"I owned the mother of said Crittenden Parks and he was born my son and has belonged to me ever since," testified Daniel F. Parks in early 1867. 'Crit' Parks had told Union officers he was sixteen years old when, on 3 October 1864, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Owensboro, Kentucky. Daniel valued the boy at $800 … and a slave owner received $300 in Federal, post-war reparations.Crittenden had been mustered in, as a Private, to Company G of the 118th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry. "In consideration of said enlistment and of said compensation," Daniel Parks agreed more than two years later to "manumit, set free and forever release said Crittenden Parks from all service due me."
Crit became a laudable observer
War took 'Crit,' as he was known colloquially, to Virginia. The 118th laid siege to, and in early April 1865 occupied what had been the Confederate Capitol at Richmond. In mid-summer the 118th shipped off to the port of Brazos Santiago. From Fort Brown they patrolled the Texas side of Rio Grande River for banditry, French forces opposite, and to prevent former Confederates from establishing a new government and army in Mexico.*
Crit returned to his Ohio County, Kentucky roots. Described as copper-skinned at enlistment, he was enumerated as Mulatto in 1870 lodgings at the county seat of Hartford.† Other than a Black cook, all others domiciled with William H. Miller's family were Euro-American. Crit labored as a Rail Hand, undoubtedly contributing to arrival of the Elizabethtown and Paducah Rail Road the following year. Five-foot, seven inches tall at enlistment, the young man assuredly possessed brawn.
By the time Crit and Sena formalized their union Crit had acquired a town lot at Hayti, a racially segregated district on Hartford's fringe. We know because he'd only paid $2 of $5.30 due on property tax assessed in 1883.
To step back to a wider issue for a moment; with considerable encouragement from the G.A.R., U.S. Congress had sought to expand veteran pension eligibility in 1887. U.S. President Stephen Grover Cleveland rejected potentially budget-busting legislation. (Among other objections, his veto reasoned disability must not be "the result of [veterans] own vicious habits or gross carelessness.") The G.A.R., nearing its peak of political influence, developed into a highly effective lobbying organization … with strong ties to the Republican Party. Their nominee for U.S. President, Civil War veteran Benjamin Harrison, did not win the popular vote but was elected 6 November 1888. Harrison signed the Dependent and Disability Pension Act in 1890. The G.A.R.'s National Pension Committee crowed the bill was “the most liberal pension measure ever passed by any legislative body in the world,” according to Donovan. Federal expenditure spiked. Quadagno determined "By 1894, pensions consumed more than 37% of the entire federal budget." The last Civil War pension recipient, a veteran's daughter, died June 2020.‡
|Young enlisted soldier, Union Army|
Crit survived. "A large piece of his skull bone was removed," reported the Herald, "which will have to be replaced with a plate of silver, but beyond this, it is thought his injury will not be permanent." A jury acquitted Crit, probably of disturbing the peace, in March 1893. The ax-wielder was acquitted on one charge; he pled guilty to malicious wounding and was fined $50.§
Crit makes a statement, or two
(1864-1915) "in 1888 played an important part in the early political development in Ohio County, Kentucky," according the the Library of Congress. He founded the Hartford Republican and maintained what became a "long-standing quarrel with its rival," the Democrat-backing Hartford Herald. 'Colonel C. M.' Barnett had been unsuccessful in 1892 attempt to unseat Democrat incumbent Alexander Brooks Montgomery, in election to the U.S. House of Representatives. A practicing attorney just turned thirty-one, Barnett defended the homeowner his moralistic paper had accused of operating a blind tiger.
Crit's case was "stricken from the docket" in November. Brookins was fined a substantial $200 for selling liquor. Another case against Barnett's client Brookins, where charges are not described, was continued.¶
Crit speaks for a special interest group
"The colored soldiers at this meeting" may indicate inter-racial assembly convened at Ohio County in May 1895. It more likely conveys organizational ownership. Herald reproduction of an unnamed group's statement, under the headline 'Decoration Day for Colored People,' probably signals "a day set apart for the decoration of and honoring the dead by strewing flowers &c., over the graves of the old soldiers of color," was planned by Black veterans. Summons for lodges, to the colored grave yard, to "show their kindness and respect for those who sleep beneath the sod," went out over the names of two African Americans: Crit Parks was depicted as 'S.O.C.' which to me suggests Soldier of Color. The signatory above him was affixed with 'Commander,' a title then in common use by the G.A.R. to describe post leadership. Inclusion of Crit's name may demonstrate not only personal ownership of a project involving "straightening up the graves," but shared responsibility for messaging.** G.A.R. legacy of societal influence includes anchoring ancient remembrance and consecration rituals as Decoration Day, annually on 30 May (what the U.S. Federal Government today commemorates as 'Memorial Day'): these Hayti men were enjoined in broader veneration efforts.
(Barnett leads Cicero Maxwell Camp No. 35, in public notice, right.)†† G.A.R. records, now maintained by Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, do not date when the post was mustered in. It may be instructive to know that notice of Preston Morton Post gravesite plans for Decoration Day in 1895 announced "Both the Blue and Gray will be strewn with flowers."
"The colored voters of Ohio county met in mass convention" in mid-January 1897. Crit was no pawn in this affair: he addressed the assembly, which resolved to vote for whatever candidate "we may think best" in precinct conventions. They pledged to support whoever emerged as party nominee and "do all in our power to elect the Republican ticket."
(right) with critique evocative of Samuel Langhorne Clemens' literary style as Mark Twain. Of the offending Pastor: "He had no starting point and found no stopping place, but just broke off. He was reckless and embarrassed from the very start and handled his subject in about the same way. He said he was sick when he got up to talk, and most of us thought so before he ran down …"
"Let us reason together just a little" wrote Crit, following on in his public challenge. "Will the gentleman tell me and my people where and when the Democrats ever did anything excepting just on election times and every negro that has any good old horse sense knows what that is for." Crit questioned "hope the revered brother has to get office from the Democrats. All the Democrats want with us colored fellers is to put them in office and then kick us out like we were so many hounds."
He culminated reflection on his emancipation and manumission with testimonial to "colored friends." It was anchored in military service: "We never will amount to anything if we follow the advice of the reverd brother. We won't have any such stuff put in our heads. Let's be men and walk up and vote for the party that shot for us on those bloody battlefields."
Crit, Sena and Emily were enumerated as (Black and) literate in the 1900 census. Crit's vacillating date of birth was recorded as October 1845, which would have made him just shy of nineteen years old at enlistment. Sena's birth was entered as June 1854. Crit owned his own home at Hayti, free of any mortgage. Employment as a Day Laborer was, like the vast majority of his neighbors, inconstant: the veteran reported being unemployed six months in the preceding year.
[A Race of Extraordinary Goodness describes a tragic victim of the Panic of '93.]
(right) and fined $2.50 for trying to break into a woman's home on a Monday night. "He could assign but one reason for his conduct – drunkenness."
(sic), a well known negro of Hayti, Hartford's colored settlement, died last week. He was quite an old man at the time of his death – about 70 years."
Crit's grave marker (above) at Haiti Cemetery was almost certainly installed at some point by by a veteran's group. It reads "Crit Parks, Co. G., 118 U.S.C.I." No period punctuates his forename.
Images enlarge when clicked.
Madison County jurist Squire Turner led a trio of gubernatorial appointees in codifying Kentucky's laws for the first time, 1851-1852. He by some accounts took greatest satisfaction when drafting property law. History characterizes Turner as pro-slavery: his central premise was that Western law historically prevented abject confiscation. I do not know reasoning for Yankee officers recording slave-holders' names at time of enlistment; whether that was in anticipation of compensation, or as contingency should the United States seek to return property.
* "Ohio County was the scene of intense guerrilla activity," observed Alfaro. Less than ninety days prior to Crit's enlistment, 21 July 1864, a partisan force ambushed a detachment of neighboring Daviess County, Kentucky Home Guards along Rough River Creek. Four, militant union sympathizers were killed not far from Parks and his slave family across the county line. Alfaro tallied 23,702 African American Kentuckians in military service during the Civil War.
Though 250 men of the 62nd U.S.C.I. skirmished, I did not find the 118th associated with the 12-13 May 1865 Battle of Palmetto Ranch … by some accounts the final armed Civil War encounter. Crit was detached from Co. G of the 118th, to serve as wood-chopper in subtropical climes at the end of November. He was mustered out three months later at White's Ranch, which had been a Confederate outpost just prior to the battle.
A Daniel Parks, owned by Margaret Parks, Daniel F. Parks' widowed sister-in-law, enlisted 18 August 1864 at Camp Nelson, three weeks prior to Jeremiah Turner. Mustered in at age 24 as a Private to Company B of the 5th Regiment, U.S. Colored Cavalry, the self-liberated Daniel Parks (likely saw action and) died of disease 12 August 1865 at the Regimental Hospital at Lexington, Kentucky. He was interred at the National Cemetery there. Private Daniel Parks apparently never received even his first installment of a $100 enlistment bounty due at the end of 1864.
Young Parks (b c1838) and the above Charles and Joseph were all enlisted as property of Daniel F. Parks. Joseph was mustered in, as a Private, to Company D of the 120th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry six months after Crit took up arms. Daniel F. Parks made the same oath, claiming Joseph as a son, when filing for reparations. Crit and 'Joe' co-appeared in Ohio County educational initiative.
‡ Being an invalid carried no discernable stigma I could discern, when associated with the boon of a veteran's pension. Further, "The Civil War pension system was color blind in that there was nothing in the application process that required applicants to be white. But recent scholarly works have made it clear that the process itself was far from color blind," contended Gorman c2012, in treatise peer-reviewed by Virginia Tech's Center for Civil War Studies. She offered pertinent analysis: "Because African American soldiers were both less likely initially to be assigned to combat roles, and then less likely to be hospitalized (early disability applications required documentation from hospitals) if injured, they could not produce the documentation required by the application process. And they were less likely than their white counterparts to have the money necessary to complete the process. Ultimately the fate of black veterans’ applications was decided by white bureaucrats who found it easy to turn them down without fear of retribution. An interesting side note is that the Grand Army of the Republic actively campaigned for their black brethren to be granted pensions just as white veterans were."
Rothbard, in Beginning the Welfare State: Civil War Veterans’ Pensions c1996 acknowledged "a cadre of wealthy pension lawyers" also lobbied Congress, "perturbed at the falling off of pension claims during the late 1870s." The Libertarian economist explained "The Pension Bureau, the Grand Army of the Republic, and the Republican Party acted in happy symbiosis: the GAR lobbied for greater appropriations and personnel for the Pension Bureau, which in turn processed more claims for GAR veterans, who in turn gratefully voted for the Republican Party." I found Rothbard's broader thesis novel: Republicans' 1890 Dependent and Disability Pension Act paved the way for Progressive Era reforms and, ultimately, cash support in Democrats' New Deal.
§ Assailant Wesley Callahan, described by the Republican as a "worthless and disreputable negro, whose only means of support is keeping a dive at Hayti and voting the Democratic ticket," may have been unable to pay his fine. He was in jail in April. His Hayti home burned two days before his expected release. A threatening note, stuck in the gate to his home/tippling house, stated "forty men, white and colored, would attend to Wes if he fails to skip [town]." I leave it to the reader to speculate on community groups of bi-racial cohesion with such ardor. 'Wes' Callahan remained in Hartford reports of criminal conduct until his 1899 demise.
ǂ Dee Walker was shot to death, late August 1897. Walker had remonstrated with his Black assailant … over poor treatment accorded a young White man, intoxicated and wandering Hayti in early-morning hours.
¶ A jury had convicted Brookins in June 1895 and assessed a $200 fine … "with proviso that it was not to be paid but worked out on the streets at $1.00 per day." Perhaps it was Barrett who secured a new trial. Brookins killed himself – and a wife in the process of divorcing him – in 1916. See Uxoricide and Suicide in the Herald.
†† Both the Sons of Veterans camp and Barnett, its Captain, were named for Cicero Maxwell (1831-1865). Maxwell had been Attorney for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and living at Hartford prior to 1861 enrollment. He was mustered in as a Lieutenant Colonel, 26th Regiment of Kentucky Volunteers. The Union infantry unit was mauled at the Battle of Shiloh and Maxwell, prolific in reports including his own letter to Abraham Lincoln, was promoted to Colonel in June 1862. He returned to Hartford periodically, chronically afflicted with indigestion, and died from disease at Bowling Green, Kentucky. Attorneys quickly secured a pension for his orphaned son, William Preston Maxwell.
One Washington Eidson war record indicates 'service' was owed William Eidson of Hartford. William J. Eidson (born 1825) was possessed of 11 slaves there in 1860, some apparently inherited from his father. At enlistment of twenty year-old James Eidson at Hartford in December, 1864 William submitted a Consent in Case of Minor form to simultaneously manumit him.
marker is of the same make as Crit's. Charlotte Temple (Eidson) Wright (1861-1915), the couple's then-unmarried daughter, was Chapter Secretary of the Colored Teachers Association when Crit participated in 1893.