Richard Hamilton was born into slavery in Lincolnton, North Carolina around 1850. His parents were sold when he was young and he grew up never knowing their names. During the Civil War, according to his obituary, Richard Hamilton served officers during the Civil War and made his way to Ypsilanti by the age of 19. In Ypsilanti around 1872, Richard married Anna King, born in Canada in 1858 to parents from Virginia.
In the 1880 Census, they are living together with their sons Oscar and Norman in Ypsilanti. Richard lists his occupation as ‘Traveling with circus.” Mary did general housework for private families and Richard was a laborer. He was one of only three adults in the survey listed as unable to read or write. Richard was a member of the Oddfellows and the family were members of the Brown Chapel AME Church.
Anna Died in 1926, Richard in 1938.They lived at 315 South Adams until their deaths.
A newspaper obituary for Richard Hamilton is worth reproducing in full (and read with a grain of salt). From the July 10, 1938 Ypsilanti Press:
Ypsilanti Civil War Veteran Dies
Dick Hamilton, 92-Year-Old Negro, Succumbs
Ypsilanti- Dick Hamilton, 92-year-old Negro, widely known in Ypsilanti, and believed to be the only Washtenaw resident who fought on both the confederate and federal armies in the Civil War, died yesterday at his home here.
For many years, “Dick” was employed as a general handyman in the homes of a number of prominent Ypsilanti families and he also had worked for various business concerns.
A large group of his former employers will be among funeral services which will be held a 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon in the AME church here. Burial will be in Highland Cemetery.
Born into slavery about 1846 on the plantation of Thomas Shuford near Lincoln, S. C. [it was Lincolnton, North Carolina…ed.] he was sold at an early age to Peter Summey, a nearby planter, and at the age of 15 years accompanied the latter to war as his personal servant. The boy was taken prisoner quite early in the war by the 15th Pennsylvania cavalry and for the remainder of the conflict he fought in various federal units, including the 10th Michigan cavalry. He participated in the battles of Honey Hill, Bull Run, Pitts Landing and the Wilderness.
After the close of the war he came to Ypsilanti, soon joining a 16-piece brass band organized here to tour the nation. At Topeka, Kans., the group joined the Sells Bros. circus, and traveled with that organization for several years. Hamilton believed himself to be the last survivor of that band. Circus life was followed by a short career as a member of an independent brass band which went broke quickly on the road, and Hamilton joined another show with which he traveled with for a time.
Returning to Ypsilanti, he married Anna King, who died May 1 1926, since which time Hamilton has made his home with his son, Norman. There are also several grandchildren.