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James Dorsey


Private James Dorsey is buried in an unmarked grave in Ellsworth Cemetery, near Westminster, Maryland.

Mr. Dorsey was born in 1832, in Carroll County. He may have been enslaved, although his enslavers have not yet been found. He may have been the young man who is enumerated with the Joshua Franklin household in 1850. This “James Dorsey” was 17 years old, and working as a laborer on their farm. Mr. Franklin did not enslave anyone in 1840, and therefore he was unlikely to have been Mr. Dorsey’s enslaver.

In about 1855, Mr. Dorsey married Ms. Martha Woodyard. At the time, she was, in her own words, “a little slip of a girl,” maybe about 15 years old. They had two or three children, all of whom died in infancy. The couple separated, with reports varying about who left whom. Divorce was uncommon in the mid 19th century, and usually required a “fault” in the marriage. They did not obtain a divorce, although never lived together again. Mrs. Dorsey moved to Virginia and Mr. Dorsey also left Carroll County for a short time.

Private Dorsey enlisted in the US Army, in August of 1863, with the 4th US Colored Infantry. He was medically discharged for epilepsy in Yorktown, Virginia in December of that same year. He returned to the Westminster area.

In the winter of 1868, he married Mrs. Louisa (Sides) Savington. Mrs. Savington was the widow of Private Perry Savington, who died during the war.

The couple lived together, with her children, and their children. He worked on various farms. Private Dorsey filed for and received an invalid pension in the mid 1880s. He continued to work, often as a hod-carrier. Hod carrying is an intensively physical job, carrying bricks and other supplies to masons and brick layers as part of a construction team.

Private Dorsey died in the summer of 1892. Based on cemetery records, we believe that he was buried at Ellsworth Cemetery. We continue to search for other proof of his burial, in order to secure a headstone for him.

The Democratic Advocate Westminster, Maryland 04 Jun 1892

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