Sergeant William "Bill" Ward (1835-1903) fought for the Union during the Civil War with the United States Colored Troops. He was profiled by the University of Virginia's John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History in 2017, as part of their "Black Virginians in Blue" digital project.
Ward was born around 1835 in Albemarle County, and worked as a blacksmith. He probably lived near Helena, Arksansas, by the end of the antebellum period. Around 1860, he began to live with a woman named Mary, who eventually gave birth to six children: Sallie, born around 1869; Elizabeth, born around 1872; Robert, born July 1874; and three children whose names are unknown. After his service, Ward returned to Arkansas, where he lived with Mary and their children for the remainder of his life.
Ward enlisted in the Union army in Helena on November 4, 1863, and mustered in as a sergeant in Battery E of the 2nd USCT Light Artillery Regiment on December 14. His enlistment records describe him as 5 feet, 4 inches tall, with black hair, black eyes, and a black complexion. His battery primarily performed garrison and guard duty, although it took part in a skirmish at Wallace's Ferry on July 26, 1864. At some point during his service, a horse fell on his leg, causing serious injury. He mustered out of service on September 25, 1865.
After appealing, Ward eventually received a pension of eight dollars per month. He died on February 19, 1903. After Ward’s death, Mary and their children became involved in a property dispute with two White men. The plaintiffs attempted to undermine Mary’s claim to her husband’s property since their marriage was under common law. Ward’s pension file served as a crucial piece of evidence to confirm his marriage to Mary.
- Web. [ William Ward (2nd USCT LA)], Website, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History: Black Virginians in Blue, April 13, 2021, retrieved July 29, 2021.
- Web. “Brave Boys of the Fifth”: The Service of Two Black, Albemarle-Born Soldiers of the Famous 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment, Jane Diamond, Website, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History: Black Virginians in Blue, July 4, 2017, retrieved July 28, 2021.