President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation effective January 1, 1863 and in December of that year forces under command of Brig. General William Averall are believed to have included at least one U.S. Colored Troops regiment sent on a raid into Salem, Virginia to disrupt/destroy the railway network therein.
It is logical to assume the force would have included persons in uniform knowledgeable of the railway and depots located in Salem. Our reasoning is that 44th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops organized at Chattanooga in months before and possibly Ellis and Robert Kyle, his younger brother had enlisted therein likely as runaway slaves from working on the confederate railway lines.
We believe this is the same Robert Kyle, brother of Ellis Kyle cited by great nephew William Thomas Atkins as escaping slavery in Salem via a Union Regiment in which he had enlisted, fell from a mule and broke his leg in vicinity of Winchester, Virginia, ...
... was captured by pursuing Confederate forces around Winchester and returned to re-enslavement in Salem, sentenced by County Court to punishment of whipped each day for one year in front of Salem Courthouse as a warning to other potential slave runaways. Confederate policy was to either kill Black troops or if captured, return them to their places of enslavement for punishment.
Crippled by the beatings/torture and leg that never fully healed, Robert reportedly was "tough as nails" and survived a number of years afterwards.
And, both his father and mother were subsequently punished with the father being sold down river to Mississippi, leaving Robert behind and after the Union Army in 1864-1865 returned and captured Salem, he obviously was alive and well enough to be listed as a Union soldier.
R. Kyle is the name carved into the breech loading musket now in the possession of William Thomas Atkins, Jr. handed down from father William Thomas Atkins, Sr. received from his great uncle Ellis Kyle; and, we thus assume Ellis inherited upon his brother Robert's death that preceded his own.
It is reasonable to assume that though R. Kyle was captured by confederates soon after enlisting in the Union forces, he was still carried on their records as either missing in action, presumed dead or prisoner of war though confederates categorized and classified him as a runaway slave. Jefferson Davis had threatened to try such men as "traitors" and have them executed as such but Abraham Lincoln warned him the same treatment would be reciprocated against rebels captured by the Union forces.
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