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, and held in bondage on the plantation of Robert G. Coleman on land near Wildhorse Creek Road in the current vicinity of Babler State Park in St. Louis County. Although the circumstances of his enlistment are not clear, he probably earned his freedom sometime after November 1863, when black recruitment in Missouri began in earnest. 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 with the 68th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) on March 17, 1864, at Benton Barracks and was mustered into service. Within weeks Gen. Henry W. Halleck ordered the regiment to Memphis to help defend the city. The unit successfully fended off Confederate attacks in battles at Tupelo, Mississippi, in July 1864 and was then ordered farther south, eventually helping to lay siege to the Confederate stronghold at Fort Blakely.After the war ended Madison remained in service and was appointed a corporal on October 13, 1865. He was discharged in February 1866, and returned to the St. Louis area to farm on land near the old Coleman plantation where he had been enslaved. He married Elizabeth West in 1868, and the couple had 15 children. In his later years Madison moved to Elmwood Park, Missouri, where he became a minister. He died in 1922.