Basil Biggs

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Basil Biggs (1819–1906) was a free African American laborer and veterinarian. He lived near Gettysburg and was reportedly involved with the Underground Railroad.

Biggs was born in Carroll County, Maryland in 1819. His mother died when he was four.[1] In the 1840s Biggs married Mary Jackson. They had seven children. They moved from Maryland to Gettysburg in 1858.[2]

Following the Battle of Gettysburg, Biggs was hired to disinter bodies from temporary cemeteries, place them in coffins, and rebury them. The work started on October 1863 and ended in March 1864. He was paid $1.25 per body and worked with a crew of laborers. Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier, Amos Humiston, was among the disinterred.[3][4]

Biggs used his earnings to purchase a farm in Gettysburg. He started the organization The Sons of Good Will in order to acquire land for black cemeteries.[4]

Biggs died on June 6, 1906 and is interred at the Lincoln Cemetery in Gettysburg.[5] Playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith is Biggs' great-great-granddaughter.[6]


  1. ^ "War For Freedom: Gettysburg, Resource #1" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ Boritt, Gabor (2008). The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows (1st ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7432-8821-7. 
  3. ^ Dunkelman, Mark H. (1999). Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier: The Life, Death, and Celebrity of Amos Humiston ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Praeger. pp. 155–156. ISBN 978-0-275-96294-4. 
  4. ^ a b "Basil Biggs". Pennsylvania Civil War Trails. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Basil Biggs". Quest for Freedom. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  6. ^ Gates, Jr., Henry Louis (October 6, 2014). "Which Black Man Was Responsible for Burying Bodies at Gettysburg?". The Root. 

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