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James Edwards was born in Sheffield, Massachusetts in 1835 and later moved to Litchfield, Connecticut. On March 19, 1857, when 22 years old, he married Amelia Jackson in West Cornwall, CT. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, African American enlistments in the army were not allowed. However, with the Emancipation Proclamation, recruitment of black soldiers was actively sought. James Edwards enrolled at the age of 28 on December 28, 1863, joining the 29th Regiment of Connecticut Infantry, and he was officially mustered into the regiment on March 8, 1864. He initially volunteered to serve three years as a sailor, but instead joined the army as a corporal. Most volunteers joined as privates, so Edwards offered something beneficial to the army. Being a corporal meant a great deal not only to him but the people around him and being an African American soldier he was expected to perform at the top of his regiment and any mistake he made was amplified due to the racism during this time period. Thus, it was likely particularly disappointing to him when, on December 1, 1865, James Edwards was lowered in the ranks due to desertion, stripped of his rank as corporal to serve as a private. Little else is known of his military service, except for its enigmatic ending. Edwards’ pension records indicate that on March 4, 1865 - the same day as Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address - James Edwards was murdered while in military service. There was a little over one month left in the Civil War. After his death Amelia Edwards resided in New Haven, collecting James’s pension until she died in 1880.

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