Many of you are aware that the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library has two life-sized, bronze statues in its garden. These represent two prominent men who spent their childhood in the Segui-Kirby Smith House. One of these men, Alexander H. Darnes has been a special research topic of mine.
Darnes was enslaved at birth by the Smith family due to his mother Violet Pinckney’s status as their house-slave. Darnes spent years as the valet to Edmund Kirby Smith (the other figure in bronze).
After emancipation, he acquired an education at Lincoln University and Howard University Medical Department. Dr. Darnes set up shop in Jacksonville in 1880 becoming the first African American to have a medical practice in Florida. My award-winning, 2016 Florida Historical Quarterly article on Dr. Darnes is now available online for free.
Walt Bachman of New York City is an invaluable source of data concerning servants of U. S. Army officers like Edmund Kirby Smith. Out of the vast collections of the National Archives, he pulled data from the pay vouchers that officers submitted monthly to the Army. Included are reimbursements to help them pay for servants. Using these vouchers, one may track the movements and names of Army servants.
This database will soon be available on the West Point Library website. Bachman uncovered additional Smith vouchers since he first told me about them and I included the data in my 2016 article. The earliest mention of “Alexander, Negro” as a servant of Edmund Kirby Smith is January 1847 in Mexico, during the American invasion. Darnes’ date of birth is not known. He is recorded as 10 years old in 1850. That would mean he was only seven years old when he followed his master on campaign!