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Tom Snyder... more than just handy at doing chores

Private Thompson “Tom” H. Snyder of Company F was an early volunteer to join the 18th in April 1861, and had the singular distinction within the regiment to be of a race other than white. He may have appeared much like the rest of the all-white regiment, but his race was actually listed as “mulatto” in the prewar 1860 U. S. Census and “colored” in the Schoharie County Town Clerks’ Register. As recorded in the census, Snyder lived in Schoharie with his “mulatto”-listed mother and black grandfather. Locally, Snyder was known as “Dean’s Tom” and was described as a “three quarter white boy, handy at doing chores.” In 1861, African-Americans were still barred from the military, but could work as servants, and the 18th was not exempt to this rule. Several unnamed servants attached themselves to serve the companies and its officers, but Snyder’s appearance to his peers did not bar him from disqualification or discrimination. It is unknown if his family history was known by others or kept in secret.

On June 27, 1862, at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, Snyder was killed during the fight by grape or canister shot from enemy artillery. Private Lewis Spawn watched Snyder get hit just as he had fired an aimed shot that knocked down a Rebel officer. Before the collapse of the Union line, comrades in Company F last saw Snyder wounded on the field and hoped that he would pull through, but his death was confirmed a few weeks after the battle.

Snyder’s hometown of Schoharie recognized his service after the war in a book about local veterans and remembered him to be more than just someone “handy at doing chores” when they mentioned Snyder, “was of African and American descent and very nearly white, and accounted a brave soldier.”


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