Silas Lightfoot was born on 25 December 1844, in Southampton, Virginia. He was my 2nd great uncle by marriage, being married to Harriet Jacobs, sister of my great grandmother, Sallie Jacobs Farnell. On 23 June 1863, he enlisted in Company A, 2nd Regiment US Colored Infantry, on Craney Island, Virginia, located in the waters of the Elizabeth River where Hampton Roads, Portsmouth, Newport News and Norfolk converge. It was off the waters of Craney Island that the Merrimac was sunk in 1862. Craney Island was thus under Union control.
In 1863, General Benjamin Butler, at nearby Fort Monroe, on Old Point Comfort, had to decide whether or not to return fugitive slaves since President Lincoln had said the war was not about slavery. Butler chose not to do that, a decision that resulted in over 1600 freed slaves, identified as “contraband,” seeking refuge on Craney Island. It appears Silas was one of them.
Silas was described as 19 years of age, dark skinned, with dark eyes and hair, and a farmer. He was enlisted by a Captain Wilder for three years and subsequently mustered in by Captain Cogswell. He was assigned to Fort Monroe, where he would serve until January of 1865, when he was transferred to Fort Taylor on Key West. He served as the Post baker. His service records, however, indicate that he had several different occupations. In April 1864, he was assigned as a carpenter with the Quartermaster’s department. In May 1864, he was assigned to the Medical Director. In October, he was assigned to the Bakery at Fort Taylor. He served in that capacity until November, when he was assigned as a hospital attendant.
Silas may have been mustered out in Tallahassee, because in October 1868, he married Caledonia Hinton there. They had two children, Robert and Fanny. Caledonia seems to have died, and the children went to live with relatives. Subsequently, on 7 November, 1874, in Live Oak, Suwannee, Florida (a town about halfway between Tallahassee and Jacksonville), Silas married Harriet Jacobs. They would go on to have three children: Silas Jr., Charlotte, and Caledonia. Charlotte was most likely named after Harriet’s mother, Charlotte Jacobs, while Caledonia appears to have been named for his first wife, Caledonia.
By 1880, Silas was working for the railroad and living in Orange County, in what would become Sanford, now in Seminole County. However, by 1884, he had died intestate. Harriet petitioned the court to be named Administrator of the estate and was so granted. It was within the probate filing that each of the children was named, indicating that Robert and Fanny were from a previous marriage. In 1890, Harriet filed for a widow’s pension with the Veteran’s Administration. Harriet would go on to live until the 1940s.
Silas is buried in Page Jackson Cemetery, in Sanford, Florida.