Saturday, June 8, 2013

African Americans - Many Rivers to Cross: The Life of Bristor Harrison: From Slavery, the Civil War, Freedom and Death!

By Bernice Alexander Bennett

Several months ago, I wrote this article in recognition of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War that described the life of one soldier Bristor Harrison in the United States Colored Troops with ties to the Louisiana Florida Parishes. Bristor Harrison is listed on plaque number A-16 at the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, DC.

His recruitment papers indicated that he was born in Petersburg, Dinwiddle County, Virginia about 1829.

I could not find any documentation on Bristor's parents who were most likely enslaved and sold following his birth and arrival in Louisiana.

However, a legal document was found through the Slocum Collection and transcribed below where Harrison is listed as a slave for life:

Amite City, Louisiana

January 29, 1863

Received from Thomas Green Davidson the sum of $800 as the price of the boy Harrison slave for life, which I have this day sold and delivered to him. I bind myself to make a notarial title to the slave with a full guarantee whenever called on so to do –

Eliza W. Morse
Jn. W. Moore

Moses Wolf

By 1864, the United States has been fully engaged in the Civil War for 4 years and President Lincoln has issued a recruitment announcement for black soldiers. Many blacks upon learning about their freedom through the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 either abandoned the plantations they lived on to follow the Union Soldiers in contraband camps and/or ran away and enlisted in the Union Army to fight for their liberation and the destruction of the Confederacy.

A recruitment poster distributed throughout the United States War Department Adjutant General was actively accepting black men in the Union Army and Navy. By the end of the war, over 200,000 black soldiers had fought the Union and for freedom.

Bristor Harrison responded to General Order No. 233: as noted in this recruitment poster with a brief transcription of the last paragraph below:

"The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession. It is therefore ordered, for every soldier of the United States, killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy, or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works, and continued until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to prisoners of war."

July 30, 1863

Bristor Harrison Enrolled in the United States Colored Troops

On September 4, 1864,35 year old Bristor Harrison enlisted in Company L, 6th Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery in Vicksburg, Mississippi for 3 years and mustered out on February 5, 1865. At the time of his enlistment he was living in Vicksburg and is described on his enrollment papers as being 5 feet 8 3/4 inches tall of black complexion, black eyes and hair.

Post Civil War

Bristor Harrison survived the war and returned to Louisiana and is identified on an 1867 Freedman Bureau Labor Contract living on the Davidson Plantation owned by Thomas Green Davidson in Livingston Parish. I found it interesting that Harrison was a slave for life in the 1863 transaction with Davidson and perhaps through a familial relationship was comfortable returning as a freedman with his family.

The Agreement included work stipulation as a laborer and Bristor Harrison, Flora Harrison and two dependents are listed on the contract.

Status of Bristor and Flora Harrison

I wanted to know more about Flora Harrison and found documentation that Flora Harrison was born in January, 1822 in Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi to James Clark and Eleza Young.

While no documentation is found to determine if Flora was co-habitating with Bristor prior to the Civil War, it is possible that they could have met during or after the Civil War in Mississippi. Nevertheless, they are both listed on the Freedmen Bureau Labor Contract with Thomas Green Davidson and have two young children.

I found a marriage document that in 1872, BristorHarrison age 50 and FloraClark were officially married in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana.

However, going back two years in 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified, giving African American men the right to vote. Bristor as a freed man was justified in exercising his right to vote as a “colored Republican” for the candidate of his choice.

Thomas Green Davidson
was a republican candidate for the legislator and more likely had an influence on Bristor’s political leanings. Nevertheless, many citizens both black and white were intimidated with threats and violence by the coal-oil and buck-shot clan composed of white democrats in Livingston parish to prevent them from voting for the Republican candidates.

I was very saddened to discover that on March 26, 1876, Bristor Harrison was murdered in the 11th ward of East Baton Rouge between Beaver Pond and Sandy Creek. He was shot to death and had his throat cut by the "Democrats" who were trying to silence the outspoken "colored Republicans" who were influencing election results .

Dozens of "black people" were also killed around this time as they attempted to exercise their rights to vote.

Flora Harrison and her family after the murder

By 1880 , Flora Harrison is 47 years old and is listed as a widow residing in the 5th Ward of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is in the household with five children, the eldest is Midlage Harrison, age 18, Mary Harrison, age 15, Lilley Harrison, age 13, Rose Harrison, age 8, Corine Harrison, age 7, Brestin Harrison, age 7, Simon Harrison, age 3 and Victoria Harrison, age 6 months. It is doubtful that the youngest child is the child of Bristor and Flora because of Bristor’s death in 1876. This child is most likely a grandchild.

Flora Harrison is later found on the 1890 Veterans Schedule where she is residing in Police Jury 5th and 10th Wards of East Baton Rouge Parish. She is listed as the widow of Bristor Harrison- Private .

By 1900, Flora Harrison is reported as 65 years old and is still living in the 5th Ward of East Baton Rouge and has not remarried. She resides in the household with her granddaughter Hattie Harrison. In 1910, she is still in Baton Rouge in the household with her daughter Corine Primus, son-in-law John Primus and grandchildren, Della Primus, Annie, Primus and Ellen Williams.

Flora Clark Harrison
lived a long life and passed away at the age of 105 years old in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This is only brief story of one USCT Soldier - Bristor Harrison and I encourage everyone to find a soldier, honor him and his family and never forget that he as well as others fought to save the Union, to vote and to raise their children in freedom.


1. Bristor Harrison’s first name has several spelling variations – Brista, Brister and Bristor. For the sake of this article, his name is spelled BRISTOR.

2. Records on Film Number M589 Roll 38. Information on the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System at

3. Source Citation: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Slave Manifests of Coastwise Vessels Filed at New Orleans, Louisiana, 1807-1860; Microfilm Serial: M1895; Microfilm Roll: 10.Original data: Slave Manifests of Coastwise Vessels Filed at New Orleans, Louisiana, 1807–1860. NARA microfilm publication M1895, 30 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

4. Jeffrey Boyd- co-editor of the Edward Livingston Historical Association Newsletter has the original copy of the transaction that is part of the Slocum collection.

5. Poster is available at

6. Historical Data Systems, comp. U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2009.

Original data: Data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA from the following list of works.
Copyright 1997-2009
Historical Data Systems, Inc.
PO Box 35
Duxbury, MA 02331.

6th Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery
Organized from 2nd Mississippi Heavy Artillery (African Descent). Designated 5th Heavy Artillery March 11, 1864, and 6th Heavy Artillery April 26, 1864. Attached to Post of Natchez, Miss., District of Vicksburg, Miss., Dept. of Tennessee, and Dept. of Mississippi to February 1865. Post of Natchez, Dept. of Mississippi, to April 1865. Dept. of the Gulf to May 1866.

-Duty at Natchez, Miss., and Vidalia, La., till May 1866. Skirmish near Vidalia, La., July 22, 1864. Attack on Steamer "Clara Bell" July 24, 1864 (4 Cos.). Expedition from Natchez to Gillespie's Plantation, La., August 4-6, 1864. Concordia Bayou August 5. Expedition from Natchez to Buck's Ferry and skirmish September 19-22, 1864. Expedition from Natchez to Waterproof and Sicily Island September 26-30, 1864. Expedition from Natchez to Homichitto River October 5-8, 1864. Expedition from Vidalia to York Plantation, La., October 26-27, 1864. Skirmish at Black River October 31 and November 1, 1864. Mustered out May 18, 1866.

7. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen's Bureau)- National Archives in Washington, DC

(M1905) Louisiana Registers and Payrolls of Freedmen Employed on Plantations
Unbound registers and payrolls of freedmen employed on plantations, 1864–68, are arranged alphabetically by parish. The registers give the names, ages, sex, and class of the laborer; names of former owners; and former residences of freedmen. The payrolls give similar information except that they include the freedmen’s monthly wages, the number of days worked, amount of money received, and signatures or “X.”

Roll 46 - Lafayette, La Fourche, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Orleans, Ouachita, Plaquemines, Pt. Coupee 1866-1868
Davidson Plantation – Livingston Parish

8. Hunting For Bears, comp. Louisiana, Marriages, 1718-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.

Original data: Compiled from a variety of sources including original marriage records located in Family History Library microfilm, microfiche, or books. Original marriage records are available from the Clerk of the Court where the marriage license was issued.

9. Louisiana in 1876. Report of the sub-committee of the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate. In three volumes. Volume III.
Date: Monday, January 1, 1877 Publication: Serial Set Vol. No.1737; Report: S.Rpt. 701 vol.3; Source:

10. Year 1880: Census Place: 5th Ward, East Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Roll:452; family History film: 1254452: Page: 512C: Enumeration District: 108; image: 0888

11. Year 1890, Census Place: Police Jury Wards 5 and 10, East Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Roll: 5; page: 1; Enumeration District 13.

12. Louisiana, Statewide Death Index, 1900-1949 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002. Original data: State of Louisiana, Secretary of State, Division of Archives, Records Management, and History. Vital Records Indices. Baton Rouge, La, USA