Black Civil War soldier's grave uncovered by Hurricane Harvey

Posted at 9:35 AM, Feb 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-02 09:35:58-05

VICTORIA, TX (KAVU/CNN) - The 7th U.S. Colored Infantry took Pvt. Henry Mack far and wide during the Civil War, from Maryland to Florida to Texas and then to Virginia for the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army.

Eventually, Mack also wound up in Cody Shugart’s backyard.

Shugart’s Victoria, TX, property flooded, like many others, during Hurricane Harvey in August. For him, however, the floods brought a particularly unexpected discovery.

“We had water all the way up to the house, out in this pasture we probably had 8 inches standing water,” Shugart said.

When the land finally dried about two months later, Shugart began to clean up.

“I started mowing this fence line and I was mowing along," he said. "I hit something with my lawnmower blades, it was like a loud bang and I thought, ‘What was that?’ So I backed up. It had a bunch of mud on it, so I started wiping the mud off.

“And then I uncovered this name. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I just found somebody’s headstone.'”

With some help from Jeff Wright, the director of the Victoria County Heritage Department, Shugart learned the stone belonged to Mack.

“There were numbers and letters on it, and he didn’t know what it meant. So he started describing it to me and immediately I knew what he had,” Wright said.

The pair researched Mack’s life story, learning that Mack was born a slave in Maryland, and had joined the Union Army to gain his freedom.

The 7th U.S. Colored Infantry organized in Baltimore in September 1863, fought in skirmishes in South Carolina in June 1864, and joined the Siege of Petersburg in Virginia in August 1864.

The regiment later reached Richmond before taking part in the Appomattox Campaign in 1865, seeing through the Confederate surrender and the end of the war.

Mack then arrived in Texas with the regiment during Reconstruction, before leaving the military a free man in 1866.

He married a woman named Annie, was believed to have had a son named Thomas and died in Victoria County on May 24, 1906.

And 112 years later, his gravestone was unearthed by Shugart and given a proper memorial.

"A man who fought for the freedom of our country, a man who fought for his own freedom,” Shugart said. “That's something none of us nowadays could ever fathom having to do, a great American patriot is buried here on my property."

The gravestone is now marked on the property by a flag pole and a cross made with pebbles.

"You know, I just want to do everything in my power to make sure that every time somebody drives down this road they see the man sitting here."

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