Private Nelson Means (also listed as Minns, Winston, Winns) was born around 1839 in Albemarle County. Little is known about his life before the war, except that he lived in Charles City, Virginia, and worked as a farmer.
Means enlisted at the age of 24 as a private on July 5, 1863, in Mason's Island, Virginia, and mustered in on July 12 in Washington, D.C. His service record describes him as 5 feet, 6 inches tall, with black hair, black eyes, and a black complexion. He served in Company D of the 1st USCT Infantry Regiment. Means served throughout Virginia and North Carolina and took part in the Siege of Petersburg in 1864. He mustered out on September 29, 1865, in Roanoke Island, North Carolina.
Means returned to Virginia after the war. He married Louisa Banks Means in July 1876 in York City. They had five children, whose birthdates are not known: Annie, Sarah, Mary, Julia, and William. Following Means's service, he suffered from impaired eyesight, injury to his chest and back, and disease of the urinary organs. He died on September 29, 1901, at the Southern Branch National Soldiers' Home in Hampton.
He began receiving a pension of six dollars a month in 1899. At some point, he left his wife for three or four years to live in a soldiers' home, resulting in her filing a claim for half of his pension. Following his death, Means's widow, Louisa, secured a pension in 1906, and by 1928, the government had increased it to $40 per month.
Private Means 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.
- Web. [ Nelson Means (1st USCT)], Website, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History: Black Virginians in Blue, April 12, 2021, retrieved July 28, 2021.