Joseph Stocks was born on 1 February 1841 in Tensas Parish, Louisiana. On 9 December 1863 he enlisted at Vicksburg as a private in Company H, 50th U.S. Colored Troops. He was discharged 20 March 1866; having attained the rank of first duty sergeant. Stocks was involved inaction at Bruinsburg, Snyders Bluff, Fort Blakely, and Mobile. He was wounded in his eye at Fort Blakely and was hospitalized at Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi. Questioned about the hardships of his military service, Stocks described a hard march from Florida to Mobile, on which the troops were on the verge of starvation, having nothing to eat but half-cooked meat and parched corn, and on one occasion wading through neck-deep water for more than a mile. Joseph Stocks came to Champaign in about 1894, where he lived and worked as a day laborer until about 1906.