Tombstone at Ferncliff Cemetery, Springfield, Ohio, 2013. Photo courtesy of C. Crawford.
Our ancestor, Pvt. Varnal W. Mayo, was a member of the famous 54th Massachusetts regiment. The soldiers were depicted in the motion picture, “Glory.” He was from Granville County, North Carolina, having moved to Ohio before the Civil War. When a call for volunteers of African descent was issued by the governor of Massachusetts, Varnal went there to enlist. The racial practices of the American military were very clear about the ethnicity of soldiers in regiments and their assignments, with very few minority enlisted or commissioned officers.
A foot injury at the Battle of Fort Wagner on Morris Island and a stay at DeCamp Hospital on David’s Island resulted in his medical discharge. He was married several times, in NC before going to Ohio, and before and after the war in Ohio. Varnal Mayo lived the rest of his life in Ohio, never returning South to live. After the war, he continued to work and as a military veteran, became a pensioner. He was active with the Grand Army of the Republic until his death in 1900. The permission to use this original photograph from Ferncliff Cemetery in Springfield, Ohio was granted by Ms. C. Crawford in 2013 and 2016.
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Source: Washington Post