Links to the Past

Home | Albert O. Burke | Slavery in Virginia | Beginning of the Underground Railroad across Southeast Ohio | My Horses | Nimrod Burke - Civil War Record | In Memory of John C. Burke (1926-1997) | In Memory of Kyle Phillip Norris (1986-2008) | My Family | Burke Family Emancipated | Curtis Family | John Redman - Patriot Ancestor | Civil War Ohio | The Norman Family in Ohio | Benjamin I. Gilman and Winthrop S. Gilman (Abolitionists) | RIVER JORDAN -Book by Henry Robert Burke and Dick Croy | Fugitive Slave Laws and the Underground Railroad | Near Border War | Micah "Cajoe" Phillips | Civil War Veteran - Edwad Giles | Dr. Joshua McCarter Simpson | General Thomas Maley Harris (1817-1906) | Underground Railroad Markers | The Mason-Dixon Line | THE OHIO RIVER | The Final Emancipation of Enslaved African Americans | Marietta, Ohio | Miss Juliette Burke --- Frankfurt, Germany | In Memory of Abolitionist David Putnam Jr. (1808-1892) | Henry Burke's Awards | Lincoln Emancipation Monument | Frances Dana Gage & Sojourner Truth | Catherine Fay Ewing | The Enslavement of Sub-Saharan Africans | The Middle Passage | Southeastern Ohio African Americans in the Civil War (1861-1865) | Jesse Owens Track Shoe | Underground Railroad Workers in Southeastern Ohio
Nimrod Burke - Civil War Record

click here to download file

Nimrod Burke 1836-1814

Nimrod Burke's Civil War Enlistment Document


Grave Marker for Nimrod Burke

Nimrod Burke (1836-1914)

Rank: First Sergeant

Unit:  Company F, 23rd Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry

Born:  Prince William County, Virginia,

Residence: Washington County, Ohio

Parents: Joseph and Hannah (Gaskins) Burke.

Married: Mary Freeman in1866

Died:  15 July 1914

Buried: Fourth Row, Soldiers Circle, Green Lawn Cemetery, Chillicothe, Ohio.


4,400 men from Washington County, Ohio served with Union Forces during the American Civil War (1861-1865). When the Civil War started in 1861, the Federal Government would not allow blacks to enlist. The general consensus was: “the Civil War was a white man’s War”. This is the foundation for the present day claim that the American Civil War was not fought about slavery. Of course could be further from the truth! States which seceded from the Union and fired the first shots of the Civil War stated very clearly in their letters of secession, that the reason they were leaving the Union was to preserve their right to own slaves.

Every black person in the United States, whether enslaved or free were victims of slavery. Black men were anxious to join the Union Army and fight because they knew the real cause for the Civil War was slavery. During the early part of the Civil War, blacks were only allowed to serve as the Union Army as civilian laborers, teamsters, body servants for high ranking Union officers and as in the case for my g-grandfather Nimrod Burke, as scouts. Until around 1795 Nimrod Burke’s ancestors were enslaved on the [1]Robert Carter owned Leo Plantation, part of which was in Prince William County, Virginia near Manassas where the First Battle of Bull Run was fought July 21, 1861.

Due to incessant lobbing from Frederick Douglass and other Abolitionist for the right of black soldiers to join the Union Army and fight, by late 1862, President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton, made the decision to allow the enlistment of black soldiers in the Union Army.

            The qualification for Nimrod Burke to serve as a scout for the Union Army was the fact that he was born in the Tidewater Region of Virginia in 1836, and lived there for the first eighteen years of his life, before coming to Washington County, Ohio. Nimrod Burke was already familiar with the area of Eastern Virginia when he came to Washington County, Ohio with his parents, Joseph and Hannah Burke, from Prince William County, Virginia in 1854.

            Prior to the Civil War, Nimrod Burke had been employed by [2]Melvin C. Clark, a prominent attorney in Marietta, Ohio. On April 12, 1861 when the Civil War erupted, Clark rushed to form a Union Army unit in Washington County. Clark himself was commissioned as a Major, and soon promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Clarke had immediately hired Nimrod Burke as a civilian teamster and scout for the Union Army. The 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was sent to fight Confederate forces in Virginia.

            At the Battle of Antietam, General George B. McClellan commanded 12,500 Union Soldiers and General Robert E. Lee commanded 13,700 Confederate Forces. When the Confederates retreated, this gave President Lincoln the occasion to announce the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves only "in the states in Rebellion". This was also the occasion when Lincoln declared the Union's intent to enlist "Free" blacks and Emancipated slaves as soldiers. After Colonel Clark's death, Nimrod continued to serve as an Army scout until March of 1864, when he joined the 23rd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry at Washington, D.C.

            The 23rd Regiment was organized at Camp Casey, Va., from November 23, 1863, to June 30, 1864. At first Attached to 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, 9th Corps, Army of the Potomac, from April to September, 1864, then to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 9th Corps, until December 1864; next assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 25th Corps, until December, 1865. Finally the unit served the remainder of its active duty with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 25th Corps, in the Dept. of Texas located on the Rio Grande River in Brownsville, Texas.

            The 23rd fought combat campaigns from the Rapidan to the James River in Virginia. In May and June 1864. They guarded wagon trains for the Army of the Potomac through the Wilderness from June 15-18 as they moved into position for the Siege of Petersburg and Richmond, which was begun on June 16, 1864, and lasted to April 2, 1865. They participated in the Mine Explosion incident at Petersburg on July 30, at Weldon Railroad on August 18-21 and Fort Sedgwick on September 28. Poplar Grove Church September 29-30. At Boynton Plank Road, on Hatcher's Run, October 27-28, and at Bermuda Hundred December 13, 1864. The 23rd Colored Regiment remained on Duty at the Bermuda Hundred front until March. The 23rd joined the Appomattox Campaign on March 28-April 9, back to Hatcher's Run March 29-31, 1865. The fall of Petersburg on April 2, 1865 and Pursuit of General Lee's Confederate Forces April 3-9, 1865. Nimrod Burke and the 23rd were at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 when [3]General Robert E. Lee surrendered! For all practical considerations, the Battle of Appomattox was the last major battle of the Civil War.            

The 23rd remained on Duty in the Department of Virginia until May, 1865 and then were moved to Brownsville, Texas along the Rio Grande River during May-June, 1865. Nimrod continued duty with the 23rd at Brownsville until November 30, 1865 when the 23rd was mustered out of Military Service. The Regiment's losses during the Civil War, were 4 Officers and 82 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded. 1 Officer and 165 Enlisted men died from disease. Total casualties for the 23rd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry were 252.

[1] Between 1791 and 1804 Robert Carter III of Virginia freed over 500 enslaved African Americas using a gradual emancipation plan.

[2] Colonel Melvin C. Clarke, 36 OVI Regiment, was killed on Sept 17, 1862 during the Battle of Antietam.

[3] According to notes written by Robert Carter III (1728-1804), Robert E. Lee and Nimrod Burke were genetic relatives.


Forgotten Soldiers of the American Civil War:

Campaigns at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House in Virginia.

By Horace McCaskill, Colonel, USA (Ret.)


Saturday, September 5, 2009 at 7:27am


Virginia's Historic Heartland's Notes:


23rd USCT in Northern Virginia.

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac commenced its

Overland Campaign to capture Richmond on May 5, 1864, engaging General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in battles of the Wilderness on May 5-7 and Spotsylvania Court House on May 8-21. Crossing the Rapidan River at the Germanna Ford into Orange County, VA on May 6, 1864, as part of Grant’s Army, was the Fourth Division commanded by Brigadier General Edward Ferrero. The division was led by white officers and composed of eight infantry regiments of approximately 8,000 enlisted United States Colored Troops (USCT). The Fourth Division, attached to the Ninth Corps, was assigned at the outset of the campaign the security of Germanna ford; escorting supply wagons; herding cattle to feed the Army; guarding and escorting captured Confederate prisoners to the rear; evacuating wounded soldiers to the Belle Plain supply depot area in Stafford, VA and returning with supplies for Union forces; providing rear area security; and performing other duties as assigned.

Very early in the campaign, the Fourth Division experienced the likely outcome awaiting USCTs captured by Confederate forces.

 On May 8th, several Fourth Division soldiers were captured by the Ninth Virginia Cavalry near Chancellorsville and summarily executed on the spot. Also Corporal Charles Hopkins, First New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, captured on May 6th during fighting in the Wilderness, described in his memoirs the hanging of a black soldiers in uniform on May 9th by his Confederate captors at Orange Court House. In contrast, Confederate generals Edward Johnson and George Stuart captured during combat at Bloody Angle (Mule Shoe Salient), Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, were guarded and escorted unharmed by black soldiers, with weapons shouldered, to the rear on May 12, 1864 (see attached Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper drawing, June 4, 1864).

On May 15, 1864 the combat service support role of the division’s 23rd USCT Regiment would briefly change. On that day, the regiment was thrust into combat when part of Confederate Brigadier General Tom Rosser’s Virginia Calvary (Laurel Brigade), on a reconnoiter and probing mission, surprised an outnumbered Second Ohio Cavalry unit that was temporarily camped off Catharpin Road, east of Piney Branch Church. The Second Ohio Cavalry, attached to the Fourth Division, alerted Brigadier General Ferrero of their situation while fighting a delaying action toward Plank Road.

The 23rd USCT’s marching rapidly from nearby Chancellorsville met the retreating Second Ohio at the intersection of Catharpin (Route 612) and Old Plank (Route 610) roads, and fought Rosser’s dismounted cavalry. Rosser’s soldiers remounted their horses and withdrew down Catharpin Road. Although the combat was light, and casualties were few, the 23rd USCT became the first African American troops to fight Confederate soldiers of The Army of Northern Virginia on Virginia soil.

 Two days later, near Old Salem Church, elements of the division’s 30th and 23rd USCTs fought back a foraging Confederate force that had briefly captured nearly 30 wagons returning from the Union’s main supply depot at Belle Plain. Later, on July 30, 1864, the Fourth Division would suffer horrific casualties during the Battle of the Crater (Mine Explosion) on the outskirt of Petersburg, VA. Yet, despite poor leadership, distrust of their soldierly skills, and the atrocities committed against them by Confederate soldiers at the Crater on July 30, 1864, the USCT performed well over the course of the Overland Campaign. Locally, the USCT are the forgotten soldiers of the battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House.

Their role, sacrifice and achievements are unsung and neither recognized nor acknowledged. Among the many markers, battlefield park and shelter exhibits, and monuments that dot the local landscapes, not a single one mention the USCT’s role in securing Rapidan River crossings and their vital combat and support roles in the pivotal battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. After the war, they faded away in the fog of racial politics, poverty, and the North-South divisiveness and accommodations. All, in varying degrees, either precluded or hindered any positive recognition of the USCT’s role in the Civil War, and acknowledgement of their personal sacrifices in ending slavery, and ensuring the continued existence of the Union. The broader context of the skirmishes at the intersection of Catharpin and Orange Plank Roads, and near Old Salem Church, was that nearly 180,000 African Americans fought or performed various combat support functions in a number of Civil War battles, with over one-third either dying in combat, or from wounds and various diseases.


The 23rd USCT first fought in Spotsylvania County, VA on May 15, 1864.


From: Terry Dougherty <
  Subject: Nimrod Burke
  Date: Thursday, March 31, 2011, 9:24 AM


  We are currently doing new exhibits for the Spotsylvania County Museum
  located at Spotsylvania Courthouse, VA.  Nimrod Burke and the 23rd USCT fought their first action near this site and the first action of the war
  between USCT's and Confederates.
  We would like to use the photo of Sgt Burke in our exhibit with your very
  special permission!
  Hoping you will act favorable to our request.
 J. Terry Dougherty

Pemission Granted.

(Credits for the primary sources of information are:

Robert Beecham’s Civil War from the Iron Brigade to the Black Regiments (Edited and Introduced by Michael E. Stevens) provides an eyewitness account of the Fourth Division and its 23rd USCT Regiment from the Rapidan River to the Crater; and The Andersonville Diary & Memoirs of Charles Hopkins (Edited By William P. Styple and John J. Fitzpatrick), and Henry Robert Burke’s account of 1st Sgt Nimrod Burke. Company F, 23rd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment.)