American soldiers of color honored near execution site in Culpeper County

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Over 157 years ago, Confederate soldiers captured and executed three soldiers of the United States’ Colored Troops in Culpeper County.

Saturday morning, a foundation dedicated to the history of the Civil War unveiled a monument honoring the service of men.

“We don’t know their identity and we don’t know exactly where they are buried, but we do know what happened and that they were lying nearby,” said Howard Lambert, founder and president of the Freedom Foundation of Virginia. . “This is dedicated to those men, who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

The granite obelisk is the first monument dedicated to Culpeper’s regiments and comes as part of a nationwide reassessment of civil war memorials and monuments, which in the South have traditionally focused on the enhancement of the Confederation.

The Freedom Foundation, which focuses on the contributions and legacy of Culpeper-born American troops of color, built the monument in collaboration with Civil War Trails and the Piedmont Environmental Council.

The foundation also erected markers documenting a church and tavern built by Willis Madden, a free black man who lived in the area. Madden Tavern had a general store, blacksmith, wheelwright’s workshop, and dormitories for travelers, making it a perfect resting place for troops on both sides. The Ebenezer Baptist Church was one of the first black churches in the area after the Civil War.

The unveiling began with a procession of the 23rd Regiment of Colored Troops of the United States, a living history organization located in Spotsylvania County.

Members of the 23rd Regiment United States Colored Troops, a living history organization located in Spotsylvania County, walk towards the monument. (Jackie Llanos Hernandez / Virginia Mercury)

Following remarks by Lambert and Chris Miller, who stressed the importance of working together across divisions in the current political climate, the markers were unveiled one by one by members of each group that was honored. Bill Madden, a descendant of Willis Madden, said it was remarkable that the tavern was still standing.

Civil War historian John Hennessy said the site was more than just beacons, it was part of the process of changing how the past is viewed. Henessy likened public history work to a mirror, which sometimes reflects the ugliness within. However, he said we need to learn more about the ugliness of our history.

After Hennessy’s speech, members of the 23rd USCT and the descendants of the 27th USCT who joined the Army of the Potomac and marched to Culpeper removed the tarp covering the obelisk and laid three wreaths at its base.

As the obelisk was unveiled, other members of the 23rd USCT launched volley fire at the empty field behind the monument, and Dave Boltz, a retired US Air Force master sergeant, played tap dancing, a call to remember those who gave their lives. in service.

Ceremony attendees spent the morning learning about the country’s history. Michelle Tutt of Culpeper said it was important to share the story that she was not taught in school.

Tyrone Terry of Richmond said knowing the truth is important because the story of marginalized people is not openly spoken.


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