Virginia throws a Culpeper marker for American colored troops | Local News
By CLINT SCHEMMER Culpeper Star–Exhibitor
This weekend, dignitaries will dedicate a state historical marker in Culpeper to the first African-American soldiers serving in the Union Army of the Potomac during the Land campaign of 1864.
These men in United States Colored Troops the regiments entered Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Central Virginia Territory via Culpeper County, after crossing the Rappahannock River. Many had been enslaved, some in Culpeper and neighboring counties, before joining the ranks of the army and returning south. Culpeper researcher Zann Nelson identified at least 120 Culpeper-born USCTs.
On May 5, 1864, thousands of African American soldiers marched through Culpeper County to Kelly’s Ford as part of the Army of the Potomac, the main Union fighting force in the Eastern Theater of War, for the first time.
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The public is invited to the marker’s dedication ceremony on SaturdayFebruary 26, starting at 11 a.m. at the Brandy Station Fire Hall at 19601 Church Road, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources announced last week.
For Saturday’s ceremony, on-site parking will be available. Afterwards, lunch will be served in the fire station. Today (Monday February 21) is the last day to register for lunch at [email protected]
Howard Lambert, a native of Culpeper County, founder and president of The Freedom Foundation of Virginia, will deliver a keynote address. Ed Gant, president of the US Colored Troops, 23rd Regiment historical re-enactment group, will serve as master of ceremonies.
Other speakers will include Virginia Historic Resources Council member David Ruth, former superintendent of Richmond Battlefield State Park, and Steward Henderson, living Civil War historian and 23rd Regiment USCT re-enactor.
Keynote addresses will be delivered by the Reverend Eugene Triplett, associate pastor of Rising Zion Baptist Church in Winston, and Dr. James K. Bryant II, historian, author and educator of American Colored Troops.
Triplett, a resident of Brandy Station, is a descendant of a private from the 27th Regiment USCT.
Bryant, a former history professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, worked for many years as a National Park Service historian in Fredericksburg and at Spotsylvania National Military Park. He has written several books, including “The 36th Infantry United States Colored Troops in the Civil War: A History and Roster”.
Launched by Union Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and George Gordon Mead, the Overland Campaign was a series of groundbreaking battles in central Virginia that helped secure Union victory in the American Civil War. Eleven months after the start, Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.
During Grant’s land campaign, some 3,600 members of the USCT regiments served under Union General Edward Ferrero in his IX Corps 4th Division. These men served with the 19th, 23rd, 27th, 30th, 39th, and 43rd USCT, as well as the 30th Connecticut Colored Infantry.
When these troops were in Culpeper County, the Confederates captured and executed at least three black soldiers.
Under Confederate government policy, rebel soldiers were free to execute black soldiers on the spot. Additionally, the Richmond Confederate Congress declared that white officers in colored regiments contributed to “servile insurrection” and also to death or punishment.
Black soldiers marched south across the Rapidan River to join Lt. Gen. Grant’s campaign and helped neutralize Lee’s army before the Union siege of Petersburg. In April 1865, Lee visited Grant at Appomattox. The USCT regiments were disbanded in the fall of 1865, shortly after the war ended.
The Virginia Board of Historic Resources approved the Culpeper marker in 2021. The costs of making the black and silver marker were covered by its sponsor, The Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit group.
VDHR says its markers are not erected to honor their subjects, but to educate and inform the public about a person, place or event of regional, state or national significance. The markers are not memorials, which are governed by state law.
Last November, more than 150 people helped dedicate the Maddensville Historic Site near Lignum in Culpeper County, which includes a monument to three USCT soldiers who were executed nearby on May 8, 1864. They were members of the USCT regiments who marched to Culpeper for the Land campaign.
What happened in Maddensville shows how the United States chose freedom over slavery ‘for the first time in eighty-five years of history,’ says author and Civil War historian John J. Hennessy in this event. opening speech.
Of the USCTs, Hennessy said, “Their presence here reflects a momentous shift in this nation’s relationship to the institution of slavery. In many ways, enslaved people fleeing servitude helped force this change. In 1862, months before the Emancipation Proclamation, thousands fled the farms and plantations of Culpeper, Orange, Spotsylvania and half a dozen other counties, emancipating themselves, pouring into the camps of n’ any part of the US military they could find: introducing themselves, they challenged the nation: ‘What are you going to do with us now?’ ”
The Maddensville monument is the first of its kind in Culpeper County and one of the few to black troops in Virginia.
Virginia began its historic road marker program in 1927 by installing metal signs along US 1. At least one of these early markers, to Confederate General JEB Stuart, survives at Four-Mile Fork in Spotsylvania County .
Virginia’s marker effort is considered the oldest such program in the country.
Today, there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as local partners in jurisdictions not under VDOT authority.