“It was as if it grabbed me by the leg,” he said. The name, carved in the shape of an arch. The mysterious letters underneath. “It got to me so much I had to try to find out what it meant.”
Peterson researched Weaver’s story and told it to local historian Kevin D. Grigsby. And now the old soldier from Company D and hundreds of other black men from Loudoun who fought for freedom in the Civil War are getting their due.
Grigsby has resurrected their names and some of their stories in a book, “From Loudoun to Glory,” about the forgotten role of African Americans from the county during the war and its aftermath.
In the land of the legendary “Gray Ghost” — Confederate raider Col. John S. Mosby — Grigsby tells of the county’s intrepid black men who flocked, often from the slave cabin, to the defense of the Union.
“Yes, there was a Confederate heritage” in Loudoun, Grigsby, who lives in Leesburg, said in an interview. “But there’s also this story that’s behind the scenes of African American soldiers. People need to know the whole story.”
From rural graveyards, interviews and archives like Loudoun’s old “Register of Free Negroes,” Grigsby, 40, found the stories of men such as Weaver.
He was one of many ex-slaves and free blacks who in 1863 made their way to Roosevelt Island, then Mason’s Island, to sign up with the 1st Colored Infantry.
Weaver was about 19 that summer and was joined by other Loudoun natives or residents who signed on with the 1st — Julius Caesar, who became a sharpshooter and was wounded in battle, Abraham Mill, Claiborne Jackson and Gabriel C. Fields.
Another black Loudoun soldier was Washington Alexander, a slave who had been sold to a master in the Deep South. Newly freed, he signed up with the 49th U.S. Colored Infantry in either Louisiana or Mississippi in 1863.
He was reported missing in action in 1863 after the bitter Battle of Milliken’s Bend in Louisiana, where Southern soldiers yelled that they would take no black prisoners.
“This is a regiment that was formed straight off the plantation,” Grigsby said. “Not a lot of time for training. By all accounts they should have been slaughtered, but somehow they ended up winning.”
Daniel Lacey, another county native, served in the 11th U.S. Colored Infantry. He was involved in the Fort Pillow Massacre on April 12, 1864, where black soldiers were said to have been executed by rebels who seized the fort, Grigsby wrote.
Lacey was wounded and taken prisoner but later escaped. He managed to rejoin the remnants of his regiment, but he died of his wounds on June 22, 1864.
William Gilbert, of Waterford in Loudoun County, served in the 32nd U.S. Colored Infantry. He was killed in the lopsided Union defeat at Honey Hill, S.C., on Nov. 30, 1864.