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Tue, 01.30.1844

Joseph Clovese, Union Soldier, born

Joseph Clovese (105)

*Joseph Clovese was born on this date in 1844. He was a Black soldier in the Union Army.

Born a slave in Louisiana, Clovese worked as a child in the plantation house in St. Bernard Parish. Considered a favorite, he was taught reading and writing. A friend convinced him to run away just before he turned 18.

Clovese started his military career as a drummer for the Grand Army of the Republic. After enlisting, he was a private in two Union outfits: the Ninth Corps d'Afrique, and the 63rd USCI Volunteers. He served at the Siege of Vicksburg, among other battles during the American Civil War.  After being honorably discharged in 1865, his post-war career included helping build the first telegraph line from New Orleans to Biloxi, working as a lumberman, and on Mississippi River boats.

After the war, he spent 20 years trying to locate his mother. He cared for her until she died at age 90. News reports said he outlived his wife, three children, and grandchildren. While living in Slidell, LA, he became part of Valrie Daniels' household. When her family moved to Pontiac, he did, too. The black population in Pontiac exploded after World War II as the second wave of the Great Migration.

He called a Pontiac newspaper looking for a Civil War veterans' group, only to learn Michigan's last living Civil War veteran had recently died. The paper ran a story about Clovese, and the community organized big celebrations for his remaining birthdays. President Harry Truman sent him a congratulatory letter.  He attended the 83rd and final convention of Civil War veterans in Indianapolis in 1949. In March 1951, Pontiac's city council named Clovese Street for him in the housing project Lakeside Homes, which opened in 1955.

He died on July 13, 1951; he was 105. More than 300 people attended Joseph Clovese's funeral at the Newman A.M.E. Church. Hundreds more were present at Pontiac's Perry Mount Park Cemetery in 87-degree heat. Pallbearers included Oakland County Council of Veterans members. Selfridge Air Force Base provided a team to perform a 21-gun salute as part of the full military honors.

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