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Sgt Wallace Lilly

Sgt Wallace Lilly

Nicholasville, Jessamine County, Kentucky, USA
Death 1 Jun 1926 (aged 92)
Columbia, Boone County, Missouri, USA
Burial Columbia, Boone County, Missouri, USA
Memorial ID 82357442 · View Source
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Wallace Lilly
68th US Colored Infantry

Regiment Name 68 U.S. Col'd Infantry.
Side Union
Company K
Soldier's Rank_In Pvt.
Soldier's Rank_Out Sergt.

Was born a slave in Kentucky in 1834. He died a free man in Columbia in 1926.

In between, he was a soldier, a blacksmith and a community leader.

Today, Lilly almost has been forgotten. He lies with his wife, Mary Lilly, in the southwest section of Columbia Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

Wife: Mary Dunn
Married: 23 AUG 1877 in Boone County, Missouri
Event: Officiant in Homesley, J. W., Minister of the Gospel

Nearby are numerous headstones of his fellow Civil War veterans of the U.S. Colored Infantry, many Lilly helped fund as commander of Post 432 of the Grand Army of the Republic. Now, the successor organization to that veterans group, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Tiger Camp 432, wants to install grave markers for the Lillys and learn more about them.

"When you think about it, his country didn't serve him very well before he went to war," camp Commander Larry Dietzel said. "Going into the army meant something more to them, and when you think about it, it kind of gets to you."

There's a fair amount of information available about Lilly, but none of it fully tells his story.

From the Missouri State Archives website, Lilly's service record shows he enlisted on April 13, 1864, at Columbia in the 68th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment. He was discharged from military service on Feb. 5, 1866, as a sergeant, the highest rank allowed for black soldiers.

A unit history of the 68th regiment shows that it was sent to Memphis, Tenn., in early 1864 and went to Mississippi in July of that year. The regiment fought at the Battle of Tupelo in July 1864 against Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry and in the siege of Fort Blakely at Mobile, Ala., in April 1865.

Fort Blakely is considered one of the last major battles of the war.

More information can be gleaned from news reports of the early 20th century. The University Missourian of Jan. 12, 1912, reporting on Emancipation Day celebrations at St. Paul AME Church, said that "Wallace Lilly, an old soldier, told of some of the exciting events he had seen during the Civil War."

And in an article 10 years later, the Missourian reported that his friends had, over 4½ days, raised enough money to have a uniform made for Lilly.

That article reported that Lilly was a retired blacksmith who lived at 207 N. Second St. Other articles put the address at 207 S. Second St., which was known as Cemetery Hill and today is the location of the vacant Osco store.

The article reported that Lilly helped identify and send home the bodies of fallen comrades after the war, and in 1868, he helped found the black Masonic lodge in Columbia. Reminiscing about the war, Lilly said:

"There was a sergeant in our regiment who they called ‘Pink' who was just my color and just my size. Whenever they asked me about any meanness I done always said, "Musta been Pink. Go see if it wasn't Pink.' And I've never been arrested or fined in my life."

Bill Thompson, a recreation specialist with the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, has helped Wynna Faye Elbert document the history of St. Paul, one of Columbia's historically black churches at 501 Park Ave.

None of the old news articles mention which, if any, church that Lilly and his wife attended but several mention St. Paul in connection with Lilly and Post 432. They also don't mention whether the Lillys had any children.
1880 United States Census
Wallace LILLY: Self M Male MU 35 MO Blacksmith
Father's birthplace: Virginia, United States
Mother's birthplace: Virginia, United States
Mary LILLY: Wife M Female MU 24 MO Keeping House MO MO
Census, 1910
relationship to head of household: Self
residence: Columbia Ward 2, Boone, Missouri
marital status: Married
race : Black
gender: Male
immigration year:
father's birthplace: Kentucky
mother's birthplace: Kentucky
family number: 73
page number: 3
Household Gender Age
Wallace Lilly M 57y
spouse Mary J Lilly F 41y
Census, 1920
residence: , Boone, Missouri
estimated birth year: 1842
age: 78
birthplace: Kentucky
relationship to head of household: Self
gender: Male
race: Black
marital status: Married
father's birthplace:
mother's birthplace:
film number: 1820906
digital folder number: 4312393
image number: 00414
sheet number: 7
Household Gender Age
Wallice Lilly M 78y
spouse Mary Lilly F 60y

Neither Thompson nor Elbert had ever heard of Lilly, but they were excited about the prospect of helping Dietzel and Dixon flesh out the story and help put up the grave markers.

"I am sure the congregation and the minister would be more than happy to do something with them," Thompson said. "There is just not a lot of documentation of local African American history."

Elbert said there are several people still alive who lived on Cemetery Hill and remember the families who also lived there. "That would be a wonderful thing to research," she said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will provide a stone for Wallace Lilly; the marker for Lilly's wife, who died March 31, 1932, at about age 87, must be privately financed.

Dietzel asks that anyone with information about the Lillys or who wants to help effort to finance a grave marker for Mary Lilly to contact Tiger Camp 432 through its Facebook page.

Source: Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served with the United States Colored Troops: 66th through 82nd USCT Infantry, 1864-1866

Reach Rudi Keller at 573-815-1709 or e-mail

This article was published on page A1 of the Sunday, December 25, 2011 edition of The Columbia Daily Tribune with the headline "Group remembers a Civil War soldier: " Click here to Subscribe.

Family Members


  • Maintained by: James Ahaesy
  • Originally Created by: Bev
  • Added: 25 Dec 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 82357442
  • Bev
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sgt Wallace Lilly (4 Jan 1834–1 Jun 1926), Find A Grave Memorial no. 82357442, citing Columbia Cemetery, Columbia, Boone County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by James Ahaesy (contributor 49059682) .