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Wed, 07.31.1844

Henry Plummer, Chaplain born

Henry V. Plummer

Henry Plummer, a Black soldier and chaplain, was born on this date in 1844.

Henry Vinton Plummer was born a slave at Three Sisters plantation in Prince George's County, MD.  His owners sold him and his mother to residents of the District in 1851. There he lived in the Meridian Hill section of the city and later at Ellicott Mills in Maryland.  In 1862, Plummer escaped and made his way to Riverdale, where he hid until he could reach an aunt's house in Washington.  Between 1862 and 1864 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the USS Coeur de Lion (which means "lionheart" in French), a paddle-wheel steamer.

Plummer saw action in many battles and was honorably discharged from the Navy after the American Civil War. The next year, he went to New Orleans to find his sister, Sarah, who had been sold in 1860.  He found her and returned with her to Maryland.  Sarah later started St. Paul Baptist Church in Bladensburg, MD.

In 1872, Plummer enrolled at Wayland Seminary and graduated in 1876.  He became the third pastor of his sister's First Colored Baptist Church of Bladensburg. During his tenure, the church's name was changed to St. Paul's Baptist Church. He served five years and in 1881, became pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Washington.

He applied to become an Army chaplain in 1884. Plummer's war record, service to his congregation, and letters of recommendation from dignitaries such as Frederick Douglass got him the appointment. The Army assigned Plummer to minister to the 9th U.S. Cavalry, the Buffalo Soldiers deployed to Kansas, Wyoming, and Nebraska.  He was one of the first Black men appointed chaplain in the U.S. Army, but was drummed out of the service and humiliated on what his children are convinced was a fabricated charge.  He continued to serve his community as a minister until his death in 1905 at age 60.

In 2004, Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich signed an official document overturning the court-martial of Henry Plummer.

The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
ISBN 0-471-23924-0

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