Sylvester Magee - Slave And Civil War Soldier- Was Likely The Last Living Human Being Who Possessed Any Firsthand Memory Of The Trials Of The Civil War Or Institutionalized Slavery
He was wounded twice in the Siege of Vicksburg and the Battle of Champion Hill.
Sylvester Magee’s obituary proclaimed him to be “The Last American Slave.” According to oral histories, Sylvester Magee was born in North Carolina on May 29, 1841 and sold at Enterprise, Mississippi. He was present at the Vicksburg siege and pressed into service in the Union army. Another source relates that Magee also had duties as a gravedigger in the Vicksburg burial details. By the mid-1960s, due to his advanced age, Sylvester Magee became nationally famous. On his 124th birthday the citizens of Collins, Mississippi threw him a party and Magee was sent a letter of congratulations from President Lyndon Johnson. Governor Paul Johnson even declared the day “Sylvester Magee Day.” Magee took his first flight to New York for a television appearance and later flew to Philadelphia to appear on the Mike Douglas Show.
He appeared in the March 1967 issue of Jet magazine, and was noted by President Richard Nixon as probably the oldest citizen of the United States, having been identified as the nation’s oldest living person by a life insurance company. When asked why he had lived so long, he simply stated that the Lord had been good to him. Reportedly, his last words were “Lord have mercy.” Sylvester Magee was likely the last living human being who possessed any firsthand memory of the trials of the Civil War or institutionalized slavery.
Pleasant Valley Cemetery
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