Caesar Cohen, the paternal great great grandfather of Michelle Robinson Obama, married Tira Devoe at the Weymouth Plantation of Ralph Stead Izard in Georgetown, South Carolina in 1858. Tony Izard officiated the wedding ceremony. Together, Caesar and Tira had 5 children. Caesar Cohen served in Company A, 128th United States Colored Troops and returned to Georgetown, South Carolina after his service in the military. In the years after the war, he suffered from malarial fever and pains in his side, which limited his ability to work. He died on Saturday, July 16, 1904 and was buried on Sunday, July 17, 1904.
Caesar Cohen served as a Private in Company A, 128th United States Colored Troops. He enlisted March 27, 1865 at Hilton Head, South Carolina. His Civil War Service Record, available on Fold3.com, notes that he was sent to the Hospital at Hilton Head, SC on 1 Sep 1865 for discharge, but was not discharged. He was ordered to return to his company soon after. The record notes that he never returned for duty and was listed as absent without leave since September 26 of 1865. In February he was dropped from the company rolls as a deserter. The charge was never removed from his service record.
Status of Pension Application
Caesar Cohen’s pension application #1119203 under acts of June 27, 1890 and May 9, 1900, was filed in June of 1892. The claim was rejected August 22, 1893 on the grounds that Caesar Cohen was not disabled for manual labor in a pensionable degree. His attorneys Milo B. Stevens and Company filed another declaration in October of 1898. The claim was rejected 27 Oct 1899, on the grounds that the soldier was never honorably discharged. His attorneys filed another declaration on 22 June 1900. After Caesar Cohen’s death in July 1904, his widow Tira Cohen applied for a widow’s pension. Her application, filed 1 Nov 1907, was assigned #878010. Witnesses Tony Alston, Joe Allston and Tom Chance and Jacky Chance testified on her behalf. Her claim was rejected 12 Dec 1907 on the grounds that Caesar Cohen was never honorably discharged and was carried on the rolls as a deserter.
Summary of Testimony
Summary of Declaration of Caesar Cohen for pension under act of June 27, 1890, filed 27 June 1892: Caesar Cohen stated his age as 56. His residence was Georgetown, SC. Cohen declared that he was the identical Caesar Cohen who served as a Private in Company A, 128th USCT, that he was honorably discharged in Mount Pleasant, SC, and that he was disabled for manual labor due to a spleen in the side and continual fever and weakness. His signature on the claim was witnessed by M.W. Myers and Frank Waller, both of Georgetown, SC.
Summary of Declaration of Caesar Cohen for pension under act of June 27, 1890, filed 4 Oct 1898: Caesar Cohen, then aged 66 and a resident of “a suburb” of Georgetown, SC, declared that he was the identical Caesar Cohen who served in Company A, 128th USCT, that he was suffering from debility due to age, that he did not serve in the military prior to or subsequent to his service in the 128th USCT. Cohen stated that he was not a pensioner, but was an applicant by #1119203. Adam Johnson and Samuel Evans, both of Sampit, Georgetown County, South Carolina, were witnesses to his signature on the claim.
Summary of Declaration for Widow’s Pension under acts of June 27, 1890 and May 9, 1900, Filed 26 Sep 1907: Tira Cohen, 70 years of age, residence Georgetown, SC, declared that she was the widow of Caesar Cohen who enlisted in the United States Colored Troops in March of 1864 at Beaufort, SC and served in Company A, 128th USCT, that Caesar Cohen was honorably discharged at Morris Island and died in July of 1904. That she (maiden name Tira Devoe) and Caesar Cohen were married in 1858 by Tony Izard on the Weymouth Plantation of Ralph Stead Izard. Tira stated that she had not remarried since the death of husband Caesar Cohen. Witnesses to statement were A.P. Hazard and Tony Alston. A.P. Hazard stated that he had known Tira Cohen for 30 years, and Tony Alston stated that he had known Tira Cohen all his life.
Summary of statement of Tony Alston of Georgetown, South Carolina, filed 26 Sep 1907: Tony Alston, aged about 60 years, stated that he served in Company G, 128th USCT and was personally acquainted with Caesar Cohen, that Caesar Cohen enlisted the same day he did in Beaufort, SC in March of 1864 and was mustered out in October 1865. Alston testified that Caesar Cohen died in July of 1904 and that Tira Cohen was Caesar’s lawful wife and the mother of 5 living children who were all over 18 years of age.
Summary of statement of Nathaniel Allston, 26 Sep 1907: Nathaniel Allston, a resident of Georgetown, SC, stated that he served in Company A, 128th USCT and was personally acquainted with Caesar Cohen, that he enlisted on the same day as Caesar Cohen in Beaufort, SC and was discharged at Hilton Head in 1865, that Tira Cohen was Caesar’s lawful wife and the mother of 5 living children, all over the age of 18.
Summary of statement of Tom Chance of Georgetown, SC, 1 Nov 1907: Tom Chance of Georgetown testified that he was present at the death of Caesar Cohen and also attended the funeral, that he was almost the next door neighbor of Caesar Cohen, and that Tira Cohen was the lawful widow of Caesar Cohen, and “it was so said by all on the plantation & by our master.”
Summary of Statement of Joe Allston of Georgetown, SC, 1 Nov 1907: Joe Allston of Georgetown, SC, testified that he knew Caesar Cohen and lived on the same plantation with him for more than twenty years, was present at his last illness and when he died in July 1904, and attended the funeral, and that he was a near neighbor living only about 500 feet from his house. He knew from personal knowledge that Tira Cohen was Caesar’s lawful wife for more than forty years, that he remembered the wedding although he was not present at the ceremony, and that his age was about sixty years old.
Summary of statement of Jacky Chance of Georgetown, SC, 16 Oct 1907: Jacky Chance of Georgetown, SC aged about 56, stated that he knew Caesar and Tira Cohen, having lived on the same plantation with them for more than twenty years, that Tira Cohen was living on the property left by her husband and that to his knowledge the property was not mortgaged or under any encumbrance, that Tira had to bear the expense of property taxes and had no one to support her.
Summary of Statement of Tira Cohen, 1 Nov 1907: Tira Cohen stated that she was present when her husband Caesar Cohen died, that he died on Saturday, July 16, 1904 and was buried on Sunday, July 17, 1904, that they lived outside the city limits and did not need a burial permit, that her marriage was performed in slavery days and all of those records were kept by slaveholders, that she was not able to furnish a copy of a marriage certificate, that those who were present at her marriage were now so widely scattered since freedom and some of them dead, that she did not know how to find them. She stated that two of the physicians who attended her husband had since moved away, and that there was no physician present when Caesar Cohen died.
Tira Cohen further stated that she could provide no record from the Registrar as to the immediate cause of Caesar Cohen’s death because he died in the country about 2 miles from the city and was not subject to its jurisdiction, that there was no certificate or record of her marriage as she was married before the war and records were not in use for colored people, that the preacher who performed the wedding ceremony had long since died, but she and Caesar were known as lawful husband and wife. She stated that she had no income except what she received from her labor.
Descendants of Caesar and Tira Cohen
Michelle Robinson Obama is the great great granddaughter of Tira Devoe and Caesar Cohen 1. Their daughter Rosetta Cohen, known as Rosella as an adult, married Michelle Robinson Obama’s great grandfather Fraser Robinson I 2. Fraser and Rosella’s son Fraser Robinson II, who married LaVaughn Robinson 18 Oct 1934 in Chicago, Cook County, IL, was Mrs. Obama’s grandfather 3. Fraser and LaVaughn’s son Fraser Robinson III, who married Marian Shields, was Michelle Obama’s father 4.
View Full Pension File
View the full USCT pension file of Caesar Cohen
On 28 February 1866, Caesar Cohen signed a Freedmen’s Labor Contract with R.S. Izard at Weymouth Plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina5.
Citing This Article
International African American Museum, Center for Family History. Pension File Abstract, Caesar Cohen, Company A, 128th United States Colored Troops, https://cfh.iaamuseum.org/usct-pension-file-of-caesar-cohen-great-great-grandfather-of-michelle-robinson-obama-georgetown-sc/.
 Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. Year: 1880; Census Place: Black River, Georgetown, South Carolina; Roll: 1229; Page: 358C; Enumeration District: 052, Household of Fraser Robinson.
 Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007, Entry for Fraser Robinson; Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007, Entry for Thomas Jefferson Robinson.
 Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records. Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008. Fraser C. Robinson to LaVaughn D. Johnson, 17 Oct 1934, File No. 1427463.
 Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records. Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008. Fraser Robinson III and Marion Shields, 27 Oct 1960, File No. 2589377.
 “South Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99ZG-CQ7M?cc=2127881&wc=MFH2-STG%3A1017931601%2C1017950901 : 21 May 2014), Georgetown (subassistant commissioner) > Roll 76, Labor contracts, Dec 1865-Apr 1866 > image 248 of 303; citing NARA microfilm publication M1910 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).