Moore Guy discusses her family ties to 108th Colored Troops with JMC’s workforce

By Matthew Wheaton, Joint Munitions Command, Public and Congressional AffairsMarch 27, 2024

Moore Guy discusses her family ties to 108th Colored Troops with JMC’s workforce
Col. Ronnie Anderson Jr. (right), the commander of the Joint Munitions Command, listens intently to Rock Island native Shellie Moore Guy (left), an author, poet, storyteller, and speaker, during an in-person and virtual meeting with JMC’s workforce at the end of February. (Photo Credit: Shawn Eldridge) VIEW ORIGINAL

To close out Black History Month, Rock Island native Shellie Moore Guy, an author, poet, storyteller, and speaker, met with the Joint Munitions Command’s workforce in-person and virtually at the end of February.

Guy admitted that at times it was hard to hold back her emotions while telling the story of a pair of her ancestors who donned Union Army uniforms as members of the 108th Colored Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

Charley Wilson, Guy’s great-great grandfather, was her focus, but she also talked about his brother, Sandy Terry. Both escaped slavery in Glasgow, Kentucky, to join the Army, and they spent time guarding Confederate prisoners at the Rock Island Prison Barracks at the Rock Island Arsenal.

“They became a part of something that was so much bigger than themselves,” Guy said. “No matter our conditions, however lowly they may be, or how bad things can be — as bad as slavery, as bad as being owned by someone — we all still have hopes and dreams.”

After an eight month stay at RIA, Wilson, and the rest of the 108th, reported to Vicksburg, Mississippi. In May 1865, the 108th was relieved of its duties. After the war, Wilson moved to Rock Island in 1866, where he lived with his family until their relocation to Port Byron, Illinois, in 1876. Wilson settled in the town to take up employment at a lime kiln factory, and he also assumed the role of the town's veterinarian, a skill he acquired during his time in enslavement in Kentucky. Over time, Wilson earned esteem within Port Byron and the Quad Cities.

Wilson’s sister, mother, brother, and sister-in-law moved to Rock Island in 1870, where they played integral roles and were highly involved members within the community.

The involvement of Black soldiers in formations such as the 108th was instrumental in securing the Union's triumph and played a pivotal role in the eventual eradication of slavery in the United States. Their dedicated service not only contested racial biases but also fostered pathways for increased inclusion of Black individuals in both the military and broader society.

At the conclusion of the event, Col. Ronnie Anderson Jr., JMC’s commander, reflected.

“It is important to understand the context of peoples’ experiences and see the history of our communities through a very different lens,” Anderson said. “It reinforces why we should learn our history, why we should listen to other people’s history, but also why we should share our history and our background.

“Some of the most significant stories of our Army and our country get lost over time, but our charge is to highlight the contributions and celebrate them.”

Want to know more about the 108th? More info can be found here:

To learn more about Black Americans in the U.S. Army, check out: