Reference Entry

Warfield, George William

Carolyn Warfield

in African American National Biography

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195301731
Warfield, George William

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forced tobacco laborer, was born in Walnut Bottom, Henderson, Kentucky, the son of a slave woman and a free man; the latter was a Federal soldier in the siege of Petersburg and Richmond during the Civil War (1861–1865), carpenter, and land owner. Warfield identified his mother as Anna Warfield and his father as George Williams. Anna was living on the Kentucky farm of Marylander Richard Warfield when George was born. Eastern soil depletion drove many farmers and planters westward to Kentucky for fertile land, where slavery provided a free source of workers to cultivate the labor-intensive tobacco crops. Rich bottomlands formed by the confluence of the Green and Ohio Rivers were ideal for western Kentucky's tobacco economy. Annually the Ohio River flooded and revitalized the soil. When Richard Warfield died 1838, George was sold to William Beverley (Beverly) at the time his estate was divided. Beverley moved from Virginia to establish a large, flourishing tobacco enterprise in Henderson County.As the Secession crisis erupted in 1860, with Kentucky-born Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln as president-elect, Kentucky held a crucial economic position in a cross-current of trade with the North and South. Kentucky remained in the Union, but also remained a slave state. As the war protracted, western growers got wealthier as the price and value of tobacco increased. Moreover, Kentucky fulfilled the growing demand of chewing tobacco for the Union Army. Slaves in the border states were exempt from military recruitment after legislation of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Early in 1864 President Lincoln authorized the recruitment of slaves in Kentucky to fill the ranks of the Union Army. As recruitment began, slavery in the Commonwealth deteriorated considerably; however, the regime did not end until ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at the end of the war in 1865. Kentucky did not ratify the Thirteenth Amendment until 1970.At the age of twenty-five, George Beverly, enlisted under his slaveholder's name, at Owensboro, Kentucky, as a Private in the 118th United States Colored Infantry (USCI) Company H, 19 September 1864. George joined more than twenty-three thousand black Kentuckians who wore the blue uniform of the Federal Army. Kentucky had the second largest number of black recruits during the War. The 118th Regiment was organized at Baltimore, Maryland, 19 October 1864, with Newton S. Kirk as Captain of Company H. After muster in at Baltimore, the 118th USCI moved to City Point, Virginia, in late October 1864. While stationed in Virginia, the regiment joined additional Union forces to perform offensive operations and laid siege against Petersburg and Richmond from November 1864 to 3 April 1865. Weeks of consistent battlefield maneuvers were compounded into one of the most complex and important campaigns that greatly reduced and weakened the Rebels. The Confederates were pinned inside their fortifications. Hence, the Confederate capital of Richmond fell and was captured by the Federal Army. As the Confederate government fled, they burned the city. Richmond had led the nation in manufacturing when the war began. Between June and July 1865, the 118th USCI headed for the United States—Mexico border, where they moved to Brazos Santiago, Texas, with duty at Brownville and various points on the Rio Grande until the regiment mustered out 6 February 1866, when George William Beverley was honorably discharged from White Ranch, Texas.Following the war, George returned to Henderson County, seeking inclusion in American society. Self-assured by the reality of freedom, he began a new life based on familial and social relationships appropriate to the times as George W. Warfield. The local tobacco economy was still strong and remained so far many years after the war. George married Mary Ellen Broadwell, a beautiful mixed-race woman from Henderson on 25 August 1867 at the farm of William A. Hopkins in Spottsville precinct. Five boys and five girls were born to the couple in Henderson between the years 1868 and 1895. Lucy Warfield was born in 1868, the year Ulysses S. Grant was elected the eighteenth president of the United States. Grant served two consecutive terms. In 1878 and 1885, George purchased land for a homestead and family farm, where he raised tobacco and other subsistence crops. He applied for his military service pension in 1890 and received three periodic increases to the monthly allotments over twenty-nine years. Thirteen years lapsed before the War Department's Bureau of Pensions accepted George's identity. In 1903 his claim went to the Southern Division for a new face brief to change his name from George Beverly to George W. Warfield. George died in 1919 from heart failure at age eighty-two in the vicinity of his homestead. He is recorded in historical memory as a humble national warrior.

Reference Entry.  873 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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