Photo courtesy of Matthew Brady
Joseph Teagle (top left), a Civil War sailor who served in the Navy, was discovered in Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens.


After years of searching, the Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens found the burial site of a Civil War Navy sailor.

The Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery, a volunteer organization that works to promote the historical and cultural relevance of the cemetery, discovered that Joseph Teagle, an African-American Civil War sailor, is interred at the historic graveyard.

“I’ve always been interested in finding the biographies and stories of people of interest who can help educate children of today by telling their stories,” said Carl Ballenas, president of the Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery. “Not often enough do people realize what a great resource a cemetery can be.”

Ballenas said his organization is still trying to piece together more information about the sailor but with the help of the U.S. NY Colored Troops 26th Regiment, have found information about his service and what he did after his retirement from the Navy.

Ludger Balan, the historian for the U.S. 26th Regiment, said cemetery records tipped them off to the discovery and he, along with the Friends of Maple Grove, searched for Teagle’s tombstone.

“We started looking for it just like a needle in a haystack and finally we came across the stone that had actually been broken off,” Balan said.

Though Teagle’s tombstone had been damaged, his time at the Navy had been clearly marked on it, which was all the proof Ballenas needed to be certain it was Teagle.

A photograph was found of Teagle on the USS Lehigh, the ironclad ship he served on from 1861 to 1865.

Teagle, who was born a slave in Virginia in 1839, moved to Jamaica once his service was over. He worked for the wealthy Crane family as a coachman and also worked as a farmer and domestic servant, according to old documents at Jamaica Library. According to the cemetery’s interment book, Teagle died in April 1899 of a stroke at the age of 60.

Ballenas also discovered a Leah Teagle buried next to Joseph Teagle. He said because of the age, he believes she is Joseph Teagle’s mother.

Unlike the Union Infantry Federal Unit, Balan noted, the Navy was integrated since the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.

On June 7, the Friends of Maple Grove along with the U.S. NY Colored Troops 26th Regiment will host a Civil War Living History Weekend to honor the 140th anniversary of the cemetery and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s conclusion.

The 26th Regiment will have historical interpreters on hand to illustrate the life of an African-American Civil War soldier from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cemetery will also display several artifacts from the 1800s and host a memorial service to honor Joseph Teagle.

Ballenas said the ceremony will also showcase another discovery the cemetery made. Congregants of the Shiloh Church, the first African-American church in Manhattan founded in 1822, were moved to the Maple Grove Cemetery after the church relocated in 1837. Shiloh Church was frequented by abolitionist and writer Fredrick Douglas and, according to Balan, was built by Civil War soldiers.



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