Henry Bruce (blackunionsoldiers)

(b. circa 1830 – d. 1916)

On March 31, 1864 Henry B. Bruce enlisted in Montgomery County, Maryland, with the newly-formed 39th Regiment, U.S.C.T., of the Maryland Volunteer Infantry. Muster rolls listed Bruce as enslaved by Wilson Grummes (b. 1808). This was actually William Groomes who lived near Unity. Although Groomes did not appear on Martenet’s 1865 map of the county, his farm stood next to Bushrod Gartrell’s farm. Groomes enslaved two people in 1853 and 1855: the teenagers Josiah (b. circa 1841) and Harriet (b. circa 1839), but not Henry, who was born around 1830. In the 1860 slave census, the ages of Groomes’ two slaves match the ages of Josiah and Harriet. Perhaps Groomes purchased Henry Bruce after 1860 but before 1864 when Bruce enlisted.

Henry Bruce served in Company D. Bruce suffered a shell wound to his back on July 31, 1864, the day after the Battle of the Crater. Although the battle had occurred the previous day, Meade’s army did not offer a flag of truce until noon on the 31st, so Bruce’s wound earlier that day, perhaps by the continuous sniper fire, is entirely feasible. The possibility also exists that Bruce was wounded in the battle itself but the wrong date was entered.

The Battle of the Crater, fought on July 30, 1864, involved the largest numbers of black troops so far assembled in the Civil War. Brigadier General Edward Ferrero’s 4th Division (under General Burnside’s 9th Corps) was comprised of the 19th, 23rd, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 39th, and 43th U.S.C.T. regiments. The disastrous battle resulted in the highest casualties for African American soldiers in the entire war. Many of the Union casualties included disarmed, captured, and injured USCT soldiers whom Confederate soldiers massacred during and following the battle. The 39th Regiment, under Colonel Ozora P. Stearns, sustained thirteen killed, ninety-seven wounded, and forty-seven missing or captured – a total of one hundred and fifty-seven casualties. On August 6, 1864 the Baltimore Sun listed “Henry Bruch” among the wounded, although only sixty-nine were counted in the regiment as wounded at the time. Fortunately Bruce survived his wound and was discharged in Washington, D.C. on May 27, 1865 under General’s Order No. 77, which was “the first order issued by the War Department discharging men by reason of close of the war.”