Orindatus Simon Bolivar Wall
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|Orindatus Simon Bolivar Wall|
August 12, 1825|
Richmond County, North Carolina
|Died||April 26, 1891(aged 65)|
|Place of burial||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1861–1866|
Orindatus Simon Bolivar Wall, known as OSB Wall, was the son of a planter, Stephen Wall, and his slave, Pricilla, who, during the American Civil War, became the first black man to be commissioned as captain in the Regular US Army.
Wall attended Oberlin College, established a successful footwear business in the town of Oberlin, OH and then read law under John M. Langston. After the Civil War, he played an active role in the Reconstruction, ran a law practice in Washington, DC and was a magistrate.
He and his wife Amanda Ann Thomas had five children who survived to adulthood. However, within a few years of their father’s death, they began to cut their ties to the black community and identify as white.
The following excerpt from a letter sent by Wall to General Rufus B. Saxton while both were stationed in Charleston, SC, gives a flavor of the cruel treatment that former slaves sometimes faced from their 'liberators' in the Union military:
|“||I have the honor respectfully to submit for your consideration a very brief statement of sundry cases of cruel and unjust treatment of freepersons by officers and their subordinates now in the authority in the city which seems to be not only in violation of the Laws of Congress and Policy of the government as meant to apply to these people, but insulting to refine society.
While on business at the Provost Marshal's office on the 3rd inst. I witnessed the disposal of several cases which came before the officer, among them was presented three colored Lads or boys ranging in age from 13 to 18 years old, by two white gards or Patrol, who staited to the Marshal that they had taken these fellows with soldiers cloths on, the Marshal turning to the boys very abruptly asked them how they came by the cloths, to which they very timidly replyed, they were given us by the soldiers, which all present could see were only the most miserable discarded old cloths of soldiers. The next moment the peremtory [?]order was given by the Marshal to his orderly to take them out and make Zoaves of them which seemed to mean to strip them, for in less than five minutes two of them was striped of every thing but their old shirts and the third one had the legs of his Pants cut off several inches above his knees then drawn into the street amid the shouts and laughter of the vulgar crowds about the office, next two colored Gards brought forward to Ex Rebs. dressed in Pretty good union soldier cloths. Question by the Marshal “how came you here” answer “the Police took us last night and put us in the gard house but we work at the government Bakery” Marshal to the guards, reliece them.
I have just had an interview with five very inteligent freed men direct from Clarrenden district––about 40 miles in the interior, who say positively they witnessed a few days ago the hanging to death of Five of their Brothers and are here now to state the facts to Gen. Gilmore who is now in this city.
I can give you a number of similar cases with the facts and circumstances if necessary,
with considerations of high regards I have the honor to be your obedient servant
OSB Wall (Capt. 104th USCT) to General Rufus B. Saxton, 9 Aug 1865
[spelling etc. as in original document]
- The Invisible Line, interview with Daniel J. Sharfstein, Late Night Live, ABC Radio National, June 14, 2011
- Orindatus Simon Bolivar Wall. A hero of African-American history whose story is forgotten because his descendants decided they were white By Daniel J. Sharfstein. Slate (magazine). Feb. 22, 2011