Forgotten Heroes at Rich: Richard Harris, Henry Lucas and John Magsby

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Richard Harris joined Company I of the 3rd Regiment U.S. Colored Cavalry on January 6, 1865 at Vicksburg.  He was enrolled the following day for 3 years or the war. On his enrollment papers, he listed his age as 30 and height as 5’9.  Harris was born in Crawford, Georgia as a slave before moving to Mississippi.  Not much else is known about his life before the Civil War however. The 3rd Regiment U.S. Colored Cavalry had begun the war as the 1st Mississippi Cavalry of African Descent on October 9, 1863. It’s designation was changed on March 11, 1864 to the 3rd. The regiment moved from Vicksburg to Memphis on January 5th thru the 10th. They were on duty in the District of West Tennessee until April. Harris and his unit were then involved in an expedition from Memphis to Brownsville, MS April 23 thru 26.  The 3rd returned to Vicksburg April 29 to May 1st and operated around Natchez for the capture of Jeff Davis in case he came back to Mississippi.  From Fort Adams, they returned to Memphis and operated there until late January 1866.  The 3rd Regiment U.S. Colored Cavalry was mustered out at Memphis on January 26, 1866.

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After the war ended, Richard made his way to Coahoma County, Mississippi. He married Evelina Warren on September 21, 1867. They had a daughter named Mary a year later. His name appears on the 1890 Veterans list for Coahoma County, but the regiment is identified wrong. By the 1910 U.S. Census, his family included two sons as well named Dennis and Eddie. Richard was listed as a farmer. They were still living on their farm out from Lula in 1920. Sometime after that, Richard passed away because he doesn’t appear on the 1930 census. He was buried at Rich Cemetery located on the Yazoo Pass.

Near his burial lies another Civil War tombstone, but the top is completely broken off and missing.  It identifies the man as being part of the U.S.C.T. infantry.  There is a good chance this could be Henry Lucas who was living near Richard in 1910.  Henry Lucas joined Company H of the 135th United States Colored Troops Infantry on March 27, 1865 at Goldsboro, North Carolina. He listed his home as Savannah, Georgia and his age 21. Henry was promoted to Sergeant on March 28 by Colonel John E. Gurley.  Sergeant Lucas was mustered on October 23, 1865 at Louisville, Kentucky.

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Henry made it to Coahoma County, Mississippi after the Civil War and was living with his son there in 1870.  He was listed as a farm laborer.  Henry married a lady named Lucy and soon had added two more sons by 1880.  Henry Lucas is identified on the 1890 Veterans Schedule as living in Lula.  For the next two U.S. Census records, he is listed as living in Coahoma County and farming. Sometime after that he passes away because he doesn’t appear on the 1930 census.

 

There is one more veteran buried at Rich Cemetery.  His name is John Maxwell Magsby.  John was born November 20, 1889 near West Point, Mississippi. The tombstone mistakenly shows the wrong date born. By 1917, he was living near Dublin in Coahoma County and completed his draft registration card there. On June 21, 1918, he was called up and his entrainment camp was Camp Grant.  Magsby was assigned to Company 25 of the 161st Depot Brigade. The role of the depot brigade was to receive and organize recruits, provide them with uniforms, equipment and initial military training, and then send them to France to fight on the front lines. The depot brigades also received soldiers returning home at the end of the war and completed their out processing and discharges.  At the end of the war, Private John Magsby was discharged home on November 14, 1918.

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On the 1940 U.S. Census, John is listed as living on the Will Jones Place and working for John T. Longeno as a farmer.  His wife Josie is living with him along with Lula Harris. John passed away on December 5, 1943 in Memphis and was buried at Rich Cemetery on December 6th.  In 1949, his widow Josie applied for a military headstone made out of flat granite with a Christian emblem. It was sent to the freight station at Rich and arrived by May 1949. Josie listed her home as Jonestown on the application.

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Rich Cemetery is large with many of the graves unmarked found along the banks of the Yazoo Pass.  Time has not been good to it and the cemetery is abandoned.  I had to do a lot of research just to find that it was named Rich Cemetery.

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