Henry Underwood served in black Civil War unit

By Emily List/Richmond News Staff

When people think of slavery in Missouri they think circa Civil War. The first black slaves to arrive in the area were brought by Philippe Renault, enroute from France, in 1719. Renault bought 500 slaves from the island of Santo Domingo (the French colony of Haiti) to work in mines he planned to open in the Missouri territory. Both the slaves and their masters spoke French and worked in the lead mines west of St. Genevieve.

Up until 1865, the number of slaves in Missouri was never enlarged as compared to other states in which slave labor existed. In 1860, there were 149,931 slaves and 3,572 free African Americans. From 1810 to 1860, the average price of a slave was $700.

Richmond resident Henry Underwood, one of those slaves, was a mulatto. He enlisted July 1863 at the age of 21 as a private in company J of the 67th Missouri Infantry, which later became the 11th U.S. Colored Infantry, Company E. While in the military, Henry also learned to care for wounded soldiers and unofficially became a nurse. He moved back to Richmond but continued nursing soldiers long after the war was over. He wasn’t discharged until July 1885.

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