William D. Matthews was born a Maryland slave, so information about his early years remains elusive. By 1854, Matthews was a Black pioneer in Leavenworth, Kansas, a stop on the Underground Railroad. He opened a restaurant that soon became the head station on the underground railway system, with Matthews the “general passenger traffic manager.”
Mustered into the Federal service on July 7, 1864 as a second lieutenant in the Independent Battery, U. S. Colored Light Artillery at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, becoming one of the 120 African-Americans commissioned as officers during the Civil War. He was promoted to first lieutenant on February 27, 1865, and assumed command of the battery when its captain became ill. He was mustered out of service on July 15, 1865.
Image Courtesy KansasMemory.org