I just finished reading an article in the Greensboro News and Record about the work of Josh Howard of NCDAH and Charles Purser of the Garner Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who are working to document the number of North Carolina Confederate soldiers who died during the War. It is a good article, and I encourage you to read it – you can find it here. I think it is great that people are working on getting the correct number of North Carolina’s Confederate dead.
However, part of the article is wrong. The article states that “No African American died serving in North Carolina’s Confederate ranks, although some historians argue that blacks did fight for the South.”
Franklin Cuzzens lived in Boone, Watauga County – check the 1860 Watauga County census. He is listed in household number 96, Boone district, with his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Mary. They are listed as Mulatto. In 1850, he is listed as black. Franklin, and his brother William Henry, volunteered as privates in what became Company B, 37th North Carolina Troops, on September 14, 1861. At times, according to their Compiled Service Records from the National Archives and Records Administration, their last names are spelled Cuzzens, Cozzins, Cossins, or Cossens. And at times, William Henry is just seen as Henry. In April 1862, both brothers voluntarily re-enlisted in the 37th North Carolina Troops. Franklin Cuzzens was killed in combat on August 27, 1862, during the battle of Second Manassas/Bull Run. William Henry survived the war, moved to Yancey County, married, and drew a pension for his Confederate service from the state of North Carolina.
There is so much discussion about blacks who served in the Confederate army, about their being relegated to minor or non-combat roles. That may be true for most of them. However, Franklin Cuzzens, a free person of color that held almost no rights, gave his life for the Confederate cause.
By the way, according to the research being done, the 37th North Carolina Troops lost more men (killed, died) than any other Tar Heel regiment during the war.