The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.
Elijah Madison was born into slavery in 1841. Evidence suggests that he had been held in bondage on the plantation of Robert G. Coleman in the current vicinity of Babler State Park in St. Louis County. Madison likely fled from his owner's plantation to St. Louis to heed the call of Federal recruitment agents. He enlisted in the Union army in March 1864 at Benton Barracks and was mustered into service within a week. Madison's unit, the 68th United States Colored Troops (USCT), engaged in battles at Tupelo, Mississippi, in July 1864, and was then ordered south, first to New Orleans and then to Barrancas, Florida. The unit later helped to capture a Confederate stronghold at Fort Blakely, Alabama, by digging trenches that brought Union troops closer to the fort. A commander of the 51st USCT commented: "The behavior of the men when constructing trenches under fire was a convincing proof that the former slaves of the South cannot be excelled as soldiers." After Madison's discharge he returned to the St. Louis area to farm on land near the old Coleman plantation. He married and had 15 children.