Black Civil War Regiment Stages Re-enactment

Shantella Y. Sherman | 5/27/2009, 11:07 p.m.

Anacostia Museum Serves as Backdrop in Remembrance of Civil War

Crowds gathered on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution€s Anacostia African American Museum in Southeast, on Sat., May 23, to honor Black soldiers who served in the Civil War, considered America€s bloodiest battle -- one that destroyed families -- and pitted brother against brother.

Despite the sweltering heat, the event attracted visitors who live as far away as Roanoke, Va., and history buffs from nearby Silver Spring, Md. Guests showed up with fans in-hand to watch re-enactors portray members of the 54th Massachusetts Company B Regiment and bring history to life over a weekend dedicated to fallen soldiers.

€African Americans have been left out of American history, especially the wars and battles that founded the country. With the exception of movies like €Glory,€ there is little to show young people about how we fit into the American Civil War, so I came out today to learn more about our contribution,€ said Candace Gnahour, 24, of Clinton, Md.

Visitors who attended the three-hour ceremony watched as two Civil War re-enactors dressed in wool Navy blue uniforms, set-up tents and demonstrated for the crowd how various period weaponry were used during the war. The re-enactors, Quarter Master Sergeant Louis Carter and Staff Sergeant Robert Young, are both members of the Volunteer Infantry Regiment, a non-profit organization, based in Massachusetts and part of the U.S. National Park Service€s €Volunteers in Parks€ unit.

Carter, a former D.C. firefighter from Richmond, Va., said he became interested in history while trying to connect his family€s genealogy to American military service. He said he was inspired to join the re-enactors when he saw how many young Black men were being killed every day in street violence with no clue how rich their history was.

€We have got to know our history and the important strides we have made even in times of adversity. When we can have a clear understanding of what makes a man and how we fit into the American dream, then we won€t have the violence against one another that we have now,€ Carter said.

Young insisted that the Black soldiers fighting in American Wars before the end of the Civil War had a particularly dubious experience, one that at once embraced their expertise, while refusing to acknowledge their contributions.

€You must also recognize that the Civil War Amendments, also known as the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, gave freedom, citizenship, and the right to vote to African American men. What€s striking about that is that these Black men fighting in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars fought without even being citizens of the country,€ Young said.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits to service for Black soldiers in the Civil War was literacy.

€It meant something to these soldiers to be able to walk up to receive their pay and have the White officers say €Make your mark,€ and be able to reply, €I don€t have to make a mark, I can write my name,€€ Carter said.