Scott is a true role model.”

Randall read and presented the family with a certificate of honor for Scott signed by President Clinton.

Services included singing, praying and the reading of poetry dedicated to Scott and other black soldiers. Full military honors were given as part of the service by the 1st U.S. Mississippi Colored Infantry of the Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Colored Troops.

Services concluded with the playing of “Taps,” a gun salute by the black Civil War re-enactors and the presentation of an American flag to the family.

“We pause on this day to remember Tom Scott and what he meant to his people,” said the Rev. Michael Reed, pastor of Second Union Baptist Church.

A permanent marker was placed on the church grounds for Scott, where records indicate he attended and served as a deacon. The marker was placed next to the grave of Scott’s daughter Ada.