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African American Civil War Soldiers Honored

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by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

COLUMBIA, Tenn. - African American soldiers who fought during the Civil War have been honored in Maury County.

The names of the men who fought in the 13th United States Colored Troops Regiment were added to a memorial at the county courthouse in Columbia. Many historians feared the often untold story of the regiment would be forgotten. Although some of the men who fought were free men, many were slaves who served in the Union Army and fought for their freedom.

More than 200,000 African American soldiers were members of the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. Until recently, their stories have widely gone untold.

"All history is important," George Smith, 13th United States Colored Troop Living Association reenactor said. "If you leave out any aspect then it's not complete."

Five men dressed in uniforms resembling those worn during the Civil War reenacted the bravery of both freemen and slaves.

"They left these plantations," historian and reenactor Norman Hill explained. "They left their portions of servitude and joined the Union army."

The soldiers joined the 13th U.S. Colored Troops Regiment that started in Murfreesboro.

"What goes through the mind of a man who's been in bondage for over 200 years, his people, to pick up a rifle and say I'm willing to fight for my own freedom," Smith asked "That gives me a chill when I think about that.."

150 years later it's up to the members of the Living History Association to share the sacrifices that are often untold; or worse forgotten.

"I am a descendent of one of those soldiers," reenator Gary Burk explained. "Peter Bailey of Company K of the…United States Colored Troops that fought....in 1864."

On Saturday, the names of 54 African American Civil War soldiers from Maury County are now etched in stone.

"I wish that more of a young generation was here so they could see this historic moment," attendee Johnny Armstrong said.

The names of the Civil War soldiers are now next to the names of their fallen comrades from other wars like Armstrong's brothers.

"Generations…can come here and look and see where they came from and say…not only did the white(s) participate in the civil war but we also had those who were slaves at the time," Armstrong said.

Four white soldiers who fought for the Union Army were also added to the memorial.

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