The Court-martial and Dismissal of Captain Edwin J. Scranton, Company F, 128th USCT, on Charges of Miscegenation

Edwin J. Scranton enlisted in Company E of the 56th New York Infantry Regiment at Middletown, New York on July 16, 1861, at the age of twenty. Although enlisting in a New York Regiment, Scranton had been born in Connecticut in 1841. The regiment mustered into service on September 1, 1861, in New York City and Scranton was appointed as a Sergeant. The 56th served in defending Washing, D.C. until March of 1862 when it was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 4th Corps of the Army of the Potomac.

Scranton served with his regiment at the Siege of Yorktown, the Battle of Williamsburg, the Battle of Seven Pines, the Seven Days Battles, the Battle of Gaines’s Mill, the battle of Bottom’s Bridge, the Battle of White Oak Swamp, and the Battle of Malvern Hill. In July 1862 the regiment was assigned to Harrison’s Landing, where Scranton was promoted to First Sergeant of Company E before they were moved south where they participated in the Second Battle of Charleston in 1863.

On January 2, 1863, Scranton was commissioned a second lieutenant. He and the 56th continued to see action in South Carolina, fighting in the Battle of Honey Hill, the Battle of Tulifinny, the Battle of Deveaux’s Neck, and the Battle of Coosawatchie.

In late December 1864, the regiment was assigned to Morris Island, SC. While there, Scranton was given a commission as a Captain in the 128th United States Colored Troops. After Scranton’s transfer, the 56th New York would go on to serve in the Battle of Dingle’s Mill and on occupation duty until being Mustered out on October 17, 1865.

The 128th United States Colored Troops was organized at Hilton Head, S.C. in April of 1865. Scranton was placed as the commanding officer of Company F. During an inspection on the 21st of June, 1865 at Camp Stanton in Beaufort, Company F soldier Private John Greer refused to clean his weapon stating: “My gun is as clean as any man’s, and I’ll be damned if I clean it until I see the Colonel.” Scranton moved to arrest Greer with the assistance of Sergeant William Emory, and Greer tried to strike them. Greer was court-martialed and sentenced to three months of imprisonment and forfeiture of pay, time that he spent incarcerated at Fort Clinch, Florida.

During his time stationed in Beaufort with the 128th, Scranton began living with and later marrying a “colored woman of bad reputation”. Scranton was court-martialed on charges of miscegenation and sentenced to be discharged from the service. This verdict was upheld by Maj. Gen. Quincy Gilmore, in command of the Department of the South. Scranton was dismissed from the Service on September 7, 1865. Scranton is not the only white officer of the United States Colored Troops to marry a black woman. In January of 1866, a White Lieutenant named Thomas and his newlywed black bride returning to Ohio after his discharge were kicked off the steamboat Luminary on the Mississippi River and denied passage on another vessel.

Scranton and his wife, Ellen, raised four children in Connecticut until his death at 43 years old on July 19, 1884. Ellen would go on to apply for her husband’s pension in 1891, before taking on work as a live-in housekeeper, eventually dying in December of 1909 at the age of 67. Five years before her death, in 1904, Private John Smith of the United States Army Hospital Service station at Fort Mott, New Jersey had been discharged “for the good of the service” because of marrying a black woman. The discharge had been upheld by General Frederick Grant.

Sources:
New York, U.S., Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900-
U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934
U.S., Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865
U.S., Civil War Soldiers Records and Profiles, 1861-1865
U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600’s-Current
U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865
(1865, September 18). Indianapolis Star.
(1865, October 6). The Liberator.
(1865, November 2). San Francisco Examiner.
(1866, February 4). Detroit Free Press.
(1866, March 24). The Weekly Standard.
(1904, October 19). The Bangor Daily News.
(1909, December 15). Hartford Courant.

#Courtmartial #Dismissal #Captain #Edwin #Scranton #Company #128th #USCT #Charges #Miscegenation

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