African-American Union Army Soldiers Died on Their Way Home from War; Then History Lost Their Names

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery (Cristina Rutz/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery (Cristina Rutz/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery (Cristina Rutz/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Mary Delach Leonard, ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

 
ST. LOUIS (St. Louis Public Radio) — The elm and oak trees have grown tall with age in Section 57 of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County. It’s a quiet place, where songbirds rule the peace from the branches above.

Amid the white marble tombstones, row on row, stands one stone obelisk from another era. It marks the final resting place of African-American Civil War soldiers from Missouri who died from cholera in August 1866, as they made their way home from the war.

The soldiers were buried as Unknowns, even though the Army knew who they were. Last summer, their names were finally written in bronze.

Prodded by local historians, the Veterans Administration placed a marker next to the obelisk that includes the names of 118 soldiers of the 56th U.S. Colored Infantry who are buried at the site, plus 55 soldiers whose remains were never recovered.

 

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