Joseph H. Thomas (4th USCT)

Joseph H. Thomas was born around 1836 in Albemarle County, Virginia, and spent most of his childhood in Ross County, Ohio. His mother played an active role in the anti-slavery Baptist church in Union Township. In 1860, Thomas lived with his older brother John on a farm belonging to James M. Shriver, Jr.

In 1864, he later recalled, he was "anxious" to fight against the Confederacy and decided to answer "Old Uncle Abe's" call for half a million additional volunteers. He enlisted in the Union army on September 2, 1864, in Chillicothe, Ohio, and mustered in as a private in Company K of the 4th USCT Infantry Regiment the following day. His enlistment records describe him as 5 feet, 7 inches tall, with light hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion. Census records list him as a "mulatoo." Thomas took part in the Siege of Petersburg and saw action in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm and the Battle of New Market Heights. He began suffering from diarrhea in November 1864. Some accounts blamed his ailment on hard marching and camp life, while others blamed it on the rigors of construction and guard duty on the Dutch Gap Canal. He convalesced in Hospital Point in Virginia as well as the hospital in Dutch Gap. He probably rejoined his regiment in time to take part in the capture of Fort Fisher in North Carolina in January 1865. Thomas mustered out on September 5, 1865, in New Bern, North Carolina. 

After the war, Thomas returned home to live with his brother’s family in Green Township, Ohio, on another one of Shriver’s farms. Thomas attempted to work as a farm laborer, but his health ailments continued to plague him. The government granted him a $2 monthly pension in 1880, and by 1895, it had increased his pension to $12 per month. He died at his brother's home on March 13, 1895. The local African Methodist Episcopal choir sang at his funeral, and the local Black post of the Grand Army of the Republic served as pallbearers. In 1932, a woman named Katie Thomas filed a pension application, claiming to be Thomas’s widow. Without any corroborating evidence or witnesses of their marriage, however, the pension office denied her claim.


Witness Testimony on Behalf of Joseph H. Thomas

Name:Thomas, Joseph H.
Alternative names:
  • , (alternative name)
  • Soldier
4th Regiment Infantry U.S. Colored TroopsK
Branch of service:Army
Enlistment1864-09-02Chillicothe, OHaccepted28Free
Muster In1864-09-03Circleville, OH
Muster Out1865-09-05New Bern, NCMustered Out
Residence at enlistment:Union Township Ross County, OH
Rank In:Private
Rank Out:Private
Highest rank achieved:Private
Person 1Person 2NumberRelation Type
Thomas, Joseph H.363437.0application-invalid
Thomas, Joseph H.noneapplication-minor
Thomas, Joseph H.noneapplication-parent
Thomas, Joseph H.noneapplication-widow
Thomas, Joseph H.349133.0certificate-invalid
Birth date:1836
Birth date certainty:About
Birth place:Albemarle County, VA
Death date:1895-03-13
Death place:Green Township, Ross County, OH
Causes of death:
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Thomas, Katiealleged wife ofThomas, Joseph H.

Compiled Service Records for Joseph H. Thomas, RG94 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.; Pension Records for Joseph H. Thomas, RG 15, NARA, Washington, D.C.; United States Federal Census, 1860, 1870, 1880,accessed through; Chillicothe Gazette (Ohio), March 13 and 14, 1895; Frederick A. Dyer, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, vol. 3 (Des Moines, IA: Dyer Publishing Company, 1908).