Edward C. Wooster
Union Soldiers Lined up for Soup, a Way to Prevent Scurvy (Harpers Weekly)
Edward C. Wooster was thirty-three years old and living in South Canaan, Connecticut when he enlisted in the 29th Connecticut Infantry on December 7, 1863. He was formally mustered into Company B on March 8, 1864. Little is known about his military service except that he was present at the 29th’s major engagements in Virginia and he traveled with the regiment to Texas at the end of the war. It was likely there that he contracted scurvy, a deficiency of vitamin C that was all too common among the Black troops serving in Texas, far from major bases of supplies. Wooster would suffer from gum disease and tooth loss for the rest of his life. Mustered out on October 24, 1865, Wooster returned to Connecticut and was reunited with his wife Jane Maria Wooster and their children. The war may have placed a great strain on the marriage, for in 1868 Edward filed for divorce, alleging that Jane Maria had committed adultery. Wooster married his second wife Lucinda (who had also been divorced) in 1872 and the couple stayed together until his death on March 28, 1901 at age 70. Wooster applied for invalid pension in 1887 because of the impact of the scurvy. While this was granted, Lucinda Wooster had great difficulty applying for a widow’s pension because of the couple’s series of marriages and divorces. Edward Wooster’s story shows the complexities faced by African American soldiers during and after the Civil War.
Lucinda M. Wooster, the second wife of Edward C. Wooster, was born in Great Barrington in 1835. She first married Henry Porter but got divorced on August 26, 1870 as he had committed adultery. Lucinda married Edward Wooster on May 29th, 1872. Lucinda’s maiden name prior to both marriages was Burghardt. She was the daughter of Harlow A. Burghardt. Harlow was the brother of Othello Burghardt, the grandfather of civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. This made Lucinda and W.E.B Du Bois first cousins once removed. Du Bois and Lucinda sent letters back and forth to each other, typically centered around their past relatives, specifically Thomas Burghardt who served in the Revolutionary War. Activism ran in the family, as Lucinda was also a civil rights activist and fought strongly against slavery and segregation. On April 6, 1906, Lucinda, her son Edward Jr., and his wife Lena, all signed a civil rights petition urging the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to reject using public money for the 300th anniversary of Jamestown if the celebration discriminated against people of color.
The sheer size of Edward Wooster’s pension file leads the researcher to assume that Edward Wooster and his family depended on his pension for their economic survival. It is, however, through this vast pension record that the details of his life, which would otherwise likely be forgotten, can be pieced together. Edward Wooster lived the remainder of his days, with his second wife Lucinda, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and their graves can be found in Mahaiwe Cemetery.