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Despite the former slave’s courage of caring for the sick and wounded, as a “contraband,” Cathay existed on inferior rations and wore secondhand clothing and received little if any medical care. Added to the burden was the arduous 500-mile trek as federal soldiers kept moving south and deeper into the wilder- ness of Arkansas. Suddenly and without any warning, Cathay was ordered to attend cooking school at Little Rock, Arkansas. Cathay served more than two years with the 8th Indiana, then was assigned to serve as cook for General Sheridan and his staff at the headquarters of the Army of the Shenandoah. During the battle of Cedar Creek, Cathay barely escaped being captured by Rebel forces when the surprise attack sent Union forces running for their lives. This probably would have been the first time Cathay had encountered black troops. There were ample


Portrait of a Cathay Williams (1866) by Garry Palm. Courtesy of Garry Palm. www.garrypalm.com


installed. Daisy Douglas is an educator, author, storyteller, and an incredibly interesting person to talk to and listen to as she tells the tales of the Buffalo Soldiers of Westmoreland County. Daisy Douglas and her husband of 54 years, James Wilson Crabbe-Douglas, a native of Westmoreland County, now live in Westmoreland County at Sandy Point. In 1998, Daisy Douglas founded the Westmoreland Weav- ers of the Word Storytellers Guild. She serves as its director and performs at schools, churches, museums and libraries telling the stories of the African American experience. She has authored numerous books and has received over 200 humani- tarian awards. Daisy Douglas has studied the history of Buf- falo Soldiers in general and those of Westmoreland County in particular. She has an interest in a unique Buffalo Soldier who went by the name of William Cathay. Born in Independence, Missouri, on September 1842, the child of a free man and a slave woman, Cathay worked as a house slave on the Johnson Plantation just outside of Jefferson City, Missouri. At the start of the Civil War, Union forces marched in and oc- cupied Jefferson City. The Union Army declared captured slaves “contraband.” Known as contrabands, they were put to work as laundresses, cooks and nurses serving the Union Army. Cathay was just seventeen years of age when taken into service in the 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment under the command of Colonel Walter Plummer Benton. It is likely that Cathay helped the wounded soldiers of the 8th Indiana at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Cathay had learned nursing skills first hand and is believed to have worked as a nurse and medical assistant in various places, including the field hospital.


The House & Home Magazine 37


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