Cleveland discovering, honoring African-American Civil War veterans

From the Northeast Ohio Plain Dealer:

Names of black Civil War veterans to be added to the Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Cleveland

It’s an honor that’s been 119 years in the making, but officials overseeing the Soldiers and Sailors Monument downtown now say they have verified the service of 140 black Civil War veterans and are beginning to add their names to the monument’s wall.

The monument, opened in 1894 to honor local residents who fought in the war, is a familiar sight on Public Square, with its imposing 125-foot column topped with a statue of the Goddess of Freedom.

Beneath, in the Memorial Room, the names of 9,000 local residents who served the Union are engraved in the marble tablets that line the walls. But only 18 are black soldiers, even though hundreds from the area are thought to have enlisted….

“It’s amazing,” said Jerry Young, one of the trustees who led the effort to verify the black soldiers’ and sailors’ service. “We’ve got a lot of names to add. It’s my hope that we can do that by late summer or early fall.

“What people need to understand is that these men were real heroes,” Young added. “These guys served at great peril because of the Confederacy’s policy of no black prisoners. They knew that going in. The policy was to sell them back into slavery or execute them on the spot.”

To be included on the monument wall a person must have enlisted from Cuyahoga County, or have been one of hundreds of local black soldiers and sailors who left the county to serve in regiments based in Massachusetts and elsewhere because Ohio barred them from service until 1863.

Soldiers also must have either been killed in action or completed their tour of duty to qualify to be on the monument’s wall.

In addition to the 140 people now in the process of being approved for the monument, Young said that volunteers are “one piece of information away” from verifying about 60 more people for inclusion….

(Read full article here)

The article goes on to mention a separate memorial being placed in Cleveland’s Woodlawn Cemetery honoring 63 African-American veterans buried there. Those involved appear to have the right focus – not just listing names to fit a slate but rather researching the subject properly. Not only does that lend an air of authority, but no doubt some interesting stories.

The Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailor’s Monument was originally completed in 1894.

It recently underwent restoration work, totaling some $2 million. Among the statues surrounding the monument is one depicting a Navy mortar crew in action. At least one of the crew depicted is African-American. But this bronze interior panel is perhaps more evocative.

Arming the Slaves (Courtesy Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument website)
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