Focused on Mississippi: The Story of Sylvester Magee

Focused on Mississippi

FOXWORTH, Miss. (WJTV) – The story of Sylvester Magee ends in a cemetery behind Pleasant Valley Methodist Church in Foxworth, Mississippi. He passed away in 1971. Here’s what we think we know. Jeanette Daniels skips to the chase with his most remarkable attribute, his age.

“Yes. He lived to be, according to history and the data that we’ve collected throughout the internet, he was 130 years of age when he passed away in 1971,” she stated.

Magee was born in North Carolina and wound up as an enslaved person in Mississippi. He had no birth certificate, but chancery court records in Covington County listed him and his father as being passed on to the next of kin when their owner died in 1859.

Magee would have been about 20 years old when the Civil War broke out. He was pulled into the war as an arms bearer on the side of the South. Then escaped to the Union Army and was pressed into service during the siege of Vicksburg.

So if his age is true, he would have been the last surviving emancipated slave in the country when he died in 1971. Not only that, since he served with the Union at Vicksburg, he would have been the last Union Civil War veteran. And since he started the war on the side of the south, he would have been the last Confederate veteran, too.   

His name is listed in a book called “Black Confederates.” Is it all fairy tales and ramblings of an old man? Well, Magee’s accounts of the Union Army crossing the Big Black River after the Battle of Champion Hill on their way into Vicksburg convinced historian A. P. Andrews that he had to have been there, since Magee couldn’t read or write. How else could he have known all the minute details and names of the officers?

Sylvester Magee, the man, perhaps the myth, was the last person living to have experienced slavery and emancipation in the country. A veteran of both sides of the Civil War. Not to mention he lived to be 130 years old.

Now, I was told by one source that with some help of well wishers, they managed to convince the VA Hospital he was a Union Civil War veteran hundred years after the war ended in the 1960s to get him medical treatment, unless that is a myth, too. But I love a good story. 

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