Harry Bruin was born in Port Gibson, MS, near Bruinsburg, and appears to have spent most of his enslaved life in Louisiana. His first attempt to escape slavery resulted in recapture and a severe whipping that left permanent welts on his back. Freedom came during the war of rebellion when Harry took advantage of the opportunity to board the USS Essex gunboat as contraband while it was docked at Springfield Landing for supplies.
After the Siege of Port Hudson, Harry enlisted in the Navy on July 14, 1863. Assigned to the USS Richmond, which was headed to the New York Naval Yard for repairs, he finally left behind his life of enslavement. Transferred to the USS North Carolina, a receiving ship, Harry completed his year of service in 1864.
Soon thereafter, Harry found his way to Blooming Grove, NY where he would eventually marry a local woman, Amelia Freeman, and father eight children. It has been said that he had a fine singing voice and deeply moved church congregants with his rendition of "Was I Born to be a Slave?"
While Harry lived out the rest of his life a free man, he suffered severely from Rheumatoid Arthritis contracted during the Civil War. It eventually incapacitated him and caused a stroke that ended his life on 3 Jan 1889. He is buried in the Washingtonville Cemetery.
Henry's headstone was donated by the Isaac Nicoll chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). (Surname was misspelled)