John Freeman Shorter is a descendant of Betty Hemings a slave on Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation. In 1863, Shorter, who was raised in freedom, enlisted in one of the first black regiments, the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He became one of only three fully-commissioned black officers in the regiment, the others, James Monroe Trotter and William Dupree, were married to descendants of Monticello slaves. Shorter led the year-long protest in which colored soldiers refused lower pay than white soldiers. In October of 1864, the government relented and colored troops received the same pay as white soldiers. Shorter fought in the Battle of Honey Hill, SC, was wounded in the leg but refused to stop fighting. In 1865, he was honorably discharged but while returning to marry his fiancé he came down with smallpox and died.
Slavery at Monticello
Thomas Jefferson fathered at least six children with his slave Sally Hemings. Descendants of slaves at Monticello became important figures in American history. Direct descendants such as John Freeman Shorter, and spouses of descendants such as James Monroe Trotter and William H. Dupree, were African Americans who enlisted in the Civil War with the 55th Massachusetts Volunteers and all of them rose to the rank of lieutenant.
This John Freeman Shorter mug is part of our Civil War and African American Series profiling outstanding men and women who have helped shape our country in important and positive ways.
The biographical History Mugs were created to teach and inspire individuals to learn about our diverse and interesting history. The biographies were researched and written by history enthusiast, Robert Compton. He colorized most of the historic photos and images used on the mugs, which were originally black and white or sepia tone. The images and biographies are imprinted on mugs at his studio in rural Vermont.
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