Martin VanBuren Buchanan was born in Gleedsville, Virginia between 1842 and 1845. Located outside of Leesburg, Gleedsville is northeast of Oatlands through fields and wooded areas. Martin’s father was Robert Buchanan, an enslaved man at Oatlands, while his mother, Mahala Jackson, was a free woman. By Virginia laws of the day, Martin’s status in life followed that of his mother, and so he was born free.
In his young life, Martin was employed at Oatlands with his father, but he left in 1863.
It was as a free man that Martin enlisted in the Union Army’s newly formed 2nd Infantry U.S. Colored Troops, Company G when he was around 21 years old. Attached to the District of Key West in Florida, this unit was eventually sent to the Gulf Coast area and saw duty in Louisiana and Mississippi as well as Florida.
The risk taken in volunteering for service was great. Martin and those he served with, faced possible execution if captured by Confederate forces. They also received about 30% less than their white counterparts, and were in some cases made to pay for a uniform “allowance” and worked with substandard equipment and training.
Nonetheless, Martin VanBuren Buchanan and some 180,000 other Black men risked everything to fight for freedom on the side of the Union. After the War, Martin returned to Virginia, and to Oatlands where he and his father, worked together once again, this time both as free men. In Gleedsville, where he helped construct the Mount Olive Episcopal Church, Martin married Amelia Gleed, and raised a family.
Today and everyday, we honor Martin VanBuren Buchanan and all those who serve our country.
Thank you to Ellen Young for guest writing this blog.