by Melissa Vandiver, Lynchburg Museum System
Phillip Pleasant “Ples” Whiteley is one of only three known African American Union veterans buried in Old City Cemetery, and the only one of these men that escaped slavery by joining the Union Army. Whiteley was born circa 1845 in Bedford County and was a slave on the plantation owned by Hopkins A. Whiteley. During the Battle of Lynchburg (June 17-18, 1864), Whiteley escaped the plantation and joined the Union Army in their retreat to the North. Once out of the Confederate States, Whiteley made his way to Boston and enlisted with the newly formed 43rd Regiment of “United States Colored Troops” in July.
After serving his time through the rest of the war, Whiteley spent a few years in the New York area. He then returned to Lynchburg in the 1870s to be close to his sister and her family. In 1876, he purchased land downtown a block from Old City Cemetery, on Floyd Street, where he lived and worked for the next 50 years. Whiteley worked as a gardener, laborer, coachman, and butler for Lynchburg’s well-known Garland and Almond families during this time. He also suffered from a war-time injury to his side for most of his life; a pension request states the injury was sustained during a drill rather than from a combat situation. Despite this, Whiteley lived a long and remarkable life, dying at age 92 in 1937.
For more information, please visit https://www.gravegarden.org/phillip-pleasant-ples-whiteley-c-1848-1937/
Do you have any photographs or items associated with Ples Whiteley? Are you a descendant? If so, please contact the Lynchburg Museum at 434-455-6226.