Alice Gallman has fought for what she believes her whole life. This 87- year- old Columbia woman’s great uncle, a former slave and Confederate soldier, John Alex Sarter, had that same fighting spirit.
Gallman contacted Lt. Commander for S.C.’s Sons of Confederate Veterans and also the founder of radiofreedixie.com Don Gordon and asked him to investigate her great uncle’s history. Gordon found Sarter fought for the Confederacy first as a slave and later as a free man. His owner, William Sarter was appointed Captain of S.C.’s 18th Infantry Regiment, Company B on August of 1862. Sarter died the following September from his war wounds. But Alex Sarter chose to enlist after William died.
Sarter was later captured by Union soldiers and forced to help dig a tunnel the army filled with explosives. The Union army used the explosion to divide Confederate forces during the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia. The SCV gave an account of the battle in a DVD Gordon presented to Gallman on September 2, 2009. The footage chronicled a memorial service by the SCV at Sarter’s gravesite.
But Gallman remembers Sarter as her wise, old uncle. When she was a girl growing up in Union, the adults would sit around the fire in the winter and have what they called “fireside chats.” Gallman remembers sneaking up behind Sarter and eavesdropping on the adults’ conversations. She said she learned a lot from the older generations.
Gallman’s grandparents were sharecroppers. Gallman was her mother’s first bi- racial child. Her father was Jewish. She said her status made growing up difficult. “There were so many days I didn’t have a bite of bread,” she said. But humble up bringing didn’t stop Gallman from giving her time, energy, and skills to other people who needed help.
Gallman taught the poor to can vegetables, so they would have foodstuffs when times were lean. And when she was a teenager she taught people how to construct mattresses made of cotton instead of straw.
Gallman has fought for the poor and she was involved in helping African- American teachers receive adequate books instead of the damaged hand- me- downs used by white children.
Today, Gallman shares her stories and wisdom with younger generations. Gallman worked hard to send her daughter to Heathwood Hall Episcopal School. Her daughter later attended Yale University and went into the law profession. And her son worked at the Pentagon.
Alice Gallman, like her uncle, has been a fighter.
I did a quick search for William Sarter and then John Alex Sarter in the 18th South Carolina Infantry and only found William in the ranks. Not one mention of John Alex anywhere which seems to be par for the course when it comes to black confederates/confederate slaves. Maybe someone else how reads this post and has better access to SC archival material can do a search with more luck then I. But my guess is…I doubt it. This is more likely another tale similar to the one you can find over at Cenantua’s Blog.