72nd US Colored Infantry
The 72nd US Colored Infantry had a short and inglorious history. It was organized at Covington, Kentucky beginning in April 18, 1865. However, it failed to organize. The reasons for this failure are unclear -it could have been lack of soldiers or lack of officers to lead the regiment. The regiment was discontinued on May 3, 1865 and its men disbursed to other regiments.
Only one man with ties to Williamson County has been identified as serving in this regiment. Cpl. Lewis W. Reese was born in Brentwood, TN and. He was about 14 years old when the Civil War began and US Army soldiers came to Middle Tennessee. According to several records, he became the servant for a white officer, Major Alexander Duncan of the 24th Ohio. The teenager cooked for Arnold and cared for his horse. Arnold was wounded at Shiloh and returned to Ohio to recuperate. It appears that he brought Reese to Ohio with him and left him with a German family to work in their tannery. During this time, Reese learned to read and write English and speak German. When he was 18 years old, he joined the 72nd USCI as a recruit in Cleveland, Ohio. On April 12, 1865 - close to the time recognized as the regiment's official inception - Reese was counted on the Company descriptive book in Covington, Kentucky and his complexion was described as "yellow." By June 1865, he was appointed a corporal of the regiment.
On July 18, 1865, he was transferred to the 12th US Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment where he spent time garrisoning Camp Nelson - a significant site of African American history during the Civil War. On January 19, 1866, he mustered out of the Army in Louisville, Kentucky. Reese married a white woman in Cleveland, Ohio and settled there to raise a family. He worked as a tanner and a fireman. Reese died in Cleveland in 1903. His remains are buried in the Riverside Cemetery there.
Colonel Alexander Duncan
Colonel Alexander Duncan of Co. B, 11th Ohio Infantry Regiment, 72nd U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiment (USCT), and 125th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiment (USCT) in uniform] / Ball & Thomas, Photographic Art Gallery, 120 W. 4th St. near Race, Cincinnati, O.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Ball & Thomas, photographer. Colonel Alexander Duncan of Co. B, 11th Ohio Infantry Regiment, 72nd U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiment USCT, and 125th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiment USCT in uniform / Ball & Thomas, Photographic Art Gallery, 120 W. 4th St. near Race, Cincinnati, O. United States, None. [Cincinnati, ohio: ball & thomas, photographic art gallery, 120 w. 4th st. near race, between 1861 and 1867] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2021641623/.