Worthy Sell was captured by Union Forces at the Battle of Arkansas Post on January 11, 1863, and was sent up the river by steamer to the Federal prison at Camp Butler, Illinois. Worthy Sell was one of three of our six Danville black men who gave both a first and last name upon being processed by the Union officials at Camp Butler, Illinois.
There was only one muster roll for Worthy, the Roll of Prisoners of War Captured at Ft. Hindman, Arkansas Post. Worthy’s name was on the roll with the name of his company and regiment, Company B, 24th Cavalry, and the notation: Negro, Liberated.
Both of Worthy’s names seem strange to us. However, the given name Worthy was not unknown at the time. There were 192 men of that name in the 1870 U. S. census, nine of whom were men of color. There were also about 950 men with the surname Sell or Selle. Only three of those were black men. Additionally, there were about 560 men surnamed Sill, possibly an alternate spelling.
Thirty-nine men by the surname of Sell served in the Confederate Army, including Worthy, Peter, and P. in Texas. P. Sell was in Company I, 24th Regiment Texas Cavalry, a company of men from Lavaca County which was also present at the Battle of Arkansas Post. P. Sell, too, was entered into the rolls as Negro, Liberated, though whether he was related to Worthy is not known.
There do not appear to be any individuals with the Sell surname living in Texas in 1870, nor any black families by that name in Illinois, according to the indices consulted, although there are some Texas families named Sells. Nor was there a man of color by the name of Worthy. Either Worthy and P did not return to Texas, or they changed their names.
We don’t know anything about Worthy, but we can guess that he was the body servant of a member of Company B.
The only clue we have is that the name Worthy was the surname of one of the members of Company B, Albert V. Worthy. In the 1860 slave schedules of Montgomery County, Albert was listed as the owner of nine slaves.
However, the connection between Worthy Sell and Albert V. Worthy is only a guess.
We do not know if Worthy Sell went home to his family in Montgomery County, or if he decided to make a new life for himself in Illinois. We wonder how he would have survived in the snow and sub-zero weather, with no warm clothes and no blankets.
You can view a Compiled Service Record similar to Worthy's in the story about Alexander, who was liberated at the same time as Worthy.
A transcription of the record is found in the story about L. Williams.
We hope that Worthy’s descendants will see this sketch and send us more information about him.
The above was compiled from Worthy’s file in the Compiled Service Records, which are housed in the National Archives, and which were accessed on microfilm at the Confederate Research Center at Hillsboro, Texas.
For further information and records of all Confederate soldiers of Montgomery County, Texas, as well as histories of the regiments they served in, see Montgomery County, Texas, CSA by Frank M. Johnson. The book may be purchased by visiting Frank's website at frankmjohnson.net or by contacting Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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