Silas Lightfoot (1844-1884), Company A, 2nd Regiment Infantry, United States Colored Troops

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.


Craney Island was an island, separate from the mainland, in 1861

Craney Island in 1861

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.


1880 US Federal Census. Precinct 2, Orange, Florida. Silas Lightfoot. NARA Roll: 131; Family History Film: 1254131; Page: 429B; Enumeration District: 126; Image: 0501. Retrieved from:

Craney Island. Virginia Places. Retrieved from:

Florida, County Marriages, 1823-1982 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot and Caledonia Herita (sic — should read “Hinton”). Retrieved from:

Florida, County Marriages, 1823-1982 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot and Harriet Jacobs. Retrieved from:

Florida, Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1974 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot. Retrieved from:

Fort Monroe. Wikipedia. Retrieved from:

U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot. Retrieved from:

U.S., Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1861-1865. Silas Lightfoot. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Retrieved from: and

U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1700s-Current [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot. Retrieved from:

About mlwilliams

I have Masters degrees in Sociology and Religious Education which provide the backdrop for my interest in family history and community social histories. I've researched and written extensively on my Lassiter family, including my books: Miles Lassiter (circa 1777-1850), an Early African American Quaker from Lassiter Mill, Randolph County, North Carolina: My Research Journey to Home, and From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie "Back Country" of Randolph County, North Carolina. I am a frequent lecturer for the Family History Centers in the Washington, DC area, a former editor of the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and have my own private research company, Personal Prologue.
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