By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Cathay Williams was ironically born in Independence, Missouri, sometime around September 1844. She was the daughter of a Black freedman and an enslaved Black woman, therefore making her a slave. Williams worked as a house slave on the Johnson plantation, which was located on the edges of Jefferson City, Missouri, until the early phases of the civil war, when Union troops occupied Jefferson City in 1861 and captured enslaved Black people, who were then labeled as “contraband” and forced to serve as soldiers or military support staff.
Some people claim that Cathay Willaims may have served in the Battle of Pea Ridge and the Red River campaign. Women weren’t allowed to participate in combat service, so historians believe she may have enlisted as a man under the name of Finis Cathay. As Finis Cathay she would of enlisted in the 32nd Missouri infantry in 1862 and would have particpated in many vital campaigns, including: The Siege of Vicksburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea, before fighting to force Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army surrender in North Carolina. On November 15, 1866 Williams would again sign-up for military service. This time under the name of William Cathay (since women were still prohibited from combat military service). Williams would be assigned to the 38th United States Infantry regiment (Buffalo Soldiers). Unfortunately, soon after her enlistment (or better yet re-enlistment), Williams would contract smallpox. After she recovered, she rejoined her unit, but would have to be repeatedly hospitalized, possibly due to the effects caused by small pox, combined with the extreme heat of the New Mexico desert, where her team was posted. Eventually, the post surgeon would discover her “feminine secret”, and informed her post commander. This led to her being discharged by the United States Army, by her commanding officer, Captain Charles E. Clarke, on October 14, 1868.
Post Military Life
In Fort Union, New Mexico, Williams would be employed as a cook. Williams would eventually move to Pueblo, Colorado and would get married. The marriage wouldn’t last long, her untrustworthy husband would steal her money and several of her horses. She would have him arrested and then moved to Trinidad, Colorado, where she worked as seamstress, and may have even owned a boarding house. Sometime around late 1889 or early 1890, Williams would enter a hospital, there she would attempt to physically recover from her bad heath issues she was suffering from at the time (her exact illness is unknown). In June of 1891, Williams would apply for disability pension because of her past military service. At the time there was a precedent for granting a military pension to a woman soldier. By 1816 Anna Maria Lane, Mary Hayes McCauley (better-known-As Molly Pitcher) and Deborah Sampson all received pensions for their service in the American Revolutionary War of Independence. Despite her military service, and the fact that she suffered from neuralgia,diabetes and had toes amputated and had to walk with a crutch; despite her injuries and health issues, Williams would be denied disability payments. It is believed that Williams died sometime around 1893 (shortly after being denied a military pension for her service). Her exact resting place is unknown.
Black History Spotlight:From Black American Soldier to Filipino Freedom Fighter: The Story of David Fagan
By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
David Fagan was born in Tampa,Florida in 1875. Fagan served in the United States 24th regiment of the United States army.
However on the 17th of November 1899, Fagan would leave the United States army and joined the Filipino liberation army. No one is quite sure why Fagan and some other black soldiers defected to the Filipino resistance. Some people speculate that being born only about a decade after the the Civil War and seeing White America’s mistreatment not of only Black civilians, but also Black soldiers, combined with the cruel, inhumane and racist abuse the White America soldiers inflicted on thr Filipino freedom fighters; he may of have seen more of a commonality with the cause of the dark skin Filipino freedom fighters, than he did with the white soldiers of the American imperialist war machine, some of whom were probably the children of former slave owners. Fagan would become an extremely successful guerrilla war leader and he would awarded the rank of captain in the Philippine Revolutionary army.
After The Philippine-American War
After the war was over, the United States gave amnesty to most of their opponents on the Filipino side, however Fagan did not receive amnesty and was considered by the U.S.A to be a traitor. A reward was offered for his capture, it was claimed when someone brought in a decomposed head and claimed that it belonged to Fagan. There are conflicting stories that say that the head did not belong to Fagan and claim that he lived out his life with his wife in the tranquil Filipino mountains.