Friday, March 2, 2012

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth - a Significant First

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Allen Allensworth was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1842. Like many others, the Civil War brought an opportunity to escape to Union lines. Allensworth took this opportunity and joined with the Union hospital Corps after escaping to an encampment of the 44th Illinois Volunteer Regiment - a unit camped near Louisville. In 1863, he joined the US Navy, where he was soon promoted to Captain's Steward serving on the Gunboat Queen's City.

After the war, he pursued a life of preaching, married, and eventually returned to the Army as the Chaplain of the 24th Infantry Regiment - the Buffalo Soldiers - holding the rank of Captain, he was among the few black officers in the Army. By the time of his retirement in 1906, he had reached the rank of Lt. Colonel - the first black man to do so.

Allensworth is quickly becoming a point of great interest to me. After his retirement, he moved to Los Angeles, California and worked to develop a black community north of Bakersfield. The town of Allensworth, founded in 1908, was meant to be entirely self sufficient - free from racism, and free from the travails of the post Reconstruction South. Sadly, the town failed. The problem - no water. Allensworth returned to Los Angeles where, in 1914,  he was ingloriously killed in a motorcycle accident. He is buried in the GAR plot at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. 

Allensworth is among several men in my current study of Union veterans who moved west after the war. Did Allensworth develop an identity as a westerner? What sort of identities was he dealing with in a post-Union victory United States that helped inform a possible western outlook? Several identity layers may indeed surface - racial, sectional, gender, class. We shall see - I am planning several trips to the archives including a road trip to the remnants of what was once Allensworth, California.

One thing that is great about this project - it turns out that Los Angeles has a much richer Civil War connection than I had previously thought.



  1. Keith,

    The town of Allensworth, California still exists today. In fact there is the town of Allensworth and Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. The Friends of Allensworth Interpretive Association is a membership based nonprofit cooperative association that supports, promotes, and advances the educational and interpretive activities of Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. We put on four special events at the park each year. Maybe I will see you at one of our events Keith.


    Stephen Hill, Sr.
    Friends of Allensworth
    San Diego Chapter No 12

  2. Stephen - I would love to come to one (or several) of your events. I am very interested in pursuing further investigation into Allenworth's life in California. I am currently researching a book on Union veterans who moved west and I would very much like to include Allensworth. Please keep me posted - if you have a mailing list, my address is

    Thank you so much for commenting and providing the link to your blog.