Sara Amy Leach, senior historian at the National Cemetery Administration, found that Reddy Gray, who also went by Redmond, Redman, or Reverdy, was born in 1843 to Lydia and John Talbott Gray in Baltimore County. He was enslaved by Thomas Cradock Risteau until he escaped in 1863. The next year, Gray joined the Union Army and served in Company B of the 39th US Colored Infantry for almost two years. Organized in Baltimore, his regiment fought in Virginia and North Carolina. It is thanks to his military registration records that much of the existing information about Gray is available. He died in 1922 and is buried at Loudon Park National Cemetery in Baltimore City, along with other members of the military. Because of his significant experience as an escapee from slavery and then a member of the military, his burial place is on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom--a list that commemorates places of significance to the Underground Railroad.
According to researcher Liana D. Martino, one of the places where Gray’s regiment fought was at the Battle of the Mine as part of the siege of Petersburg, Virginia in 1864. Along with another company, they were supposed to lead an operation for which they had trained for a month. But, one of the generals in charge deemed the men too inexperienced and at the last minute switched them out for a more experienced white brigade. Though the exact cause is disputed, it is clear that a lack of organization and communication made the whole operation a disaster. Ultimately, there were thousands of Union casualties. Gray’s regiment was disbanded in 1865, and he returned to civilian life in Baltimore.
Detailed physical records of African Americans’ lives from the 19th century are scant, so there is not a vast wealth of information on Reddy Gray’s civilian life. However, Leach found that Reddy was married twice and had four children, one of whom was named Redmond after himself. Leach also points out that Gray was an active and respected member of his community. He was mentioned in the Baltimore Sun a number of times during his life, including as the judge for a footrace at the “Colored People’s Fair”. He was also recorded as one of the pallbearers at the funeral of Albert Brooks, the sexton of Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church. The article mentions that Gray and his fellow pallbearers were all members of the “Lodge of Colored Odd-Fellows”, likely one of the many similarly-named groups dedicated to the elevation of members’ “mental and moral character.” With oaths and ranks, being a member of such a group was an honored position. These groups provided a close-knit and like-minded community for members, as well.