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Lowry & Milligan's research

News on the Research of Chinese serving in the U.S. Civil War

Compiled and Written by Gordon Kwok, in July 1999

News on the Research of Chinese serving in the U.S. Civil War

By Kirkwood / Wheeler / Kwok / Lowry

(1) Downloaded and retrieved News Report from the Internet by: Ward Kirkwood. (2) News report, written by the Washington Post staff writer: Linda Wheeler. (3) Commented by: Gordon Kwok. (4) Quoting a portion of his article, written by Civil War author: Thomas P. Lowry

(2) (News report) Wednesday, May 12, 1999.

New Research shows 47 Chinese men served in U.S. Civil War

Two local historians have discovered that nearly 50 Chinese men served in the Civil War, many more than the one or two previously listed. The new research was announced yesterday at the National Archives by Thomas P. Lowery and Edward S. Milligan. Their work adds another ethnic group to the already long list of celebrated participants that includes German, Irish, French and African Americans.

Mike Musick, archivist for Civil War military records at the Archives, called the research significant. "Most people will be surprised to know the Chinese had any presence in the war." he said, "The country was a bit more diverse than we thought."

Lowry, a retired physician, and Milligan, a retired Army officer, are professional researchers who met at the Archives while each was pursuing information on Chinese involvement in the war. Milligan had been hired by an Australian Civil War researcher, Terry Foenander, to find Chinese who had served in the Navy. Lowry, who is self-employed and is the author of several books based on the research in the Archives, said he felt challenged when Musick told him several years ago that the Chinese were the last unexplored ethnic group of the war. Milligan said Foenander had given him permission to use the material he found for yesterday's lecture.

The two men discussed the difficulty in tracking the Chinese in the official records. Lowry said he figured he could find by searching for predictable surnames such as Wong, Fong, Gee, Chew or Hong. "My bright idea was a dud," he said, "Lewis Wong of the 33rd Wisconsin had sandy hair and was born in Norway. Alfred Fong was born in France and had blue eyes, and so on through my list." Some that were found had names that were anything but Chinese: Edward Day Cahota, Joseph Pierce, Antonio Dardelle.

It was through pension records or newspaper obituaries that Lowry found most of his men. Milligan said he had to depend on induction papers where nativity was noted and on ships logs where the information was repeated. However, the log keeper often changed, and the names would be spelled as many as seven different ways. "I didn't find any pension records," he said, "They just never applied. Some went back home to China. Others died." Together, Milligan and Lowry documented 47 Chinese men who served in the war.

According to Musick, the work of Ruthann Lum McCunn, who in 1996 published an article on Chinese who served in the war in the scholarly magazine Chinese America: History and Perspectives, and the work of Lowry and Milligan make up all the serious research done on the subject.

Among the 75 people who attended yesterday's presentation was Ta-Tung Jacob Chang, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Office of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative. "I am very interested in the Civil War," he said, "But I think I read years ago about Chinese in the war. I think it was one -------- I have a sense of pride now that we Chinese were a part of that event." Franklin Fung Chow, a retired government worker who lives in Washington, said the information was new to him because he had believed no Chinese had been involved in the war. "It is important for Chinese and Chinese Americans to know about this," he said, "It may seem esoteric because 50 is such a small number out of the hundreds of thousands who fought, but it is very significant to me. I plan to try and find out more about this."

Lowry said that although the number of Chinese who served was small in relationship to the total Chinese American population of the time, a higher percentage served than in any other ethnic group. He called for a plaque or a monument, to give credit to these men and to their brave and loyal service.

Chow said he liked the idea of such a memorial. "We will have to raise money," he said, "We will have to find a place for it." (Written by Linda Wheeler)

(3) (Comment)

My article on Chinese fighting in the American Civil War was first printed in our May 1998 Newsletter, The Campaign. Then, in December 1998, the North and South C.W. magazine announced that one of their future articles would be the Chinese in the C.W. I wrote to North & South publisher and editor, Keith Poulter, and informing him that I am very interested on the subject, and enclosed a copy of my article to him. About one month later, in January 1999, I unexpectedly received a letter from Dr. Thomas P. Lowry, discussing the subject with me, mentioning that Keith Poulter had forwarded my article to him. This was how I started corresponding with Dr. Lowry. In April 1999, North & South printed Lowry and Milligan's article. It is really an excellent, well-researched, article. I enjoyed a lot reading it.

In using Chinese names to start doing research, the researcher may encounter several difficulties. A person with a Chinese last name may not look Chinese. Some Chinese migrated to Europe and married local women. After a few generations, they took on Caucasian characteristics. Meanwhile, a person with Caucasian name could be 100% Chinese. For instance, when an American sea Captain or an American Missionary, visiting China, adopted Chinese orphans who took Caucasian names. There is a town called China in the State of Maine and that adds on further confusion to the researcher. The Australian researcher Terry Foenander found that out the hard way. A person born in China, Maine was more likely be a white American than be a Chinese. Another difficulty is the names. The names could be phonetically spelled in different ways depending on which Chinese dialect the persons speak. There are hundreds of dialects in China. One Chinese name may be translated into several variations in spelling, but they are the same one name. It happens that I know the language and I get the advantage over other researchers who do not know the language. A comment on the word "Ah" or any word connected with "A" on Milligan's research. "Ah" is neither the last name nor the first name. "Ah" is a preposition preceding the Chinese middle name. For example, "Afoo" is not a real Chinese last name. It is a first name or a middle name being called with a preposition. Somehow the name was mistaken as the last name. For convenience, we would consider "Afoo" as the last name, even though it is not. The last name goes first, the first name goes second and the middle name goes last. Most people knew Hong Kong is a British Colony not too many people knew that Macau is a Portuguese Colony in China. A person born in Hong Kong or Macao (Macau), could more likely be a Caucasian.

While I am on the subject, I would like to mention an interesting fact that my friend Joe Geden told me. He said there was an U.S. cutter with a Chinese name, serving in the C.W. The ship's name was called Dai Ching (meaning the Great Manchu Dynasty). It was contracted by China to build this boat in the U.S. But the urgency of the Union to get more gunboats to blockade the South caused the ship-builder to cancel the contract and the U.S. kept the boat. Thus, the U.S. retained a boat with a Chinese name.

(4) (Quoting a passage from Lowry's article, Chinese in the Civil War, printed in April 1999.)

Edward Day Cohota was also orphaned at an early age. One story of his life has him as a four-year-old stowaway on an American ship sailing away from China, while another version says he was living on the dock, near Shanghai, and was picked up as a stray. In both versions, his benefactor was Captain Sargent S. Day, of the ship Cohota. The year was 1852. The young man seems to have been both cabin boy and adopted son, and kept in close touch with the other Day children for the next seventy years.

Young Cohota seems to have been eighteen years old when he enlisted in the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry in February 1864. In his sixteen months of service with Company I, he saw combat at Drury's Bluff, Petersburg and Cold Harbor. At the latter place, a Minie ball grazed his scalp, leaving a permanent part in his hair. In that same battle, he saved the life of William E. Low, who had been struck in the jaw and rendered helpless by shock and blood loss. After the shooting stopped, Cohota carried the wounded man to a field hospital. In 1928, friends arranged for them to meet again. Low, now nearly deaf and blind, was at first unable to understand the purpose of the meeting, but, "suddenly his face flamed with recognition and his whole being was electrified, as he leaped to his feet with a cry of 'Cohota!' The two embraced with tears."

In the months after the war, Cohota was unable to find work, encountered a few old comrades in a Boston saloon and while drunk, enlisted in the 15th Infantry, where he served thirty years. His regular army enlistment papers catalog his life on the frontier. In 1866, his first papers describe him as five-foot, seven-inches in height, with black hair, black eyes and dark complexion, born in China, by the occupation of a seaman. He signed with an "X." Three years later, he re-enlisted at Fort Garland, Colorado Territory and in 1874 signed up again at Santa Fe, New Mexico, again signing with an "X." The year 1879 found him signing at Fort Stanton, high in the Capitan Mountains of central New Mexico. On his 1884 papers, completed at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory, he signed his own name, the first time in these records. Three years later, he was still in Fort Randall and his records note, for the first time, "Dancing girl tattooed on inner surface right forearm," and "Married with two children." He retired in August 1894.

At Fort Randall, he met Anna Halstensen, a Norwegian girl, and their marriage produced six children. They lived many years at Fort Niobrara, very near Valentine, Nebraska; there, after his 1894 retirement, he opened a restaurant, became a master Mason, and voted in every election.

Cohota passed his last days at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium for Veterans, at Hot Springs, South Dakota. He seemed to bear no ill will toward the country, which had denied him citizenship, and stood with his hat off "at attention, with reverence and respect," as the flag came down each evening in the gathering Dakota dusk.

The dark wings of Death, which had passed so close at Cold Harbor, finally touched him in 1935. His granddaughter recalls him dying on the front porch of the family home at Parmelee, South Dakota. He had always considered Valentine, Nebraska, to be his true home, and there his family took him; the last Masonic rites were performed by Minnechadusa Lodge No. 192. (Written by Thomas P. Lowry. Co-author Edward S. Milligan wrote about Chinese in the Navy.)

Summary of the Chinese serving in the Army and the Navy in the Civil War

Extracted from the article written by Lowry and Milligan, April 1999, North and South Magazine, as well as based on my own independent research.

Summary of the Chinese serving in the Army:

John AhSoo; age 22; 133rd New York and later consolidated into 90th Battalion New York Veteran Infantry. he joined the regiment as a substitute, at Cedar Creek in Feb 1864. Two more Chinese joined the same regiment. All three were former sailors.

John AWoo; age 24; 133rd New York and later consolidated into 90th Battalion New York Veteran Infantry. He enlisted as a substitute, in Jamaica, New York.

John BubSon; age 28; 133rd New York and later consolidated into 90th Battalion New York Veteran Infantry. He also enlisted as a substitute, in Jamaica, New York.

Christopher Wren Bunker; son of the famous Siamese Twin; Co. I, 37th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry; captured at Moorefield, West Virginia on Aug 1864; imprisoned in Camp Chase, Ohio and then, to City Point, Virginia.

D.C. Bunker (cousin of C.W. Bunker); Co. I, 37th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry; wounded.

Edward Day Cohota; Co. I, 23rd Massachusetts Infantry; enlisted on Feb 1864; fought in Drury's Bluff, Petersburg and Cold Harbor. A Minie ball grazed his scalp.

E. CohotaEdward Day Cohota
(At Valentine, Nebraska, around 1880. Photo courtesy of South Dakota Historical Society, State Archives.)

Antonio Dardelle; Co. A, 27th Connecticut Infantry; enlisted on Aug 1862; wounded at Marye's Heights in Fredericksburg; became a U.S. citizen.

A. DardelleAntonio Dardelle
(Masonic Burial For Union Veteran; Antonio Dardelle, Civil War veteran who was buried with Masonic rites this afternoon. The photo appeared with his obituary. New Haven Register, January 19, 1933; courtesy of Andrew Cusati.)

John Fouenty; joined the Confederate army in Savannah, Georgia for a year.

John Kim; Co. G, 61st Pennsylvania Infantry; enlisted on Oct 1864; mustered out on June 1865.

William H. Kwan; Co. B, 12th Virginia Battalion of Light Artillery.

John Lee; 14th Connecticut regiment; born in China; fought in Gettsburg and was killed there.

Joseph L. Pierce; Co. F, 14th Connecticut Infantry; enlistd on July 1862; promoted to corporal Nov 1863; fought in Antietam and Gettysburg.

J. PierceJoseph L. Pierce
(The picture was published in History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, by Charles D. Page, 1906. The picture later appeared in "The Faces of Gettysburg", on soldiers serving in the Gettysburg Campaign.)

John Tommy (variation:Tomney,Tommey,Tourney,Tonney and Taminy); Co. D, 70th New York Infantry; captured in March 1862 in Prince William Counties; paroled in May 1862 at Newport News; captured again at Manassas in Aug 1862; re-joined his regiment on Dec 1862; promoted to corporal on Feb 1863; received fatal wounds in Gettysburg and bled to death.

Hong Neok Woo; Co. I, 50th Pennsylvania Infantry; served three months in Harrisburg and Chambersburg and got discharged. A missionary arranged the 16 years old boy from Shanghai, China to go on board the American frigate Susquehanna, as a servant to the ship's doctor, to Pennsylvania. His friend dissuaded him to fight for his adopted country,where he became an US citizen. His loyalty preveiled. After the war, he returned home and served as an Episcopalian priest.

The following Chinese served the Union Navy (name / duty / his age at enlistment / month & year when enlisted / name of Navy ship served):

Tannror Acoan; officer's cook; age 23; Aug 1862; Pinola

John Afoo; Landsman; age 44; March 1862; Harvest Moon.

John Afoo; ship's cook; age 44; March 1863; Wyandott

John Afoo; ship's cook; age 44; March 1863; Wyandank

Ahoo; Landsman; age 21; Wyoming

John Ahoy; Landsman; age 28; March 1862; Harvest Moon.

John Ahoy; officer's cook; age 28; March 1862; Pinola

John Aie; officer's cook; age 22; May 1864; Tallapoosa

John Akomb; steward; Red River expedition; in the gunboat Massachusetts.

John Akee; Landsman; age 20; May 1864; Tallapoosa

John Arnung; Landsman; age 22; Aug 1864; Grand Gulf

John Ase; Landsman; age 21; July 1864; Wyandank

John Asian; First class boy; age 20; May 1865; Relief

John Aslan; enlisted in Macao (Macau), a Portuguese colony in China; Relief.

Ah Chee; wardroom steward; age 21; March 1865; Comanche

John Ching Ching; born in Hong Kong; age 25; enlisted at New Orleans in July 1862; Resolute.

John Ching Chong; age 27; 1863 muster roll; Itasca.

John Comfort; Landsman; age 19; Sep 1861; Seneca

Joseph Dailey; cook; age 24; Aug 1864; Mohican

John Dixey; First class boy; age 14; July 1865; Relief

John Ah Hang; Landsman; served on North Carolina; age 22; enlisted 1863 in New York; USS Albatross.

George Hitchings; officer's cook; age 24; Jan 1862; Kenebec

Ah Hong; Landsman; age 17; March 1865; Comanche

Charlie Irwin; age 24; 1863 muster roll; Itasca.

John King; Landsman; age 20; Feb 1865; Hartford

Peter Mullen; seaman; age 28; Apr 1864; Onondaga

John Owens; cook; age 35; May 1864; Norwich

Ah Poa; waiter; age 40; March 1865; Comanche

William Robinson; Landsman; age 18; Feb 1862; St. Marys

William Robinson; age 19; Landsman; enlisted in Macao (Macau), a Portuguese colony in China, in Aug 1865; Relief.

Dexter Russell; seaman; age 21; May 1863; Montgomery

John Shun; officer's cook; age 25; Dec 1861; Pursuit

Ah Sin; Landsman; age 22; Dec 1863; Narragansett

Ah Sin; Landsman; age 18; Oct 1863; Saginaw

Thomas Smith; 1863 muster roll; Itasca.

Ah Soo; Landsman; age 22; Sep 1863; Monongahela

John Wing; steward; age 25; Dec 1861; Pursuit

Ah Wo; Landsman; age 21; July 1863; Monongahela

John Wyhie; Landsman; age 28; enlisted in March 1862; Harvest Moon.


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Posted by Gordon Kwok, webmaster, editor and author
email address: gordoncwrt@gmail.com 

January 1, 2000
Revised December 21, 2000

Revised and uploaded on January 22, 2009