All News & Blogs
Memorial Day procession to Fredericksburg National Cemetery will re-create early post-Civil War events led by African-Americans to honor Union dead
An 1874 photo shows the grave of 1st Lt. Warrenton
F. THEODORE MILLER /JERRY AND LOUISE BRENT COLLECTION
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
BY CLINT SCHEMMER
In the Fredericksburg area, Memorial Day is about a lot more than barbecues.
Groups of all kinds devote themselves to honoring the fallen and military service, holding ceremonies at multiple sites across the region.
A new group--the 23rd Infantry Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops--will join that roster on Monday, hoping to shed light on part of the area's history that has largely been forgotten.
Representing a Civil War unit of the same name, re-enactors in the 23rd's color guard will lead a procession from Riverfront Park to Fredericksburg National Cemetery for the noon Memorial Day ceremony there.
The National Park Service will host the walk in collaboration with community members and the congregation of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site). Participants will lay flowers on the graves of a few representative Union soldiers, black and white, in the burial ground.
At the cemetery, the Rev. Lawrence A. Davies, Shiloh's recently retired pastor, will deliver the Memorial Day program's keynote address. Davies was Fredericksburg's mayor for 20 years.
The march will re-create Decoration Day processions that were an annual rite here for decades after the American Civil War.
From 1868 until at least 1880, African-Americans led those who honored U.S. casualties buried at Willis Hill, where the cemetery was established in 1865 for Federal soldiers who died in area battles or disease. For seven of the cemetery's early years, when the war's emancipationist legacy was still fresh, blacks sponsored the Decoration Day ceremonies. Some years included brass bands and orators, both black and white.
An 1871 observance, sponsored by the Grand Army of the Republic, was attended by 1,500 people, including African-Americans, Unionists and Union veterans.
Monday's event aims to re-create that first multiracial Memorial Day commemoration and march made by white and black citizens.
Local people (mostly African-Americans) met visiting Union veterans at the train station, formed a procession and marched up National Boulevard (now Lafayette Boulevard) to the cemetery.
The National Park Service is "pleased that the leadership of the black community of Fredericksburg has taken the initiative to honor members of the United States Colored Troops [buried] in the National Cemetery and to take their rightful place alongside their neighbors to honor all of those who have given their lives throughout the American experience to protect our freedom," park Superintendent Russ Smith said this week.
WHAT: Memorial Day procession, ending at Fredericksburg National Cemetery in time for its noon exercises. The Rev. Lawrence A. Davies, the recently retired pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, will deliver the keynote address.WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Monday WHERE: Starts at Riverfront Park on Sophia Street, then up Charlotte Street, to the National Cemetery at Sunken Road and Lafayette Boulevard. DETAILS: Procession and Memorial Day program at the National Cemetery are free, and the public is invited. The walk's route is about one mile long. Historian-led tours of Sunken Road after the cemetery program. For those with mobility issues, buses will be available at Riverfront Park. MORE INFO: 540/373-6122