Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General, Social Reformer. Born in Vermont, he settled in Lynn, Massachusetts early in life, and became a strong, outspoken advocate for a number of social causes, most notably the abolition of slavery and the rights of laborers. He served as editor of the labor rights publication "The Lynn Mechanic" and he lectured in Northern states about the plight of New England workers. In February 1860 he was one of the labor leaders in Lynn who helped bring about the New England Shoemakers Strike, a movement that demanded higher wages and reasonable work hours to shoemaker factory employees. The strike spread from Lynn to many shoemaker manufacturers throughout New England, and lasted until April 1860, when employers conceded to most of the demands of the striking workers. When the Civil War started he recruited an infantry company from the labor force in Lynn, and was commissioned as Captain on July 5, 1861 when that company was mustered into the 14th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as Company C. Sent to the Union defenses in Virginia near Washington, DC, the regiment was retrained as artillerists, and it was re-designated as the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Heavy Artillery in January 1862. Alonzo Draper and the men would spend the next year and a half garrisoning their post in the Washington, DC defenses, seeing no action against the Confederates. Promoted Major on January 16, 1863, by June 1863 he would tire of inactivity, and petitioned Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew for a chance to serve in the African-American Union regiments being raised in North Carolina from freed former slaves, citing his longtime abolitionism. Governor Andrew released him from the Massachusetts unit, and after Alonzo Draper's arrival in North Carolina he helped raise the 2nd North Carolina Colored Volunteer Infantry, being commissioned its Colonel and commander on August 1, 1863. Throughout the year the unit served in mostly rural areas of occupied North Carolina, combating Confederate partisans, assisting in recruiting more African-Americans to the Union Army, and dealing harshly with Confederate sympathizers. In March 1864 Colonel Draper was involved in a dispute with another Union regiment commander over treatment of Confederate sympathizing civilians, and saw his unit transferred to prison guard duty at Point Lookout, Maryland. After three months Colonel Draper's command, which had been re-designated as the 36th United States Colored Infantry, was sent to the Army of the James and made part of the 3rd Division, XVIII Army Corps, which was made up of African-American units. He soon was elevated to brigade command, and he led his men through the combat operations of the Fall of 1864 to the Spring of 1865 that resulted in the capitulation of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. He was particularly praised for his leadership during the October 27 and 28, 1864 Battle of Fair Oaks and Darbytown Road, a Union assault on Confederate positions that was soundly beaten back. In December 1864 his brigade was transferred to the newly created all-African-American XXV Corps, and Colonel Draper's men were some of the first to occupy Richmond after it fell to the Union forces. On March 13, 1865 Colonel Draper was brevetted Brigadier General, US Volunteers (to date from October 28, 1864) for "gallant and meritorious services in the attack upon enemy's works at Spring Hill, Virginia". In May 1865 his command along with the XXV were sent as occupation forces in Texas, and on August 30, 1865 he was accidentally shot at Brazos de Santiago by soldiers who were practicing target shooting. He lingered until he died of his wounds on September 3, 1865, and was eventually brought back to his hometown of Lynn, Massachusetts for burial.
Bio by: RPD2
Sarah Elizabeth Draper