Chinese Found To Have
Fought In U.S. Civil War
WASHINGTON (Agence France Presse) - More than 50 Chinese fought in the U.S. Civil War, serving in the ranks of both Union and Confederate forces as foot soldiers and seamen, a pair of researchers have documented for the first time.
Though small in number, their presence adds the Chinese to the ranks of other foreigners -- Irish, Germans, French -- who fought in the 1861-65 war between the states, one of the bloodiest ever and a defining chapter of U.S. history.
"None of them were famous generals, none of them became officers. They were what people in America have come to call 'grunts.'" Thomas Lowry, one of the researchers, said Tuesday.
Lowry and Edward Milligan tracked down 51 Chinese from muster roles, contemporaneous newspaper accounts, and previously published works by civil war scholars.
They published their findings in the April edition of "North and South," a magazine devoted to civil war. The publication lists 47 Chinese, but Milligan has since found four more who served, according to Lowry.
The most common path that led the Chinese into the war was service as common seamen or ship cooks and stewards, many of them having reached American shores on U.S. ships trading in the Far East.
Forty joined the Union and Confederate navies. They enlisted in Macao; New York; San Francisco; New Orleans; the whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Mare Island, California.
Eleven Chinese served in army units on both sides in the conflict.
"They were scattered through many different outfits," said Lowry. "Every one has a different story."
Often their names were Anglicized, making the search a particular challenge.
Edward Day Cohota, one of the best documented of the Chinese, was given his name by a sea captain, Sargent Day, who adopted him in China and brought him home to America aboard his ship, the Cohota, said Lowry.
Cohota enlisted in the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry at the age of 18 in 1864, was grazed by a mini ball in the battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia, where he saved a friend who was shot in the face.
After the war, Cohota served for 30 years on the frontier as an Indian fighter in New Mexico and Nebraska, where he married a Norwegian woman and opened a Chinese restaurant after retiring from the army. He was denied U.S. citizenship under the Chinese Exclusion Act.
One of the more amazing stories is that of a pair of Siamese twins, Eng and Chang Bunker, who became wealthy planters and slave-holders in Mount Airy, North Carolina after getting their start as sideshow attractions.
The twins married local white women who bore them 22 children between then, Lowry said.
When the Union forces occupied North Carolina, Eng Bunker was drafted, only to be sent home after showing up for duty attached to his brother.
Two of the Bunkers' sons, Christopher Wren Bunker and DC Bunker, enlisted in the Viriginia Cavalry. One cousin was captured and imprisoned in Ohio and records show the other was wounded. ( (c) 1999 Agence France Presse)