Nimrod Burke was born a free man in Prince William county, Virginia in 1836. His family moved to Washington County, Ohio, in 1854. Nimrod found employment as a handyman in Marietta, a little over 10 miles from the family home in Newport, and was only able to visit at weekends.
His employer was a prominent lawyer, and abolitionist, by the name of Melvin C. Clarke who, at the start of the American Civil War in 1861, was appointed a Major in the Union Army. Nimrod would have joined the army too, but blacks were not eligible to serve as soldiers, Instead, knowing that Nimrod had been raised in Virginia, hired him as a teamster-scout for the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, who then went to Tidewater Virginia to fight the Confederates.
Then, in 1863, War Department issued General Order Number 143 which allowed the recruitment of African-American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. Nimrod remained a scout until 1864, when he joined Company F of the 23rd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry, where he was assigned the rank of sergeant.
In an ironic twist of fate, Nimrod, and his regiment, were in attendance at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Forces. The neither man would have been aware of it, Nimrod’s family were freed by an ancestor of Lee’s, Robert Carter III, around 1793.