It really just dawned on me this morning how I spend more time writing about Ancestors I have no memories or inherited history of, than those familiar to me. Seems these Ancestors fight hardest to be seen and heard, which does make sense. It’s the Ancestors we don’t know or remember that have the greatest possibility of being omitted [albeit inadvertently] from future narratives of our family’s history.
I’m thankful I got my descendant’s head on straight by taking time to share Great Uncle Pierce CODY’s life narrative. I should’ve never been so busy tracing the clues he deposited in his WPA Slave Narrative that I neglected to add more texture to the story of his 90+ year life. Forgive me Uncle Pierce!:)
And just as Ancestors work, as I was pulling together the story of Pierce [CODY], I discovered more than I ever knew about one of his namesakes, 1st cousin Pierce DORSEY, his sister Ailey and Elbert’s son!:)
Pierce DORSEY (b. 1891) was inducted into the U.S. Army on August 22, 1918 in Athens, Georgia. His training was conducted at Camp [Fort] Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. It *appears* he was assigned to Company D 346th Service Battalion, although me and my handy Military SMEs True LEWIS (Army) and Bernita ALLEN (Air Force) are still tracking down Pierce’s Roster and company details.
Cousin Pierce was sent overseas to serve almost immediately (September 30, 1918 – July 15, 1919) and was appointed to Sergeant on October 1, 1918. He was Honorably Discharged on July 23, 1919, where he returned to his wife Louise in Athens, Clarke County Georgia. In 1923 Pierce and Louise welcomed a son, Robert.
I’d mentioned to Bernita just last week how I had an Ancestor nudge telling me I was overlooking our family men with military service. Clearly, this is true!:)
Given Fort Jackson is a mere 70 miles from my home, the kids and I will travel there soon to visit the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum. I want to learn more about what Pierce and other WWI negro servicemen encountered in 1918, given I know many (including Pierce) returned in 1919 to experience Red Summer and Jim Crow brutalities in FULL effect.
The above image of Camp Jackson’s Negro Troops was taken in 1918. I’d like to believe my Cousin, Sgt. Pierce DORSEY was among the proud men standing there. I have Cousin Gwen (Ailey’s 3rd Great Granddaughter) polling the family for an image of Pierce too!:)
Pierce lived to be 90 years old, passing December 26, 1983. I’ve included the Army service records of his I could find, and am proud to have had the honor of updating his Fold3 Memorial Page.
Neither U.S. Army Sgt. Pierce DORSEY nor his WWI Service will ever be forgotten — by anyone.
Pierce DORSEY – Georgia, World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919
Pierce DORSEY – Army Registration Card 1917
Camp [Fort] Jackson, Columbia SC – 07.05.1918
And if you REALLY need to be schooled on the military history of African American servicemen and the politics [and challenges] surrounding our integration of the armed services, read Emmett J. SCOTT’s The American Negro in The World War of 1919.
Emmett J. SCOTT was the Special Adjutant to Secretary of War and for 18 years served as the Private Secretary of Booker T. WASHINGTON.
His narrative is first-account history we’ll never have privy to again, and the images of our servicemen (reference Illustrations) are enduring. They made me SO PROUD!:)
- Sgt. Pierce DORSEY Memorial Page – Fold 3
- The American Negro in The World War – Emmett J. SCOTT
- Pierce DORSEY U.S. Army Military Records – Ancestry.com
- 1918 Negro Troops Image – Museum Fort Jackson
- History of Fort Jackson
- Military SMEs - True LEWIS (Army) and Bernita ALLEN (Air Force)
- Fighting for Respect: African-American Soldiers in WWI – by Jami BRYAN